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Checking email deliverability

Guest post by Carolyn Hathaway, Campaign Management Senior Specialist

Good email marketing takes investment. Developing strategy, setting up a platform, acquiring leads, crafting content – it all requires time, effort, and money that should go toward results.

If you’re unaware of your sender reputation, you may be risking that investment, or even actively damaging it. Instead, get yourself an “insurance policy”: understand what your sender reputation is, how to avoid hurting it, and how to build it up.

Your reputation score can be found at sources like senderscore.org and can be thought of much like a credit score or a grade in school. It’s a 0-100 number that reflects reflects a lot of different metrics, including spam complaints, whether you’re on any blacklists, how many unknown users you email, and your user engagement.

This information indicates to email providers whether to allow a sender’s messages through, or whether to throttle or even block them entirely. Even a healthy-sounding score of 88 could be low enough to be blocked by some firewalls – as it was for one of our clients, whose firewall was blocking their own emails! Scores in the high 90s are desirable to ensure that emails will get through to their addresses.


  • Avoid risky list-building behavior. The most common culprit is list purchasing. Some recipients may be off-target, and their complaints can destroy your ability to deliver emails to all recipients – including the ones who did opt in and desire to receive them. Also, purchasing a list could breach contracts with email platforms like Salesforce, Marketo, Acoustic or Adobe Campaign, which specifically require that you only email people who opt in.
  • Focus on organic opt-ins. When your recipients have asked for your messages, you know they’re going where they need to. Moreover, focusing on organic opt-ins helps you avoid sending to email addresses from Europe, where GDPR laws govern email sending based on opt-in — with hefty financial penalties for non-compliance. A purchased list bypasses the process where a user must click a checkbox to explicitly give consent.
  • Use the right frequency. Emailing too often can be overwhelming. Emailing too rarely can confuse a forgetful subscriber. Be respectful and predictable.
  • Be clear and consistent in tone and expectations. Help your recipients recognize you immediately. Use professional design. And include an obvious unsubscribe link so that recipients who choose to disengage don’t have to report the message as spam.
  • Always be relevant. Provide useful, valuable information to your recipient with every message.
  • Cleanse any unengaged subscribers. If you want to do a re-engagement campaign to subscribers who have not purchased or clicked on emails for more than six months, run a list cleanse first. A list cleanse is not a panacea, but can be an element in maintaining email lists, by checking for spam traps and invalid or undeliverable addresses.
  • Be clear and specific. If a recipient opts in for emails from Brand X, but receives emails labeled as being from Company Y, they may feel uncomfortable, and choose to unsubscribe or report spam. Similarly, if a user opts into emails from an unbranded site, but begins receiving messages for a branded drug, the recipient may be confused and report spam.

You’ve invested a great deal in the tools, services, time, and effort required to build your marketing emails. Any time one of your emails makes a recipient question their relationship with you as the sender, or the value that you provide, it’s risking your deliverability and your entire investment. Good deliverability is the insurance that protects that valuable investment.