ActiveCampaign Expert

The Ultimate Guide to Email Deliverability


Are you a business owner looking to maximize the value of your email marketing efforts? Do you need help ensuring your emails reach their intended destination without being blocked or tucked into spam folders? 

Email deliverability has become an increasingly hard-fought battle. As a result, businesses everywhere need to understand best practices to maximize their campaigns’ effectiveness. 

Fortunately, this guide provides a detailed view of email deliverability – designed to help save time and money while enhancing customer engagement with successful delivery rates.

In this article, we’ll discuss why it’s essential to understand this topic, the factors that impact delivery rate, and actionable strategies to improve your results – helping you connect with more customers than ever!

What is Email Deliverability?

In a world where emails are one of the most popular modes of communication (according to Hubspot, there are over 4 billion daily email users), email deliverability has emerged as a critical issue. 

Email deliverability isn’t just about your email stand out in the inbox; it’s about getting your email delivered to the inbox so that it can stand out.

Email deliverability refers to the ability of an email to reach its intended subscribers’ inboxes successfully while avoiding the spam folder. Based on a combination of factors, including email authentication, sender reputation, and email content. 

Email deliverability isn’t a one-and-done thing – it must be continually tracked and monitored. You can lose your good email reputation quickly, and it can take time to get it back.

Email Deliverability is Important

It’s not just about sending an email; it’s about ensuring it lands where it should. 

High email deliverability rates are essential for businesses that rely on email marketing campaigns. It’s the difference between a campaign’s success and failure; ultimately, it’s the difference between reaching out to potential customers or never reaching them. 

Email deliverability rate can significantly impact the success of your email marketing campaigns. When your emails successfully reach your intended recipients, it can lead to higher engagement rates, more conversions, and, ultimately, increased revenue. 

On the other hand, poor email deliverability can harm your sender’s reputation, lead to higher bounce rates, and even get your emails marked as spam. In addition, your time, effort, and financial investment to create a campaign may go to waste because your audience doesn’t view it.

Suppose you track and monitor your email deliverability rate. In that case, you are likely leaving money on the table (or hidden in the spam folder). Email deliverability matters because it ensures that the emails businesses send end up in the right place and are opened and read by the intended recipients.

The Impact of Email Deliverability On Business

Good email delivery saves time, money, and energy because your emails will reach the inbox. Unfortunately, as a result, your email marketing ROI decreases significantly, and you even risk getting banned from your email service provider.

Email marketing roi

Common Mistakes Made That Hurt Email Deliverability

Impacted by various factors, email deliverability must be monitored by businesses and individuals who rely on email communication. Common mistakes that hurt email deliverability include poor email list quality, poor sender reputation, improper domain setup, inconsistent sending, and spam complaints.

Email List Quality

One of the most important considerations is the quality of the email list. Modern email providers evaluate how many users open, click, and engage with a specific sender’s IP address.

When subscribers engage with emails from a specific sender, they are more likely to receive those senders’ emails in their inbox. Conversely, when subscribers do not engage with emails from a particular sender, they are more likely to receive those senders’ emails in their spam folder. Email providers follow the patterns of your readers.

It’s essential to track the engagement of your list and refrain from sending emails to unengaged or invalid contacts, as this can significantly diminish deliverability rates. While each email service differs, it’s a good rule of thumb to start reducing emails sent to a contact after 14 days of no activity to keep good inbox placement.

Be careful if you use a purchased or “borrowed” email list. Most modern email service providers only allow you to email a contact with at least a single opt-in. In addition, if these lists do not contain valid email addresses, you can significantly impact your sender reputation score.

Poor Sender Reputation 

Sender reputation is the perceived trustworthiness of an email sender’s IP score and the sender’s domain reputation. It is a crucial factor that affects the deliverability of your emails. 

Your sender’s reputation is determined by several factors, including user engagement, the volume of emails sent, feedback loops, and spam complaints. A good reputation increases the likelihood that your email will land in the subscriber’s inboxes rather than their spam folder. Conversely, a bad reputation will trigger spam filters, preventing your email message from reaching its intended audience. 

Tools like Google Postmaster can help you monitor how that particular mailbox provider views your domain and emails sent. For example, you can view spam reports, IP reputation, domain reputation, and feedback loops. While this is only visible for some email providers, understanding how Google (one of the largest providers) views your emails will help you make improvements.

Improper Domain Setup

One of the most common mistakes when getting started with marketing emails is that a business needs to set up its domain for email deliverability adequately.

Configuring your DNS settings is crucial; specifically, the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) records are vital. Otherwise, you will have to fall back on your provider’s default mail servers, which may not be suitable depending on the reputation of other senders sharing the servers alongside you.

These text records (usually set up with your website domain provider & host) specify which servers are authorized to send an email on behalf of your domain and digitally sign your messages to verify that they are authentic. In addition, it provides email validation by saying you are a real business with an existing domain. 

If you already have SPF and DKIM setup, use MX Toolbox to enter your domain name and check for free.

Inconsistent Sending

Email deliverability can significantly improve from consistent sending practices. For example, emails sent sporadically are more likely to be marked as spam by email filters because the end reader does not expect them. On the other hand, an email sent on the same day and time each week, with content the reader wants to see, is more likely to be opened.

Email providers track users’ engagement on your domain’s emails, as mentioned. If you need to send more emails, then there is no way for the contact to remain engaged and open your emails.

To improve your email deliverability, you will want to send regular, high-value broadcast campaigns that your contacts expect to receive, marketing emails based on your specific products and services, and transactional emails based on actions and behaviors.

Regularly scheduled and action and behavior-based emails help you keep an engaged audience of email subscribers. By establishing a regular sending cadence (at least weekly, ideally more), you can stay top of mind with your audience and increase the likelihood of your emails getting noticed and opened.

Spam Email

Conversely, inconsistent sending is sending too much or in a spammy way. Spam rating is vital because even a few complaints can significantly impact your deliverability. For example, if your spam rating is just 0.08% of your emails, Gmail can start giving you trouble. Gmail’s machine-learning algorithms block nearly 10 million spam and malicious emails every minute.

Spam messages are often sent from malicious senders and are emails sent to contacts without permission or explicit consent. Sometimes spam emails include purchased and borrowed lists or just “over” marketing and sending sales messages to an audience.

When you send emails to a purchased list, you may not have explicit permission to email that contact. As a result, the contact may report your emails as spam, further hurting your sender reputation. On the other hand, you leverage a purchased list. In that case, you use a tool like LemList to ask for the opt-in and a different domain or dedicated IP address to keep your primary sending domain’s rating.

In addition to damaging your relationship with an internet service provider, it also damages your relationship with your subscribers by causing annoyance and frustration, which can lead to disengagement or even unsubscribing. So, not only is spamming email contacts unethical, but it can have severe consequences for the overall effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.

Anytime you run an email marketing campaign, you should always include the ability for a contact to “opt out” of the campaign. Opt-out options may include an opt-out link at the bottom of your email. When a reader wants to stop receiving emails, they select the opt-out link and no longer receive future campaigns.

Finally, you should be aware of the content of the email itself. Using spam trigger words or irrelevant content can cause emails to be filtered into spam folders or blocked altogether.

spam folder

5 Key Measures of Email Deliverability

Email marketers must know the five key metrics that help monitor email deliverability and drive business growth. These include:

  1. Campaign open, click, and conversion rates
  2.  Contact engagement over time
  3.  Contact growth over time
  4.  Unsubscribe rate
  5.  Bounce rate

Analytics can help marketers identify trends in their data to refine targeting further and tailor content for better performance. By closely monitoring these metrics, marketers can ensure their campaigns run smoothly and make necessary refinements to improve engagement and growth rates. Finally, marketers can optimize campaigns for maximum email reach and engagement by testing various deliverability techniques – such as HTML optimization and list hygiene practices.

email deliverability

Campaign Open, Click, and Conversion Rates

Contact engagement is the best indicator of how your account’s performing. Anytime a contact opens, clicks, and converts (makes a purchase) from an email, your email engagement rating improves.

You will want to track these metrics based on campaign type to ensure that your contacts engage with your emails appropriately.

Triggered Campaigns

Based on specific actions or behaviors, triggered campaigns kick off when a contact acts like making a purchase. As a result, triggered campaigns have the highest open and click rate since they directly result from previous activity. In general, triggered campaigns have an open rate of over 45% and click rates of over 10%.


Autoresponder emails are action-based but not from a conversion. Instead, they send when a user completes a soft conversion, such as signing up for a freebie and passing it into your Welcome Series. Autoresponders are also highly interactive since they send new contacts excited and expecting your content. Well-performing autoresponder emails will have open rates exceeding 34% and click rates above 6%.


Newsletters are the lowest engaged with campaign type, mainly because they are routine and expected. While they do not have as high an engagement metric as other campaigns, they are still crucial for continued contact nurturing between different transaction types. Highly engaged newsletters will have open rates exceeding 21%, with click rates over 3.5%.

email marketing open rates

The Impact of Apple MPP Policy and Email Metrics

In September 2021, Apple released Apple Mail Protection Policy which allowed Apple Mail users (on iOS systems) to enable additional privacy settings on their email. This feature allows users to mask IP addresses, location data, and open rates. Unfortunately, this setting has impacted the ability of email providers to track whether or not an email is opened and when and where the contact is located. As a result, email open rate metrics have increasingly become inflated and, therefore, unreliable. 

While some email providers, such as ActiveCampaign, are releasing methods to be able to filter out Apple users so that you can view validated email engagement metrics, overall email open rate is becoming a less reliable metric of engagement, and click and conversion rates should be considered the top priority for tracking and improving.

Contact Engagement Over Time

Contact engagement over time is the metric that looks at how frequently your contacts engage with your content in relevance to how long they have been on your list. A high level of engagement suggests that subscribers are interested in the shared content and are more likely to take action, such as visiting the company’s website or purchasing a product. On the other hand, low engagement can indicate a lack of interest in the emails sent or, worse, spam.

Expect newer contacts to be more engaged (opening and clicking on more emails). At the same time, over time, this tends to decrease. By tracking engagement data such as date subscribed, last open date, last click date, and last purchase date, you can monitor engagement at 30m, 60, 180, and even 365+ days.

Email engagement

What to Do with Disengaged Contacts

Consider sending re-engagement campaigns when contacts become disengaged (meaning they are not interacting with your emails). These are campaigns that help encourage the contact to open up and interact with the email. 

Triggered by inactivity, re-engagement campaigns usually start after 14-, 30-, and 60 days. You will attempt to get your contact’s attention with attention-grabbing subject lines to open the email at each time frame.

Once they have opened the email, you may provide a special offer or incentive to encourage them to continue the interaction. For example, you may promote a new contract that has yet to purchase to convert with a limited-time offer only available to them.

email engagement strategy

Companies should create personalized and relevant content to improve email contact engagement, optimize their email design and format, and regularly clean their email lists. By doing so, they can build strong relationships with subscribers, increase customer retention, and ultimately drive growth.

Suppose a contact still does not engage with your emails. In that case, you will need to remove them from your list (this does not necessarily mean deleting their contact record, just removing them from regular email sends) and attempt to re-engage them through other marketing channels.

Remember, opened emails improve your deliverability can improve. However, a “big” list doesn’t mean anything if your contacts are not engaging with your emails.

Contact Growth Over Time

The purpose of contact growth over time is to ensure that you always gain more contacts than you are losing or unsubscribing.

To measure contact growth over time, you will look at new subscribers – unsubscribers / total active contacts.

If more people are unsubscribing than entering your automations, you will, unfortunately, face a long-term growth issue. So over time, you’ll want to figure out why people are unsubscribing and work toward improving that.

If your contact list is not growing, you must find new and innovative ways to attract subscribers and keep them engaged. Whether it’s through social media promotion or offering valuable incentives, every effort counts when it comes to building an email list. With patience and diligence, businesses can significantly increase their reach and convert more leads into loyal customers. The key is to stay consistent and keep track of data to identify what strategies are most effective at different stages of growth.

Contact Unsubscribe Rate

A good email list will always have an unsubscribe rate under 1%. However, you can avoid high unsubscribe rates by sending what you promise and providing personalized experiences and content relevant to your audience.

To help with personalization, you can create custom email preferences and subscription forms, allowing your audience to select the content they most want. 

Giving contacts the ability to pick and choose what emails they receive from you will help increase engagement and reduce unsubscribes.

Four Ways to Setup Subscription Preferences 

Subscription management is the strategy behind your email marketing that allows a contact to opt in/out of different campaigns. Regardless of your list size, subscription management is essential in ensuring that your contacts receive the information they want when they want it. Without a subscription management strategy for your contacts, you are more likely to experience spam complaints, delivery outside the subscriber’s inboxes, and reduced open and click rates. All emails should contain an unsubscribe link along with subscription preference options.

Example 1: Communication Types

The Communication Types form is the broadest method of subscription management. This form allows users to select the lists (based on the type of content) they want to receive emails from.

Users can choose from the content they want to receive and expect.

Subscription preferences by list

Example 2: Interest Type

The Interest Type form allows your contacts to select the categories of communications they receive from you within a given list.

Subscription preferences by topic

For example, your Weekly Blog and Other Free Content list may send content in four categories. Using an interest-based subscription preferences form, readers can select what categories they receive emails on.

With this subscription management form, you add a tag to a contact based on their preferences, allowing you to segment your list when sending a campaign.

Interest-based subscription forms are great when you publish various content every week.

Example 3: Frequency Type

The Frequency Type form allows your contacts to select the frequency of communications they receive from you within a given list.

Subscription form by frequency

For example, suppose you are emailing out three new blog posts each week. In that case, you will want to allow your subscribers a choice between receiving them daily, weekly, or even as a monthly digest.

With this subscription management form, you add a tag to a contact based on their preferences, allowing you to segment your list when sending a campaign.

Frequency type of subscription forms works well for marketers that publish lots of content and want subscribers to choose how often they receive it.

Example 4: Combination Form

The Combination Type form allows your contacts to make multiple selections from a single form.

Combination forms work great for marketers that want subscribers to be able to choose from interest areas and frequency of emails. However, this form works best for publishes that are creating content daily.

Form example by topic and frequency

With this subscription management form, you add a tag to a contact based on their topic and frequency.

In addition, you leverage conditional content to display content in your digest emails based on the selected preferences of the contact.

Contact Bounce Rate

Email contact bounce rate is another critical metric to monitor as it identifies what percentage of emails cannot be delivered. Two factors determine the bounce rate:

Soft bounce: a contact with a temporary issue with receiving emails (due to a full inbox or another technical issue).

Hard bounce: a contact with a permanent error (such as inactive email addresses) or strict security filters do not allow the email to be delivered.

Most email marketing platforms will unsubscribe contacts that reach a hard bounce to protect the server IP address. In contrast, soft bounces will attempt to deliver again. You can avoid hard bounces by using tools such as to validate your email addresses periodically and ensure they are valid.

Email Deliverability Best Practices

As this article has continued to emphasize, email marketing with good deliverability is critical to digital marketing. Best practices to improve email deliverability include:

  • Having a solid email marketing strategy in place.
  • Audience segmentation.
  • Using reputable email service providers.
  • How you craft your email campaign.

Email Marketing Strategy

One of the key ways to improve email deliverability rate is to create a consistent email marketing strategy. The consistent email strategy includes your high-value broadcast campaign emails, special offers, and promotions. 

Plan out your email campaigns on a 12-month calendar. Set up both your high-value broadcast campaigns and your special offers and promotions.

Your high-value broadcast campaigns can leverage the content strategy you already have in place. Plan to send at least one high-value campaign each week so your audience is ready and expects it.

Plan your special offers and promotions so that you are sending out a sales message at least monthly. Send these emails at different intervals – days or even weeks in between email messages. 

Your high-value broadcast campaigns, special offers, and promotions will help build out your email sending strategy and other automated campaigns.

Segment Your Audience

Once you have your content and campaigns ready to go, it’s time to start segmenting your audience so that you can deliver the right message at the right time. Segmentation lets you focus on a specific part of your audience or target them based on criteria like location, purchase history, or interests. Segmentation will help ensure that your messages are highly relevant to the reader and that you’re not wasting time sending irrelevant emails.

Audience segmentation makes a big difference! Mailchimp says segmented email campaigns receive 100.95% higher click rates than non-segmented ones.

Use a Reputable Email Service Provider

When sending out emails, it’s essential to use an email service provider (ESP) that is reliable and secure. A reliable ESP will ensure that your emails are delivered without issues and will deliver to the inbox. Popular ESPs, like ActiveCampaign and Klaviyo, have excellent reputations for delivering emails. Make sure you read up on their features and pricing to find the one that’s right for you.

Crafting Your Campaign

Setup the Segmentation

Before writing any campaign, first, identify whom the message is targeted towards. Not all emails should be sent to all of your contacts.  

Segments can be based on demographics, interests, past purchases, or any other criteria you want to use to target your emails. For example, you can use a segment based on engagement – such as contacts that have clicked on another email or a link on your website in the past 14 days.

Another good idea is to segment your inactive subscribers. These are contacts that have yet to open an email in 30+ days. You want to decrease the email frequency to this group, as they are less likely to have emails delivered to their inbox. If email providers see frequent emails sent to contacts that are not engaging, they will send those emails to the spam folder.

Who It’s From

Emails from a person have the best email deliverability because they look like legitimate emails and don’t look spammy. Even if you work for a larger company or organization, consider having a face to your emails so that it seems personal. For example, your sender name may be “Lindsay at Pickle Co.” Email recipients see lindsay@pickleco as the sending email address.

Also, have your sender email address from a legitimate domain and a dedicated IP address to avoid spam traps! Free email sites (like Google and Yahoo) will not be well received and are more like to go to a spam folder.

What’s the Subject

When an email hits a contact’s inbox, the subject line is one of the first things people see. Therefore, crafting a subject line that will make readers want to open your email is essential. It should be concise and straightforward while also being catchy and persuasive at the same time. You can use questions or statements to quickly grab the reader’s attention and use emojis or action words to create an exciting effect.

When writing emails, think of your subject line like an elevator pitch – it should convey enough information that the reader knows they need to open your email without giving away the entire message in just one line. You should also avoid using words like “free” or “save” as they may trigger spam filters.

Finally, consider using A/B testing for subject lines to determine which ones have the highest engagement rate by comparing variations on a single email campaign. This way, you can more accurately determine what works best for your audience.

Building the Body

When it comes to the body of an email, you should ensure a clear structure and flow. For example, you can create an all-text email or mix images and text, but avoid using full-image emails. These emails can come off as spammy to email service providers as it’s easy for senders to hide spam marketing messages within the image.

A solid email template will include an introduction and the purpose of your email. Give the reader a reason to keep reading, then provide all the necessary information to decide. Finally, end with a call-to-action statement or question encouraging the reader to act. 

When done correctly, this structure helps ensure the maximum deliverability of your emails and get your message across effectively. Remember to include hyperlinks when appropriate, as they can help direct readers to additional resources and improve accessibility.

Creating a Solid Call to Action

Creating a solid call to action is an essential element of successful campaigns. Ensure it’s clear, concise, and direct when crafting your CTA. Focus on one goal and make your CTA specific to that goal by using actionable words such as “buy,” “register,” or “sign up.” 

A good practice with CTAs is to include the key benefits of taking action. 

The more your readers click, the better your sender reputation will improve your deliverability rate.

Test Your Campaign

Once you have crafted a solid call to action and written your email content, it is vital to test your campaign. This testing should involve emailing yourself or colleagues and assessing the results. In addition, you should check for any broken links, missing images, formatting issues, and the overall appearance of the email on different devices. 

Consider testing different subject lines and calls to action with a small subset of your mailing list. A/B testing can help you determine which subject line or CTA is more effective in achieving the desired result. 

Finally, remember to analyze your results once the campaign has finished to understand what worked well and what needs improvement for future campaigns.

Final Thoughts on Email Deliverability

Email deliverability is an essential part of any successful email campaign. You must ensure that your emails reach the right people and have a good chance of being opened, read, and acted upon. 

By following best practices such as optimizing your subject lines and calls to action, testing different variables on a subset of your mailing list, and analyzing your results, you can improve your email deliverability rate and ultimately enhance the success of your campaigns.

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1 thought on “The Ultimate Guide to Email Deliverability”

  1. Thank you for sharing this valuable article on email deliverability! Your insights and tips are highly informative and provide a comprehensive understanding of the subject. Although the Postman SMTP plugin is not mentioned in the blog, it’s worth considering as an effective tool to enhance email delivery. Great job, and I look forward to reading more of your content in the future!

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