Best Practices

5 Questions to Ask When Troubleshooting Email Delivery Problems

5 Questions to Ask When Troubleshooting Email Delivery Problems

Best Practices

troubleshooting email deliveryYikes! Your delivery rates are low and you don’t know what to do. Before you panic, remember that email deliverability is a tricky business. Accept the fact that there is always a chance that one of your campaigns will fall victim to the spam folder. Even the best senders meet with a delivery failure or two every now and then.

To help, here are the 5 questions you need to ask yourself when troubleshooting email delivery problems.

#1: Do you know your email sending reputation?

You know this already, but it’s worth repeating. ISPs make filtering decisions based on your sending reputation. If you have a poor reputation, your mail will mostly likely end up in the spam folder or blocked altogether. If you have no reputation, you could get junked until you build one.

Here’s the catch. Your sending reputation can fluctuate with each email campaign that you deploy so you need to monitor your email program on a regular basis. Check sites like www.senderscore.org or www.senderbase.org to see where you stand in the grand scheme of things. If you find that your sender rep has fallen below acceptable standards, you have some work to do—and fast!

#2: Do you know your complaint rate?

High complaint rates will get you sent to the danger zone faster than you can blink. Make sure you are sending highly relevant email to all of the users on your list. Check your response rates to determine how engaging your content is. Sign up for feedback loops so you can receive complaint data from the ISPs and remove the email addresses that are reporting your emails as spam. This will go a LONG way to improving your sending reputation and getting delivered.

#3: Is your IP on a blacklist?

High complaint rates can also put your IP on a blacklist. Being on a blacklist is a surefire way to get blocked at any ISP. Check these popular (and highly regarded) blacklists to see if your IP is present:

If it’s there, you can clear up the discrepancy by taking the proper steps to remove your IP from these lists. Find out how here.

#4: Did you authenticate your email?

Email authentication is the process by which you “sign” your email, specifying which domains legitimately belong to you. Spammers and phishers will often use trusted brand names to trick the ISP into delivering their mail and the user into clicking on malicious email. When you sign your email with SPF and/or DKIM, you are helping to thwart spammers by giving the ISPs definitive proof as to which domains you own. All others will be considered spam, and therefore not delivered. If you fail to authenticate your email, you could mistakenly end up in the junk pile.

#5: Do you have a new IP?

Above, we talked about reputation monitoring and how a poor reputation has a negative effect on your email delivery. So will no reputation, and that’s exactly what you start out with when you get a new IP address. Therefore, you have to slowly build your reputation over time in order to get the ISPs to trust that you are a legitimate mailer. This process is called “warming an IP.” To warm an IP, you start by gradually increasing the volume of email your send typically over the course of 30-60 days. For some warm-up tips, click here.

There is no question that you will encounter delivery failures in your email lifetime. How you handle this setback is what’s going to determine your future success. Educate yourself and learn more by downloading our newest guide, ABCs of ISPs: How to Get Delivered at the Major Internet Service Providers.


Carly Brantz
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With more than 15 years of experience, Carly Brantz is an email deliverability and inbound marketing veteran. As the VP of Revenue Marketing at SendGrid, Carly empowers her team to transform marketing from a cost center to a revenue generator. With a key focus on funnel optimization, Carly leads the team responsible for content creation, lead nurturing, SEO/SEM, and website optimization. An accomplished speaker, Carly shares her email delivery and revenue marketing tactics as a headline speaker on SendGrid’s international roadshow as well as other Marketing conferences.
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