Getting to know your delivery rate

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Kevin Senne
Kevin Senne

As e-mail marketing professionals, we are bombarded with numbers — sent, bounced, opens, clicks, hard bounces, soft bounces, unsubscribes and complaint rates. But we are still missing one of the most criti­cal metrics: How many of our e-mails actu­ally reach customer inboxes?

We must step back and take a look at the deliverability landscape. The major providers that make up the majority of e-mail marketing lists have tightened delivery requirements. Yahoo, AOL and MSN/Hot­mail have all implemented authentication technology and coupled that with reputa­tion evaluation. We must now prove to e-mail providers that we belong in the inbox, vs. the bulk folder.

To determine true inbox delivery rate (IDR) you will need to know e-mail sent, e-mail bounced, blackholed messages and seedlist delivery rate.

For e-mail bounced, some messages will not bounce for several days. The number and duration of retries before marking as a bounce is a setting that is configurable in your mail transfer agent. The industry stan­dard for retries is a 72-hour period.

Blackholed messages are e-mails deleted with no record and are commonly found at corporate domains. A good way to determine this number is to look at all domains where you delivered more than 25 messages but had no bounces, opens or clicks. You may catch some good domains, but cancel those with the smaller domains you did not choose.

Seedlist delivery rate, a test to estimate delivery rate to your top domains, should be used as a guide to inbox delivery but not a sole source of data. Since we have enough real data, you can feel confident using your seedlist delivery rate as a conservative total.

To calculate your true IDR, identify your blackholed messages by calculating the number of messages sent to domains with greater than 25 recipients with zero opens, bounces and clicks. Then determine your number of unblocked messages by sub­tracting your failures from messages sent and then blackholed messages from that number. Finally, multiply the number of unblocked messages by the seedlist delivery percent to find your true IDR.

Kevin Senne is director, Premiere Global Services. Reach him at


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