Deliverability always makes for an interesting discussion in the email marketing community. It will forever be a hot topic as newcomers scratch their heads in the attempt to understand why not all of their messages are getting to the inbox. Although the power continues to shift to the recipient, whether or not your message is delivered is ultimately up to you.

Email Traffic Control

The email system isn’t necessarily regulated like the airline industry, but actual delivery is controlled by various entities. ISPs and email providers such as Yahoo! manage the mail coming in to the individuals using its webmail service while corporations oversee the incoming messages sent to their employee inboxes. In an ideal scenario, these organizations would deliver every piece of mail and be done with it. But in a world littered with spam, they must be judgmental and put every single message under a microscope. Due to the current landscape, even messages sent by legitimate email marketers are scrutinized.

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The Infamous Blacklist

One of the main causes behind poor deliverability rates is the blacklist, an email marketer’s worst nightmare. The blacklist represents one of numerous mechanisms that have been introduced to fight spam and identify the parties who distribute it. A blacklist may come in many forms, but it is basically a master list that ISPs can reference to determine whether or not a given message is spam. When your message arrives at a mail server, ISPs often utilize these lists to determine if it will be allowed to pass. If you’re on one, your message is marked as spam and automatically shot down. Needless to say, being on a blacklist is not good for deliverability or your email marketing as a whole. (If, however, you believe your email has been blacklisted in error, check out our steps to follow for Delisting Your Blacklisted IP Address.)

Deliverability and Your Reputation

In essence, maintaining satisfactory deliverability rates and staying off the dreaded blacklist is all about keeping your reputation as a sender intact. When it comes down to it, this is what determines your ability to reach the inbox. The better your reputation, the better chance you have of bypassing those pesky spam filters and getting your message delivered. Following are some simple things you can do to maintain a good reputation, improve deliverability and avoid blacklists all at the same time:

  • Keep Your List Clean – Watch your bounces to make sure you are not sending messages to obsolete email addresses, and never send mail to people who have asked to be removed from your list.
  • Find the Right Frequency – Commit yourself to finding a frequency that works for your audience; sending too much or too little could lead to spam complaints.
  • Stay Relevant – The less relevant your communications, the more likely recipients are to mark your message as spam and generate the reports that will tarnish your reputation.

The easy answer to keeping your reputation in good shape is “don’t send spam,” but since the perception of spam has changed so dramatically, that can no longer be considered good advice. What remains a solid recommendation is running an email marketing program that follows the best practices of list hygiene, optimal frequency and relevance.