Why Deliverability Matters


Deliverability matters because we are the conscience of our companies. We are the ones who tell our companies, and particularly the marketing team, no. We’re the ones looking out for the health of our company reputation, the recipient’s inbox and the email ecosystem as a whole.

What is deliverability?

On the surface, deliverability is the job that ensures email makes it to the inbox. It’s not really marketing although there is some overlap. Email filters at large mailbox providers like Google and Yahoo do some level of monitoring and measuring of user interaction with emails. Positive interactions improve deliverability, negative interactions damage deliverability. Marketing can’t work unless the recipient sees the mail, and deliverability is crucial to that goal.

On another level, deliverability is a part of the filtering and blocking industry. Filters are there to stop spam after it’s sent. Deliverability folks are there to stop spam before it’s sent. We’re the first line of defense.

We are, in effect, the conscience of our companies.

Marketing is about volume

Marketing’s goal is to create brand awareness and make money for their employer or company. More touchpoints, more reminders, more email is the way to more sales. In today’s business environment email marketing is treated almost like a money vending machine. Send the exact right message at the exact right time and the money just falls out of the sky.

There are a couple problems with this point of view. It completely ignores that email addresses belong to people with agency. It’s not an email address they’re marketing to, it’s an actual person. These people have agency and can make choices. Sending too much mail, sending irrelevant mail, sending unwanted mail leads to consequences. The people get to block mail and they get to report mail as spam. At a lot of mailbox providers these actions drive brand reputation.

Deliverability’s role is to remind marketers that too much volume to the wrong people in the wrong way can be detrimental to the bottom line. We’re here to counter the marketing message that more is better with the reality that more isn’t always better. There are consequences to sending too much or to the wrong people.

Enter Yahoo and Google

Last October Yahoo and Google announced that companies not following best practices would be subject to consequences. During the initial phase there was a lot of concern about how deliverability were going to convince their companies and customers to comply. What was the best way to approach this, what would happen if they couldn’t get processes in place in time, how their companies, particularly ESPs, were going to handle all of it. There was a lot to do, and it was a challenging time for a lot of people.

From the position of someone deeply involved in deliverability but without a large customer base to upgrade, I saw this as a significant win for deliverability. Nearly everything that Google and Yahoo were asking for were already current best practices. These were things many of us were telling clients and employers to do, with varying degrees of success. Most of our customers were aware of these practices, many of them were compliant, a few just ignored it ‘because mail was still delivered.’ Best practices were aspirational until there were clearly communicated consequences (we will block your mail) to not following them.

It’s not easy

Being the conscience of a company isn’t an easy role. Often, the consequences of marketing sending too much mail to the wrong recipients aren’t immediate. It would be nice if the widely used blocklists would block our companies every time they ignored deliverability’s advice. It would be great if filters blocked the first or second time the companies ignored our advice. Sadly, the world doesn’t quite work that way. In my experience, both as someone who regularly reports spam and as someone who regularly consults with marketers, bad actions rarely have direct consequences.

The consequences are more subtle: a gradual degrading of deliverability over time until things are clearly bad. No one really knows how they got there and spends quite a bit of time digging to find The Event that caused the block. Typically, though, problems aren’t due to one Event, they’re the result of ongoing poor practices. It’s hard to convince companies to change behavior when there aren’t clear consequences for their actions.

This is the underlying challenge of deliverability. Like Cassandra we are able to predict the future but are not to be believed. Even when we’re right and even when our predictions are correct.

Deliverability is Important

Despite the challenges, deliverability is still important. It’s important for our companies, for our clients and for our customers. It’s a crucial part of the email ecosystem – the one that prevents the pollution of spam. Our colleagues on the filtering side clean up when we fail, but we make it easier for them by preventing a lot of annoying and unwanted mail in the first place.

A classical painting of Cassandra. A woman with long red hair and a blue dress standing in front of a burning walled city.
Cassandra in front of city of Troy. Image credit: E. De Morgan (1898, London) (Public Domain)

About the author

Add comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By laura

Recent Posts


Follow Us