How to improve email deliverability rates


There is a whole load more to emailing than merely typing out a message and pressing send. 17% of emails never even make it to the inbox – but why?

It is all down to spam. No, not the tinned meat. We’re talking about unsolicited, mass-sent emails. 

When you send an email, it goes through a filter which has the main goal of preventing unwanted content reaching the recipient. If the email you have sent fails to fall within certain guidelines, or includes content which flags it as spam, then it will not reach its desired location – the inbox.

We bet you didn’t think that it would really be that complicated, but it is. So, we are going to do all we can to help you understand how to land yourself in that all important inbox.

Who’s involved in email deliverability?

There is a certain science to email deliverability to ensure that it actually reaches the intended recipient. Let us break it down into the three parties who are involved in the process: 

  • The sender (this is you): can consist of legitimate email senders, like you; email certification providers, who can help get your email to the inbox; and spammers, sending messages to a mass of recipients with either scams or just pointless content.
  • The gateways (the middleman): these consist of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and other companies who control the deliverability of your email.
  • The recipient (your lead): the people who you want to receive your email. The role of the gateways is to protect the recipient from spammers, so you need to stay within all ISP guidelines to get to the inbox. 

With this in mind, the solution to ensure your email gets to the inbox of the recipient is to think like an ISP. By understanding what they consider to be a suitable sender/email and ensuring you adopt these practices, your chances of deliverability will skyrocket. 

What do ISPs view as positive attributes for delivering emails?

ISPs view the following results as successes from the emails you send:

  • Being added to address books
  • Healthy open and click rates
  • Your message being forwarded
  • Being marked as a favourite
  • Replies to your email

If you tick all of these boxes, then ISPs will consider you a reputable sender. A good reputation is probably the most crucial factor impacting your deliverability as it pretty much guarantees delivery to inbox. A bad reputation will result in getting blocked at the gateway or ending up in the junk folder. 

Email deliverability best practices

We know what ISPs consider to be positive attributes of reputable senders. What we are yet to explain is how exactly your email can get through the gateway and into the inbox in the first place so that you can actually start building that reputation. 

Looking for some guidance on how to improve deliverability and guarantee a place in the inbox? Here are some very important steps you should be following:

#1. Assemble the right list

Your target recipients should want to receive your email, consent to be emailed by you and anticipate your email. Everyone on your list must have given you consent to email them (through signing up for a newsletter or opting-in to a mailing list) and up-to-date contact information. 

If a recipient changes their mind and no longer wishes to receive emails from you, you must respect their wish and remove them from your list – that means having an unsubscribe button on your emails. Likewise, if a recipient creates a new email address and your messages to the old address starts bouncing, you must remove them from your list immediately. 

#2. Content generation

You’ve probably heard it before, but content is king. Well, at least the right content is.

You will know from your research what your audience’s needs, goals, pain points and interests are. So you must carefully curate content that will appeal to them and keep them engaged. 

If you have read any of our other blog posts, you will probably notice that we talk about personalisation… a lot. But, the more the recipient feels like the email is for them especially, the more likely they are to open, click-through, and reply – improving your reputation as a sender! 

Other ways in which you can use your content to improve your sender reputation is to reflect and reinforce your brand to make it clear that you are not a third party (recipients often unsubscribe to third parties or flag them as spam). Also you can keep an eye on your “spam score” by using tools like Litmus, who can process your message and identify its likelihood of being sent to spam. 

#3. Dealing with recipient issues

If your email is flagged as spam by an ISP, it will become instantly blocked. If it is flagged by the recipient (say for not recognising you), this will be registered as a complaint. Both blocks and complaints will tarnish your reputation, so they must be dealt with effectively. 

If you think you have been blocked accidentally, you can try contacting your service provider to get to the root of the problem. Complaints, on the other hand, are irreversible. But, you can still pinpoint the problem. 

If the recipient was not interested in your content or did not recognise your address, then consider re-evaluating your opt-in/opt-out options. Is it straightforward for people on your mailing list to opt-out of communications? If not, then you should review this and make improvements to prevent the problem from happening again.

#4. Tracking recipient engagement 

Email marketing is a continuous cycle of learning and improving. Over time, you will learn what methods and content your audience responds to the best.  

To do this, you must track the results of your campaigns to identify where you have been successful and where you can improve.This includes measuring your recipient engagement through open rates, delivery rates, click-through rates and other indicators of success. 

Email marketing and business outcomes go hand-in-hand. By treating the two as mutual it will reveal how you are impacting lead generation, online sales, and other business activities. Paying close attention to this email-outcome relationship will help direct future improvements towards becoming a reputable email sender. 

#5. Managing your list 

Although you may think you have assembled a decent list, it is not enough to do this just once. Your list requires constant maintenance to ensure that these are all recipients who consent to receiving your content and who are still active users of that address.

A good email certification provider will help to keep your list clean by automatically deleting any invalid domains and any recipients who have opted-out of your communications. These services usually require some sort of monthly fee, but will vouch for you as a sender. 

This alone, however, is not enough to clean your list properly. You still need to ensure that your recipients are all qualified leads who are interested in your company to boost your replies, opens, clicks and so on.

#6. Fine-tune content 

Since you will have been tracking all of your results, it is essential to leverage this information to make improvements. Through looking at different metrics, you will learn what methods produce the best results and what methods are less popular. 

For example, you may notice that since you started using more visual content in your campaigns, your click-through rate increased. Or that since changing your email domain, your open rates dropped. This is crucial information for informing your next moves. Not only will you build your reputation as a sender, but you will also maximise the effectiveness of your campaigns – what’s not to like?

Apologies if you were one of the many people who originally thought that email marketing was just a case of producing a nice message and hitting the send button (we’ve all been there at some point).

But, it is not as scary as it seems. Although it may look like a lot typed out on a blog post, when these things become adopted into your actual email marketing strategy, they become second nature in no time. 

While we have no doubt that improving your email deliverability is something you can achieve without our assistance, we are always here to help take some of the pressure away and help you to boost your sender reputation. Outbase can support you in the content creation, personalisation, and deliverability of your emails. 

Sign up today and skyrocket your sales. 

Written by:
Lily Ruaah Content Writer