Understand the difference between Delivery & Deliverability?

We’ve all been there. Once you hit ‘send’ on an email campaign, all the blood, sweat, and tears you’ve put in turn into a nerve-racking experience of analyzing how many of the emails really hit the inbox. 

Making it into the inbox is one of the more obscure and confusing elements of sending great emails. Marketers and companies often mix up a key characteristic: delivery vs. deliverability. Though the words are often used interchangeably, they have very different meanings. Let’s discover the two below.

Plainly put, email delivery is the process of getting emails from A to B, while deliverability means the likelihood of them ending up in the actual inbox. The ability to deliver.

What is email delivery?

When reading blogs about email deliverability (versus email delivery), you’ll often find that “email delivery” is the process of getting your emails from your emailing software to the recipient’s mailbox. Though that is true, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

And when explaining something difficult, metaphors always come in handy!

Since we’re on the road to the inbox, let’s take cars as an example. They don’t get anywhere without an engine. The engine is invisible to the driver, but makes the difference between getting somewhere on time, and not arriving at all. See where this is going?

Email delivery works the same way. Actually delivering emails is a process that happens under the cover, but is highly impacted by the email engine you’re using. If it’s a crappy one, your emails won’t get to the inbox in time or fail to get there in the first place.

Slow emails might not influence your email marketing campaigns (no one is on the edge of their seat for a newsletter to hit their inbox), but imagine when a time-sensitive email delays. Password reset emails that arrive 15 minutes late but also day deals or notifications that need to hit the inbox today – you can’t afford a delay there either.

If you’re interested in learning about the email sending process, SMTP protocol, or email API and understand how email magically gets from that software to the inbox, this blog post will help you.

How can you optimize email delivery?

The discussion about optimizing email delivery quickly boils down to the discussion: buy or build? Unless you have in-house expertise, I’d always recommend picking an Email SMTP or Email API over maintaining your own SMTP. 

The average business solution (think of ERPs, webshops, CRMs) does offer email functionality. But you might experience lower delivery rates than you’d like. This has everything to do with the fact that email delivery requires a lot of attention and dedication. 

Business solutions that offer email ‘on the side’ are often no specialized in email delivery, so you’re definitely better off with a specialized service. 

Search engines or looking for someone

You’re looking for an SMTP or Email API provider to add to your tech stack or replace your current provider, feel free to reach out to one of the MailSoar experts!

Now let’s dive into something a bit more complicated: Email Deliverability.

What is email deliverability?

Where email delivery is quite “straight-forward”, email deliverability depends on multiple factors. Circling back to the car metaphor: driving from A to B is easy if you get the right car, but what happens on the road depends on other factors than just yourself.

So what influences email deliverability?

Email deliverability consists of three parts that will determine the likelihood of your email hitting the inbox:

  • Identification or Authentication

    t’s the sum of all the protocols (such as SPF, DKIM, and DMARC) you have set up to prove who you are when you send emails.

  • Reputation

    The sender’s reputation is a score that indicates how reliable your emails are. Each organization and internet service provider (ISP) have different scores.
    To get a higher score, you have to generate positive subscriber behavior. (What’s the history of an IP address that you use to send emails. Is it blacklisted? Is it showing a lot of SPAM complaints and spam filters?)

  • Content

    Basically is your message suitable and relevant for your audience? Have you to send relevant content to achieve better ROI in your email campaigns.

If you want to learn about email deliverability and understand the spiral effect of email reputation and how it can impact you, we’ve got a great article here!

How can you optimize email deliverability?

Between the lines of this article, we’ve established two main causes for bad deliverability: you or your IP neighbor. No one wants to hear they’re the cause of their own bad email deliverability, so we will show you how to fix it in this final chapter. 

We’re scratching the surface of these methods:

  • Optimizing your email process
  • Shielding your sources
  • Authenticating your domain
  • Evaluating your infrastructure

There are a few tools that can help you in this process. Tools that help you monitor and optimize your reputation. We’ve listed them in this article. 

Optimizing your email process

Often, issues occur when a business’s email program isn’t properly set up in the first place. It’s just a pray ‘n spray: “Here’s a list of email addresses, send them emails”. But as I mentioned before, inboxes look for spam-like behavior. This is one of their traits.

So how do you prevent that, and send quality emails to quality email addresses?

Start by filtering your email list. Yes, it shrinks. But does that matter if the filtered email addresses weren’t going to get the email anyway? You need to make sure to email to a qualitative list, rather than a quantitative list with a lot of non-existing addresses or spam traps.

What about bounces?

Bounces aren’t the single reason you should eliminate a recipient.
Bounces don’t only happen when the email address doesn’t exist (hard bounce) , it also happens when an inbox is temporarily full (soft bounce).
Most soft bounces can be emailed later, so don’t hurry to remove them from your contact database.

Shielding your sources

Okay, so you now know how to clean your list properly. That’s really helpful for email campaigns, but since email is often automated and triggered (or: transactional) email exists, too, there are measures to be taken before someone is in your contact database:

  • Prevent silly mistakes with domains (gmil.com instead of gmail.com);
  • Make sure your sign-up forms are protected;
  • Send confirmation emails (double opt-ins) for drip campaigns or subscriptions;
  • Make sure to ask for extra information – like a phone number – if the following email is critical (for example order confirmations).

By optimizing your email process and shielding your sources, you’ve made a giant step towards better delivery. The email addresses you’re sending are close to 100% valid, now. But that still doesn’t necessarily mean all these addresses will receive your email. 

Authenticating your domain

A big part of boosting your reputation as a sender is setting up email authentication for your domain. Not only does this show inbox providers you’re taking email seriously, but it also protects your domain from spoofing.

You may not be the one sending spammy emails, but someone else can if your domain isn’t well-protected. That’s what SPF, DKIM, and DMARC are for. 

If your domain isn’t protected yet, make sure to read this blog from our deliverability expert Yanna-Torry Aspraki.

Evaluating your infrastructure

Another ingredient of your deliverability is the reputation of the IP addresses you’re using to send emails. Often, those are spread across various business solutions, only sometimes they’re centralized in one email delivery platform. If the latter is applicable to your situation, congratulations, you’ve made this step way easier.

Evaluating your infrastructure requires you to take a good look at all the factor that creates your deliverability issues. You will need to map all the platforms that deliver your emails.

Finding the root cause of the issue is the first step to solving it. 

Contact us
Do you need help finding and/or fixing your infrastructure issues?

How MailSoar can help you?

When we’re talking about email delivery and email deliverability, we’re often displaying them as two completely different things. They’re not, we just need to know where to look when emails stop hitting the inbox. 

Both delivery and deliverability have their challenges. Set up the right way you can enjoy high inbox placement, better inbox experiences, and less pressure on your customer support team. If you don’t spend the time to set it up correctly, you will get email performance issues. Maybe not immediately, but definitely someday.

At MailSoar, we know identifying and fixing email issues are completely different specialties. We’ve mastered them both. Reach out to our experts if you need help delivering your emails to the inbox!

This article was written in collaboration with our friend from Flowmailer, Tom Blijleven. 

With years of experience in the email (marketing) industry, Tom writes about various topics within the industry, covering both marketings as transactional email. 

Discover now how Flowmailer can help you create your own email flow – your way of engaging customers.

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