Email Deliverability tips from 7 top ESPs for newsletters

It’s 2024 and Gmail and Yahoo are ramping up their authentication measures for bulk senders, making it tougher to avoid landing in the spam folder. This shift demands a deeper understanding of email deliverability factors and best practices. Our guide breaks down these critical elements to help you navigate the changing email landscape successfully.

Read to the end to learn how Refact improved the Hustle‘s email deliverability by cleaning its email list after it was attacked by subscriber bots.

Email Deliverability Is More Important than You Think

Let’s set the scene. You’ve just entered the ranks of newsletter creators, hitting “send” on your carefully crafted emails, eager to dazzle your growing list of subscribers. But there’s a snag – your open rates are in the doldrums, engagement is lackluster, and those click rates? They’re not hitting the marks you dreamt of. It’s like throwing a grand party and watching in dismay as most of your guests get lost on the way. Frustrating, isn’t it?

This is where we need to talk about a crucial, yet often overlooked aspect of your newsletter strategy: email deliverability. It’s the unsung hero, the key player behind the scenes ensuring your emails don’t just vanish into the digital ether. Because let’s face it, what’s the point of pouring your heart and soul into content if it’s going to end up lounging in the spam folder or getting lost in the void of the internet?

Email deliverability might sound like a techy, dry topic reserved for the IT crowd, but I assure you, it’s the lifeline for your newsletter’s success. It’s about making sure your emails are not only sent, but that they also land where they’re supposed to – the inbox.

So, why are your emails not reaching your subscribers even when they want to receive them? There are many potential reasons but don’t worry, we’re here to help untangle the mess! 

You’ll get vital information, practical tips, and insights from our most significant projects. You’ll also find a firsthand account of improving the Hustle’s email deliverability by cleaning their email list and stopping the subscriber bots attacking it.

6 Factors Impacting Your Email Deliverability

Navigating email deliverability is impossible without understanding the key factors influencing. Here are six critical elements that can make or break your email deliverability.

Sender Reputation: Your Digital Footprint

Every email you send contributes to your digital footprint, known as sender reputation. Email Service Providers (ESPs) judge you based on this. A good reputation means more of your emails reach inboxes. We will explore this in more details below but to put it simply, it’s shaped by factors like the volume of emails you send, engagement rates, and how often your emails are marked as spam.

Content Quality: More Than Just Words

The content of your emails is scrutinized for signs of spam. Overusing sales language, having too many links, or misleading subject lines can raise red flags. High-quality, relevant content with straightforward subject lines, however, is more likely to pass the filters and land in the inbox.

Email List Health: Quality Over Quantity

A clean email list is a thriving email list. Sending emails to inactive or invalid addresses can harm your sender reputation. Regularly cleaning your list, removing inactive subscribers, and avoiding purchased lists can significantly improve your deliverability.

Authentication Protocols: Your Email ID

Authentication protocols have been evolving, and using them is moving from a best practice to a requirement. The vital authentication protocols your Email Service Provider must use are SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. These protocols verify your identity to your subscribers’ email providers, reducing the likelihood of your emails being marked as spam or phishing attempts.

Subscriber Engagement: The True North of Email Marketing

How subscribers interact with your emails is a crucial metric for ESPs. Positive actions like opening, clicking, and replying to your emails signal that your content is valued. Encouraging active engagement helps boost your sender reputation and deliverability.

Sending Frequency and Volume: Striking the Right Balance

How often and how many emails you send can impact deliverability. Irregular sending patterns or sudden spikes in email volume can trigger spam filters. Consistency is key. Establishing a regular sending schedule helps build a predictable pattern that service providers favor.

Each of these factors plays a distinct role in your email’s journey to the inbox. Understanding and optimizing them can transform your email strategy, ensuring your newsletter not only reaches your audience but resonates with them.

In our next section, we’ll take a closer look at a real-world example – the Hustle and their battle with bots, offering invaluable lessons and expert insights for your newsletter journey.

Email Content and Design: Critical Email Deliverability Best Practices

We will discuss optimizing your email content and design for email deliverability in a dedicated article, but considering how vital it is, let’s consider a few tips here.

  • Relevance and Quality of Content: The content of your newsletter should be engaging, informative, and tailored to the interests of your audience. High-quality, relevant content is more likely to be opened, read, and interacted with, which positively influences your sender reputation.
  • Avoiding Spam Triggers: Avoid using language or elements that are commonly associated with spam, such as aggressive sales pitches or an overabundance of links and images. Balanced, well-written content that provides value to the reader is key.
  • Personalization: Personalizing content to align with the preferences and behaviors of your subscribers can significantly increase engagement rates. Using subscriber data to tailor content makes your emails more relevant and engaging.
  • Design and Layout: The visual appeal of your newsletter plays a vital role. A clean, professional design, consistent branding, and a mobile-responsive layout ensure that your emails look good on all devices. This not only enhances the user experience but also reflects positively on your brand.
  • Clear Call-to-Action: Include a clear and compelling call-to-action (CTA) in your emails. A well-placed CTA can guide readers to take the desired action, be it visiting your website, signing up for an event, or making a purchase.
  • Testing and Optimization: Regularly test different aspects of your email content and design, such as subject lines, email layouts, and CTAs. Use A/B testing to determine what resonates best with your audience and continuously refine your strategy based on the insights gained.

By focusing on these aspects, newsletter businesses can create emails that not only evade spam filters but also captivate and engage their audience, driving higher open and click-through rates.

Shared IP vs Dedicated IP: Critical Email Deliverability Best Practices

When it comes to email deliverability, the choice between a shared IP and a dedicated IP can significantly impact your campaign’s success. Understanding the differences and knowing which option best suits your needs is key.

Shared IP Addresses

On a shared IP, your emails are sent from an IP address used by multiple senders. This is common with many Email Service Providers (ESPs).

  • Pros:
    • No Management Required: The ESP typically manages the reputation of the shared IP, reducing your workload in terms of IP reputation management.
    • Built-In Reputation: You’ll benefit from the established reputation of the shared IP (provided it is well-managed by the ESP).
  • Cons:
    • Reputation Impact: Your deliverability can be affected by the actions of other users using the shared IP.
    • Less Control: Limited ability to influence the IP’s reputation on your own.
    • Cost: Some ESPs, including Sailthru, put an expensive label on their shared IPs because it’s managed. With other providers it may cost less than a dedicated IP.

Dedicated IP Addresses

With a dedicated IP, you have an IP address exclusively for your email traffic.

  • Pros:
    • Full Control: Complete control over your IP’s reputation, based only on your emailing practices.
    • Tailored for Volume: Ideal for businesses with large volumes of email who also need direct control over deliverability.
  • Cons:
    • Requires Expert Management: You’re responsible for building and maintaining the IP’s reputation.

Choosing the Right Option

  • Volume and Control: If you have a high volume of emails and want complete control over your deliverability, a dedicated IP is the way to go.
  • Time and Effort: It’s perfect for newsletters and publishers that don’t want to sink their man-hours into reputation management.
  • Warm-Up Process: With a dedicated IP, warming up the email is essential. This means gradually increasing your email volume to establish a good reputation with your ESP. We will cover email warm-up best practices in a later article on email deliverability.
  • Risk Mitigation: For shared IPs, it’s crucial to choose an ESP that actively manages and monitors the IP’s reputation. That reducing the risk of other users’ poor practices affecting your deliverability rates.

On the whole, the decision hinges on your business’s email marketing strategy, volume, and the resources you have available for managing your email reputation. Whichever you choose, remember that consistent, high-quality, and engaging email content is fundamental to maintaining good deliverability, whether on a shared or a dedicated IP.

Sender Reputation and Email Deliverability Best Practices for Specific ESPs

Managing sender reputation is crucial for newsletter businesses using Email Service Providers (ESPs) like Mailchimp, Beehiiv, and Substack. Each platform has unique features and protocols for managing sender reputation. They also suggest some best practices to their users – these help the ESPs keep up their email reputation and the users to get a better deliverability rate.

Mailchimp Email Deliverability Best Practices

Your sender reputation with Mailchimp is a combined score of your IP and domain reputation. This reputation determines if your emails will end up in spam folders or inboxes. Mailchimp considers factors like bounce rates, sender history, engagement, unsubscribe rates, spam complaints, and spam traps to determine your reputation​​.

Beehiiv Email Deliverability Best Practices

Beehiiv emphasizes the importance of maintaining a good sender reputation by using verified domains and avoiding deceptive subject lines. They also advise against purchasing or renting email lists as they can contain invalid addresses and spam traps, damaging your domain reputation. Beehiiv also recommends closely monitoring email campaign analytics and responding quickly to any complaints to maintain a strong sender reputation​​​​.

Substack Email Deliverability Best Practices

Substack uses DKIM, SPF, DMARC authentication to verify the source of emails, helping prevent them from being marked as spam. They monitor the reputation of their IP addresses and work with ISPs to maintain exceptional deliverability rates. Substack also scans emails for “spammy” content and tracks subscriber engagement, such as open and click rates, to assess email deliverability. To improve deliverability, they suggest encouraging engagement, avoiding spam triggers, cleaning up email lists, and testing emails across different email clients​​​​.

CampaignMonitor Email Deliverability Best Practices

To manage sender reputation effectively, CampaignMonitor recommends practices such as email list segmentation, personalization, and creating compelling content. Familiarizing yourself with factors impacting email deliverability is also crucial to ensure your emails reach the inbox​​.

CampaignMonitor highlights the importance of keeping an eye on email metrics such as open rates and general engagement. A steady decline in these metrics can indicate a poor sender reputation. Conversely, maintaining high open rates (ideally above 18%) and engagement signals a strong sender reputation​​.

SendGrid Email Deliverability Best Practices

SendGrid calculates a reputation score based on factors like bounces, blocks, spam, invalid emails, and successfully delivered emails. Users can access their SendGrid account reputation score directly from the SendGrid dashboard. SendGrid also offers personalized advice from their team of email experts to optimize email strategies, highlighting the importance of customized approaches to manage sender reputation effectively

Sailthru Email Deliverability Best Practices

Sailthru emphasizes the importance of maintaining a clean and engaged email list. This includes regularly removing inactive subscribers and ensuring the list consists of users who have opted in. Adhering to anti-spam laws and best practices, such as including clear unsubscribe options and avoiding spammy content, are other essential strategies to maintain a healthy sender reputation when working with Sailthru.

Salesforce Email Deliverability Best Practices

Salesforce likely employs certain standard practices in managing sender reputation. An important part of that is Salesforce’s emphasis on maintaining a high-quality email list with engaged subscribers. This would include strategies for regular list cleaning and ensuring subscribers have opted in.

Salesforce email deliverability best practices suggest you craft your emails to avoid spammy language or excessive use of sales pitches. Ensure your subject lines are clear and relevant to the content of your emails. The famous platform also suggests you maintain a consistent sending schedule. This helps in building a positive sender reputation with ESP.

For newsletter businesses, understanding and adapting to the specific sender reputation management practices of their chosen ESP is crucial. It involves not just following the ESP’s guidelines but also actively engaging in practices like maintaining clean email lists, ensuring high engagement rates, and being mindful of the frequency and content of their emails. These practices will not only help in maintaining a healthy sender reputation but also enhance the overall effectiveness of their email marketing campaigns.

Expert Insights from Battling Subscriber Bots: Cleaning the Hustle’s List

One of our clients, the Hustle, experienced a challenging scenario that’s a goldmine of lessons for any newsletter operator. They were being targeted by subscriber bot attacks that would sign up for their newsletter. This encounter with email bots not only can shed light on the complexities of email deliverability factors.

The Problem: Bots Invade the Hustle

The trouble started when the Hustle noticed an unusual spike in their subscriber numbers. While at first glance this seemed like a win, the reality was quite different. These weren’t eager readers but bots – fake email accounts that inflated subscriber numbers but contributed nothing in terms of engagement. This posed a significant threat, as bots can trigger spam filters, leading to emails landing in spam folders, crashing deliverability rates.

The Diagnosis: Uncovering the Bot Issue

The journey to resolving this began with identifying the problem. The Hustle team discovered suspicious subscriber behavior in one of their email lists. That’s when our email experts started an extensive audit. This uncovered a large number of subscribers with suspicious patterns, including zero engagement, generic email addresses, signs of automated sign-ups. The audit also showed that identifying all the culprits would not be easy since many bots used AI to mimic human behavior and create engagement. We needed to invent new methods of identifying the smart bots infesting the Hustle’s email lists.

The Solution: A Multi-Pronged Strategy

  • The task of cleaning the Hustles’ email list was far from straightforward. The bots infecting the list use powerful AI, mimicking real user behaviors. They cleverly used different IPs and even interacted with the emails, such as clicking links, which made them harder to distinguish from genuine subscribers.
  • Our email deliverability expert faced the daunting task of developing new methods to filter these advanced bots. It called for creative and innovative solutions, since traditional filtering techniques were not effective against these AI-powered entities.
  • The presence of these bots, though not directly harmful like ransomware or phishing bots, posed significant indirect threats. They diluted the integrity of the subscriber list, leading to lower email deliverability by harming the newsletter’s sender reputation. Additionally, they consumed resources reserved for real users, skewed analytics, and hindered the ability to accurately measure engagement.
  • Through a combination of advanced analytics and bespoke filtering techniques, our expert was able to segregate the bots from genuine subscribers. This meticulous process was essential not only for cleaning the current list but also for safeguarding against similar issues in the future.

By overcoming this challenge, the Hustle not only reclaimed its email list but also strengthened its defenses against sophisticated digital threats, ensuring a more secure and reliable newsletter service for its genuine audience.

The Outcome: A Stronger, More Resilient Newsletter

Post-crisis, the Hustle not only recovered its sender reputation but also built a more robust system for managing its email list. The experience underscored the importance of vigilance in email deliverability and the need for continuous adaptation and improvement.

Expert Insight: Lessons Learned

Reflecting on the Hustles’ experience, our in-house email deliverability expert highlights the importance of regular email list audits, understanding ESP (and ISP) best practices, and maintaining open lines of communication with your subscriber base. It’s not just about solving problems as they arise, but proactively preventing them.

This case study serves as a powerful reminder that the quality of your subscriber list is at least as important as the content you create. It’s about building and nurturing a genuine audience, one that actively engages and grows with your newsletter.

Making Things Easy with Email Deliverability Consulting

Refact simplifies email deliverability for newsletters. Drawing on our experience with top newsletters like the Hustle, we tackle deliverability challenges and get your emails to your subscriber’s inbox. cleaning and email deliverability services.

We clean and optimize your email lists and make sure your emails reach your audience. Our team focuses on maintaining a healthy subscriber base and offers extensive consulting on authentication protocols and content strategy. Our tailored services are designed to improve your email campaigns, boost engagement, and enhance your sender reputation.

Looking to grow your media business?

Get in touch and tell us about your project!

Get in Touch

Looking to build something new?

Whatever stage your project is at, we want to help you make it a big success.
Get in Touch