Maximizing Email Delivery Rate: A Practical Troubleshooting Guide 

Email delivery rate

We get it. You pour hours into crafting the perfect emails, making sure every word and image aligns with your brand’s voice. But what’s the point if they’re not even reaching your audience? It’s like preparing for a grand performance only to find out the curtains never went up. 

And it’s not just about missed opportunities. Every undelivered email chips away at the trust you’ve built with your customers. Think about it – if they can’t rely on receiving crucial updates or promotions from you, they might start questioning your brand’s professionalism. Ouch, right?

But here’s the good news: You’re not alone in this, and more importantly, there’s a solution to your poor email delivery rate. Stick with us, and let’s turn this ship around together.

Understanding Delivery vs. Deliverability

Two terms often get tossed around a lot in email marketing circles: delivery and deliverability. They might sound similar, but they’re actually different aspects of the email journey from sender to receiver.

Delivery focuses on whether an email server accepts your email. If there’s no error message and the email doesn’t bounce back to you, that’s a successful delivery. Incorrect email addresses and full inboxes can prevent emails from being delivered.

Deliverability is about where your email ends after getting to the server. Does it land in the inbox, or does it get banished to the spam folder? Deliverability is influenced by your sender reputation and how the receiving server views your email’s content and past behavior. 

Both metrics are crucial. If you have low delivery, it means many of your emails aren’t even getting to the email server – they’re getting lost or rejected along the way. But having high delivery doesn’t always mean success. You can have high delivery with low deliverability, which means your emails arrive, but they’re marked as spam or promotions. 

How to Calculate Your Email Delivery Rate

Knowing your email delivery rate helps you track campaign performance and monitor your list health. To calculate it, you take the number of emails sent minus the number of emails that didn’t make it to the destination (aka, bounces), divide that by the total number of emails sent, and then multiply the result by 100 to get a percentage.

Delivery Rate = (Total Emails Sent – Total Bounces) / Total Emails Sent * 100

So, if you send out 1,000 emails and 100 bounce, your delivery rate would be:

Delivery Rate = (1,000 – 100) / 1,000 * 100 = 90% 

A delivery rate of 95 percent is typically a sign that you’re on the right track, but let’s see how that stacks up against industry benchmarks.

What’s a Good Email Delivery Rate?

Email delivery rate can vary by industry, but generally, a rate above 95 percent is adequate, and you should aim for 97 percent or higher. If you find your rate dipping below that, investigate potential issues with your email list or sending practices. And we recommend you start by getting a handle on your bounce rate

To put those numbers into perspective, the average delivery rate across all email is around 89 percent. But that’s mainly because almost 47 percent of the global email traffic is spam. But if you don’t plan on sending spam (as we hope you aren’t), you should target higher numbers. 

How Bounces Affect Your Delivery Rates 

Your bounce rate shows you how many of your emails didn’t reach their destination. 

When an email can’t be delivered at all, it’s called a “hard bounce.” These usually happen because the email address is wrong or doesn’t exist anymore. A hard bounce is a clear signal to remove that address from your list to keep your email list clean and your delivery rate healthy.

“Soft bounces” occur for temporary reasons, like an overflowing inbox or a server that’s temporarily down. These aren’t immediate red flags, but if the same address keeps having soft bounces, it’s worth investigating. Maybe you keep sending to an abandoned inbox — a company that went out of business or an employee who’s moved on to a different role. We recommend removing an address with three soft bounces to keep your email list clean. 

Both types of bounces affect your delivery rate — and your deliverability. A high bounce rate can make your emails look like spam to email servers, which hurts your ability to reach people’s inboxes in the future. 

Email Servers Can Reject or Drop Your Messages 

Looking at bounce rates is the first logical step for improving your email delivery rates, but it’s the only step. You have to make sure you inadvertently trigger filters that weed out suspicious messages. Otherwise, the recipient’s server may reject your email, which translates to lower delivery rates. 

But why would a server block your emails?  

You Have a Poor Sender Reputation 

Sender reputation is like a trust score — it tells email providers how likely you are to send unwanted emails. The better your practices, the higher your score, and the more likely your emails will pass server-side filters and get delivered. 

Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Email Service Providers (ESPs), email marketing platforms, and internet security companies are all on the lookout for spammers. They maintain systems to evaluate and score your email-sending practices. They pay attention to how often you send emails (frequency) and how many of your recipients mark your messages as spam (complaint rate). 

Each company might calculate sender reputation differently, but they’re all looking at a mix of these: 

  • Your domain reputation reflects your website’s history and trustworthiness.
  • Your IP reputation is tied to the past behavior of the IP address from which you send emails. 

Solution: Keep Your Sender Reputation Above 70 Percent

Sender reputation score is typically scored on a scale of 0 to 100. If your score falls below 70, email servers start treating your emails with suspicion and may reject them. 

How can you keep an eye on your reputation? Google Postmaster Tools is one of the most reliable resources.

You’re Sending From a Unauthenticated Domain 

Email providers use authentication methods to verify if an email genuinely originates from who it says it came from. This ties back to the idea of domain reputation we discussed earlier. If you don’t authenticate your domain, bad actors can impersonate you and send fake emails using your domain identity. 

ESPs are pretty strict on authentication. Google requires incoming emails to its platform to have at least one form of authentication. And starting in 2024, they’re forcing all email marketers to enable domain authentication if they want their messages delivered. Yahoo is taking a similar approach to prevent fake emails. 

At Campaign Refinery, we always have our finger on the pulse of email marketing trends, which is why we were ahead of the curve with email authentication. We required all our customers to authenticate their domains from day one, long before Google announced their new policies. Our clients enjoy stellar results because we make sure they’re always leading the pack with best practices.

Apply to become a customer and boost your email delivery rates.

Solution: Authenticate Your Domain 

To authenticate your domain, you need to add a few records to your domain’s DNS. Since you’re the only one with access to the DNS settings, this prevents others from impersonating you. The steps may vary depending on the authentication protocol you use — we have detailed guides for all of them. 

Here’s a brief breakdown: 

  • SPF: Lets you specify the IP addresses you’ll use to send emails. So, if another email arrives with your name but from a different IP, the server will drop it. 
  • DKIM: Adds a digital signature to every email you send. Receiving servers can use this signature to verify that the email hasn’t been tampered with and actually comes from your domain.
  • DMARC: Integrates SPF and DKIM, allowing you to specify how the server should behave if either check fails. It also gives you advanced reporting mechanisms. 

Your Sender IP is Blacklisted 

ESPs and anti-spam networks create lists to block emails from IP addresses known for sending spam. Your server’s IP address can land on one of these blacklists based on reports and behavior patterns that match known spammers.

If your IP gets blacklisted, the emails you send could be outright dropped.

Here are several websites that let you check your IP address against multiple blacklists: 

Sometimes, your IP might be blacklisted through no fault of your own, especially if you’re using a shared IP from your email marketing platform. How?

Other users engage in spammy behavior, and the platform doesn’t stop them from bringing down the IP’s reputation. 

Solution: Sign Up with a Reputable Email Marketing Platform

If you think your server’s IP got blacklisted, here’s how to tackle the issue:

  1. Reach out to your email marketing platform: They might be able to fix the problem on their end or at least give you some advice on what to do.
  2. Consider switching providers: If your current platform can’t sort it out, switch to a more reliable company. Look for one with dedicated servers pre-approved by whitelisting organizations like the Certified Senders Alliance.
  3. Think about a dedicated IP: If you’re sending over 100k emails every month, getting your own dedicated IP can be a smart move. It means you’re not sharing your sender reputation with anyone else.

You’re Sending Cold Emails 

Cold emailing is when you send marketing emails to someone who doesn’t know you and hasn’t agreed to receive messages from you.

Your marketing emails will see low engagement metrics if the recipients aren’t expecting to hear from you. Over 90 percent of cold emails remain unopened, but it gets worse! Some recipients get so annoyed that they mark your messages as spam. And you know what that means.

Solution: Build an Opt-in Email List 

A better approach is to build an opt-in email list. Even better, go for a double opt-in list

An opt-in list requires someone to sign up, and a double opt-in list requires a second confirmation. This way, you’ll make sure they really want to receive your emails and that their email address is valid. 

The benefits of growing an opt-in email list are clear:

  • You’re talking to an audience interested in what you have to say.
  • The people on your list chose to be there, so they’re less likely to mark your emails as spam.
  • You’ll see a higher return on investment because you’re focusing on people who are more likely to become customers.

Important Note: At Campaign Refinery, we’re against cold emailing. It never generates long-term value for anyone, even if you buy a list of supposedly validated emails. That’s why we only allow customers to send emails to opt-in subscribers. Any violation of our acceptable usage policies will lead to contract termination.

Your Emails Trigger Spam Filters  

Spam filters are algorithms that calculate the probability that an incoming message is spam. 

They analyze the message text, subject line, email format, embedded links, and metadata like the sender’s information and IP address. When an email’s score drops below a certain threshold, the system blocks the message.

Solution: Follow Email Marketing Best Practices 

Here’s what you can do to avoid being a spam sender:

  • Keep it clean: Use a neat layout, well-spaced text, and a minimal design.
  • Watch your words: Steer clear of those cliché salesy words and phrases that scream spam, like “last chance to win big” or “buy now.” 
  • Test it out: Use email testing tools to see how your message might look to a spam filter.
  • Stay updated: Spam filters are always getting smarter, so what worked last year might not cut it now. Keep up with the latest on what triggers them.
  • Permission is key: Only send emails to people who gave you a thumbs up to contact them.

Perfecting Delivery and Deliverability

Ready to skyrocket your email delivery rates and engagement metrics? 

Tap into the wisdom gathered from the front lines of a fast-growing email platform. We’ve teamed up with world-class copywriters, marketers, and online business owners to boost our clients’ email performance – some seeing a whopping 6x improvement. 

Don’t miss out on actionable insights that can help you scale and optimize your email strategy sustainably. 

Grab your copy of the Inbox Formula now for free. 

Happy emailing! 

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