Deliverability guide: best practices and your approach

There are essentially two ways to approach email deliverability:

  1. Working with the ISPs to send email that is wanted and expected by the recipients. (This also happens to be the type of email that ISPs want to put into their recipients’ Inboxes.)
  2. Working against the ISPs by using technical tricks to fool spam filters and deliver email that is unwanted and unexpected.

As you will see, both of these tracks are well travelled, but only one of these will get you anywhere in the long run. Let’s take a look at them both.

Working with the ISPs (wanted and expected email)

Along this track, the foundation of good email deliverability involves sending email that is:

Wanted—meaning you offer something of value to the recipients, and

Expected—meaning your recipients remember subscribing or remember their business relationship with your brand.

The ISPs don’t have a crystal ball that tells them if the recipients wanted or expected the email. But they have something better: statistical information on how tens of thousands of their users interacted with your email. The most important pieces of information that the ISPs use are the complaint rate and the engagement rate of the email. In addition to the complaint and engagement information, ISPs also look at the content of the message to try to discern if it is spam or not. Some keywords or language in email can contribute to spam filtering.

Working against the ISPs (gaming the system)

All marketing emails must provide accurate routing information – the originating domain name and email address – and authentic identities in the “From,” “To” and “Reply-To” fields.

Misleading subject lines

Track two is surprisingly easy to end up on. If you’re an email sender that is generating high complaints or low engagement because of unwanted or unexpected email, and ISPs start penalizing you by filtering your email, there are two ways you can react:

You can examine your email program, figure out what is causing complaints or spam-trap hits, and then work to only send email that is wanted and expected. This is working with the ISPs, or running along track one.

Or, you can avoid addressing the root causes of high complaints or low engagement, and instead focus on employing shady technical tricks. For example, using lots of IP addresses to avoid scrutiny, changing domain names, or putting the entire email content in an image to avoid content filters. This is track two, the path to the dark side.

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