Email insight: Engagement vs deliverability, how does one affect the other?

Recently I had a discussion with one of our deliverability experts about engagement vs deliverability. Rumors were that if subscriber engagement is low webmail providers like Hotmail, GMail and Yahoo would punish you by not letting the email get through to the inbox.
He responded by noting that deliverability with those providers has not been affected so far by (the lack of) engagement, but more by bounces, blacklisting, bad content and bad addresses overall. This is the classic set of deliverability affecting issues: put crap in, either list-wise or content-wise, and get crap out: it’s that simple.
However, if your content is up to par or better, and your lists are fine, then you should have nothing to worry about. Some online marketers are troubled by dropping (or in general bad) open rates, others care more about clickthrough or total campaign performance, regardless of what other metrics say.
Rory Carlyle notes over at his blog that all metrics count: and I agree with him, up to a point. Focusing on a single metric is useless in email marketing: measuring all metrics across the board will tell you so much more. From delivery rate to opens, to clickthroughs and actual sales, downloads or whatever you are trying to promote: seeing the big picture is worth gold.
This big picture will also help in explaining small parts of it: for instance if open rates are low but sales are high, how could you explain that? People didn’t see the content you reason, so why is your email offer selling so good? It’s simple, really: your subject line must have been so good that it said enough.
At the Fusion Marketing Experience in Brussels in March this was pointed out by Dela Quist of Alchemy Worx: he said that a retailer sent an email offer on a Thursday, and open rates were dreadful. However, sales were beyond expectations and everyone loved it. The reason was that the sales was clearly stated in the subject line, and that was all that anyone needed to know to rush to the store the next day. Sometimes email marketing can be that simple, and worrying about deliverability or bad metrics can be unnecessary or at the very least, prevented.
Getting back to the engagement vs deliverability part: deliverability is currently much more affected by the following facets of email marketing:

  • quality of content, or the lack thereof
  • sender and/or IP reputation
  • quality of list used, or the lack thereof

So if your content is fine, your reputation (or that of your email service provider) is fine and the list you are using is fine, you have nothing to worry about when it comes to deliverability: there are other things to tune in your email marketing campaigns. More on that later!

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