Email Deliverability 2010: The 5 Building Blocks
Takeaway notes from AMA webinar. By Aliza Bornstein, copywriter, Melissa Data

What is the definition of deliverability? Deliverability is the overall number of messages that reach the Inbox and can be attributed to a specific campaign or sender.*

Your integrated channel strategy dictates the delivery result—a more targeted message will perform better for you. You can manage deliverability in-house or outsource it.

The deliverability rate is the percentage of messages delivered (not bounced) relative to the total number scheduled.* Deliverability is not a guarantee of customer engagement or conversion; not a guarantee to deliver mail—to any receiving domain; not a guarantee of ROI. You have to be extremely targeted in order to make those things occur in your program at the end of the day.

The 5 Building Blocks of Email Deliverability and Reputation

Building Block #1: Email Identity
Every business that sends an email has an email identity—a sending reputation—that they must earn. Marketers must prove their identity by authenticating their email.

Authenticating your messages will allow you to effectively manage and optimize your sender reputation. Proof of identity is achieved through the following authentication protocols:

• SPF (sender policy framework; open)
• Sender ID (MS Domains:; Hotmail live)
• DomainKeys (DK) DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM): Yahoo! and AOL

Building Block #2: Internet Service Provider (ISP) Loops
Free reputation management tools from ISPs allow email marketers to proactively manage complaints resulting in enhanced reputation at the ISP. Email marketers should sign up for all available feedback loops—they’re free!

Building Block #3: Brand Reputation
Brand reputation is essential—it’s the basis of your online reputation which every email sender has. And let’s face it—you are what you send. Brand reputation is the combination of who you are; what you do; your partners; how you are perceived. You have to prove your identity.

Proactive, ongoing management is required for brand reputation. There is a full time management obligation toward multichannel departments like business policies and third-party content.

For example, you should register “cousin” domain names. These are names that look or sound very familiar to your name (godaddy vs gomommy). You can also register names that may be used against you (your company name + “sucks”). This way, you own the bad and good content for very little money.

Building Block #4: Email Reputation
What makes or breaks your email reputation? Well, a lot of things.

• Your sign-up process
• Your client expectation settings (communication frequency/type of content)
• Your sending infrastructure (compliance with known technical standards)
• Establishing your email volume (your email volume ramp-up from the inception of your program)
All of these things have to line up together to be proactively managed in order to maintain your email reputation.

Building Block #5: The Law
The United States operates under the CAN-SPAM law which is focused on commercial messages, not transactional content. If you’re sending out email messages that have any type of commercial content in them, then you have to follow CAN-SPAM.

The unsubscribe compliances for CAN-SPAM are:

• Visible and operable unsubscribe mechanism present in all emails
• Opt-out requests honored within 10 business days
• Opt-out lists (suppression lists) are only used for compliance purposes

In the US we operate in an opt-out world; whereas, most other countries operate in an opt-in world. So, if you’re a European marketer sending email to the US, your permission pass is reversed. Bottom line: Get permission before you mail.

The content compliances for CAN-SPAM are:
• Accurate “from” lines (including “friendly forms”)
• Relevant subject lines (relative to offer in body content and not deceptive)
• Legitimate physical address for the publisher and/or advertiser
• Adult content properly labeled
The US hasn’t been very aggressive in the past about pursuing spammers for content compliance, other than a few lawsuits. However, with social media’s emergence into the technology sector, more lawsuits are being filed and won—a message that is resonating with spammers.

Sending behavior compliance for CAN-SPAM are:
• Open relays (a server that is not properly secure, allowing third parties to send email)
• Harvested email addresses (addresses that are taken from postings or content on Web sites or through dictionary attacks)
• Forged email headers (the email appears to come from a server other than the actual source)
Most developed countries have some form of email/online legislation to which you must comply with.

Summary of Deliverability Best Practices
• Proactively manage your reputation
• Monitor your delivery to the Inbox and spam folders
• Manage hard and soft bounces
• Acquire and remove names responsibly
• Obey the law
• Authenticate your email
Remember, it’s never too late to authenticate!

---Source: American Marketing Association webinar on Mar. 11, 2010. David Fowler is the global director of deliverability, email strategy, and privacy compliance for Lyris, Inc. Reach him at All definitions with a * are provided by

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