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Benchmarking the High-Performing Agency Website, Part II: Email Deliverability & List Cleanliness

Based on our first-hand research, we have put together a set of benchmarks for high-performing agency websites. I am breaking these benchmarks down over a series of blog posts. This is the second post in the series. They don’t need to be read in order, but I would encourage you to check out the first post on email list size and mailing frequency, if you have the time. While individual results may vary, these are the numbers that we pulled from our sampling of clients that are generating qualified leads from their website on a regular basis.

Email Deliverability & List Cleanliness

Last time, I pointed out the need to have a list of at least 5,000 contacts that you are emailing on a regular basis. It’s important, when sending to a list of this size, that you are aware of how many of those emails are actually being delivered.

As a quick refresher — an email bounce is when you send an email and it is not accepted by the receiving mail server, and thus bounces back to you. A hard bounce is a permanent bounce. It occurs when an email address or domain is no longer valid or in use. A soft bounce indicates it is a valid domain and email address, but the server has returned the message due to any one of a variety of other reasons, such as network or routing issues, a full inbox, or because the message didn’t pass a spam filter. High bounce rates can be indicative of a poor sender reputation or an old, inactive, or dirty mailing list.

Sender reputation is your reputation as a sender of marketing email. If you continually have very few spam complaints, high levels of engagement (opens and clickthroughs) and a low number of bounces, you will likely maintain a high sender reputation. Your sender reputation is used by receiving mail servers to help them determine if your mail should be sent to the inbox, if it should be placed in a junk mail folder or if it should bounce the message back to you.


In looking at the high-performing agencies that we surveyed, we saw an average bounce rate of 5.4 percent. This means almost 95 percent of the email they sent was delivered to the intended recipients. This is considered a fairly good deliverability rate.

Additionally, this average bounce rate has been dropping even lower in recent months, with some agencies seeing bounce rates closer to 2 percent. This is because the high-performing agencies are taking the right steps to keep their lists clean, employ good sending practices, and thus avoid bounces.

Several of these agencies have utilized a list cleaning/list hygiene service (in the past, we’ve used ImpressionWise, LeadSpend and Webbula). Most agencies are also setting up rules in their marketing automation platform that will remove contacts from their list if they soft bounce more than three to five times, or hard bounce a single time. Once an email address has repeatedly soft-bounced, it is safe to assume that you are likely not going to be able to reach that person, so it’s a best practice to remove them from your mailing list.

The other important factor that can affect your bounce rate is sender reputation, as mentioned earlier. This reputation is not only based on your domain, but the IP address from which your mail is sent.

Most email marketing or marketing automation platforms will be sending your email from a shared IP address. At Newfangled, we have purchased a dedicated IP address that is used only by us and our marketing automation clients. The result is that we can ensure that everyone on this IP address is following best practices (cleaning their lists, removing bounces, etc.), which will result in a higher sender reputation for all. This dedicated IP address currently has a sender score of 98 out of 100.

Based on the data that we collected from our high-performing marketing agencies, the benchmark we recommend for email deliverability 95%+, with a sender score in the 90+ range. If you’re not hitting these numbers, you may want to consider using a list cleaning service and making some adjustments to your email marketing practices to increase engagement. Our team of strategists would be more than happy to help guide you through this process.

Is there anything else you’d like to share about email deliverability and list cleanliness? Put it in the comments.

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