It’s 2019, and email looks quite a bit different than it did even just five years ago. Sure our main platforms may have stayed the same (Gmail and Outlook probably aren’t going anywhere, at least no time soon), but our inboxes — and our relationship to them — have undergone a massive shift. So too have the powers that be who are in charge of deciding what ends up in front of us and what ends up in spam.

For the most part, this shift is a good thing — we could all use a little bit less spam. But for marketers, nuances in email deliverability can complicate campaigns and make it more difficult to connect with leads and customers.

Email isn’t everything in a marketing campaign, but it is incredibly important. You can’t make an impact if no one is even seeing what you’re sending out, which means you have to take certain steps to ensure your emails end up where they’re supposed to and that you’re reaching as much of your audience as possible. 

But first…why is email deliverability such a problem, and why now?

The Changing Tides

Emails and email providers have both gotten more complex over time. This has created a two-fold problem.

One: robust filters work overtime to ensure that recipients only see what’s truly relevant to them. Google especially has cracked down on spam, in part to better curate individual inboxes, but also to protect users from potentially dangerous links. In the second quarter of 2018, only 85% of marketing emails ended up in customer inboxes, meaning 15% failed to reach their target audience. When you take into account that in the same year 281.1 billion emails were sent and received every day, the scope of that 15% failure rate really comes into focus.

Meanwhile: emails themselves are no longer just words on a page — many times, they feature designs and features that only work right when all of the correct functions are in place, and it can be hard for email providers to keep up. It’s why you may have noticed the fuss over Outlook not rendering properly, or why your emails look great for some subscribers and not so great for others. 

What this all adds up to is a need for marketers and marketing agencies to enhance their game in terms of addressing barriers around email deliverability, optimizing their email campaigns in such a way that they’ve got a better chance of ending up in front of subscribers. It’s probably only going to become more of a struggle as the complexities of emails and email platforms grow, so get to work now incorporating email best practices so that you’re a step ahead when and where it counts.

Best Practice #1: Stick to Opt-In Subscribers Only

Getting marked as “spam” by recipients can result in less traction over time, so it’s important that you only send emails to those who explicitly choose to receive them. Plus, only sending emails to those who have expressed interest in hearing from you means higher open rates, higher engagement, and a higher chance they’ll want to continue seeing your emails in their inbox.

Best Practice #2: Keep It Consistent (But Not Too Consistent)

Find the sweet spot in terms of how often you reach out. Sixty-nine percent of U.S. email subscribers report receiving too many emails as the reason they unsubscribed. Use data to drive your frequency, taking note of what others in your industry are doing and what your subscribers are responding to.

Best Practice #3: Get Analytical

If you’re struggling with email deliverability, you’re going to want to know about it. Your marketing platform offers data around bounce rates and spam rates, so use it to your advantage. If you’re not ending up where you need to be, consider making a change to your format, your platform, or your content strategy. This is important even if you stick to opt-in subscribers since among that group, 21% of emails still don’t make it into the inbox.

Best Practice #4: Keep It Legal 

Under the CAN-SPAM Act, marketers are obligated to follow certain legal parameters with their emails. This includes avoiding deceptive subject lines, clearly identifying the message as an ad, and honoring opt-out requests. Fail to adhere to these rules, and in addition to a defunct email campaign, you’ll also face up to $16,000 in fines per violation.

Best Practice #5: Make It Obvious Who the Email is Coming From

Generic “From” names that don’t make it clear who the sender is are likely to be noted as spam, or blocked altogether. Always include your brand name when saying who the email is from, and never leave recipients guessing whether an email is legitimate or not.

If you’re doing the basics correctly, you should be just fine when it comes to email deliverability. Just remember to keep up to date with your practices, since things are always changing and you never know when the rules will change too.