Q&A: How Do I Know If My Email Was Junked?

Posted by Tom Sather 

How do I know if my email was delivered to the junk folder? And if it was, is it considered undelivered?

The only way to determine your Inbox Placement Rate is through a seed list based monitoring system.  A seed list is a list of custom e-mail addresses that is representative of the domains that make up your subscriber database.  They should be included with every campaign deployment or segments so you can see if your e-mails are delivered to the inbox, spam folder, or if they’re missing (which usually means your mail is being blocked).  Unfortunately, most senders rely on the assumption that their undelivered file tells them what their inbox placement rate is.  This is false because messages delivered to the spam folder, a folder that most subscribers never check, reports it as a delivered message.  For example, you could have a 98% delivered rate, but a 30% inbox placement rate.  This means that 70% of your delivered mail is probably never seen by your subscribers, and revenue you’ll never realize.

You can use a seed list either in-house or through a third party vendor like Return Path.  Doing it in-house can be time consuming as it requires you to sign up for e-mail accounts at all the ISPs, and also means just the free webmail providers.  You’ll also need to manually log into each of those accounts when you send a campaign to determine where it was delivered.  Sounds like a lot of work, right?  Using a third-party service like Return Path requires no effort on your end, allows you access to paid e-mail accounts like Comcast for example, and gives you a real-time reporting interface on your inbox placement rate at all ISPs in a quick glance.

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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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