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Email Deliverability: What Google Doesn’t Want You to Know

Email Deliverability: What Google Doesn’t Want You to Know

Last Updated:  
March 18, 2024

Did you know nearly 20% of emails never make it to their intended recipients? As an email marketer or business owner, that's a troubling statistic.

But don't fret—we're here to help you improve your email deliverability game.

In this post, we'll reveal the hidden factors behind email deliverability and give you actionable tips to help you land your emails right in your subscribers’ inboxes.

Let’s dive in.

Why Deliverability Matters

Let's put it this way: if your email doesn't reach the inbox, all your hard work crafting the perfect message goes to waste.

Email deliverability plays a huge role in making your marketing efforts worthwhile.

It's the one optimization that could dramatically increase your open rates, engagement, and ultimately — your bottom line.

Plus, if your emails are not being delivered, your expensive marketing funnels might be in danger.

For instance, you may have invested heavily in paid media campaigns to generate leads. But what happens when you can't convert those leads after that initial click?

With top-notch email deliverability, you can execute seamless follow-up sequences and maximize the return on your marketing investment.

Things are changing, too.

Traditionally, deliverability was “expected” of email service providers (ESPs) by store owners. 

News flash: Not all ESPs can guarantee a good deliverability rate.

As we step into 2023, the tables are turning.

It's becoming increasingly important for business owners to take charge of their own email deliverability. And the way to do that is to learn about how deliverability works and what you can do to ensure your emails reach their final destination.

How Deliverability Works in 2023

The way most of us think deliverability works is pretty straightforward:

You craft an engaging email, select your audience, hit send, and the rest depends on your email service provider (ESP).

But the truth is, there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Here's an in-depth look at how email deliverability really works in 2023:

Choosing the Right Infrastructure

Picking the appropriate infrastructure is like laying a solid foundation for your email campaigns.

You can opt for a shared IP, dedicated IP, or authenticated sender. The choice depends on your business needs and the size of your email list.

Here’s a rundown on each type of email deliverability infrastructure and its pros and cons:

Gmail’s Scoring Process

Email providers like Gmail have a sophisticated scoring system that impacts the deliverability of your emails. Here are some factors they analyze:

  • Fingerprint
  • Domain
  • Subject lines
  • Footer
  • Images
  • First link
  • Secondary links (tracking)
  • Final destination link
  • Landing page links
  • ESP’s IP
  • ESP’s reputation

Each aspect contributes to the overall "score" that determines whether your email lands in the inbox or spam folder.

Evaluating Your Website

Gmail goes the extra mile by evaluating your domain's website. They check for key elements like privacy policies, terms of service, and traffic data from Google Analytics.

They also verify if your reply address works and analyze your domain, content, and links against spam networks, like Spamhaus.

This is exactly why a well-maintained and optimized website is crucial for improving your email deliverability.

Looking at “Spam Signals”

Next, Gmail examines various signals that indicate the quality of your email campaigns. Even the sender's identity is put under the microscope.

Here are some items the email provider checks at this stage:

Each signal plays a part in determining the deliverability of your emails.

Analyzing User Reactions

The final piece of the puzzle involves analyzing how recipients interact with your email. We all know Google prioritizes user experience — and that’s why this step exists.

Actions like clicking on links, replying, sharing, or removing an email from the spam folder all provide valuable data.

Gmail even considers the time users spend reading your email and whether they forward, trash, or archive it.

These “reactions” can influence the deliverability of your future emails as they show whether users consider your emails to be spam or not.

Promotional Inbox vs. Spam Folder

Hold on a second — is the Promotional inbox just a fancy name for spam?

Absolutely not!

The Promotional inbox is a dedicated tab in Gmail that neatly organizes marketing and promotional emails. It helps users keep their inboxes tidy and focused on personal and work-related messages.

And here's the kicker: the ESP doesn't dictate whether your email ends up in the Promotional inbox.

It all depends on each individual recipient and their behavior. Gmail's smart algorithms consider how users engage with similar emails and sort the inbox accordingly.

Email templates and message content also come into play. Salesy language, special offers, or multiple CTAs can nudge your emails towards the Promotional tab.

10 Tips for Improving Your Email Deliverability

Now you know how deliverability works. But let’s talk about what you can do to create emails that are ready to dodge the spam bullet.

Here are 10 actionable tips to boost your email deliverability:

1. Test, test, test

Want to know the secret to improving email deliverability? Keep testing and refining.

Identify and fix any issues that may be preventing your emails from reaching their destination.

Here’s an easy testing process to help you maximize your email deliverability:

Step 1: Create 10 inboxes

Set up 10 inboxes based on your audience's demographic breakdown (e.g., 5 Gmail, 2 Yahoo, 1 AOL, 1 Hotmail, and 1 Apple).

Use these just for testing and avoid opening any emails in them. Simply use the tabs to check email placement.

If an email lands in the spam folder, follow these steps to get it back on track.

Step 2: Send a test email to yourself

Add a "1" to your sender domain and send a test email to yourself (not a blast). If the email lands in the inbox, your domain might be the issue.

Check for spam listings/blacklists, review your domain's DMARC, SPF, and DKIM records, and analyze your sending practices.

Step 3: Investigate the issue

If the email still ends up in the spam folder, the problem might lie in one of the following areas (in order of importance):

  • Links (is it going to your website?)
  • Content (words)
  • Images (duplicate or spam-triggered visuals)
  • Subject line
  • Pre-subject line
  • Sender name
  • Sender address
  • CAN-SPAM disclaimer
  • Unsubscribe link

Step 4: Start eliminating and testing

To identify the culprit, start tweaking different elements using your inboxes. This will help you pinpoint the exact issue and optimize your emails for better deliverability.

2. Check your links (and where they go)

Keep an eye on the links within your emails.

Make sure they're relevant, functional, and lead to secure websites. Broken or suspicious links can raise red flags for email providers and harm your deliverability

3. Have a clear sender name & email

Your sender name and email address play a big role in establishing trust and credibility with both ESPs and subscribers.

Choose a recognizable and professional sender name that represents your brand. Also, use a clear, legitimate email address that can easily be verified.

4. Balance text and images

Aim for a sweet spot of at least 40% text-to-image ratio to dodge those pesky spam filters.

Too many images can slow down email load times or even get blocked, or clipped, by some email clients, leaving your message lost in translation.

Mixing your content just right ensures your emails are visually attractive without overloading your subscribers.

5. Craft compelling subject lines & pre-headers

Your subject lines and pre-headers are like a virtual handshake.

Make that first impression count by writing eye-catching and relevant text that piques curiosity and encourages subscribers to open your emails.

Play around with different strategies—pose questions, share exciting news, or add a personal touch with the subscriber’s name.

But beware of over-the-top or deceptive language — it'll only hurt your credibility and deliverability. Test out various subject lines and pre-headers to find out what truly clicks with your audience and use the winning combination to boost results.

6. Engage with active subscribers

Make it a priority to regularly declutter your subscriber list.

Remove inactive or unresponsive recipients and focus on engaging active subscribers who genuinely appreciate your content. High engagement rates send a clear message to email providers — your emails are relevant and valuable.

Level up your game by segmenting your list based on user behavior, preferences, or demographics. This way, you can deliver tailored content that resonates with your audience, further driving engagement and deliverability.

7. Limit emojis and special characters

Use emojis and characters (!!??@) wisely and sparingly in your email subject lines and content.

While they can add a fun, personal touch, overusing them might make your emails appear unprofessional or spammy. This can potentially affect your deliverability and reputation.

8. Avoid spam trigger words

Steer clear of words and phrases that could set off spam filters, such as "free," "guarantee," or "limited time offer."

Stick to genuine, helpful, and relevant language. This not only helps your emails land in the right inboxes, but it also builds trust with subscribers and improves your brand image.

9. Optimize the body of your email

Craft engaging, personalized and valuable content for the “meat” of your email and add strong calls-to-action that motivate readers to click.

Additionally, use clear formatting that makes your email look good and easy to scan. Choose sophisticated, on-brand colors and clear, legible fonts. Your goal should be to ensure a smooth reading experience for all your subscribers.

10. Have a clear footer & an easy unsubscribe button

Include a clear and concise footer with all the necessary information, like your contact details and a straightforward unsubscribe option.

This transparency not only keeps you compliant and out of legal trouble, but also helps build trust with your audience.

Boost your Email Deliverability with Sendlane

Deliverability isn’t talked about much, but it’s one of the most important aspects of email marketing. If subscribers don’t receive your messages, your campaigns won’t work.

But fear not — with Sendlane as your email service provider, you're set up for success.

As a tier one ESP, Sendlane owns its infrastructure. This means you get access to premium IPs that are fully integrated with the server, helping you maximize your deliverability rates and maintain an excellent sender reputation.

But it's not just about the technicalities. With Sendlane, you can maintain a high-quality audience using contextual data, advanced segmentation and list hygiene. This ensures your emails always reach the right people.

Plus, with all your data housed under one roof, it’s easier than ever to stay consistent and prevent any data disparity.

Ready to get those emails delivered? Sign up for Sendlane’s 14-day free trial and check it out for yourself!

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