Deliverability: Getting to the inbox

One of the most important aspects of email marketing is deliverability. This topic, which focuses on the issues that stop your emails from arriving in your recipient’s inbox, may not have as much sex appeal as other topics, such as email design, but if the messages you’ve crafted to woo your audience aren’t being seen, then your efforts have been wasted.

To delve into this subject further, I’ve drafted deliverability expert Patrick Knight with Get Me in the Inbox for a short Q&A session.

I Send Your Email: What are your thoughts on list quality vs. list quantity? Most people like the idea of sending to a large list, but is bigger always better?

Knight: Not always! I tell my clients not to be misled …its quality over quantity.  A small, cleaner list with a 30% open rate is a lot more engaged than 5% on a larger one.  My advice in a nutshell is: lose the dead weight if subscribers are not engaged.

While this may seem scary for some senders, keep in mind that many top ISPs (Yahoo and Gmail) use engagement metrics as part of their reputation decisions. People who do not engage in email communication can actually prevent messages from reaching interested subscribers. You think about it, that’s a good chunk of revenue loss, not to mention the cost, time and effort you put into creating your campaign.

Clearly, we can see there is no benefit in keeping a large list that promotes delivery issues.  After all, you’re in business to make money, not lose it!

I Send Your Email: Emails that are one big image or a bunch of images put together like a jigsaw puzzle can look really pretty, but they’re bad for deliverabilty. Why is this design style not a good idea?

Knight: Most email clients turn images off by default and unfortunately won’t show the pretty design in the email. Instead, the message will show one large blank image, which can lead to complaints and blacklisting. Furthermore, spammers often use this tactic, and as a result, many spam filters will flag these type of emails before it even reaches the inbox.

I Send Your Email: I bet if you asked most business owners who send marketing emails, they’d say, “Of course my emails go directly to the inbox! I got their permission – they want to hear from me!” What’s one piece of advice you would give to be sure their messages are in fact hitting the inbox?

Knight: Never assume messages are being place in your subscribers’ inbox. Truly knowing if your emails are getting inbox delivery takes work.

Here are some good ways to determine inbox delivery:

  1. Perform seedlist tests. Doing this can provide a snap shot of how your messages are treated by mail providers.  A very inexpensive and accurate solution can be found at
  2. Review engagement metrics such as opens and clicks. Usually if a message is landing in the spam folder, its more than likely not being read by your subscriber.
  3. Benchmark your metrics and consistently monitor changes in behavior. Doing this can provide early detection of an inbox placement problem.
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