Ensure e-mail deliverability

By Published on .

By now, most marketers know that a certain percentage—more than 18%, according to a report by Return Path—of their marketing messages never make it to the in-box. What they’re not aware of is that many of those messages don’t bounce back. They simply drift off into the ether, never to resurface. If you want to boost the odds that your messages don’t suffer the same fate, try implementing these eight strategies that, according to experts, should help your messages reach their destination.

1) Let them know who you are.A return address legitimizes postal mail, and the same is true of e-mail. Unless you allow a recipient’s e-mail server access to your electronic identity, it’s likely your message will be deleted, said Deirdre Baird, president-CEO of Pivotal Veracity.

You can do this by enabling reverse DNS look-up. (Your mail administrator or e-mail service provider can set this up for you.) Reverse DNS translates IP addresses into host names. In layman’s terms, your intended recipient’s e-mail server can match your e-mail address with the name registered to your sending IP address.

2) Check the blacklists.Type your IP address into one of several blacklist monitors such as,,,, or If your IP is on a blacklist, you’ll see it instantly.

Keep in mind: If you do a lot of mailings, you’ll probably see your name on one or two blacklists. Here’s the key: Don’t worry about every one.

"If you’re on a blacklist, by all means, try and contact that list and try and get off," Baird said. "If you can’t find a dispute mechanism, it is not likely that a lot of companies use it so it probably won’t hurt you. There are hundreds of blacklists out there but only a dozen or two that people actually care about."

Be vigilant. Check your IP address at least once every week.

3) Pick up the phone.If you’re sending out e-mails that don’t bounce but aren’t opened either, consider calling your customer, suggests Douglas Casey, b-to-b marketing firm Martino & Binzer’s VP-interactive media.

"If you are sending out e-mail and it goes out to 100% of your list but 30% to 40% never respond—those are the people you should target," he said. "Try calling and saying, ‘We’re interesting in servicing you better. Are you still interested in receiving our e-mails?’ so there’s some level of engagement. That’s a good way to screen for nondeliverables. Quite often a lot of mail servers will simply accept an e-mail and trash it. If you have people selling six- or seven-figure products, then yeah, that’s worth a phone call."

4) Send from different IP addresses.It’s more likely a spam filter is going to pick up and block a marketing message than, for example, a customer service message. And if it does, there’s an even greater chance that filter will block your IP address completely or, even worse, report you to a blacklist as a spammer. If this happens, you lose all access to your client. It’s for that reason alone that Matt Blumberg, Return Path chairman-CEO, said you should segment your e-mail by IP address.

"A lot of times marketers don’t think about this, but it’s a bummer if your company’s sales messages get blocked because of your marketing messages," Blumberg said.

5) Mind your partners.B-to-b companies, like b-to-c companies, often use affiliates to get their messages out.

Here’s the problem: Affiliates don’t get paid unless they get you a lead or sale. This can result in e-mail short cuts or, even worse, deceptive or illegal e-mailing, Baird said. Only engage affiliates and partners that hold themselves to the same high standards that you do yourself.

6) Check your volume.This may only be an issue for the largest marketers, but if you send too many e-mails out at once, it can pique the interest of spam filters—especially those of the larger ISPs.

"You may want to think about throttling the messages," said David Daniels, research director at New York-based Jupiter Research. "Many ISPs identify spam by saying, ‘How much mail am I getting from a single sender and how fast is it coming?’ Too much volume can raise a red flag."

That said, try to send e-mails during slow e-mail periods, such as at night and during the middle of the week.

7)Consider your content.Although most marketers realize they should avoid certain words and phrases—"Viagra," for instance—they’re less clued in on some of the newer content components that can contribute to their messages getting blocked, Baird said.

"Filters look at design elements, too. How much HTML are you using? What colors? Do you have any graphics?" she said. "Spammers use all text—plain text with one URL thrown in."

Images and multiple links—and this is key—back to the same domain that your e-mail came from are less likely to be blocked.

8)Ask to be on a safe list.Your customers are the ones that ultimately control where your message ends up—in their in-box or in the trash. You can bring it one step closer to the in-box by asking them to accept your messages as soon as they opt in.

"We suggest messaging your customers with a thank you that says, ‘Please add our address to your address book. Please don’t report us as spam. Just click here to unsubscribe,’" Blumberg said. "‘Please ask your IT staff to put us on your corporate whitelist’ works, too."

Most Popular
In this article: