The Decline of Email Marketing Deliverability. Fact or Fiction

Chris Kolbenschlag, Director of Deliverability

A recent study by ReturnPath reported that inbox placement was dramatically down during the second half of 2011. I would like to address this report as well as report on Bronto’s strong deliverability numbers we are seeing with the same reporting mechanism with our clients. ReturnPath’s report was based on data from senders using their Mailbox Monitoring tool which looks at a set of test accounts. These test account email addresses are added into a client’s send and then report where those test account addresses land (inbox, spam folder or missing). It is important to know that although this is a good indicator of what is going on with certain ISPs, it is only basing results on a dozen email addresses.

The report shows an inbox placement decline from 81% in the first half of 2011 down to a 76.5% inbox placement for the second half of 2011. A couple of factors could be in play here:

  1. Timing: The second half of the year coincides with heavy sending for the holiday season and when the industry typically sees the most issues with deliverability.  Due to the increase in sending, many of the ISPs filter out more legit mail to combat the increase in spam
  2. Reputation: Some of the clients using the Mailbox Monitoring tool may not work with an Email Service Provider. Without working with an ESP who has a proven track record, the client may have historically weaker metrics.

Regardless of the cause, the drop is a concern and something we wanted to look at closer with Bronto’s clients and compare.

Here at Bronto we use another provider’s service similar to Inbox Monitor that reports on these test account email placements. We frequently run tests on all shared IPs and consistently see a 99% inbox and 1% spam folder placement.  For dedicated IPs using
Bronto’s Deliverability Monitoring service, we see a range from 91% to 99% inbox placement and 1%-9% spam folder placement depending on the client.

All these metrics are a result of client performance both good and bad. Marketers with clear permission, low complaints, low bad address rates, relevant email content and good engagement with their subscribers are going to get to the inbox more often than marketers who may not be following simple best practices.

As a marketer you control these numbers.  Take a look at the State of Email Marketing Deliverability, a post I wrote recently after attending a MAAWG meeting.  If you have concerns about your shared IP, check out an overview of the differences between a dedicated and a shared IP. Finally, learn ways to reduce spam complaints which hurt your deliverability.

Chris Kolbenschlag
Director of Deliverability at Bronto

  • Michael Fetter

    I’ve been able to greatly improve my inbox deliverability (from 84% to 97%) by segmenting out and limiting the number of emails sent to what I call my “Dead List”.

    My “Dead List” consists of those who were sent more than 25 emails over a 6 month period and have not opened or clicked anything. This has allowed my delivery rate to creep up.

    Once the dead list had been created we send them a periodic campaign to try and get them to come off this list.

    To add to the above process I’ve also tried to include content to my emails that is informative and not necessarily a sales pitch. Those on my email list will receive 5-6 emails a month and I realize no one is looking to make online purchases that often, so when a customer is not in “Shopping mode” you have to give them something else to engage them, even if it is a contest.

  • Chris Kolbenschlag

    Hey Michael,
    Thanks for the comments and that is a good approach to cleaning things up and segmenting your lists into active and non-active groups. I would recommend to create a rule that if they dont engage at some point, send them one last email and simply remove those who just aren’t replying. It is critical to break up with them before they break up with you since the latter can be very detrimental to your sending reputation since most people break up with a sender by reporting their emails as spam. This creates a negative impact on the sender since the complaint is registered with the ISP.
    Chris K