Skip to main content

How to Resolve a Deliverability Issue and Repair Your Email Reputation

From best practices to more in‑depth reputation repair, here's how you can get your email deliverability back on track.

Two cheerful colleagues looking at a computer monitor

Few things are more important to your email strategy than whether your emails get delivered. That's what deliverability measures—the rate at which your emails land in the inboxes you intend them to.

Deliverability issues might sound like a highly technical problem to solve—but you can start with several simple troubleshooting strategies that can go a long way. If the root cause is addressed, deliverability issues involving a major email service provider (ESP) are resolvable. 

Here's how to get started. 

Identifying a deliverability issue 

If you think you have a deliverability problem, the first thing you should do is check your email engagement numbers. Look at data from recent campaigns and your overall averages, then compare those numbers to a couple of key baseline metrics. 

Ask yourself:

  • Is your open rate 30% or higher?
  • Is your click-through rate 1% or higher?

If the answer to one or both of these questions is no, the problem might be your deliverability—in which case, it's time to change your email strategy.

The numbers above are our baseline metrics based on the performance of our total sending pool. These numbers can differ depending on industry, but in general, they're what we suggest as a target.

Best practices for deliverability

Once you recognize that you have a deliverability issue, it's time to take action. Make sure you're following these deliverability best practices (they all result in a better marketing strategy overall):

  • Segment your audience based on their engagement. One sure way to boost deliverability is to email people based on how they've engaged with your campaigns in the last few months. For example, you might reward loyal, frequently engaged contacts with a discount code on your newest product, or you might send a reengagement campaign to people who have become a little distant. You can even use Mailchimp's pre-built segments to quickly get started. Targeted email almost always gets better engagement than generic bulk sends, so it's worth the effort.
  • Buy and authenticate your domain. We recommend sending email campaigns from your own private domain. You likely need to buy a domain for your business’s website anyway, and sending emails from this address is one of the best things you can do to improve your deliverability in the long run. Once you've purchased a domain, authenticate it. This helps prevent your emails from bouncing or ending up in spam. 
  • Send emails only to people who give you permission to email them. Permission is at the heart of deliverability. Do not send emails to recipients who don't know who you are—otherwise, you're at a high risk of receiving spam complaints, which can cause major deliverability issues. Do not buy email lists; they often contain outdated or irrelevant contacts, risking damage to your brand reputation and diminishing the effectiveness of your email campaigns. 
  • Check the unsubscribe and bounce reasons in your campaign reports. If you notice a lot of unsubscribes for your campaign, take a peek into the reports in your account and check the reasons for the unsubscribes and bounces. Some unsubscribes are to be expected, but if a lot of people are reporting "Spam" or "Did not sign up" as their unsubscribe reasons, it's time to clean up your list. 
  • Clean your list. Identify recipients who have never engaged with your content and remove them from future sends for at least a short time. In cases where the recipients have never engaged and you can see that their email addresses have typos in them, it's best to remove and archive these contacts, because delivery to them will never succeed.

Repairing your reputation

If a deliverability issue has resulted in a damaged reputation, you'll need to go beyond applying the best practices above. Particularly if your issue stems from low engagement or poor list quality, there are a few emergency measures you can take to help get your brand back on track.

If you're in the midst of reputation repair, it's best to send emails only to members of your audience who are likely to engage.

  • For about 2 to 4 weeks, you should segment your audience and send only to recipients who have engaged with your campaigns in the last 3 months. 

  • If you continue to experience issues, then only send emails to contacts who have engaged in the last month.

  • Connect with new contacts about 2 to 4 weeks after completing your reputation repair process (when your deliverability rating is back on track). You don't want to contact new audience members during reputation repair because you don't yet have the data to know whether they're likely to engage.

In the event that your deliverability issues persist, try tightening the window of your activity segmentation even further (for example, scaling back to emailing only those contacts who have engaged in the last 2 weeks). 

If you try these tactics for a month and don't see any improvement, there's likely a bigger problem. Reach out to a certified Mailchimp Expert to get the help you need.

A man with glasses and a blue sweater sitting on a red table with his arms crossed, holding a laptop.

Sending to inactive recipients can have a negative impact on your reputation and deliverability, so it's important to limit how often you send to them.

Reaching back out

Once your deliverability rate has recovered, you'll want to be thoughtful about how you expand your segments to include new and less recently engaged contacts. This is best accomplished through advanced segmentation.

Using advanced segmentation, you can expand your engagement criteria to include more recipients every 2-3 campaigns that you send. For example, you could begin by emailing contacts who have opened your campaigns in the last 60 days. If that goes well and your deliverability metrics stay on track for a couple of campaigns, you can open your window further to include contacts who have opened a campaign in the last 90 days. 

You can continue to repeat this pattern, but don't include contacts who haven't engaged in the past 6+ months unless you're contacting them with a re-engagement campaign (and even in that case, do so carefully and keep a close eye on your engagement metrics). 

Email cadence

How often should you send emails to your audience? That depends. Deliverability issues can arise if you send emails too frequently or too infrequently, so the key is to set a rhythm you can maintain and then keep your eyes on your data. 

In general, it's considered best practice to email your engaged audience at least once a month. You might have reason to send campaigns more frequently—perhaps even weekly or multiple times a week. Daily emails are very rarely advisable—it's hard to keep up with that cadence on your end, and it can result in high unsubscribes, which hurts deliverability.

Regardless of how often you send emails, you should be following all the best practices outlined above, and each campaign should contain fresh content. That means sending targeted, purposeful emails that communicate news, educate your audience, or encourage them to engage with your brand in some way. Then, let that engagement guide the future content you create. 

Your cadence should also vary based on your activity segmentation. Since sending to inactive recipients can have a negative impact on your reputation and deliverability, it's important to limit how often you send to them. Here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Send campaigns most frequently to recipients who have recently been engaged. 
  • You can send emails to contacts who haven't engaged as recently, but do so less frequently. 
  • Don't send campaigns to contacts who have been disengaged for 6 months or more unless you’re actively monitoring your deliverability and can quickly respond if there’s a negative impact.

You may be wondering why you'd bother reaching out to less engaged contacts at all. It's true that doing so can put your deliverability rate at risk, but if done strategically, it can also result in re-engagement and more conversions.

What if you're moving to a new email service provider? 

Sometimes, changing your ESP or even just the email address you send from can result in deliverability issues. Seeing a new "From" name in their inbox can prompt contacts to mark your email as spam.  

If you are changing ESPs, your audience import should include a suppression list, which prevents you from accidentally keeping invalid or stale addresses in your contacts. The other key is to start by sending exclusively to very recently active recipients. This "domain warming" process significantly reduces the risk of spam complaints and builds up some reputation on the new domain before you ramp up your sending volume. 

When sending from a new ESP, you might send campaigns to these segments:

  • Campaign 1: contacts active in the last 7 days
  • Campaign 2: contacts active in the last 14 days
  • Campaign 3: contacts active in the last 21 days

Continue this for a few weeks, until your domain is well recognized by your audience. Of course, it's important to monitor the performance of your campaigns. If you see issues with your deliverability rating, pause the warmup process and troubleshoot using the steps outlined above. 

When your data indicates that your emails are being delivered and opened at an expected rate from your new ESP,  you can resume standard best deliverability practices. 

Maintaining deliverability in the long run

Think of improving your deliverability the same way you would improve your overall health. If you eat well and exercise consistently over time, you’ll be in a better place than you were before. Email deliverability is the same—stick with best practices, and your inbox placement can improve.

We've got loads of expert tips on sending emails that get opened. Ready to unlock more engagement?

Share This Article