Deliverability Basics You Need to Know

Deliverability is confusing in the best of times. In times of confusion—such as these—it can seem even more convoluted, even as it becomes more critical to the success of law firms trying to operate with business as usual. Social distancing and closed offices mean people and companies are communicating mainly through email, leading to a drastic increase in overall volume which in turn can negatively affect deliverability.

The basic idea behind deliverability is this: Internet service providers try to protect their users’ experiences by weeding out all the many, many junk emails and phishing schemes running amok on the web.

But that’s an intricate and tricky process. Obviously some spam messages still get through while other legitimate emails get stuck and never make it into their intended inboxes.

There are a lot of factors that affect your deliverability, ranging from simple strategies to the more technical. If you want a detailed approach to improving your deliverability and a checklist to run past every send, register for our upcoming webinar “How to Improve Your Deliverability”. You’ll get detailed information and actionable steps to protect your deliverability.

Following is a more general explanation of deliverability and how to start protecting yours. If you want to learn and understand the basics of deliverability—and why it’s such a big deal to email marketing—keep reading.

What is deliverability?

People often mistake deliverability and delivery as the same thing. In reality, deliverability is more descriptive than delivery.

  • Delivery happens when your email is accepted by your recipient’s server.

  • Deliverability tells you what happens after that.

For instance, your email can be delivered—aka not bounced back—but then be filtered as spam. Even though your email was delivered, it probably didn’t get in front of your recipient. And it doesn’t matter how good your email marketing is if no one ever sees it.

Without healthy deliverability, you’ll see poor engagement and few results from your email marketing campaigns. Luckily, following email marketing best practices and our deliverability checklist will keep your deliverability health trending up.

You’ll be back in people’s inboxes where your email can work its magic.

Why is deliverability affected by COVID?

Over the past few months, ESPs have seen a vast uptick in the number of emails clients are sending. And not only are companies sending more emails than usual, but they are often sending those emails to more contacts than usual as well.

The non-technical aspects of deliverability are based largely on your email sending reputation. Think of your email reputation as your fingerprint: ISPs recognize your habits and use those to grade your deliverability.

If your company veers from its usual sending habits—by suddenly sending at an irregular cadence or to a huge list when you normally segment—ISPs recognize that your behavior has suddenly shifted from the norm and will flag that.

One reason for this emphasis is because spammers often have brand new domains and suddenly start sending huge numbers of emails at irregular intervals. Thus, ISPs recognize those tactics as suspicious and try to block those messages from getting through to their users.

How do you protect your email’s deliverability health?

As we’ve said, your email sending habits form your reputation. But what specific elements are ISPs actually noting?


How your contacts interact with your email clues ISPs into how valuable your messages are. If your emails are ignored, sent straight to trash, or marked as spam, your reputation will suffer. To circumvent this, send the most targeted content you can.

Segment your subscribers according to the ways they’ve interacted with your firm and send them relevant messages. Alternately, ask them what type of emails they’d like to receive. People would much rather have a role in shaping the content you send them than being bombarded with everything or even the wrong thing. At least it shows that you’re trying to respect their time.

Keep an eye on your spam complaints and engagement metrics. If you see an uncharacteristic dip or a steady decline, you’ll know it’s time to rethink your email strategy.


There’s nothing worse than trying to get in touch with someone and receiving the dreaded notice that the contact doesn’t exist. That is what’s known as a bounce. While it’s annoying to receive that notice when sending a personal email, it can be problematic for your firm’s email.

You should take a hard look at your subscriber list every few months to make sure you’re not sending to email addresses that no longer work. It’s also a good opportunity to segment contacts that have stopped engaging with your emails.

A smaller list with more engaged contacts will improve your deliverability and at little cost. You’ll be able to offer personalised attention to the contacts who are most invested in your firm.

Spam traps

Another reason to keep an eye on your subscriber list is to avoid spam traps. Sometimes ISPs will take old, inactive addresses and reactivate them, knowing that whoever sends to that address has gotten their contacts through illegitimate means. It’s one reason why you should never buy a list and only send to people who have asked to receive your emails.

If you ever start sending to people who haven’t you’ll not only breach compliance laws, but your deliverability will suffer, too.

Wrap up

This is just the beginning of what is a complex topic. But even so, there are steps you can take today to improve your deliverability without understanding all the nitty-gritty details. The most important thing you can do for your email marketing strategy is to focus on sending relevant, valuable content your contacts engage with.

The best way to protect your deliverability health is to send relevant content that gets decent engagement from your contacts. If you’re ready to learn more the actionable steps to improve your deliverability, register for our May 28th webinar “How to Improve Your Deliverability”. You’ll hear from our experts and have a chance to ask your deliverability questions, too.