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Strategy Sessions: Defining deliverability, inbox placement and email engagement

In the second installment of our Strategist Video Series, Lauren and I try to shed a little light on a topic that can be fairly confusing: email deliverability. This video will help you understand the differences between deliverability, inbox placement and engagement. All are indicators of the success of your email marketing campaigns, but these are three very different metrics, and different factors can affect each of them.

We’ll dive further into what can impact deliverability, inbox placement and engagement in a later video. Today, we just want to make sure we’re all speaking the same language and that you can easily differentiate between the various terms.


Lauren: Hi, it’s Lauren and Chris, and we get a lot of questions from our clients about email deliverability. What we have found lately is that clients might be thinking that they’re asking about email deliverability specifically, but they’re really getting into questions related to deliverability, like inbox placement or engagement. So in this video we will take some time to parse out the differences between email deliverability, inbox placement and engagement, so we can really define those terms and you can understand what falls into each of those camps.

Chris: Right. Deliverability seems to be the catchall term. If you think about it, deliverability means what percentage of my email is being delivered. If I send 100 emails out and 98 of them are received by the recipient, two of them bounced, so it’s however many did not bounce. They actually got to where they were supposed to go. That’s your deliverability rate. We typically see deliverability rates in the 95 to 99 percent range, but there’s always going to be some bad email addresses or soft bounces from one reason or another. Deliverability is just simply: Are the messages getting there?

Chris: Then grouped under that a lot of people think “OK, well, yeah, it got there, but …”

Lauren: “But where did it go?”

Chris: Yeah, right, where did it go? Did it get to the inbox? Inbox placement falls under that same umbrella. It is a different thing, and some other factors can affect it. You can be sending to a list that is all valid email addresses, like there is another person on the end of the line, but because of your sender reputation or because of their spam filters, you don’t make it to their inbox.

Lauren: Yeah, absolutely. So a great deliverability rate isn’t necessarily the be-all end-all, right? Because you’ve got to be thinking about where those messages are landing actually in the inbox, so that they’re actually being seen.

Chris: Right and even we run into issues now, like with Gmail and their different tabs. In Gmail’s inbox, it can be placed in the inbox, but in the promotions tab.

Lauren: Right, absolutely.

Chris: But understanding that, yes, 98 percent of my email is being delivered, but we’re only getting 70 percent inbox placement. That means you probably have some things you can work on.

Lauren: Very true.

Chris: Understanding that difference is important, but then often times the other one that is really different altogether is engagement. What is the open rate, the click through rate? Are people engaging with that email? I got there and made it to the inbox, but then did they open it? That all is affected by your subject line.

Lauren: Yeah, engagement is referring to the content of the email itself and who you are sending it to. Is it a targeted list? Is it a relevant message? A lot of different factors affect each one of these areas of “deliverability,” so to speak.

Chris: Right, and so you know when you think about them you want to make sure that you are thinking about all three and giving them each their own due attention. Instead of just saying “How’s my deliverability?” “It’s great, 98 percent delivery.”

Lauren: It would be nice if that were it. It would be nice if it were that easy, but there are a few more things to consider for sure.

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