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Complete Guide to Deliverability
Complete Guide to Deliverability

Getting your emails delivered to the inbox is important! We provide thorough details and top takeaways for deliverability.

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Written by Support Team
Updated over a week ago

Article Contents:


Essentials for Everyone

  • Use a sub-domain (example:

    • This can help protect your domain reputation.

    • Even better, consider one domain for your marketing emails and another for your transactional emails.

  • Authenticate your domain

    • E-mail authentication is the process that allows you to mask your email provider as your relay point and replace it with your own domain. BenchmarkONE can provide the records you need to complete email authentication. View this Help Article.

  • Ensure opt-ins and reputable data

    • BenchmarkONE does not recommend purchasing lists. However, if you choose to purchase a list from a third-party vendor, please:

      • Make sure you are using a reputable source and that the contacts have opted in.

      • Be sure to use an email validation tool prior to importing, like NeverBounce or Validity.

    • Opt-ins are CRUCIAL! To learn more, see the Opt-In Process below.

    • Secure all web forms (ie: use a captcha).

    • Send welcome messages to new subscribers to encourage them to open.

  • Monitor your reputation + enlist the help of deliverability tools (if necessary)

    • Google Postmaster

      • Track data on large volumes of emails sent and find data about your sending domain. You can view different dashboards to understand details like Gmail delivery errors, spam reports, feedback loop, and more.

    • Register with Microsoft SNDS

      • SNDS gives senders access to detailed data about individual IPs, and it also includes a Junk Email Reporting Program, which lets you receive reports when users junk your messages.


Opt-in Process

The goal of a successful email program is to send emails to people who want to receive them. It can be difficult to find these people if you are acquiring data from a third party, e.g. co-registration lists and rented/purchased data.

  • Online Forms

    • Web forms should have a CAPTCHA (re RE-CAPTCHA)

      • Prevents bot abuse + subscription bombing

    • Send automated opt-in email with “confirm” link to click. This immediate interaction can help your reputation + subsequent inbox placement.

  • Lists

    • If possible, always have the third party vendor send the first email and either:

      • Add only NEW subscribers from the initial email (those who opted in) to your account > Send welcome email from BenchmarkONE > treat these contacts like any other subscriber + target them in a relevant manner with meaningful content. This is the BEST option.

      • Add any contacts that engaged (opens / clicks) > Send first welcome email from BenchmarkONE.



Do not send emails to contacts that have not opted in. The recipients’ mailbox providers will treat these with apprehension, and are very likely to block it, junk it, or, in severe cases, blacklist you. This negatively affects your reputation with the mailbox providers and can impact your opted-in subscribers.

  • Content

    • Design a clear call-to-action (CTA) at the top of the email and consider what’s falling below the fold.

    • Compose short, compelling emails that are relevant to the audience and clearly represent the brand.

    • Include concise subject lines that are persuasive and resonate with the audience.

    • Utilize message pre-headers/preview text to convince recipients to open.

    • Link all logos and hero images to increase engagement.

    • Apply a safe sender prompt at the top of all email.

    • Test creative design to ensure email remains fresh and pertinent to recipients.

  • Cross-Brand Marketing

    • Send a transitional email asking the recipient to opt into a new stream/brand, rather than automatically targeting them with a communication they never signed up for.

    • Segment IP/domain to prevent potential reputation issues or mixing brands.

  • Opting out

    • Include additional unsubscribe / permission reminders at the TOP of the email. This can help reduce SPAM complaints.

    • If a recipient unsubscribes, do not re-subscribe them unless explicitly requested.


Building, Repairing, and Maintaining Reputation

A reputation can be very easily established and/or repaired in a timely manner by handling each of the major ISPs individually and targeting your most active subscribers. Once a sender has the essentials in place, it then becomes all about who they send to and how during their warm-up or repair phase. After identifying your Best Audience and “Finding Your Ratio,” maintaining a good reputation is very simple.

Engagement-based Segmentation: Engagement can have a greater impact on inbox rates than content.

  • Highly engaged: Opened and/or clicked multiple links. Audience can be leveraged for IP warming, reputation rebuilding, and re-engagement campaigns.

  • Engaged: Opened and/or multiple campaigns within the 4-6 month timeframe. This audience presents little-to-no deliverability risk.

  • Less engaged: Opened and/or clicked within the 7-12 month timeframe. Should be considered a MEDIUM deliverability risk and sent to strategically.

  • Unengaged: No opens or clicks recorded within the past 12 months. This should be considered a HIGH risk audience and should be sent to strategically and only with the guidance of an experienced deliverability consultant.


  • Building Reputation

    • Target: 0-3 month openers (Engaged)

    • Segment by ISP

    • Cap daily volume

    • Hourly throttling

    • Takes approximately 4 weeks

  • Repairing Reputation

    • Target: 0-3 month openers + clicks (Highly engaged)

    • Segment

    • Cap daily volume

    • Hourly throttling

  • Maintaining Reputation

    • Target: 0-6 month openers (Engaged)

    • Send consistently

    • Test regularly

    • Find your ratio

    • Avoid spikes in sending volume

ISP Specific efforts

  • Each ISP has their own set of rules and proprietary filtering technologies. What may work for one ISP may not work for another.

  • TIP: Gmail can be one of the most sensitive (and largest) ISPs… focus your efforts on doing what works here.

Important Metrics to monitor and where to focus your efforts

  • Opens + clicks (60%) : Changes in performance in these areas are the most reliable metrics that you can use to judge performance. If there’s been a downward trend in opens and clicks, then you’ll want to start looking into the factors below for further proof of an existing issue.

  • Reputation Status (20%) : Who better to ask than the ISP receiving your mail? Your reputation rating at places like Google Postmaster Tools and Microsoft SNDS are key data point references when investigating issues. Engagement rates will almost always align with your rating.

  • Bounces (15%) : Looking at your bounces can provide important details about how ISPs are handling your mail, however, if your mail isn’t bouncing this data may not be as useful.

  • Inbox Test Results (5%) : Inbox placement tests provide great insight, but these results are just a small piece of the puzzle.


Overcoming Challenges

Re-activations and win-back campaigns

  • Reactivation or Win-Back Campaigns, when executed properly, are great ways to grow your active audience by re-engaging subscribers who aren’t as active as your standard audience. How aggressive or conservative you can approach this is based on the following factors:

    • Average opens/clicks for your standard audience

    • Reputation

    • The total size of your active audience

    • Send frequency

Here are the keys to a successful reactivation/win-back campaign:

  • Find the best ratio of active to inactive subscribers that works based on the factors mentioned above.

  • In all cases, it is generally recommended to start a 90:10 active to inactive ratio for your daily traffic.

  • Ramp up to eventually sending to a max ratio of 70:30 active to inactive subscribers.

  • Throttle the campaigns that will be going out to the inactive audience.

  • Schedule the inactive segment 15-30 min after the standard audience.

  • Avoid sending to non-openers (re-mails) on the same days that you’re targeting inactive audiences.

Managing Big Brands and Old Data > Who to target

  • 0-24 month engagement: Convincing senders to focus on quality over quantity can be difficult when you’re dealing with Big Brands, especially when their most active segment(s) are oftentimes only 25-30% of their entire audience.

  • 0-12 month engagement: Some senders can get away with sending to their 0-12 month actives as their standard targeted audience. A sender with higher opens has more “wiggle” room with how far back they can expand their “active” segment.

  • 0-6 month engagement: In most cases, this is the ”sweet spot” for regular targeting. This audience can be paired with lesser active segments. This a good strategy for satisfying a sender’s request to send to a larger audience or to re-engage older subscribers.

  • 0-3 month engagement: This audience is your bread and butter. This is the perfect audience to mail to during warm up or rebuild. When times get hard, you can always revert to sending to this segment and feel confident in your ability to recover from issues.

Re-engaging with inactive contacts

The below process can be continued until you’ve worked your way through your entire inactive audience over time.

  • Create the following segments: 0-3M Openers, 0-6M Openers, 7-12M Openers

  • Pick your standard targeted audience based on the segment with the highest average unique opens (15% range or higher).

  • Pair this audience with a unique segment of one of your lesser active audiences, not to exceed 20% of the total volume to start.

Sending to your entire list / database

  • Send to actives FIRST: Warm up to the ISPs by sending to your most active subscribers before mailing your inactive audience.

  • Throttle the less active segment(s): Since you know that this audience is going to engage at a lower rate, it’s important to spread that traffic out over time.

  • Contingency Plan: Before deployment, be sure to meet with your senders to set expectations around potential impact on reputation.

  • Increase Monitoring: Having an extra set of eyes and additional monitoring in place during big pushes is a must!


Top Takeaways

  • Get the essentials in place.

  • Each ISP is different: treat them accordingly. When in doubt, focus on Gmail.

  • Ditch complex reports, focus on the metrics that matter.

  • Engagement is KEY.

  • Find the correct ratio of active / inactive contacts to help improve + maintain reputation.


Webinar: Cracking the Code on Email Deliverability

  • How to build and improve your email reputation

  • ISP-specific strategies for success

  • How to ensure you’re sending to the most engaged contacts

  • Best practices for large email sends

Credit: Start Inboxing, LLC
If you believe you would benefit from the guidance of an experienced deliverability consultant, please email us at and we will make an introduction.

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