Expectations for the inbox


    From time to time we’ll receive a query from a client asking the following questions…

    1. Why did my email get marked as spam?

    2. How do i avoid being marked as spam?

    3. Why is my email not getting through to this person when I'm receiving the email?

    1 in 5 emails will not make it to the inbox.

    Yep, that’s right. Almost 20% of your emails won’t make it through to the inbox.

    Return Path, the global market leader in email deliverability solutions, reviewed data from 149 ISPs in North America, Central and Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Asia Pacific territories from January through June of 2011. Results show that worldwide on 81% of all permission based emails make it to the world’s inbox.


    One out of every five emails end up in a spam or junk folder (7%) or simply go missing (blocked by ISP-level filtering). Read the document in full here. The good news is (according to this study) Australia has a higher inbox placement rate of 89% – so (on average) we’re doing better than the rest of the world.

    So now you know the fact, let’s get into answering the following questions:

    Why did my email get marked as spam?

    There are so many factors as to why your email could be marked as spam. Whilst we do everything that we can to optimise deliverability for you, many of these factors are out of our control.

    Some common factors are:

    • “Spammy” content and/or subject lines
    • Sending to rubbish lists (eg. old or bought)
    • Sender details
    • High image to text ratio
    • Business rules (on the recipients end)

    How do I avoid being being marked as spam?

    I forgot to pack my mystical formula today that will make your email reach every inbox, every time (disclaimer: that formula does not exist) – but here’s a few things to help you avoid being spammed.

    • SPAM – What is it, and some tips on how to avoid sending ‘spammy’ communications
    • List Hygiene – Keeping Your Subscriber Database Current and Relevant
    • Have a good text to image ratio. A good rule is 7 parts text, 3 parts image.
    • Check out these hints and tips here from Spam Assassin.

    Even if you do all of what we have recommended, will that help break through that extra 20%?

    Possibly, but I wouldn’t count on it. There are other factors out of your control and out of ours. This brings us to the third (and final) question for this article…

    Why is my email not getting through to this person when I’m receiving the email?

    You’ve sent out your email, and you’ve received it with no issues at all. The problem is a stakeholder who was on the sent list for this particular send has not received the same email. So why am I getting it and they’re not you ask?

    There can be a couple of reasons:

    • It’s been junked (meaning the email has gone to their junk folder).
    • It has been “held” or “moderated” on the ISPs end.
    • Other factors such as ISPs with temporary downtime, inbox rules, filters and Gremlins

    Whilst we’re on feedback loops with most of the major ISPs, delivery to smaller businesses can still be difficult. If you do run into an issue with a particular domain – you might want to contact their ISP .

    Here’s an extract from the deliverability benchmark report regarding business addresses

    Reaching business addresses is still difficult because these inboxes are protected by systems like Postini, Symantec and MessageLabs. Only 80% of email is delivered to the inbox through these enterprise systems. While this is a 5% improvement from 2009 when just 75.2% made it to the inbox, the multiple company-level filtering methods used for business email addresses mean that deliverability is still a major concern. At the default setting, a lot of mail remains undelivered. As the adoption of new inbox technologies grows, the benefits are clear: for subscribers, it means more control of their inbox. For the ISPs, it means keeping subscribers in their environment longer. However, the challenge for marketers is to consider how these new user filtering applications will impact their inbox placement.

    – The Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, 1H 2011 Return Path 

    Remember, there are many different email services providers (Yahoo!, Gmail, and other businesses) with many different email clients (Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail etc) with different rules (virus protectors, spam filters etc).

    Following the best practices will definitely help get your message through – but not necessarily break into that 20%.

    Was this article helpful?
    0 out of 0 found this helpful