Tuesday, November 22, 2016

DELIVERABILITY - Anatomy of an Email Inbox - Nov 22, 2016

Last week I talked about email metrics overall and some of the things to think about and how to decide what to measure and what it tells you.  I've been doing some fall cleaning lately and came upon some old printed reports in my files and thus my post today.

The report I happened upon was titled "The State of Email Metrics and Bounce Management" dated Mar 5, 2007 and published by the Email Experience Council.  What I thought was interesting is how little has changed in the industry.  One of the main tenants of the article was a need for industry standards around email metrics and the disconnect between email providers and e-mailers themselves.  While there have been attempts to create some standards, there is still no enforceable and commonly used set of definitions.

I took a look at the conversations going on around the topic of deliverability to see if we can gain more insights beyond what we discussed last week.

Last week, we provided a simple definition as the total number of emails that actually land in someone's inbox.  We also mentioned the issue of where in the inbox an email lands and the need to have a send figure to understand the rate of deliverability.

From the 2007 article, there were several points made that are important and that are still an issue today.  Back in 2007 there was inconsistency in how ESPs measure deliverability with 80% using the definition of delivered as total mailed less "all failures" while 20% defined this as only deducting "hard bounces" from mailed.  Even more distressing is that 67% of eMailers themselves were uncertain on how deliverability was calculated.

Here's some of what I found:

-  The Digital Marketing Glossary defines "classic" deliverability as "the percent of messages delivered to an inbox relative to total mailed."  Not too specific, but consistent with the general historic definition.
-  The Email Measurement Accuracy Coalition (EMAC) defines it as the total of e-mail deployed divided into the total amount of successfully delivered messages. The amount successfully delivered is then the total amount attempted minus all registered failures, including hard bounce.  A bit more specific, but doesn't say what "all registered failures" means.
-  Bronto defines this as total sent minus number bounced but do not specify if that includes hard and soft bounces, errors or where the message is delivered to.  In fact, they state in their blog that there is "no clear cut method to track every single email and where it landed."  SOUR email in my mind.  
-  MailChimp takes a whole page to not define deliverability:  https://mailchimp.com/about/deliverability/.  They also refer to the multitude of "standards" organizations just to stay on top of it.
-  Comm100 does a good job of covering all the reasons why something might not be counted as delivered:  "emails that are not delivered may be email addresses that do not exist and were entered into your system improperly, email addresses that have been cancelled or deactivated since your last send, email addresses where the email service provider is experiencing technical difficulties at the time of your email send, or email addresses where the recipient's email account was full and could not receive further messages. Essentially, any email for which a viable destination account was not found is listed as an undeliverable email."

When I did a Google Search on "email deliverability definition," I received 22,800 responses.  As an email marketer, it is no wonder there is confusion.

Today's Tips for Understanding Email Deliverability

-  Be sure you have a specific definition from YOUR ESP including what is part of the delivered figure and what is not
-  Attempt to understand and obtain metrics on where in the inbox your email lands
-  Practice good email list hygiene including using forms that force correct formatting of emails, multi step validation of emails on sign up and ongoing clean up of emails removing hard bounces from your database and fixing of emails with typos or other problems that may invalidate them for delivery
-  If you compare your metrics to industry standards, be sure you understand that definition
-  Review deliverability by ISP and understand differences in how they allow emails into their members inbox and where they potentially land
- Track and monitor deliverability over time and watch for anomalies
- Track by ISP uniquely as the mix by ISP can affect your overall rate
- Stay on top of ISP practices and changes to help you diagnose changes in these rates
- Take some time to delve into specific send and look at each email and it's delivery statistic to see if you can identify some trends on where your issues are

Deliverability is and will continue to be a real issue for mailers, some of which you can control and some you can't.  Avoid SOUR deliverability to insure the highest ROI on all your email campaigns.


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