Delivery vs. Deliverability

Jennifer Barker

Business Development Strategist

Are your emails actually reaching inboxes?

Do you ever wonder how many of your emails reach subscribers and how many don’t? It’s certainly something that every campaign manager thinks about from time to time. Crafting the perfect email campaigns takes patience and diligence, so you don’t want your work to go to waste. Every detail must be right, from the font, colors and spacing, all the way down to the message and timing.

While you don’t expect everyone to open their emails and read through every item, you do hope that most of your emails are at least making it to subscribers. This way, they can make the choice as to whether or not they want to open your email, read through the content and engage with any of the items. If your emails don’t make it this far, your subscribers don’t get to make that decision for themselves.

Delivery vs Deliverability: Is There a Difference?

Unfortunately, making it into your subscribers’ inboxes does not come with a simple metric. According to HubSpot, it’s “one of the more ambiguous, misunderstood elements of sending great email.” And one of the details that marketers get confused is the difference between “delivery” and “deliverability.” The words are often used interchangeably, but they actually mean different things.

Let’s start with the basics. What does “delivery” and “deliverability” refer to?

  • Delivery: Email delivery refers to whether or not a subscriber has the capability to accept your email. It comes before the inbox or spam folder.

  • Deliverability: Email deliverability refers to where the message ends up - in the inbox or spam folder, for example.

Those are some very small differences, but they can have a significant impact on how well your email campaigns perform. As you build out your email marketing campaigns, ask yourself these two questions: Can a subscriber receive my message? If so, does it get to the inbox?

Why Might Someone Not Get My Email?

A lot of times, people don’t even consider that their emails might not be making it into their subscribers’ inboxes. We sometimes take for granted that the emails are sent and landing where they should be. But there are hurdles that can stand in the way of a smooth delivery.

Some of the most common issues include an invalid domain or email address, spam filters or an IP address that is blocked. Think about how easy it is to misread a number or letter in an email address.

If you realize that subscribers aren’t receiving your email campaigns, there are a few things you can do.

  • Ask your subscriber to add you to their contact list or address book.

  • Ask your subscriber to check their spam filter settings and make sure that your content or IP address isn’t blocked.

  • Check to see if there is an internal firewall that is blocking your content.

How Do I Get Messages into My Subscribers’ Inboxes?

Deliverability means that the email was accepted and landed into a folder. But which folder? That is the question.

Ideally, you want the email to land in your recipients’ inboxes, but this doesn’t automatically happen. In fact, HubSpot breaks up this phase into three parts: identification, reputation and content. Let’s find out what each of these mean.

Step 1: Identification

The first phase refers to the set of protocols that validate who you are when you deliver an email to a recipient. These protocols include Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC). These protocols are used to verify your identity.

Step 2: Reputation

Everyone has a sender reputation, which is a score that signifies how trustworthy you are. Each ISP may have a different score. To improve your score, you need to practice good behavior such as engaging with your email messages and having recipients’ mark you as a trusted sender. To boost your score, you can send personal emails, too, not just marketing-based ones.

Step 3: Content

The final part is content, which is the copy contained in the email. Is it relevant for your audience? Appropriate? Emails that look spammy from the start typically aren’t opened (“Make $1,000 a Day!”), so tailor your subject line to fit your audience and the things they care about. Also avoid falling into other bad practices such as using a lot of exclamation points, all caps or other weird formatting options.

A Few Tips for Making it Into the Inbox Folder

Obviously, your goal is to make it into the inbox folders of your recipients. Let’s explore some of the ways that you can ensure a successful delivery - and deliverability.

  • Make Unsubscribes Easy. It should not be difficult to unsubscribe from your list. Though you may not want to lose anyone, it can actually help improve your engagement score to clean up your list and have people who actually want to hear from you.

  • Personal, Relevant Messages. Your goal may be to send emails that won’t trip the spam filters, but your users aren’t thinking this way. Instead, they look for relevance. Is the email relevant to them? Does it make sense and help them in some way?  

Conclusion

Email continues to be one of the strongest marketing channels that we have available. It’s personal, cost effective and easy to track. Understanding the difference between delivery and deliverability will help you build a better email marketing campaign with messages that make it into your subscribers’ inboxes.

 
About the Author: Jennifer Barker

Jen is the Business Development Strategist for SEMGeeks and the only team member born and raised north of the Jersey great divide, i.e. the Driscoll Bridge. Her BFA in multimedia design and extensive experience in digital marketing make her both an analytical and creative thinker. Jen has lived and worked for digital agencies in two major cities over the last 17 years but 3 years ago this “gypsy living, free bird” happily put her roots down at the Jersey Shore. The struggle to defend North Jersey to the rest of the team is an ongoing battle. #TaylorHam

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