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How To Fix Email Deliverability Issues

May 12, 2023

Email Marketing performance is often not just the offer or content but in a lot of cases the email never gets to the recipient, instead they go straight to the spam/junk folder or, worse, are being blocked altogether? This is a widespread problem for many email campaigns, leading to low engagement, poor conversions, and it all affects the ROI.

The key reasons emails do not reach the target person vary from low-quality data to a lack of email authentication tools to precheck data prior to deployment.

There are ways to fix a poor email reputation to get you back in the user’s inbox.

Why are my emails missing?

In most cases, when your emails aren’t seen or go to the spam folder, several things could be happening that can drive your deliverability down:

  1. You don’t have a deliverability problem. Your messages are being seen, but your messaging isn’t relevant, so you aren’t driving any measurable engagement.
  2. Your messages are being blocked. The mailbox providers are seeing red flags or receiving feedback that something is not right with your mail stream, and they need it to stop, so they refuse to accept your mail.
  3. Your messages are being filtered to the spam folder. The mailbox providers are seeing something or receiving feedback that something is concerning to them and/or their customers, so they place the message in the spam folder.
  4. This is a tactic used to protect their end users. It also makes their experience with the mail application friendlier, as the manual filtering step is taken care of automatically.
  5. But sometimes, that filtering is wrong. So, instead of rejecting the mail, it is placed in the spam folder. This allows the recipient to weigh in on the message. When they look for it, they can tell the mailbox provider the filtering got it wrong, and the mail is indeed wanted and/or safe. This action helps to recalibrate the spam filter for future communications.
  6. Your messages are being quarantined. The administrators of your mail system have put rules in place to quarantine messages of questionable quality or ones that still need to be approved so that they can analyse them for security reasons. This most often happens with B2B domains and mailing lists.

What triggers these decisions are based on several factors, including:

  • Technical settings that are misconfigured
  • Lack of email authentication protocols such as SPF, DKIM, DMARC, search them online you will find various tools to help you here.
  • A compromise in your system or an outside party is misusing your domain in phishing campaigns or other abusive actions.
  • Poor data quality leading to high bounce rates, spam trap hits
  • Spam complaints and other negative customer actions
  • And the heaviest hitter, email reputation has degraded or doesn’t exist.

Solving Your Deliverability Issues

Technical Settings

Use spam checker tools with your email delivery platform or tools such as Litmus, Kickbox, Spam Assassin which identify if there are issues within the headers, encryption, links, etc., that can factor into deliverability issues.

Email Authentication

Email authentication tools can be added via API’s or on a batch basis to check your data prior to email deployment making identification around who sent and authorized the message clearer for a mailbox provider’s filters. These data points make for stronger signals around what should and should not be trusted, or at least what was able to be verified.

System or Domain Compromise

Your system is your program’s lifeblood. Make sure to protect it by limiting access, auditing who has access over time, and, if they are still employed, recommend (or require) multi-factor authentication for your user’s credentials.

Domain compromise is often harder to spot, but you can use DMARC monitoring tools as a start. If anyone is using your domain to send mail, you’ll see this activity in your reports. By implementing an enforcement policy, such as quarantine or reject, you can begin to stop this activity and better protect your domain’s reputation.

Data Quality

Poor data quality can degrade your email reputation if it becomes a consistent issue. Real-time verification can verify email data at the point of collection, to prevent non-existent, bad, or potentially problematic email addresses from entering your database to begin with.

Spam Complaints

For the major email providers in Ireland such as Gmail, outlook etc spam complaints are a huge signal for which messages are wanted and which are not. A single complaint isn’t a problem, but complaints from many users, especially when they occur over time, can damage your email reputation.

You can’t avoid spam complaints entirely, but you can work to keep them to a minimum.

Managing spam complaints requires thoughtful marketing efforts that set expectations upon creating a relationship with a user, sending them relevant content and offers at the right time.

Email Reputation is a core deliverability score.

Here are a few things to check.

▢ First, identify if you have an issue. To do this:

  • Monitor your reputation through free online sites like Cisco’s Talos Intelligence CenterGoogle Postmaster, and Microsoft’s SNDS.
  • Monitor your inbox placement over time. Inbox Placement monitoring will help uncover issues with your program that are lasting and not a temporary dip in performance. Inbox placement tools will not only show if you are landing in the spam folder, but which providers you are having issues with so you can better focus your solution and remediation efforts.
  • Monitor blocklists will help you identify if you have data quality issues, like spam traps, which could come from an aged list or an unprotected form. And if you are on a blocklist like Spamhaus, you’re certain to have delivery and deliverability issues. Look for tools that have real-time alerts so you can jump on any issues as soon as they occur.
  • Monitor DMARC to identify malicious use of your domain that could be affecting your domain reputation. DMARC Monitoring can also be used to find gaps in your email authentication settings across your streams that could lead to deliverability problems.
  • Use a tool to do a review of your code and links. Issues with rendering can lead to poor experiences and poor experiences can lead to complaints. 
  • Run a message through a spam checker tool find them online or with your email deployment provider.
  • Review your data quality and sources.
  • Add CAPTCHA or a honeypot field to your online form to weed out accidental entries, bot entries, or those not terribly interested!
  • Consider a welcome email and/or confirmed opt-in to nourish the relationship at the start and offer a way for your customers to opt-out if they change their mind.
  • Look at performance by source and identify poor quality sources to either remove or rework the onboarding process.
  • Clean up poor-performing list sources.
  • Then go beyond that and focus on the experience of onboarding a new email and look at what expectations are set. Are you offering a preference page to allow for a customized experience or at least learn more about your customer (get that first-party data)?

Look closely at your metrics. Don’t focus on spam complaints alone. They are flawed. Don’t focus on open rates alone. They are flawed. Basically, don’t focus on any one metric. They are all flawed.

Do look at trends for all your metrics. Ask yourself:

  • Are they going up or down, or are they flat?
  • What are they telling you about what your customer wants or, more powerfully, what they don’t want?
  • How do they relate to the other metrics?
  • What are your metrics at the end of the funnel (those KPIs you are truly looking for, such as revenue) look like?
  • Do they share the same fluctuations?
  • Do the metrics align with what you are seeing with your monitoring tools?

Review your domain and send history.

  • Are you new to the email world?
  • Are you established but sending from a new platform?
  • Have you gone through IP and domain warming to establish your streams and who you are?

If you haven’t built up a reputation, you will need to scale back and rewarm your program. In some cases, your reputation may also be impacted by the network you’re using, so consider reviewing their history as well as your own.

**If you need help to improve your email deliverability, give us a shout, a chat could fix the problems on your desk or see an improved outcome from your email marketing activity. **