Email Deliverability Myths

Published on September 16, 2023 by David Zhang

Email Deliverability Myths

In the ever-evolving world of digital marketing, the importance of email as a channel cannot be overstated. A peak into the inbox of your target customer reveals the crux of the matter: competition is stiff, and attention is scarce. Amidst this, the quest for high email deliverability has spawned numerous myths and misconceptions that can lead businesses astray. Those who can discern myth from matter are the ones likely to see their messages safely harbored in the coveted inbox rather than ensnared in the snares of spam or promotional tabs.

Here, we demystify some of the most persistent email deliverability myths and shed light on what truly matters.

Myth 1: More Emails Equate to More Spam

The equation seems simple: send more emails, and more of them will end up as spam. However, volume isn't the principal culprit behind poor deliverability. It's how recipients interact with your emails that matters more. If your content is engaging and relevant, and you've honed your list for engagement (not just size), you can indeed send frequent emails without being penalized. The key is to maintain a clean list and provide value with every dispatch.

Myth 2: Deliverability Is Predominantly About Content

Content is significant, but it isn't the end-all-be-all of deliverability. The infrastructure behind your email sends, such as your IP reputation, domain authentication setup, and sending consistency, all play pivotal roles too. Authentication protocols like SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance) are critical, as they confirm your legitimacy as a sender to ISPs (Internet Service Providers).

Myth 3: Buying Lists is a Quick Deliverability Win

Purchasing email lists might seem like a shortcut to expand your reach, but it's a counterproductive tactic for deliverability. These lists are often outdated, unengaged, and filled with spam traps, leading to high bounce rates and complaints. Grow your list organically through sign-ups and opt-ins to ensure your recipient list is engaged and interested in your content.

Myth 4: Open Rates Are the Ultimate Deliverability Metric

While open rates can provide useful insights, they don't paint the full picture of deliverability. Open tracking relies on a tiny pixel embedded in emails; email clients may block these pixels, and privacy settings can prevent accurate tracking. Instead, focus on a range of metrics like bounce rates, complaint rates, and engagement over time for a more accurate assessment.

Myth 5: Unsubscribes Are An Email Marketer’s Worst Nightmare

Unsubscribes might sting, but they are actually a healthy part of list maintenance. It's far better for someone to unsubscribe than to report your email as spam — an action that carries more severe consequences for deliverability. Encourage list hygiene by making it easy for users to unsubscribe and respecting their preferences.

Myth 6: Plain-Text Emails Guarantee Inbox Placement

The plain versus rich text debate fails to recognize that deliverability is not dependent on email format. While plain-text emails may appear more personal, HTML-rich content isn't inherently spammy — as long as the HTML is clean and the content is relevant. ISPs focus on sender reputation, engagement, and other technical aspects over email aesthetics when determining where your email ends up.

Myth 7: Deliverability and Delivery Rate Are the Same Thing

A common mistake is confusing deliverability with delivery rate. The latter refers to emails that don't bounce and encompasses ones that land in the inbox or spam folder. In contrast, deliverability refers to the percentage of emails that actually reach the inbox. Thus, you could have a high delivery rate but a poor deliverability if your emails predominantly end up in spam.

Myth 8: ISPs Use a Universal Spam Filter Algorithm

Each ISP utilizes its own algorithm for filtering spam, and these algorithms are updated regularly. These constant changes mean that following best practices — not trying to 'game' the system — is your safest bet. Consistently sending valuable content and maintaining a good sender reputation across all the ISPs you're sending to is imperative.

Myth 9: Using 'Spammy' Words Ruins Deliverability

Once upon a time, using words like 'free' or 'guarantee' could trip spam filters. However, as filters have evolved, context and reputation have taken precedence over specific words. Write naturally, focus on providing value, and only make promises you can keep.

Myth 10: A High Sender Score Means No Deliverability Concerns

A high sender score, while indicative of a good sending reputation, is not an absolute guarantee of deliverability. Other factors, such as sudden spikes in email volume or patterns that resemble spamming behavior (even if unintended), can still affect your deliverability. It’s essential to monitor a range of sender metrics in conjunction with your sender score.

In conclusion, email deliverability isn't a single-faceted concept that can be mastered with a one-size-fits-all approach. It is a multifaceted challenge that requires an understanding of both technical infrastructure and audience engagement. Keeping up with ISP policies, maintaining a focus on sending relevant, engaging content, and respecting the preferences of your recipients will all contribute to better inbox placement and open rates.

In sum, successful email marketers know that deliverability is a nuanced art form, where myth must be distinguished from method, and data-driven strategy trumps all. By following thoughtful, informed practices, businesses can ensure that their emails not only reach their destination but are welcomed upon arrival.

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