From Spam to Inbox: Your Path to Perfect Email Deliverability

high open rate

Sep 8, 2023

Imagine this: there’s this hot new club in town and you’re dying to get in. You put on your best outfit and head over, only to be met by a super strict bouncer at the door.

He starts bombarding you with questions like, “Are you on the guest list? Have we met before?” It’s a make-or-break moment.

If you’re lucky and you’ve got your ID and a killer reputation, you’re in like Flynn. But if not, you’re stuck waiting in line, freezing your ar*e off all night

That’s what sending an email today is like

The bouncer at the email nightclub is actually the inbox provider, the gatekeeper of the email accounts you’re trying to reach. They meticulously examine every bit of information to decide if your email deserves entry into their nightclub (aka the mailbox), the VIP section (the inbox), or if it’s destined for the spam bin (or Google’s “promotions” folder).

They hold all the power in the beginning of your email’s journey.

Most of us probably take deliverability for granted, because we don’t ever see any reports on how good our deliverability is. All we see are open and click rates – no “arrived in inbox” rates.

The only deliverability information we do get is information on bounces (emails that cannot be sent because the destination either doesn’t exist (hard bounce) or isn’t accepting email (soft bounce)), and even then MailChimp does the heavy lifting, and removes them from our list – some of us don’t even check this.

The problem is that deliverability is a huge step in achieving success – and it’s getting harder and harder with inbox providers doing all they can to ensure only the “right” emails get into their customer’s inbox .

So how do improve deliverability?

If you’re dead serious about conquering email deliverability hurdles and outsmarting the bouncer, following these 5 simple steps is an absolute must.

  1. Verification & Authentication
  2. List Quality
  3. Reputation
  4. Content and Format
  5. Testing

First things first… Be a DORC

Combining deliverability with the DORC method is the perfect recipe for success, ensuring that your emails not only make it to the inbox but also inspire action from subscribers.

So, what exactly is DORC? Well, it’s the Deliverability, Openability, Readability, and Clickability approach to email optimisation. Let’s break it down:

Deliverability ensures that your email reaches their inbox, Openability prompts them to click and read, Readability ensures they understand the message, and Clickability encourages them to take action.

Imagine it as a map that steers your readers from the moment your email arrives in their inbox until they complete the desired action.

…and when used together on each email you create, it can multiply your results.

Even small changes in each aspect of DORC can lead to massive improvements in email performance.

Just imagine, a 5% boost at each stage could result in a whopping 50% increase in overall clicks. That’s some serious growth!

By optimising deliverability and seamlessly weaving it into the DORC methodology, you’re creating a powerful combo. It will ensure your messages not only make it to the inbox but also captivate and drive action from recipients.

And that’s the secret to running wildly successful email campaigns.

 Read more about the DORC Methology

1. Are you really who you say you are? – Verification & Authentication

In order for MailChimp to send emails that look like they’re coming from your address, they need to make sure it’s legit. They’ll send you an email and you just have to click on it to confirm that it’s really yours. This step is super important and you can’t skip it if you want to use MailChimp.

To check the domains you’ve verified, just click on your profile image or account name in the top right corner. Then go to Account > Settings > Verified Domains. You’ll see a list of all your verified domains right there.

While you can use free email domains like Gmail or Yahoo in MailChimp, it’s not the best idea. It doesn’t really give off a professional vibe for your business to be using a Gmail account for marketing. Plus, you can’t authenticate those domains, which is the next crucial step.

Domain Authentication

If you want your emails to actually make it to people’s inboxes, domain authentication is a must. It’s all about making sure the recipient’s email client knows your email is legit.

Without authentication, it’s like trying to run with a broken leg – not easy. Plus, there’s a chance your emails could end up in the dreaded spam folder.

Authentication is like a passport for your emails. It tells inbox providers that your email is really from you, which boosts deliverability.

But here’s the thing, setting up authentication isn’t as simple as clicking a link in an email. You’ll need access to your hosting account where your domain is hosted. You’ll also have to add some specific info to the Domain Name System (DNS) associated with your domain.

2. How good is your list? – List Quality

List quality is a crucial factor that can affect your email deliverability.

So, how do you ensure your list is up to scratch?

Well, for starters, you need to make sure you’re only collecting legitimate email addresses. If you’ve got a bunch of bounces and invalid addresses, it’s going to seriously damage your reputation as a sender. And that’s not a good look.

In the long term, make sure that new subscribers have compelling reasons to interact with your emails, especially the early ones you send.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are keeping a close eye on how you’re acquiring those email addresses and whether or not you’re using double opt-in methods. 

To regularly check your email list and delete known “bad” addresses, think about employing an email verification service.

Even if there is a cost, maintaining list quality and deliverability is worth the effort. Data Validation, Briteverify, and Kickbox are great for this.

Maintaining the health of your subscriber list and improving deliverability also means routinely removing inactive subscribers. Keeping these unengaged recipients on your list can reduce deliverability rates and make it harder to get your messages into the inboxes of those subscribers who are actually engaged.

3.What have you done in the past? – Reputation

Assuming you’ve successfully authenticated your domain and maintained a clean email list, the next step is to focus on your reputation.

And It’s all about sending messages to people who actually want them.

Simple, right? As long as you stick to this golden rule and maintain a reputation as a responsible sender (aka a good emailer), you’re on the right path.

In fact, authentication, list hygiene, and your reputation as an email sender (your “emailer” status) are the primary areas to concentrate on, often more critical than the content of the email itself.

Here’s the thing, inbox providers are constantly keeping an eye on how your emails perform when they land in people’s inboxes. They’re looking for signs of email quality, like opened emails, read emails, forwarded emails, scrolled-to-the-bottom emails, and clicked-on emails. Oh, and let’s not forget about those magical emails that actually receive replies.

Inbox providers also pay attention to the bad stuff. They frown upon unopened emails, deleted-without-being-opened emails, and emails that lead to unsubscribes. And don’t even get them started on spam complaints.

Being transparent and well-intentioned in your email practices helps you build a positive reputation.

Here are some tailored tips for cultivating a strong sender reputation through that all-important email:

  1. Make sure it’s sent immediately – i.e. if they’ve just filled a form to sign up on your website – make sure the email is sent straightaway – a delay and they’ll forget why they signed up (and thus not open/interact and may even complain!)
  2. Make sure it’s relevant – if you’re delivering something by email (a pdf for example) make sure it’s there!
  3. Ask the recipient to white list your email address (i.e. add it to their address book). This is a big “proceed direct to the inbox” signal for inbox providers
  4. Ask them to click and connect on social media – good clicks = good inbox provider signals.
  5. This is a bit sneaky, but add a p.s. at the end of the email asking them to reply so you know they got it. This reply is another great signal for inbox providers… only people with good reputations get replied to!
  6. …and if you can get them to forward the email – even better – that’s a top quality signal to an inbox provider that your stuff is good and not spam!

Remember, the first email you send is your opportunity to set the stage for a strong sender reputation. By following these tips, you can enhance your standing with inbox providers and establish a positive email-sending reputation.

4.What’s in the specific email? – Content

The content of your email still plays a significant role in determining whether it will end up in the recipient’s inbox or spam folder.

Emails that contain spam words or deceptive subject lines such as “earn money fast” or “limited time only,” are more likely to end up in the spam folder. Additionally, emails with too many images or links can also be marked as spam.

Follow these tips on best email practices

  • Avoid spammy words.
  • Don’t have all images and no text
  • Don’t have links to bad websites.
  • An intriguing and relevant subject line can entice recipients to open your email. High open rates send positive signals to ISPs and improves your sender reputation
  • Don’t overdo the caps lock
  • Check your formatting: If your email contains broken links, incorrect HTML coding, or other formatting issues, it could be marked as spam.
  • Include a clear and compelling CTA that guides recipients on the desired action
  • Don’t overload the email – having too much content will slow the load time.
  • Ensure your email content is mobile-responsive to increase engagement
  • Make sure your content is also relevant. When subscribers open and engage with your emails regularly, it signals to inbox providers that your emails are valuable, increasing the chances of landing in the inbox.

5. Did it work? – Testing

Testing your emails before sending them is like giving them a final check-up to ensure they reach your audience’s inboxes smoothly. Here’s an easy way to do it:

  1. Content Check: Make sure your email content is free from any spammy words and looks great on all devices.
  2. Link and Image Inspection: Test all your links to ensure they actually work and make sure your images load quickly.
  3. Sneak Peek: Use handy tools to see how your email will appear in different email apps, like Gmail or Outlook.
  4. Spam Filter Avoidance: Test your email to see if it might end up in the dreaded spam folder. Make any necessary changes to stay out of trouble.
  5. Trust Building: Double-check your sender authentication to build trust with email providers.
  6. Personal Touch: Test if the personalised parts of your email are working correctly. You want your recipients to feel like you’re speaking directly to them.
  7. Subject Line Experimentation: Try out different subject lines to see which one grabs more attention.
  8. Reputation Watch: Keep an eye on your sender reputation to catch any issues early on.
  9. Test with a group: Before sending your email to your entire list, send it to a small test group
  10. Law-Abiding Emails: Ensure your emails follow all email marketing laws. No rule-breaking allowed!
  11. Learn from the Past: Analyse the performance of your previous emails to spot any problems. Learn from your mistakes and keep improving!
  12. Monitor the Aftermath: Keep track of how your emails perform after sending them. Watch out for bounce rates, spam complaints, and open rates.

Deliverability and DORC

The DORC method, which focuses on Deliverability, Openability, Readability, and Clickability, can indirectly increase deliverability by improving various aspects of your email marketing practices:

While combining the DORC method may not directly address technical aspects of deliverability, such as server configuration or authentication, it influences recipient engagement and behaviours which, in turn, impact your sender reputation.

Deliverability Improvement through Openability: When people actually open your emails, Internet Service providers (ISPs) see that as a good sign. It shows that your messages are relevant and wanted. And guess what? This positive engagement can skyrocket your sender reputation, which is crucial for deliverability. So, higher open rates mean your emails are landing in inboxes, not spam folders.

Deliverability Improvement through Clickability: Click-through rates (CTR) are like little love letters from your recipients. When they engage with your content and click on links, ISPs see that as a sign of value. And that’s a big win for your sender reputation. A strong CTR means your emails not only get delivered but also inspire people to interact with your content.

Deliverability Improvement through Readability: Let’s face it, nobody likes reading complicated emails. But when your messages are easy to read and understand, recipients are more likely to engage with them. And here’s the kicker – ISPs interpret this as a positive signal. So, readable emails are less likely to be marked as spam or ignored, saving you from deliverability nightmares.

The DORC method also encourages recipients to take action within your emails. Whether it’s clicking on links or CTA buttons, these engagement signals make ISPs sit up and take notice. They see that your emails are relevant and valuable, and that means better deliverability for you.

Overall, the DORC method helps you build a killer sender reputation. ISPs love to deliver emails from senders they trust, so by consistently focusing on DORC, you’ll ensure your messages consistently reach the right inboxes. 

Final Thoughts

Sending an email is like trying to get into a hot club with a strict bouncer. The bouncer is the inbox provider who decides if your email gets into the mailbox or goes to spam.

To conquer email deliverability challenges and ensure your emails grace the inbox rather than the spam, focus on key factors like verification and authentication, list quality, reputation, content, and thorough testing.

Authenticated domains and clean lists lay the groundwork for a strong sender reputation. The quality of your content, subject lines, and formatting plays a significant role in whether your emails reach the inbox or spam folder. Regularly testing your emails before sending ensures they smoothly reach your audience.

By combining deliverability with the DORC method, you can multiply your email campaign’s success. Small improvements at each stage can lead to significant overall enhancements.

The DORC method indirectly boosts deliverability by improving recipient engagement and behaviours. When your emails are opened, read, and clicked, email service providers recognise their value, enhancing your sender reputation.

So, remember the power of DORC and follow these guidelines to master the art of email marketing.


Need to get the right answers?
Click here to learn about the top 10 Mailchimp questions, and 10 videos that answer them for you. 

Liz Seymour

Liz Seymour

Queen Chimp Of Marketing

Cheesy as it sounds, Liz is the biz when it comes to  Mailchimp & Email Marketing.

She's worked in Marketing for around 20 years when she went to uni and studied Multimedia Technology…That's where her love affair with all things Marketing began. 

Since then she has worked for household names such as Wickes, The Rank Group, Nuffield Health, Snappy Snaps and Marriot. Not to mention a great variety of businesses and agencies.

Here at Chimp Answers she deals with all things Marketing focusing on the Content and Copywriting side of things such as Blog posts, Emails and landing pages. Liz is Certified in Direct-Response Copywriting, Google Digital Marketing Fundamentals,Hubspot Inbound Marketing,Hubspot Social Media and Mailchimp Foundations.



Need Help Automating your Emails?

As Mailchimp experts, we know a thing or two about how you can set up and automate email messages to enquiries received.

If you’re not responding immediately, or haven’t even got the option yet of capturing someone’s email address, then why not give us a call and we’ll see how we can help you get more leads and more business.

Book a FREE 30 minute chat with us and speed up your response.

Challenge Us!

If you want someone to help you with your Mailchimp account, whether it's setting it up, reviving it or just keeping it ticking over, don't be shy.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Troop

Like this article? Subscribe now to receive free tips and resources on Mailchimp and marketing.

Your email will be managed in accordance with our privacy policy which you can view here. Unsubscribe at any time.

The Mailchimp Fundamentals

There are some things that are 'Fundamental' to doing Mailchimp the right way.

We call them 'The Fundies

Join the World's Biggest Mailchimp Community

The Mailchimp Answers Facebook group is the world's biggest Mailchimp community

Everyone has Questions

Understand the 10 most asked questions about Mailchimp... and get the answers to each of them.

A short video course with screen captures of the 10 most popular questions about Mailchimp.