Email Delivery vs. Email Deliverability: What’s the Difference?

Posted by Chris Donald On March 19, 2018 in story time I 0 Comments

Your perfectly planned, well-executed emails are not getting delivered to the subscribers’ inbox. And yet, your ESP is showing 99%(!) delivery.

Yes, this is confusing. But there is a difference between delivery and deliverability.

Let’s explore what the difference is.

Email Delivery

To be considered “delivered”, your email simply has to be accepted by the recipient’s server. Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Delivered doesn’t necessarily mean to the inbox. It just means it didn’t get rejected. It also doesn’t show which folder it was delivered to.

This occurs when the receiver accepts your email. What does this mean? The email was delivered to the correct email address and was allowed by the recipient’s IP address. It is only after the email is successfully delivered that you get to choose the folder to receive the email.

Email Deliverability

Deliverability, very simply (and it’s a complicated topic we’ll get into), is essentially your brand’s ability to get your emails delivered to the right place (the inbox).

Delivery (there’s that confusion again) plays a role in deliverability. Your message has to be accepted, and that acceptance rate is part of the equation. But the process around getting your message accepted and ultimately delivered to the inbox (NOT the spam folder) is what deliverability covers.

Obviously, if your email doesn’t get delivered to the inbox—or worse yet, not delivered at all—all your hard work around creating and building your email marketing campaign goes to waste. So, let’s take a look at what deliverability entails:

How deliverability works

Deliverability is dependent on three things: Identification, Reputation, and Content.

Servers like to know it’s actually you who is sending an email to their customers. Authentic identification is critical to getting your message delivered. And you should be able to prove that you are who you claim to be.

There are protocols that help you identify yourself correctly, including:

  • Sender Policy Framework (You may have heard the acronym “SPF”)
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM, anyone?)
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC – we love our acronyms)

These protocols are essential to proper identification.

Every email campaign you send affects your overall sender reputation. Your sender reputation is sort of like a “score” that proves your brand’s emails are trustworthy and deliverable. The more positive interactions you have with happy, engaged subscribers, the better. If you continually purchase lists, mail to folks who didn’t sign up, ignore unsubscribes, etc., you’ll damage your reputation beyond repair.

Your content should be appropriate and relevant for your subscribers. If your emails aren’t relevant, your subscribers are more likely to unsubscribe—or worse yet, mark you as spam. If you send bad emails, your subscribers won’t engage with your emails either. A lack of engagement or earning bad engagement due to content can hurt you in the long run.

How to Improve Deliverability

Maintain a Clean List:
You need to keep tabs on and update your email list on a regular basis. Email marketers opt for permission-based marketing; however, if your subscriber is not opening the emails or is inactive, it can affect your engagement metrics, which in turn affects the reputation.

One way to manage inactive subscribers is by automating a re-confirmation campaign to check if the subscriber is still interested in hearing from you. If they are, great. If not, you can consider either suppressing these subscribers for a while (at a minimum) or removing them from the list altogether.

If you have a particularly old email list, consider this: People change their email addresses all the time. You may have a “valid” email address that’s actually been abandoned—or worse, turned into a spam trap by ISPs to monitor if you’re keeping a clean list. Hitting these spam traps can cause a major hit on your reputation. Keep your email list clean.

Let them unsubscribe:
You must allow your subscribers to unsubscribe (it’s required by law). Make the unsubscribe button or link clear and prominent. Don’t make your subscribers work hard to find it. If they can’t find it, they’ll mark you as spam—and an unsubscribe is better than a spam complaint.

Personalize your emails:
We touched on this already, but relevance matters. Better content means better delivery because of better engagement (that’s a lot of betters).

Wrapping up

Delivered doesn’t always mean delivered to the inbox. Make sure your ducks are in a row with regard to establishing and maintaining important deliverability best practices and watch your engagement grow as a result.

Share your thoughts on email deliverability and your best ways to improve it.

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