Email Marketing

4 not-so-obvious factors that impact your email deliverability

14 October, 2019 (updated) |
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Here are four features that impact email deliverability in a big way, even though they aren’t always visible.

When you talk about deliverability issues, some factors are at the top of your mind. For instance, you think of IP reputation before most other factors influencing email deliverability.

There are other factors too, which are as important. Yet in the hectic world of email marketing, it’s easy to overlook those factors, and only regret later. 

Better email deliverability is absolutely vital to the success of your email marketing campaign. Hence, there’s no indicator that’s too small for you to bother about. 

Here are four features that impact email deliverability in a big way, even though they aren’t always visible.

1. List segmentation

List segmentation explained: Email list segmentation is the grouping of email addresses on your mailing list on the basis of certain qualities shared by the subscribers, in order to serve more personalized and relevant content.

Let’s say you run a blog on baking awesome cakes, and you have about 900 subscribers on our mailing list. Some of them have no idea about how to bake cakes, some have a rough idea, while the rest are pretty good. You can divide your subscribers into 3 groups based on this parameter. This is called segmentation.

How it impacts your email deliverability: Let’s continue from the example above. If you hadn’t segmented your subscribers, you’d be writing the same email to each of the 900 subscribers, say, about the basics of baking.

Those who have no idea about baking will love it but the remaining two groups would find your email completely too simple (and probably useless). So their engagement drops, they stop opening your emails. Some will unsubscribe while others will delete your emails without opening them. 

The email system figures out that some of your subscribers are simply deleting your email without opening. Great! Soon, the email system will begin pushing your emails in the spam folder of some recipients. 

Your deliverability drops drastically.

List segmentation will help you deliver more relevant stuff. 

What you can do about it: Segmenting will require some work on your part. You’ll want to understand what metrics to use for segmentation. That’s because your strategy will be guided by the factors you’ve used to segment your list.

The immediate purpose of segmenting is creating specialized content for each segment so that you can fully exploit all the benefits of automation processes. Hence, once you’ve segmented your list, you’ll need to go back to your drawing board and chart out your email content strategy for each segment and prepare a calendar for each segment.

2. List building practice

List building explained: Subscriber list-building is the ongoing activity of adding consenting subscribers of your mailing list.

There are various ways people subscribe to your mailing list, though most join online. Occasionally, you may see people signing up for your newsletter when they visit your booth at a trade fair. But by and large, people sign-up through your landing pages. 

How it impacts your deliverability: The impact is quite a bit similar to the kind created by an unsegmented list: unengaged subscribers. 

Your mailing list should be very similar to your prospect profile. Bigger the difference between your subscriber’s profile and your prospect’s profile, higher the chance of subscribers turning disengaged. That’s because there’s a dissonance between what your newsletter offers and what they expected from you.

Over time, their interest in your emails drops. Then they begin deleting your emails without reading. Many of them may unsubscribe too. 

In any case, their email client begin to consider you as someone who’s not sending relevant email, so possibly you’re a spammer. And it’s at this stage that they begin punishing you. They start placing your emails directly in the spam folder. And because the subscriber was never very keen to read your email, they won’t come looking for your email. 

And your subsequent deliverability goes for a toss.

What you can do about it: Improve your list-building methods. One of the things you’ll need to change is the copy of your landing page. 

Another thing you’ll want to check is what exactly you’re promising in exchange of their email addresses. Did you promise X but ended up delivering Y? 

When your subscribers think you aren’t giving them what they had originally signed up for, they’re going to give your emails a pass.

In some cases, you’re offering too strong a bait: a discount code for something cool, for instance. Such offers could have brought in a lot of people who aren’t your target audience. The moment they use up the discount code, they’ll start marking your email as spam. 

And your email deliverability begins to crumble.

3. List quality

List quality explained: List quality is the reflection of what kind of address are there on your mailing list, how many of them are valid and what kind of engagement these addresses offer. A list with valid addresses and a higher potential for engagement is a list with better quality.

Your mailing list may have all sorts of email addresses – not all of them are equally important. Many of them are from proper business domains (@, some may use free emails (@, some may use role-addresses (sales@, support@), some may have a disposable email address (@ and so on. 

Apart from that, your list may contain emails that are no longer valid. For instance, the person left the organization and the address is closed. Emails sent to invalid addresses bounce back undelivered.

How it impacts your email deliverability: Depending upon the quality of your mailing list, at least two things can happen. 

One, you see very poor engagement in emails. Most role addresses are used by multiple people and not all of them will be interested in your email. One of them will likely unsubscribe you or mark you as spam. 

Two, disposable email addresses have zero engagement. Mostly, they have been used for a freebie. No one comes back to use the disposable email address ever again. So they’re a dead-load on your list. They damage your KPIs and hurt your deliverability reputation.

What you can do about it: First things first: never use purchased lists. Even though you may know this, it’s worth repeating because it’s important. 

Secondly, set your systems to delete all hard bounces. If you’re working with a good ESP (Email Service Provider), this will be taken care of. 

Thirdly, you must keep a tab on your open rates, keeping a close watch on recipients who don’t open your emails. There could be a number of reasons why: maybe your contents are no longer relevant to them, maybe the email has turned inoperative and is perhaps groomed to be a honey pot… 

After a few emails remain unopened, it’d be a good idea to send them a reactivation email. If they don’t opt-in again, it’s a good idea to drop them in order to maintain your list hygiene. 

Finally, make sure you clean your mailing list periodically. On an average, verifying your lists every six months keeps your list in good hygiene, using a bulk email checker. Simultaneously, use real-time email verification services of to validate all email addresses before they enter your mailing list.

4. Marketing automation partner

Marketing automation partner explained: An email marketing automation partner is a company with the technology to schedule, send, analyse and test your email marketing activities. 

There are partners and there are partners. On the one end would be a ‘partner’ who just provides you the basic infrastructure and you’re pretty much on your own. On the other end are companies that really care for your success and support you with their expert teams. From helping you choose between dedicated or shared IPs to A/B testing, they have you covered. 

How it impacts your deliverability: The right marketing automation partner can directly as well as indirectly influence your email deliverability. Think of an efficient swiss army knife: light, yet truly multi-functional. That’s your marketing automation partner.

The automation partner must have enough analytics for you to understand changes of all kinds, big and small. Without properly understanding how your emails are performing, you’re pretty much shooting in the dark.

Besides, the ESP you choose to partner with has their own reputation. Some ESPs are infamous for allowing you to spam people while others are very strict. The best part of working with a strict ESP is that they have systems in place that will prevent any inadvertent mistakes on your part (e.g. spammy language of your email).

What you can do about it: Leverage your marketing automation partner’s expertise to make sure you leave nothing to chance. Best practices that your partner follows (and makes you follow them too) ultimately improve your email deliverability.

Go through your analytics with a fine comb. Every single insight your marketing automation partner offers can lead you to better inbox placement.

Do not go by your gut-feeling. Use the results of A/B testing to guide you what version of your email works best. Decide what you’d call success in your A/B testing: Unique opens, unique clicks, opens…. 

Finally, look at the range of services and integrations they offer. You may want to support your email marketing efforts with, say, push notifications. It makes a lot of sense to go with a single company who can take care of your needs as you grow.

Closing remarks

While searching for better email deliverability, it is easy to focus on commonly known factors like your email content, subject lines or your own reputation. In that, you might tend to overlook factors that aren’t quickly obvious yet are as important in your email deliverability.

All the efforts you pour into writing the perfect subject line or the perfect email copy won’t bring results if you’re not taking email deliverability. List segmentation, list building practice, list quality and your marketing automation partner are factors that aren’t easily recalled but play an important role. Taking care of these factors will deliver much better email deliverability.

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