email deliverability

As I look back at my time in this industry I still cannot believe how much the deliverability landscape continues to change year over year, day-by-day, minute-by-minute. Yes, we still have the same topics front of mind but we just keep making them more complex and refined. So looking forward, as we leave 2015 and enter 2016, what do marketers need to prepare for, and how do they make sure they’re ready?

The key items to be mindful of going into the New Year are:

  • Engagement
  • Authentication
  • Regulation updates
  • Security

Over the last year there’s been a lot of excitement in the email marketing world with new regulations coming out and DMARC being mandatory for successful delivery.

Here’s what you need to know to be prepared:

Engagement Helps Deliverability

Engagement is one of the key metrics Internet Service Providers (ISPs) look at to determine inbox placement. In the many years I have consulted with clients on best practices, this is the #1 item I recommend in all conversations. Many Email Service Providers (ESPs) make it very easy for you to identify your engaged recipients so you can further segment, and/or send to the recipients differently. One of the key helpful strategies to implement is staggering the way in which the engaged and unengaged recipients are sent to. The strategy to start adopting is: Send to engaged (anyone who has opened and or clicked on a message in the last 180 days) recipients first, then wait a couple of hours and send to unengaged recipients.

Over time you will start to identify your truly unengaged recipients. I recommend implementing a re-engagement strategy or read the commentary we posted in July that speaks more about what to do with unengaged recipients.

Authentication helps Deliverability


The adoption of authentication protocols such as DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) and Sender Policy Framework (SPF) have never been as important as they are now. ISPs have said repeatedly in the recent months they are looking very closely to senders and ensuring they are authenticated to send through third party providers such as Act-On Software. As it stands today, it is ideal to have either DKIM or SPF setup, but it is going to eventually get to the point where you need both. So why not start now? Work with your IT department to make sure you are fully aligned to send through the third party companies you have partnered with. Without these authentication protocols, more of your emails could easily end up in the spam folder or go missing all together.

Another form of authentication getting a lot more visibility is DMARC. Learn what it is and how it will affect you as more ISPs turn to it here.

Updates to Email Regulations

As marketers it’s your responsibility to ensure you and your organizations are up to speed on the updates coming out with regards to spam laws and regulations. We link to some of the newest laws/regulations out there below. I highly recommend you read through each and get up to speed on the changes, as they could easily affect you.

And if you aren’t acquainted (or want to re-acquaint yourself) with the laws in their entirety, here are those links. Remember: Marketers are responsible for following these laws.

  • CAN-SPAM – Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003
  • CASL – Canadian Anti-Spam Law

Key differences between the two set of North American laws:


  • Addresses spam only
  • Applies to email
  • Marketers can technically email a person at least once without prior consent
  • No private “right of action” (An individual or business cannot file a lawsuit against a suspected spammer. Only the government and/or ISP can do so.)
  • Must honor opt-outs within 10 business days


  • Addresses a broad range of Internet issues
  • Applies to all forms of commercial electronic messages (e.g., email, SMS, social, voice)
  • Prior consent required prior to marketing
  • Private “right of action” is available to anyone (An individual and/or business can file a lawsuit.)
  • Must honor opt-outs immediately


email security

Just recently a new acronym has begun to surface more and more: Transport Layer Security (TLS). Gmail in particular has made huge strides within the last couple of months to provide better security for all of its customers, and they’ll be followed by the rest. The inbox has become very personal and Gmail as well as other ISPs are trying to keep it that way, safely. So what do you need to know?

TLS is a protocol that encrypts and delivers mail securely for both inbound and outbound mail traffic. It helps prevent eavesdropping between mail servers – keeping your messages private while they’re moving between email providers.

However, your messages are encrypted only if you and the people you email with both use email providers that support Transport Layer Security. Not every email provider uses TLS, and if you send or receive messages from a provider that doesn’t, your message could be read by eavesdroppers. TLS is being adopted as the standard for secure email. While it’s not a perfect solution, if everyone uses it, snooping on email will be more difficult and costly than it is today.

Read more about TLS here.

So as you continue to prepare for 2016, it’s imperative you include the topics discussed above in your preparation tactics. The inbox is ever-evolving and it’s getting only harder and harder for marketers to get in. The more understanding you have of these key deliverability items, the better able you’ll be to implement them and the more success you’ll have in 2016 and beyond.

Start 2016 off on the right foot, and download Act-On’s free guide, Best Practices in Email Deliverability, to lean how to maximize email deliverability for greater campaign success.

Best Practices in Email Deliverability