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improve email Deliverability - best practices for small businesses

Email Deliverability Best Practices for Small Businesses

Emails you send to subscribers are like the letters to Santa, except that you send them all year round and expect them to visit your landing page, gif...

Emails you send to subscribers are like the letters to Santa, except that you send them all year round and expect them to visit your landing page, gift you some business. This is only possible if your emails are getting delivered to all your Santa(s).

As per an observation by ReturnPath, only 80% of the emails sent are delivered to their intended inboxes. This means some of your subscribers may not be receiving your marketing emails and unless you find an alternative to stay connected with them, they are lost.

Getting your emails delivered to the maximum number of subscribers is an issue faced by almost everyone, and small businesses and novice email marketers sometimes even damage their email deliverability and hamper sender reputation out of sheer ignorance of the best practices to be followed. In this article, Uplers are here to enlighten you with email deliverability best practices to be followed mainly for small businesses.

improve email deliverability - View Infographic!

Understanding: How Your Email Is Getting Delivered

Email Marketer > ESP > ESP server (SMTP) > ISP server > Internet > ISP server > Mail Server (IMAP or POP3) > Email Client > Subscribers

As you can see in the above algorithm, an email sent, doesn’t directly land in your email subscribers’ inbox. There are a couple of SMTP servers of the ISP (Internet Service Provider), where it gets checked for any malicious code, sender reputation, SPF (Sender Policy Framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) of the IP address and SPAMming language. And in case if any of it is red-flagged, then your EMAIL faces the risk of being restricted by the ISP.

Also, even if your email passes the ISP SPAM filter, it goes through SPAM filter of the email recipient’s inbox. Here the email client checks the FROM address against a list of email addresses that have been marked as SPAM, or has maximum unsubscribe requests and sends such emails to SPAM folder, in case a match is found.

So, it is important to take precautions to improve your email deliverability.

Common Mistakes that Hamper Email Deliverability

  • Buying email lists or follow bad lead generation practices: Purchasing an email list is one of the most common mistakes, small business tends to commit. A subscriber signs up with certain expectations and a subscriber from a purchased email list is never going to expect to receive an email from a brand to which they never subscribed. This increases the SPAM complaints and unsubscribe requests.
  • Not validating the collected email address: One of the best lead generation tactics is to offer your subscribers some downloadable content in exchange for their email address. If you don’t validate the collected email addresses, you may experience hard bounces owing to subscribers using wrong or non-existent email addresses to sign-up. Remember, increasing hard bounces reflects badly on your sender reputation.
  • Improper List hygiene: As per a finding by HubSpot, an email marketing database naturally degrades by about 22.5% every year. So, one of the mistakes that email marketers make is, not filtering out dormant and inactive subscribers. This results in dormant inboxes to be filled with your unopened emails and ISP filters mistaking it as SPAM emails.
  • Not whitelisting and authenticating your domain: Most brands tend to request their subscribers to add the brand’s email address in their address book.improve email deliverability - fossil emailThis is a good indicator for ISP spam filters that the FROM address is from a trusted source. Thus, it greatly improves the sender reputation and prevents emails from landing into the Junk/Spam folder. Additionally, investing in authentication also helps for small business and email marketers   who are just starting out. Steps on how to do so is discussed in the next section in detail.
  • Not monitoring your email metrics: Email marketing doesn’t thrive on sending an email to your subscribers and then forgetting about it. Analysis of the metrics and changes based on it is how email marketers improve their emails. Moreover, by monitoring your email metrics you can analyze what message resonates well with your subscribers. Here is a list of email metrics and what do they imply:
  1. Mail returned with Soft bounce notice: The mail was not delivered to the subscriber owing to problems in their email server such as inbox storage full or email server couldn’t handle the request, etc. This doesn’t reflect badly on the sender reputation.
  2. Mail returned with Hard bounce notice: The mail was not delivered to the subscriber owing to an incorrect email address. Infrequent and few hard bounces are acceptable but getting too many Hard bounces is an indication of either a bought email list or improper lead generation practices and reflects badly on the sender reputation.
  3. Mail is deleted without opening: It is heart-breaking if someone deletes your email without reading it. It might be owing to a provocative subject line or an unidentified FROM name. Although this is not taken into consideration, it is better to be safe than sorry.
  4. Mail is marked SPAM or a large amount of unsubscribes: OUCH! If someone flags your email as SPAM, your domain address is added to the list of defaulters which an ISP compares incoming emails with. Similarly, if a large number of your subscribers unsubscribe from one of your email campaigns, the ESP investigates and may ban your account, in an attempt to maintain it’s sender reputation.

Things you need to take care to improve Email Deliverability

Email content needs to be relevant and properly formatted:  Text formatting is important to improve the readability of a text paragraph. Additionally, subscribers don’t have the time to go through paragraphs of text in your email. Therefore, email copy needs to be crisp, short, relevant and properly formatted using heading, bold, italics tags judiciously.

Email design also triggers SPAM traps: Certain email design nuances are also considered under SPAMming as per ISP SPAM filter. We have covered the various things to look out about email design when it comes to avoiding SPAM filter.

Send them few; send them frequently: When a subscriber subscribes, they give their email address in exchange for some valuable takeaway. This doesn’t mean you have to bombard them with information. Either inform them how many times you are going to message them or let them set up their preference when they fill their profile.

Adhere to the different anti-SPAM laws: Different countries have formulated different laws that email marketers need to comply for sending emails to those specific countries. Most prominent laws are Canada’s CASL, USA’s CAN-SPAM and GDPR affiliated to E.U.

 To make things easy for you, Uplers have created a guide to making your emails GDPR-compliant.

Wrapping Up

A small business has lots on their plate when it comes to drawing customers to their business. Having said that 81% of email marketers believe that emails are the best way to acquire customers.  This article can help you guide your email marketing to the point where you also can back the above statement.

Additionally, Uplers’ latest services of campaign management can be pivotal for you to focus on your business, while we manage your email campaigns. Contact us in case you want one of our Uplers to get in touch about the same.

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Kevin George

Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing full-service email marketing companies. He is an email enthusiast at heart and loves to pen down email marketing content. You can reach him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.



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