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Video: Introduction to Email Deliverability (4:57)

Understanding email deliverability can help you improve your email strategy and learn how to send more successful email.

Hi, I’m Courtney with HubSpot Academy. Welcome to an introduction to email deliverability.

As inbound professionals, we know how important relevant and helpful email marketing is.

Consider for a minute how revolutionary it is that most people access their inbox from their pocket. They carry their emails with them everywhere.

As people have requested more transparency, value, and personalization from their emails, great marketers have adapted. New technology and new best practices help marketers continue to send emails that deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.  

But it’s equally important to understand what happens after you hit send.

Understanding email deliverability can help you improve your email strategy and learn how to send more successful email.

Getting to know how email deliverability affects your emails can help you answer questions such as: Why did that metric change? My open rates are trending down, but why? Why are my clicks just no longer happening? It might not be your email subject line or that new color on your CTA — the answers might be right there inside your deliverability data.

First thing’s first, though: What is email deliverability?

Simply put, email deliverability is the measurement and understanding of how successful a sender is at getting their marketing email into people’s inboxes. And email deliverability failure is when your message is either routed to the junk or bulk folder or blocked by the ISP, the Internet Service Provider.

Deliverability is not some secret handshake that will work around spam filters. It’s a measurement that helps us understand how helpful and successful our emails are. If you send email that people don’t want, email that doesn't actually benefit them, eventually, you won’t get into their inbox. Why? If you continue to send emails to people who don’t wish to receive them, your email sender score will decrease. Think of your sender score like your credit score: The better the score, the more likely you can sign up for new credit cards with higher limits. Same goes for email.

Spending all that time creating great emails only to not get the information into someone's inbox is a real bummer, right? This is why understanding email deliverability is extremely important in creating an effective inbound email strategy.

Think about your emails like a funnel. That funnel starts with getting content into someone's inbox. If you don’t get into their inbox, you don’t get the open. If you don’t get the open, you won't get the click. And if you don't get the click, delivering that content to your potential customer is looking less and less likely.

In the email deliverability world, poor deliverability can act like an infection. Bad practices breed bad numbers, and without proper attention, these harmful numbers will spread. And past performance does influence your future results. If your emails are received and loved by your existing recipients, this shows that your emails are helpful, valuable, and important, and therefore, your new recipients are more likely to see your emails in their inbox.  

Each year your email list will decay by 25% (yes, I said 25%!). How does that happen? Three things can occur that might affect your email list:

First, your contacts’ email addresses change as they move from one company to another.

Second, others abandon that old AOL address they don’t really use.

And last, unqualified leads opt out of your email communications.

So continually generating new email recipients to replace the ones you’ve lost is important. One way you can maintain this is by having a good email deliverability history.

I know this sounds a little scary, and that maintaining a good email deliverability reputation might be impossible, but the truth is, you have far more control over what happens after hitting send than you may think.

Every email you send gives you more data to use to improve your next send, and the one after, and the one after that. Getting to know this underlying data — and what it means to your emails — can give you a solid foundation to build your inbound email strategy from.

We all want to be successful in sending email that’s both helpful to the people we’re communicating with and helpful in growing our businesses. Starting with the foundation of good email deliverability is the first step to being successful as an email marketer.


Quiz: Introduction to Email Deliverability

This is a quick quiz to review the concepts covered in the Introduction to Email Deliverability video. 

User Guide

User Guide: Understanding Email Deliverability

As an email marketer, there is a lot that is required of you. You need to be able to write relevant, engaging content. You need to be able to pull off a bit of design magic to please your viewers eyes. And now you also need to have a firm understanding of email deliverability. Because you could spend all your time writing awesome content, designing a stellar template, but if you can't make it to your contact's inbox, all your hard work goes unnoticed.

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Video: Email Deliverability and Your Business (10:49)

As inbound professionals, if we can’t get into the inboxes of the people we want to communicate with, our chances of turning those people into customers are pretty low.

When looking at email deliverability and its relation to your business’ success, we can break it down into two key parts: the things you can do before the send, and the things you should do after the send.

Hi, I’m Courtney with HubSpot Academy. We’re going to learn about how email deliverability relates to your success as you use inbound to grow your business.

As inbound professionals, if we can’t get into the inboxes of the people we want to communicate with, our chances of turning those people into customers are pretty low.

When looking at email deliverability and its relation to your business’ success, we can break it down into two key parts: the things you can do before the send, and the things you should do after the send.

But before you look at your last email and the metrics you’re tracking, let’s discuss a framework for analyzing the people on your email lists. You can’t send an email unless you have people to send it to. And for this reason, contacts will always be the heart of your email strategy.

Let’s look at your lists through a three-part framework: sources, permissions, and expectations.

First off, let’s talk about sources. A lead source is the primary source through which a lead found your website. You need to take a close look at the people who are getting onto your sending lists. Where do they come from? What’s their source?

For example, did they totally love your blog content and convert on a form on your site? That’s fantastic. You’ve got a great lead. Or have they been hiding in your CRM since way before you took over marketing for your company? Probably not the best lead. Or, even worse, did someone hand you a list with a wink and a nod? This is a purchased list, and you need to run far away from it.

Let’s get real for a minute about purchased, acquired, rented, appended, or any list where you or your company didn’t do the collection.

They’re just no good! And they violate the Terms of Service or Acceptable Use Policy with your ESP and ISP.  In addition to the Terms of Service you need to pay attention to being CAN-SPAM compliant as well.

But wait, Courtney, what is CAN-SPAM, ESP, and ISP?

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 covers commercial email messages in the United States. The European Union has a similar ePrivacy Directive, and other countries around the world have their own email compliance laws.

The CAN-SPAM Act requires you to provide a visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism and a legitimate physical address (or P.O. Box) of the business promoting its product or service in all your emails.

This is extremely important because without this information, an ISP, or internet service provider, will put up a big stop sign in front of your emails.

In addition, any email marketing vendor, like HubSpot (or any ESP, email service provider) will forbid anyone from emailing purchased contacts on their network. Email is a long game, and your brand is worth it. Don’t throw it away chasing the promise of low-hanging fruit.

Now that we’ve looked at what can happen if a contact’s source is less than reputable, ask yourself before sending, “Do I feel good about the sources of this list and the contacts in it?” If you don’t, it’s time to take a closer look at how your contacts are getting into your database.

The second piece of this framework for analyzing our lists is permissions.

This one is easy: Did you, or someone at your company actually ask the person — not the contact, not the lead, not the email address or inbox, but a person — for permission to send to them?

The way I like to look at this is, when someone fills out a standard form on your website, it doesn’t mean they’re opting in, but checking a box saying they wish to receive blog emails IS opting in.

So if you asked them and they said, “Sure. Send me marketing emails” — then go for it! Nothing to see here.

Now that the source of your list is above board, and you’ve actually asked for, and been granted, permission to email your contacts. You’re good, right?

Well, not quite.

The last part of this framework for analyzing our lists is expectation.

Basically, “Do the people on your list expect you to email them?” Were you clear when they granted you permission? Have you taken extra care to remind them who you are, why they’re getting this message, and when they granted you permission to send it?

Ok, this one might be a tiny bit aspirational, because no one other than your Mom really expects you to email them, but don’t settle!

When you’re trying to figure out why your emails aren’t doing as well as they used to, hold yourself and your emails to a higher standard. Go back and look at the source, the permission settings, and the expectations you’re setting with your contacts.

Remember, you can’t send emails if you don’t have anyone to send them to, so take care of your contacts with this framework in mind.

Now that we know what we need to do before we hit send to, let’s take a look at what we can do to improve our email deliverability grade after our email has gone out.

When it comes to email strategy, people generally fall into two different camps. The first is those who hit send and settle in with some popcorn to watch all those graphs and rates change in real time. They wonder and hope that this send will do better than the last, and they learn from the data that comes back in.

The other camp has people who treat their email sends like a “mic drop” — barely paying any mind to what happens once that message is winding its ways into people's inboxes.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, the best way — the proven way — to build a successful email program is to pay attention to your metrics.

Your post-send metrics fall into two buckets. In one bucket, you’ll have the good metrics, the ones that track engagement, opens, and clicks. In the other bucket, there’s the unfortunate metrics: bounces, contacts churn, and list decline. Basically all the contacts you lost.

In the first bucket, you’ll want to focus on your opens and clickthrough rates.

When first looking at your email opens, it’s true that some email clients will not load the image or the tracking pixels that are embedded in your email. If you’re not familiar with how email tracking works, what happens is your ESP, or email service provider, tracks email opens by embedding an invisible one-pixel image into the message once it’s sent. When your recipient views the email and the images load, you’ll be notified that the email was opened.

But because sometimes email clients block image downloads, when looking at open rates, we want to look at trends in your deliverability, not just focus on the exact numbers.

Clickthrough rates are proof that your email motivated your recipients enough to actually do something.

These clicks show engagement, which is the goal of your email marketing strategy.

On the other side of your metrics are things like bounce rates, contacts churn, and list decline. These are the not-so-good numbers.

Churn is a measure of the number of contacts you lose as a result of an email send. There are three ways to categorize these lost contacts: (1) those who opt-out or unsubscribe, (2) those whose email addresses bounce, or the least desirable, (3) those who mark your message as spam.  

When someone unsubscribes, they’re telling you one of three things: your content didn’t meet their needs, your message missed the mark, or your offer wasn't good enough for them. But in the email deliverability world, this is the best way to be rejected.

When a contact bounces, it means an email was, for some reason, rejected by the recipient's mail server.

There are a ton of reasons why someone may bounce, but the four most important for you, as an email marketer, are: recipient bounces, content bounces, reputation bounces, and temporary failure.

Each type of bounce has its own reason. You can dig into this in the information provided in the coded bounce message you receive in return.

The last thing on our list is when you receive a spam compliant response.

The truth is: When you get someone so riled up that they don’t just delete your message or unsubscribe but actually mark you as spam, you probably deserve what you’re going to get.

And what is that? Well, it’s not great inbox placement, that’s for sure. Your reputation will suffer. You’ll stop getting into the inbox. And getting marked as spam by other folks will reduce your ability to send emails to the people who love them.

While we’re talking about spam compliancy, let’s talk about how much is too much. The honest answer is, if you’re going to send marketing email, you’ll probably get a few random spam complaints. But they should be few and far between. Every ESP (email service provider) has a limit. And when you reach that limit, they’ll shut down your email. YIKES!

But by the time you get there, you’ve already lost. The rule of thumb you can use to understand how many folks are actually marking you as spam is the three-to-one rule, as in, take the spam complaints you’re receiving and multiply them by three.

That’s how many people were really unhappy with that email you sent.

Here’s a little pro-tip from me to you: Take these spam complaints seriously. For most ESPs, every direct spam complaint they receive spurs them to reach out to the sender to make sure they’re not violating the Terms of Service or Acceptable Use Policy. So please, take this seriously — your ESP sure does.

Well, there you have the framework for breaking down email lists by source, permissions, and expectations, as well as the information you need to pay attention to once you hit send! These actions and the responses you get in return all have an impact on your email deliverability rating. You now have the information to look closely at how your email deliverability affects your inbound success and growing business.


Quiz: Email Deliverability and Your Business

This is just a quick quiz to review the concepts covered in the email deliverability and your business video. 

User Guide

User Guide: How Can I Improve the Deliverability of My emails?

Delivering to your contacts' inboxes is necessary to be successful at email marketing. If you can’t get into your contacts' inboxes, you simply can’t be successful at marketing via email. Read on for a glossary of email deliverability terms as well as best practices to ensure proper inbox placement.

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Tool Walk-through: Email Deliverability in Practice

We will be using HubSpot as our example platform but what we are discussing and the best practices can be transferable across many other platforms so even if you do not have HubSpot you can learn how email deliverability will look like within in your business.

Hi, I’m Courtney with HubSpot Academy. Let’s find out what email deliverability looks like in practice.

Focusing on email deliverability as part of your email strategy can help you answer questions such as, Why did that metric change? My open rates are trending down, but why? And why are my email clicks just no longer happening?

As we walk through what email deliverability looks like in practice, we’ll be using HubSpot as our example platform. But the process and best practices we’ll discuss can be applied to many other platforms, so even if you don’t use HubSpot, you can learn what email deliverability might look like for your business.

Let’s dive right into our example. This email was sent from the HubSpot Academy team by our very own Sarah Bedrick. Its purpose was to notify our users of their practicum being submitted successfully. We’ll review this email and evaluate how it follows the best practices of design, engagement, graymail suppression, and personalization — four things that affect email deliverability.

First, we’re going to look at this email through the email deliverability design best practices.

When it comes to the design of your email, one of the most important aspects is having a clearly marked place for people to update their email preferences. As you can see here, there’s a clear place to unsubscribe and update your preferences. Not only does this make the sender CAN-SPAM compliant, it allows the contact to feel comfortable.

The second email deliverability best practice is engagement.

As you can see in the email performance tab, this email received high opens as well as clicks. This is good engagement. The contacts who received this email were not only compelled to open it but also to click on the offer inside.

This is a great example of how well an email can perform if you know the source of your contacts, have permission to send to them, and set the correct expectations as to when they’ll be hearing from you.

On the flip side, negative engagement on an email send will be things like spam complaints, unsubscribes, and bounces. Receiving these responses is how you lose contacts.

The third aspect that affects email deliverability is graymail. Graymail is email that your contacts have opted to receive but don't actually engage with. By reducing the amount of graymail you send, you can improve your email sending quality and score. And over time, you’ll see higher engagement and open rates from your contacts since you’re sending to people who are more interested in your content.

HubSpot includes a graymail suppression feature that helps users avoid sending graymail and improve their email sending quality, which, in turn, improves their email deliverability score.

This feature uses the “sends since last engagement” property to automatically suppress a list of contacts who have not been engaging with your marketing emails. It helps prevent your emails from becoming graymail.

These low-engagement contacts are identified in two different ways.

The first qualifier is if the contact has never opened a marketing email from you and has not opened the last 11 emails you've sent them.

And the second is if they have previously opened a marketing email from you but have not opened the last 16 emails you've sent them.

You may be thinking, but how does this help me as an inbound professional?

Graymail is yet another reason to do what good email marketers do: Focus on segmentation, personalization, and engagement. To do this successfully, here are some pro tips you might want to explore.

Use post-send engagement data to develop a strategy for getting your emails into the right tab in your contacts’ inboxes.

Secondly, test your email send frequency.

Develop re-engagement campaigns for contacts who have stopped engaging with your messages.

And lastly, work to always improve your segmentation rules so you can send more personalized, relevant content that recipients will take time out of their day to seek out and read.

In that way, graymail is actually great for email marketers because it sets aside marketing emails for a time when recipients are in the mood to be marketed to.

With graymail in mind, let’s talk about personalization. But before we take a look at how it can be implemented into your email strategy, let’s define what personalization is.

Personalization in emails is the practice of using tokens in your content to engage with your audience and provide a personalized experience to a known contact. With this practice, you show your audience better engagement, making them feel special since their experience is personalized by a company that’s looking to fulfill their service or product need.

Not only does this email include the First Name property, it also has personalized content within the body of the email to reinforce the idea that the person sending it really knows what’s currently happening with their contacts.

These are only a few examples of what design, engagement, graymail suppression, and personalization can look like inside of your emails. You may implement something more focused on your business.

One other email example I love to look at is from Warby Parker. When my eyeglasses were one year old, they sent me this email, which includes the date my prescription was going to expire. The email is using a unusual contact property, my prescription date, to help me remember to get my eyes checked. But it also helps their business by encouraging me to buy new glasses.

In addition, they use the first name personalization token at the top as well as a clear call-to-action at the bottom encouraging me to purchase new glasses with my updated prescription.

This is a fantastic example of personalization, design, and content that encourages me to engage with them.

Using design best practices, analyzing your engagement, focusing on not sending to people who might fall into graymail, and using personalization will help you continue on your path to building a delightful inbound email strategy.

Quiz: Email Deliverability in Practice

This is just a quick quiz to review the concepts covered in the email deliverability in practice video. 

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