Email Marketing

Email Deliverability

This is one of the sexiest topics a marketeer can work on. Just kidding.

But it is important. If you are doing any kind of mass email deliverability will become an issue sooner or later. In simple terms there are 4 points where an email can be blocked.

  1. The mail server itself can be blacklisted, at the ISP level all traffic can be denied for a specific IP address (these are named by numeric codes that look like this
  2. Mail can be filtered and rejected through a spam filtering service before it hits an organizations mail server. The company I work for uses Postini which captures a lot of spam, but sometimes cages some of the ham too.
  3. There’s a pinch point at the corporate mail server. Your IS department may set up your mail system to reject everything from a specific IP address.
  4. The end user may set up filters to move your incoming mail to the trash, do not pass go, do not collect $200. Worse yet, they might mark you as spam causing you to be locked out further up the chain next time.

So, what do you do? The first thing to do is make sure you are managing expectations. Keep in mind that a good campaign will have around a 25% open rate and a 10% click through, so you are talking about 3 per 100 sent on a good day.

It’s very easy to test deliverability if your email system uses HTML messages to track opens. Keep in mind that if one person at a corporate location gets a message you can reasonably assume that you are it least getting past the first 3.

Resist the urge to mail yourself. This will work well in the beginning but as soon as you start having problems you are going to be the person trying to get yourself off a blacklist. Vendors that have hundreds of customers using their email services have established relationships with the ISPs that you don’t.

And for the love of God, if you are going to mail yourself, don’t use the same server as your regular corporate mail. There’s no faster path to the unemployment line than tanking email for your whole company because of a spam complaint.

4 replies on “Email Deliverability”


I enjoyed the insight. My monthly e-newsletter seems to be about on line with your stats and I’ve been trying to figure out if I’m winning or losing.

Many people say I like getting your email, I like reading it. Many others say nothing but most do not unsubscribe. Its my hope that it remains a viable marketing channel for me (though not my only one of course).

Best always,
– Peter

Hey Peter,
Email will still be huge for many years (until the world gets hooked on RSS). You can get good email stats from eROI or MarketingSherpa. Note that the smaller the list the better the rates, as you get bigger the results get worse…

Hi John, I came across your blog in a google search. Great content here…

You never mentioned the use of web based autoresponder services in your post here. The reason I bring this up is because most of the professional services establish relationships with the ISP’s.

That’s why I recommend certian companies to my clients. (Well, that’s not the only reason…I do have a financial gain involved if they do sign up) However, just because I’m an affiliate of certian providers shouldn’t mean that my recommendation is skewed.

Deliverability issues are bigger than most people think.

Are you talking about general email correspondence or email marketing in general?

Love to hear your take.

[…] Jason sent in a comment on a prior post discussing deliverability asking about web auto responders. This is a distinction that is important if you are not aware of your IT infrastructure – the mail that gets generated when someone fills out a form on your site may be coming from a different place than your bulk email. […]

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