Email Deliverability Checklist – How to make sure your emails are delivered

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In email marketing, the average expected ROI is $42 for every $1 you spent. (Oberlo)

Let that sink in. A whopping 42x return is definitely a gold mine in any marketer’s eyes.

But, all good things either come at a cost that is difficult to attain. Email marketing does not cost a bomb, but, it definitely is a tough nut to crack. Email deliverability is a huge challenge for small, medium, and large enterprises alike.

According to verified sources, 21% of emails never make it to the recipients’ mailboxes. They are either labeled as promotions or are directly filed as spam never to be seen but to be deleted after a long time. This applies to opt-in emails as well and not just cold emails.

21% of opt-in emails never make it to the inbox.

To get that whopping 42x RoI, you have to make sure your emails are delivered into the right place — the primary inbox of your target audience. There are parameters, checks, and best practices that you have to follow to make that happen.

Why is email deliverability difficult?

To begin with, email delivery and email deliverability are two different things.

An email is said to have been delivered when it successfully reaches the server from where it will be dispatched to the recipient’s inbox.

Email deliverability is when the email successfully reaches the intended recipient’s inbox.

In other words, email deliverability is the real crux of the matter. It is the ultimate metric that matters. Every other precedent is to understand what’s working and not working in terms of delivery.

  • Successful email deliverability ensures maximum RoI for your campaigns
  • It avoids your domain from being blacklisted
  • It helps you fine-tune your future campaigns

That said, achieving email deliverability is not an easy affair. The list is pretty long and can be difficult for anyone to keep it on their mind. A checklist can help keep things in order. Having a checklist ensures you don’t miss out on anything vital.

“Under conditions of complexity, not only are checklists a help, they are required for success.” – Atul Gawande, the author of the ‘The Checklist Manifesto’

Running an email marketing campaign is definitely a complicated process. Achieving email deliverability is difficult even if you have all the ingredients in place.

So, here is a checklist of everything you need to do to achieve maximum email deliverability.

Presenting, the email deliverability checklist

Ticking off every single box in this checklist will maximize your chances of your email being read; if you have done a great job, even responded to.

For convenience, this checklist can be divided into five sections:

  1. Your email list
  2. The email fields
  3. The subject line
  4. Email drip campaigns
  5. The email marketing platform

1. Your email list

Let’s get started with the first and most crucial part of email marketing. Building the email list. A good email list is what maximizes your email deliverability. Having a huge email list of invalid or outdated emails is of no use. In fact, it can do more damage than good to your marketing efforts.

There are a couple of things that you must do in terms of your email list to maximize your email deliverability. Here are some of them:

  • Build the list organically. Buying email lists is a bad idea. They might contain a large chunk of inactive email ids, may not pertain to your target audience and might also heighten the chance of your domain being labeled as spammed.
  • Ensure GDPR and other data privacy protocols while collecting email addresses and while sending emails.
  • Use double opt-in in the sign-up process. First, to get the email address; second to confirm the subscription and preferences. This ensures that you are getting your recipient’s consent before sending them emails.
  • Ensure list hygiene by removing contacts that do not respond, that result in bounces, are no longer active, have unsubscribed or have raised complaints. This will help measure the campaign with accuracy.
  • Segment the list into multiple categories and shoot specific emails. You can run multiple tests on these segments to understand how they perform. You can discontinue low performing campaigns while scaling the ones that give promising results.

2. The email fields

Most users opt-in for newsletters and updates to be delivered via email. But, when they receive the first email quite a long time after you subscribed, they might have little or no memory of opting in.

The result? They assume it to be a mistake and hit unsubscribe. To avoid that situation, it is always better to send a welcome email as soon as the user gives an opt-in.

In fact, almost every industry sends welcome emails to create a connection with their users.

A welcome email achieves two things:

  • It confirms the user that they have subscribed voluntarily
  • It can give them instant gratification in the form of good content

Now, welcome emails are expected and have little chances of getting ignored. It is the following emails that do not get opened, get labeled as spam or simply receive a quick unsubscribe.

To avoid those scenarios, ensure that your email ticks off all these items:

  • The email fields: name, from and email address should be easily recognizable
  • Use the same email across all campaigns directed to the customer
  • Create a rapport and build trust in the user by delivering high-quality content
  • Make sure the email is associated with a high-authority domain

Next, the email subject line.

3. Email subject line

Your email subject line is what creates the first impression in your audience’s mind. In fact, your subject line should be a fine work of copywriting. A well-written email subject line will get your email opened and read.

When it is time to write your next email subject line, follow this golden nugget of an advice:

Use a subject line that will make someone curious about what’s inside your message.” – Brian Dean, Backlinko

As simple as that. Your users don’t get to see the entire email in the first glance. What they see is the subject line. Your users will open your email only if the subject line is interesting or one that invokes curiosity.

To make sure your email subject line is optimized to get your email opened, follow these checkpoints:

  • The email subject line should be interesting, engaging and something that invokes curiosity in the reader.
  • Don’t write the subject line in CAPS, unless there are terms which require it.
  • Don’t overdo punctuation and use of special characters. It is simply annoying.
  • Avoid tricking the user by inserting ‘Re:’ or ‘Fwd:’ in the subject line. It is unethical.
  • Check the subject line for spam words
  • Ensure the character length can fit inside a mobile screen
  • Make sure the subject line conveys what the email is all about. No clickbaits.

4. Email drip campaigns

The email campaign is where the real work happens. Everything that you have done so far including building the email list, getting double opt-ins and writing the perfect email will be put to test at the campaign stage.

Quite a lot can go wrong at this stage, so it is necessary to have a few checks in place to ensure that your efforts do not go waste.

  • Send emails from a company domain. You can have a dedicated email for sending the emails, but it should belong to the company domain. Avoid public domains.
  • Ensure that your company’s mailing domain is authenticated using an SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) protocols.
  • Personalize the email based on the segment to which you are sending it
  • Ensure that you adhere to the frequency to which the subscriber has requested while opting in.
  • If the email is created in HTML layout, make sure there is a proper image to text ratio. It must also load properly on mobile devices.
  • In case any external links are used in the email, make sure that they are legit, are active, and do not mislead the user.
  • Avoid including attachments in the email.
  • Run a spam check before sending to ensure that the email body does not have any spam triggers.
  • Include a legal disclaimer that is applicable to the content that you are sharing via email.
  • Give the user the option to reply to the email.

5. The email marketing platform

The email marketing platform is the launchpad for your emails. It needs to have the right set of capabilities to make email marketing work for you. A wrong choice of the email marketing platform can cause all your efforts to amount to nothing.

Here are some things to look for while prepping your email marketing platform.

  • Ensure it has relationships with ISPs. ISPs place several blocks to ensure that unsolicited emails are not delivered to their customers. To ensure your emails are not filtered as spam, you must create a good relationship with the ISPs.
  • The email marketing platform should provide basic metrics like delivery rate, open rate, bounce rate, spam complaints, unsubscribes, etc.
  • If you are choosing an email marketing platform for the first time, make sure you choose one that lets you create a custom mailing domain.
  • Ensure compliance with all major regulations like CanSPAM, CASL, GDPR, and CCPA.
  • Check the terms of the Data Processing Agreement provided by the email marketing platform. It contains clauses as to how customer information will be stored, processed, and secured.
  • The platform must have servers in countries where you are running email marketing operations. This prevents any lag in data transmission.

Checking all the boxes

The purpose of a checklist is to ensure that all-important tasks and checks of a process are completed without fail. It eliminates the possibility of an important check slipping through the cracks. A checklist also ensures that even if a novice is to run the operation, they are able to follow all the steps involved without missing anything.

This checklist for email deliverability is also created to ensure that your emails reach their intended destination without fail. There are sub-tasks you have to tick off under each of these categories to maximize email deliverability.


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