What is deliverability? Why is it important?
Deliverability is your email arriving in the inbox of the recipient as intended (not the spam folder). What could be more important than making sure people actually see your work-of-art email?
What is spam actually? What ends up in the spam folder?
The definition of spam has changed a lot in the past decade. In the past, spam used to be defined by the question, “Is this email unrequested?”
Now, in 2019, there are 490 BILLION emails sent every day.1 Every. Single. Day. And 85% of those emails are malicious spam. With that many emails, email providers (like Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, iCloud, and so on) needed better filters to keep their customers happy. So the machines got smarter. The new definition of spam is, “Is this email likely to be engaged with?”
Engagement is the key to good email deliverability. If you send an email to an activist and they consistently don’t engage (open, click, reply, take action), after a while, your emails will be considered spam for that activist even if they never hit the spam button.
On a larger scale, if you consistently send emails to activists who don’t engage with your content, your organization’s sender reputation will be negatively impacted, and more of your emails will be sorted into spam across the board.
How do the email providers decide what goes into spam?
Determining engagement goes beyond the statistics you can see on your CRM. The machines at Google, Hotmail, Yahoo, Apple, etc. can see a lot more data than you can. They develop a fingerprint for an organization. It takes all that engagement data you know (like actions, opens, clicks, spam complaints, bounces, and unsubscribes) AND looks at content size, IP address, authenticatication, email templates, subject lines, from address, email content, headers and footers, and more.
The key to good deliverability isn’t to send the email that the email providers want — the key is to send emails your recipients want.
Let’s review: Good deliverability = engagement = sending emails your recipients want
What does good deliverability look like?
While you should aim for a higher open rate (think 30-40% on your best emails), an open rate of 10% or higher means your emails are getting delivered.
*These metrics will vary heavily depending on the makeup of your list and how many people have Mail Privacy Protection turned on. Make sure to look at other stats!
Hint: You can see some of these stats on your deliverability dashboard (emails tab of your group manage page)
Let’s break each of these elements down:
- Open (unique): the number of recipients who have opened your email at least once
- Aggregate open: the number of times your email was opened (if Brian opens your email three times, that counts as 3 aggregate opens, but one unique open)
- Click (unique): the number of recipients who clicked in your email at least once
- Hard bounce: the recipient’s email address is invalid or doesn’t exist. Remember: the lifespan of an email address is only three years.
- Soft bounce: the recipient’s email address is valid, but there was a short-term issue. Maybe the mailbox was full, the server was down, or the message was too large.
- Unsubscribe: the recipient hit the unsubscribe button and removed themself from your list
- Spam report: the recipient marked the email as spam
The metric most of us focus on is open rate, but clicks, unsubscribes, spam complaints, and action rates are also key. We recommend that you work to maintain at least a 40% open rate over a 24-hour rolling period.
That means your deliverability looks good if, for example:
- You send out one email on Thursday with a 40% open rate.
- You send out one email to 10,000 people on Thursday morning with a 50% open rate and another Thursday night to 5,000 people with a 35% open rate (average is still above 40%)
- You send out an email on Wednesday night to 5,000 people with an open rate of 45% and an email on Thursday morning to 5,000 people with an open rate of 38%.
Note that this is proportional — sending one email to 100 people with a 45% open rate and then a second email to 100,000 people with a 5% open rate does not result in a 25% open rate overall (it would only come to 5.045%). The number of people you’re emailing is important!
If you’re struggling with deliverability, aim for a ~45% average to get things back on track.
Deliverability is all about looking for trends. Take note if you send out an email with wildly different stats, but really pay attention if your open rate starts to decline or your unsubscribe rate goes up over a period of time.
- My open rate is high, but my click rate is low?
- Your recipients want emails from you, but they don’t like your content or your call to action (CTA).
- Try testing your subject lines or adding CTA buttons.
- My click rate is high, but my open rate is low?
- Your emails are likely going to spam, but the emails that do end up in the inbox are performing well.
- Time to start improving your deliverability — read on!
- My bounce rate is high?
- Your list might be out of date. Time to do a list clean-up!
- My unsubscribe rate is high?
- Your content is not appealing to your activists. Try varying it or segmenting your list using tags.
And remember: An unsubscribe will not hurt your deliverability, but a spam complaint will.
|What counts as bouncing on Action Network?
|How does Action Network handle bounces and spam complaints?
|Only hard bounces. If a message bounces, we will automatically keep trying to deliver the email for 72 hours to determine if it’s a soft or hard bounce. So that means soft bounces (auto-responses, full email inboxes, or temporary server outages) will not count as a bounce on Action Network, and they will not be placed on the global block list.
|Activists whose email addresses bounce or who report your email as spam will be automatically unsubscribed from your email list and placed on the global block list. They will no longer receive any emails coming through Action Network, from any organization or group. Email us to remove bouncing activists right away (so they can be resubscribed to your list). If someone is submitting a spam complaint, they’ll need to fill out a pledge to never mark an Action Network email as spam again before we will take them off the global block list. More here.