June 13, 2023

13 Best Ways to Improve Email Deliverability

Reading time about 15 min

There’s nothing worse than spending hours on an email campaign only for it to land in junk mail. Increasing spam protection means sending an email today is more complicated than entering contact addresses and hitting send. This guide will help you understand what affects email deliverability and teach you how to improve it immediately and in the long run. 

Email deliverability: FAQ

What is email deliverability?

Email deliverability is the ability to successfully deliver emails to your contact’s inbox. If your email is filtered as spam by the email provider or doesn’t land at all (hard bounce) then your email deliverability failed. 

Note: This is not to be confused with email delivery which refers to whether or not an email is received by a recipient’s email service provider (ESP), regardless of what folder (spam, inbox, social etc). 

Why is email deliverability so important?

Keeping your emails out of spam and in primary inboxes is crucial for email marketing success. Poor deliverability means poor campaign results. You could even inflict long-term damage to your brand and email sender reputation.

But my emails always land in the inbox, does deliverability still concern me? 

Yes! It’s still good to know how email deliverability works and best practices. This avoids any mistakes that could damage your deliverability down the line. Prevention is better than cure. 

What factors affect email deliverability?

Email deliverability is affected by a number of factors, including:

Sender reputation. A score that internet service providers (ISP) give to you (the email sender) to say if your emails are credible or not. If your campaigns are opened, engaged with, and perform well, this helps your sender reputation. It in turn helps your deliverability. 

Email content. The quality of your content is important too. This includes your subject line and sender name, down to the copy in your email body. If your email campaign is full of certain trigger words or looks like spam, your content will be flagged. 

Email authentication. Passing certain protocols to prove you are not a spammer and that you do indeed send legitimate emails will help improve email deliverability. 

Subscriber engagement. Engagement is measured by things like open rate and click-through rate. This shows that subscribers are interested in your content (therefore it is not spam). 

How to test your email deliverability

You can start by running your email domain through senderscore.org to see your overall stats. There you can see your IP address score, domain score, and more. If you haven’t set all this up yet, don’t worry, we get to that later in this email deliverability guide. 

ESPs can also give you some insight into why your email deliverability failed, for example, if an email address caused a hard bounce.

But the easiest and most straightforward way to test email deliverability is to simply send campaigns and monitor the results. Brevo shows you campaign metrics so you can see how many emails in a campaign were delivered, who opened them, and even which link people clicked. Handy insight! 

Email marketing and CRM stats dashboard overview with Brevo.

In 2022, marketing emails had an average open rate of 21.89%, so don’t panic if your campaigns don’t have 100% open rates. 

Email marketing open rates, click rates, unsubscribe rates and bounces graph based on regions of the world.

Different industries and different types of marketing emails have varying success rates, so doing some light research will help you know what a healthy ballpark is.

More advanced email marketers may consider using a seed list to test deliverability before sending campaigns.

What’s a seed list?

A seed list is a list of test email addresses at different email providers (e.g. Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.). The goal of such a list is to measure inbox placement for different email clients. 

How to fix email deliverability issues

If you have email deliverability issues, you’ll need to repair your sender reputation to get back in the email providers’ good books. This takes time. As your engagement improves, so too will your sender reputation.

So let’s dive into how to improve email deliverability and avoid the spam folder with concrete actions that you can take today.

Email deliverability best practices to improve your deliverability

These best practices apply to everyone sending marketing emails. These steps will show the internet service providers of the world that you send legitimate emails so they get delivered right to the inbox of your recipients.

1. Clean your email list

Cleaning your email list is one of the most important things you can do as an email marketer. While keeping old or unengaged contacts may seem like a good idea (or at least a good self-esteem booster), it can hurt your email engagement rates and your overall deliverability.

Remove non-existent email addresses   

There are two types of non-existent email addresses: 

  • Email addresses incorrectly entered by the would-be subscriber
  • Inactive email addresses no longer in use

To avoid misspelled addresses, set up a double opt-in process. Before being added to the list, the subscriber will be sent an email with a link to confirm the email address. Double opt-in is highly recommended and also protects you from spam traps (more on that in just a bit).

Inactive email addresses will produce a hard bounce. Hard bounces damage email deliverability by increasing your bounce rate. These need to go. 

Brevo makes the job easy. It automatically blacklists any addresses that unsubscribe or produce a hard bounce to help you maintain your list hygiene. This means they won’t be able to receive any more emails from you. 

You can see all of your hard bounces by filtering them in the contacts page of your account.

email marketing platform by Brevo showing how to segment contacts for hard bounces.

Another good reason to remove inactive emails is the threat of spam traps.

What’s a spam trap?

A spam trap is an email address used by email providers to identify spammers using old, abandoned email addresses. 

How it works: The email provider knows the address is out of use. So when an email comes through, it’s obvious the address was obtained unlawfully (either scraped or purchased). The sender is then marked as spam for all recipients on that platform.

Remove unengaged subscribers

Got subscribers who haven’t opened emails in six months? Or even a year?

Inactive subscribers hurt deliverability. They lower your campaign engagement rates, which hurts your sender reputation in the eyes of email providers.

There are a number of reasons for low engagement:

  • Your emails don’t reach their inbox (they’re filtered into spam)
  • The person is no longer interested in your business
  • They receive too many emails and yours are lost in the mix

Before deleting them, consider sending a reactivation email to these contacts. Re-engagement emails are a way to check in with your contacts and ask them if they’re still interested in what you have to offer. If they aren’t interested, they’ll unsubscribe. Or if they don’t respond at all, remove ‘em! 

Brevo users can easily improve engagement rates by excluding unengaged contacts when sending an email. These are identified by a pre-defined segment. You’ll find the option in the campaign editor when selecting your contact list.

The pre-defined unengaged segment is perfect for beginners, but you can always customize it according to your preferences. 

This is a super easy way to protect your sender reputation and improve your deliverability rate.

2. Use segmentation

Some of your contacts simply won’t engage with your emails. Use customer segmentation to figure out what kind of emails your subscribers like. From there, you can organize your contacts into groups by interests and send relevant emails. 

3. Only send to double-opt-in contacts 

Make sure your email marketing campaigns are sent to people who are genuinely interested in you and your content. As mentioned above, double-opt-in signup forms help you grow your contact list with quality connections. 

This is also an opportunity to do some primary segmenting by asking what kind of content people want. 

These forms also follow the GDPR guidelines and make sure you have consent from your subscribers to contact them. 

Discover some newsletter signup examples for inspiration! 

4. Never buy email lists 

There is no better way to make yourself out to be a spammy sender than sending to people who don’t know who you are, and who did not give you permission to send them emails. Your sender score will plummet, and complaint rates will rise. Not the best combo. 

Read more on why you should never buy an email list.

5. Stick to your signup promise

Another easy one. Only send the kind of content your subscribers have opted in to receive.

Create an email signup form that is clear about the type of emails you’ll be sending and the frequency. The number of emails you send is also a factor. If you promise a monthly newsletter, don’t send two emails a week. 

6. Send consistently

Consistency is another important factor for improving reader engagement with your email campaigns. Finding the right timing and frequency increases the likelihood that contacts will open and click on your emails by:

  • Placing your email in readers’ inboxes at the time when they’re most active
  • Creating expectations so subscribers know when to expect your new campaigns.

Finding the right time of day or day of the week to send emails may take some testing — every audience is different. But it will pay off in the end.

Brevo’s Send Time Optimization feature eliminates any guesswork by choosing the right time based on previous engagement data. It’s available on our Business plan. 

7. Avoid spam words and triggers in email content

When the email provider receives an email, it checks the subject line and content for spam words and phrases. It’s best to avoid the following practices in email copy so you don’t get caught in a spam filter:

  • Writing in all caps
  • Using too much punctuation (i.e. overuse of exclamation points)
  • Using red font
  • Overuse of spam words (free, cheap, bargain, $$$, bonus, urgent, don’t wait!, etc.)
  • HTML errors
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Excessively long content

8. Take special care with subject lines

Your email subject line also affects deliverability.

When crafting subject lines, be sure to:

Avoid click-bait and false promises. Sure, it might get someone to open the email, but it’ll also lead to frustration and loss of trust. This drives people to unsubscribe and report you as spam. All in all, a great way to kill your sender reputation.

Make the subject line interesting, intriguing, and relevant. As mentioned above, you shouldn’t oversell your content. But you should still make your subject line enticing. Check out our list of best email subject lines for inspiration.

9. Make sure the sender name matches your brand

When your email shows up in a customer’s inbox, you want to make sure they know it’s from you. You wouldn’t ring someone’s doorbell with a mask on, right? (Unless it’s Halloween of course).

When setting the sender name (the name that appears as the sender in the inbox), make it as close to your business name as possible.

For example, set up a sender name like “Samantha @ Brevo.” That way, recipients know that it’s coming from Brevo, but with the personal touch that comes with adding your name. You can also go with the classic “[Company] Team”.

Email sender information shown in an email preview for an iPhone.

Further reading: Why you shouldn’t use noreply email address

10. Use your business website domain in your email address 

Make your marketing emails professional so people know you send legitimate emails. This avoids any suspicion and your contacts will take you more seriously than having your business name on a Yahoo or Gmail domain.

11. Make it easy to unsubscribe

You might not think it, but the unsubscribe link is your friend. It’ll help you maintain an engaged email list which leads to better email deliverability.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: you do NOT want to keep contacts in your list if they aren’t interested in your content. This will only hurt your engagement. 

Make it easy for them to unsubscribe if they’ve lost interest. Otherwise, they might get frustrated and file spam complaints. 

By making it easy, we mean having a clearly visible unsubscribe link in your email footer.

Email deliverability best practices - Brevo unsubscribe link

Don’t hide the link. Also, one simple click is all it should take. Don’t ask people to sign in or jump through hoops. That’s just annoying.

All the better if your email is configured to include a list-unsubscribe header. This’ll show the unsubscribe link at the top of your email as well. It’s automatically set up on all Brevo campaigns.

An email that has an unsubscribe button in the header link.

Email using a list-unsubscribe header

12. Authenticate your email domain address

ISPs look for certain criteria to make sure you aren’t sending spam or phishing emails. One way to help them recognize a legitimate account is to pass certain email authentication tests. Passing these tests is great for improving email deliverability. There are three kinds of domain authentication checks:

DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) 

DKIM verifies that the sender of an email message is who they claim to be by allowing you to claim a domain name. This decreases the risk of spoofing, or someone faking your identity, which would definitely hurt your reputation. 

SPF (Sender Policy Framework)

This framework verifies your IP address and domain. This essentially tells other ESPs that the IP address that sent an email has the authority to do so. This helps your emails land in your recipient’s inbox by proving they aren’t spam.  

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) 

Essentially checks if the message from the sender is legit, and has a SPF or DKIM pass. 

Read in-depth on understanding SPF, DKIM, and DMARC

Brevo also helps you go through authentication checks so you can focus on making your campaigns. 

13. Choose a shared or dedicated IP address

When starting off with Brevo, you’ll send your emails using Brevo’s shared IP address. This means you can get started sending emails right away because your IP address already has a proven reputation and you don’t have to warm up one yourself. 

You can always get a dedicated IP address with Brevo, too. This IP address is yours alone to use and you are fully responsible for its performance. You will have to warm up your IP address, or in other words, build your IP reputation. 

If you are a small business, the shared IP address is great for you. Larger businesses sending more than 3,000 emails a day will need a dedicated IP address. 

Improve your email deliverability today

By now you should have a clearer picture of what affects email deliverability and how to make sure your emails reach the inbox.

Remember the key takeaways:

  • Remove unengaged or inactive contacts
  • Maximize meaningful engagement with your emails
  • Only send messages to contacts who want to receive them

Try Brevo today

Improve your email deliverability rate with Brevo. Take advantage of blocklists, double-opt-in signup forms, and campaign metrics to help you make meaningful campaigns that your subscribers will love. 

Open my free Brevo account now >>

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