Email deliverability is a fairly large buzzword these days, and not just from email service providers. Businesses of all types are realizing that a great campaign is only great if it gets in front of their recipients. Otherwise, they just spent a bunch of time and resources creating something that no one saw.

We recently published SendGrid’s 2016 Email Deliverability Guide that was written by two of our in-house Delivery Consultants: Luke Martinez and Taylor Ferguson. If you haven’t read it yet, make sure you check it out.

Below, they’ve answered a few questions about common email misconceptions and what they look at when evaluating customer email programs:

Can you introduce yourself and describe what your job entails? Why should senders take your advice for email deliverability?

My name is Luke Martinez. I’ve been a Deliverability Consultant at SendGrid for two years. I have a deep understanding of the email ecosystem and I use data to help clients send email that people love. My job involves teaching senders how to be good guests in recipient inboxes. Email marketers are guests, and if enough recipients decide they don’t care for your emails, you won’t be invited back!

My name is Taylor Ferguson, I’m an Associate Delivery Consultant and I’ve also been at SendGrid for the last 2 years. My day-to-day involves investigations through data and tools. I paint pictures for our clients that tell the story of how ISPs view their incoming mail, as well as how their recipients view their incoming mail. Being part of the Delivery Team, we have a view into a wide breadth of data that all converge to tell the story of a particular sender’s email program.

There’s clearly value in email deliverability. What are some of the biggest misconceptions businesses make when they start sending their email?

The biggest misconception I see is the thought that more is better. In almost every other type of marketing, more is always better. More commercials, more billboards, more flyers, a bigger sign; these things generally mean more impressions, and more sales.

With email marketing, this approach doesn’t scale. In some cases, sending more email to more people can actually have the opposite effect. It’s important to set expectations with your recipients early and often. If someone is expecting to receive a single newsletter each week, and they start to receive your daily deals ads, they’re probably going to mark those messages as spam, and cause delivery problems for the rest of your recipients. Always keep in mind what your recipients signed up for, and honor their expectations.

A lot of people think that email just works. It doesn’t, and there are plenty of ways that a new sender can make mistakes that will damage their sending reputation for a long time. Email is a long game. It’s incredibly important, and worthwhile, for businesses that are starting their email programs to take the time to understand what they need when it comes to email. Plan accordingly, build healthy lists, and segment recipients. It’s worlds easier to stay off the naughty list from the get-go than it is to claw your way back into the world of reputable sending.

What are the first things you look at when evaluating a business’s deliverability issues?

Delivery metrics and address collection practices. Looking at engagement rates across various inbox providers can be an extremely telling indicator of how a sender’s mail is being received. If your open rate is lower at Gmail than it is at Yahoo, you can infer that you have a delivery issue at Gmail. If your open rate is high, but your clickthrough rate is low, this could indicate a problem with your content. I like to monitor the relationship between clickthrough rate and spam reports + unsubscribes. If the number of people reporting a message as spam is anywhere near the number of people clicking on a link, this can be indicative of a problem.

With regards to address collection, I like to visit the website and see what it feels like to sign up for the sender’s email. Is it clear what I’m signing up for? Do I know what types of messages I’m going to receive, and how often I’m going to receive them? Is the opt-in passive, or explicit? Is there a preference center? The key to good deliverability is understanding what your recipients are expecting to receive and keeping their attention by sending relevant content at a frequency that doesn’t overwhelm their inbox and cause your engagement rates to suffer.

Honestly, there are so many things to look at. That being said, I generally look for disproportionality in a sender’s statistics. Meaning, delivered rates, open rates, click rates, all the stats and how they perform at different ISPs. Global indicators such as these help guide me when the investigation then moves into things such as bounces, blocks, complaints, and content. Deliverability issues can be a symptom of just about anything and it truly takes a whole understanding to properly diagnose, and more importantly, improve.

Check Back for More Email Deliverability Answers

This is just the first of a two-part interview with Luke and Taylor. My next set of questions will provide information about what companies should focus on to improve deliverability and changes that will be coming to email in the future.

In the meantime, check out our new 2016 Email Deliverability Guide for more insider tips from Luke and Taylor.

Warren Duff
Warren is the Sr. Content Marketing Manager at SendGrid, specializing in email and content best practices, he develops many of the new guides you see SendGrid release as well as other pieces of content, including blogs, videos, case studies, and emails.