Why Your Email Won’t Get Delivered

Posted by Stephanie Colleton on

Our last session at IN: The Email Reputation Conference, 5 Reasons Why Your Email Won’t Get Delivered, was led by George Bilbrey, President of Return Path. George was joined by Patrick Foster from Turner Broadcasting and Jason Shaw from Quicken Loans. George started by explaining why some legitimate email messages end up in the spam folder. He likened it to ISPs being like fisherman. They have to cast a wide net to catch the tuna (spam) but sometimes they will catch a dolphin (your email). If there is something about your program that has the characteristics of spam, you may find yourself with the tuna. The key to inbox deliverability is reputation. But how do you build a good sender reputation? What does that mean?

Five of the key elements are:
1. Keep complaints to a minimum. A high complaint rate will get you blocked.
2. Have a solid infrastructure. Fortunately, this one is very much under your control. You can fix this on your own for an in-house solution or if, you use an ESP, they should ensure you have a solid configuration reflective of legitimate mailers.
3. Don’t send spam traps. Spam traps are new email addresses set-up that are not signed up for any email programs. If you mail to one, it’s clear that you are mailing to addresses you don’t have permission to mail to. How does a spam trap address get on your list? One source is lists provided through co-registration on other sites.
4. Don’t email the dead. Spammers tend to have old addresses. Make sure your list is full of engaged, active subscribers.
5. Maintain a permanent home. Spammers hop around from IP address to IP address to avoid blacklists. If you hop around too, that’s a red flag to ISPs.

We then took a poll. Which of these five reputation factors has impacted you the most? The number one answer was Complaints with Unknown Addresses coming in second. Patrick Foster from Turner said his number one issue is spam traps followed by unknown users. They have addressed these issues by using a double opt-in permission level and only email engaged subscribers. If someone has not clicked in 60 days, they stop mailing to them. Jason Shaw from Quicken Loans wishes they used double opt-in, but it just doesn’t make sense for their business. Their biggest issue is complaints. They partner with Lending Tree who provides them with leads. But when people who signed up with Lending Tree receive an email from Quicken Loans, there is a disconnect and they report the mail as spam. To address spam traps, they stop mailing to non-clickers after a period of time since spam traps don’t click. One of the topics that came up during the session was the need for synergy between the technical and marketing teams within a company. When polled with the question “Who owns deliverability at your company?” most of the audience responded that the technology team does. Patrick and Jason chimed in that it really does need to be a shared effort. Reputation is also impacted by relevancy. If you are sending email that people anticipate and want to receive, you won’t receive complaints.

One question from the audience was about ways to manage a list other than deleting names. For this company, removing a name after 60 days just isn’t practical. Patrick responded that instead of removing the names, they should realize that since the subscriber isn’t responding to their messaging, they should segment that group and message them differently with a targeted win-back strategy.


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About Stephanie Colleton

Stephanie began her digital marketing career 20 years ago with AOL followed by BMG Columbia House. She has been with Return Path for 11 years working with clients to optimize their email marketing programs by leveraging custom consulting and innovative AI solutions. Stephanie is based in New Jersey.

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