Why and How to Test Email Deliverability

A well-known legend features how the envious gods decided to prevent people from building a high tower up into the clouds and mixed all the languages ​​of the world. Unable to communicate, humanity could not organize coordinated work and the mythical Tower of Babel was never completed.

The Internet has become the new Babylon of our times, and email remains one of the main channels of web communication. For example, about 306.4 billion messages are circulating daily on the network in 2020.

And while it is difficult for them to dispute the popularity of social networks, online correspondence has no peers in the reach of the audience. Just so, there are 3.21 billion users on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp combined, and nearly 4 billion people have a mailbox.

Is it possible to reach out to each of email users and how can we check these abilities? To answer this question, we need to consider a factor known as email deliverability.

What does email deliverability mean?

Simply stated, deliverability is the mark which describes how many of your emails get into the set Inbox. A priori, the best deliverability rate will be 1. That is, all your 100% of sent emails have safely reached the recipient. However, in practice, such ideal variants are simply impossible.

Can we, in such a case, assume some acceptable norm? Experts name 90% critically appropriate. Thus, if overly every tenth your letter does not reach the final destination, you need to seriously check what, in theory, is wrong with the deliverability.

Here we should also note that messages caught in Spam are also considered delivered. Strictly separate the parameters of primary delivery of your messages from core deliverability. It is the latter that means to assess the effectiveness of mailing.

effectiveness of emailingImage source

Solely it specifies the number of your emails in the Inbox folder of your recipients. Then the ball comes to the recipient’s side, and if that next stage also causes problems, you need to switch to the reasons for ignoring your messages. But that is another story.

And yet why should I test email deliverability?

A reasonable question that leads us to the most important thing – taking care of you. If your deliverability rate is low, there is no point to invest in email marketing, as this communication channel will not make money.

A smooth template and quality content won’t work, and the effort spent on creating that “explosive” letter will be wasted if your email doesn’t even get a chance to catch the eye of the target.

If you are interested in creating that “booming” message, we advise you to switch to another material, and we are moving forward.

So, there are several possible reasons why it could not reach the user. Schematically, they can be combined under the email bounce issue. Emails that are “bounced” from your addressee, did not get into his Inbox. These returns are usually divided into 2 groups:

Hard bounce

It stands for the non-existent email addresses or incidents when the mail server of the receiving party blocked your operation. Basically, these cases are the result of using an outdated or purchased recipient database.

If you deal with a similar situation, immediately remove the “faulty” address from the list of active subscribers so as not to jeopardize the rating of your server.

Soft bounce

This type includes cases when the receiving party cannot accept the letter at the moment. For example, the responding mailbox is clogged or the mail server is currently unavailable. There is nothing wrong with that, and most likely, your letter will be delivered the next time.

Email providers constantly collect and analyze your statistics and respond to sudden spikes in activity, inappropriate content of the messages, and recipient complaints. Both deliberate violations and accidental failures can damage your digital reputation, which will not be so easy to restore later.

A high email bounce rate indicates that the mailing operations go wrong and you should urgently define and eliminate the cause of the malfunction.

How can I test email deliverability?

Naturally, there are 4 main options to test your strength in this direction.

1. Manage a seed list

One of the simplest and most obvious ways is to hold an investigation by your own forces. You can register several mailboxes on different mail services. And then check how friendly they are to your mailing list. Diversify Internet Service Providers (ISP), device types, and browsers. Send your letter to each of them and analyze:

  • Whether the letter reaches the address.
  • How many of them and which appear in a Spam folder.
  • Is the layout of the letter displayed the same in all mail services?

If some messages get lost or look wrong, there is a reason to change the settings of the mailing or revise its scope. This is a somewhat “old-fashioned” method that does not give much food for thought.

In practice, email deliverability is a little more complicated. When ISPs filter incoming emails, they often analyze how recipients interact with the new type of correspondence.

So, if you create a test list of contacts and start a mailing, you signal that this newsletter is important to you. That is why it is more likely to end up in your Inbox, which, however, is not guaranteed for other recipients.

As a result, the test results can be deformed and you will have a false impression of the expected email deliverability.

expected email deliverabilityImage source

2. Render a seed list

There are professional tools that generate trial contact lists for you. You simply create a list inside the tool, load it as if they were regular contacts from your email marketing platform, and add them to newsletters. Such a use case for probing lists looks better in theory, but also has some disadvantages.

You get quick access to a large number of email addresses in different email clients and on different types of devices, but these are not real subscribers. It turns out that even these tools do not give you 100% reliable information about the deliverability of your mailings.

3. Test the copy

Separately, you should check your emails for spam. Specific tools analyze the content of messages and send them through spam filters. They check the number and types of links, images and their size, encoding, content of headers and other elements. Don’t skip testing subject lines as well.

At the end of the quick test, you will find out how likely you emails are to be called spam. It takes literally a few moments to master these instruments. To know more about dealing with spam complaints, as well as ensuring your email falls into Primary tabs, check this guide.

Notably, it is an automatic analysis of the messages’ structure in order to provide the technical side of the issue. Different rules apply with regard to the subjective assessment of recipients. Your emails should be relevant to them. That is, receivers had no reason to manually mark them as spam. Take into account double opt-in level of subscription and the ability to unsubscribe from the newsletter.

This is how the test results may look like:

email spam report test resultsImage source

4. IP and domain reputation check

Thanks to services like MXToolBox, dmarcian, and similar, you can find out the following:

  • Whether your sender’s IP or domain is on blacklists. Email services verify them when evaluating incoming emails.
  • The validity of email authentication records (SPF, DKIM, DMARC). These are the generally accepted authentication settings for your server. They ensure that you are authorized to send mailings. These are a must for successful message delivery.

The main advantage of such tools is the ability to identify technical factors that can affect the deliverability of mailings. However, some black and gray lists that are checked are not really important, and ISPs and outreach automation tools do not even take them into account when evaluating incoming emails.

If you feel that a tech side of testing is not what you want to comprehend, consider using email sending services. For sure, they’re mostly used for massive campaigns, but for short-list sending they can be implemented as well. Their biggest advantage is that all these technical things related to email deliverability are inherited on the high level. Meanwhile, their biggest drawback is that they may have only paid plans.

To sum up

To ensure deliverability of your personal emails, it is better to have all the four methods in service and use on special occasions. For instance, if you start sending emails you can make authentication arrangements and conduct a spam check. If you notice deliverability rate drop after that you can revise the text of the newsletter or the design in general, send it to a trial contact list and learn your IP and domain reputation.

That said, there are no correct recipes here, and the main secret is the regularity of deliverability checks.