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Need to Know Email Marketing Deliverability Metrics

Thomas Senne
Senior Director of Global Deliverability

Of course, all marketers know that Deliverability is the most important part of the email marketing cycle. Without deliverability success, what’s the point of all those other people in your organization? If your intended audience doesn’t see your email in the inbox, as the design was intended, and the time it was intended, somebody is probably disappointed. Since we are all now in agreement that there’s nothing in the world more important than great deliverability, it makes sense to make sure that we’re all on the same page when it comes to metrics.

Most email marketers are familiar with engagement metrics such as click through rate, open rate, and so on. But, when it comes to deliverability success, monitoring engagement metrics goes hand in hand with monitoring the more traditional deliverability metrics, such as bounce rates, spam complaints, and more.

For example, there are generally two kinds of bounces—soft and hard. Identifying one from the other can provide insights into problem areas and potential root causes of deliverability issues.

Another example of a specific metric that can provide email marketers with invaluable insight is open-to-click ratio. This metric helps marketers measure just how effective and compelling their content was for the reader. Moreover, in the eyes of major ISPs, consistent engagement metrics can establish a positive sender reputation and strengthen overall deliverability.

Once an email has been delivered successfully without bouncing, there are additional measures such as delivery of emails to a recipient’s inbox versus delivery to their junk/spam folder.

The bottom line is to continually monitor, react, and adjust to email marketing metrics so marketers can drive a strong sender reputation with ISPs. This ultimately allows marketers to consistently reach their audience and achieve their business goals.

Understanding what bounces actually mean is a skill that will pay big dividends. Bounces don’t just mean an address is no longer valid. Bounces can tell you when you are being blocked, customers are no longer active, an ISP is having issues, or you could be listed on a blacklist. Understanding bounce codes and the associated information is time well invested.

Next, the omnipresent spam complaints, which are based on abuse reports received from the ISPs currently offering feedback loops. Spam is figuratively and literally a four-letter word for email marketers, and spam complaints are indeed a major factor in determining inbox placement.

The reasons why someone clicks the spam button are numerous, including they simply don’t want to receive your message anymore and for whatever reason don’t click unsubscribe or they received an email that was not expected or came from a brand they did not recognize or authorize.

Regardless of why and when recipients hit the spam button, even in small numbers, the sender reputation dips, resulting in messages being filtered to the bulk folder and sometimes resulting in delayed or blocked delivery.

I can’t stress enough about how important these complaints are to your future plans.

When a sender starts to notice poor performance with their email program due to a deliverability related issue, it is likely that the sender is being be bulked, blocked, or blacklisted. Although all three terms stem from similar reputation related issues, it is important to note that there is a distinguishable difference between how each effect your program.


Occurs when an ISP accepts your mail but routes the message to the BULK or SPAM folders vs. routing it to the INBOX.


Blocking occurs when an ISP takes action and refuses to accept your emails by bouncing them back. Blocking stems from poor IP reputation.


Occurs when your IP has been flagged for sending unwanted traffic and followers of that blacklist decide to block your emails.

Whether you are being bulked, blocked, or blacklisted the key takeaway is to ensure you are following best practices by targeting your sends and sticking to your engaged audience. Don’t wait for an issue to surface. It is important to proactively keep up with proper list hygiene and regularly remove inactive subscribers from your list.

Modern Marketers must orchestrate and deliver marketing messages that are relevant to individual preferences and behavior. Getting email delivered to the inbox is critical to this process. 

For help for all things Deliverability, download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers.  

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Comments ( 1 )
  • Julia Gulevich Thursday, March 17, 2016
    Great article, Kevin! Thank you for sharing. I particularly liked the part about spam complaints. I agree that they are most harmful to the sender reputation and deliverability than other metrics like bounce rate or IP blacklisting.

    Me too, I wrote a blog post about email deliverability and recommendations how to improve deliverability and Inbox placement.

    I think it might be a great addition to this article and might be interesting to the readers of this post. I hope it is fine to share a link here https://glockapps.com/blog/improve-email-deliverability/
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