Email opens. Click-through rates. Traffic to your website. These are a number of different ways in which you can track email performance. And while each of these statistics tells a different story, overall you want these numbers to validate one assumption: that you have good subscriber engagement.

Yes, engagement is important for a variety of reasons like increased return on investment and traffic to your website. But it could also have a big impact on your overall email deliverability, and whether or not your emails continue making it to the inbox.

How engagement and deliverability are linked

When you have an engaged email list, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and email providers like Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo will ensure your emails make it to your subscribers’ inboxes. Why? Because the more your subscribers are opening your emails and clicking links within them, the better your sending reputation IP and domain name will be – which means more emails in the inbox instead of the spam folder.

So how does this work exactly?

Well, ISPs or email providers always look at what a subscriber is doing with his or her inbox, such as opening an email, clicking a link, reporting a message as spam, etc. If the engagement is good, this tells the ISP or email provider to route future emails to their inbox instead of the spam folder. As a result, the more a subscriber is engaged, the more frequently ISPs will route mail to the inbox.

If a subscriber isn’t engaged with your emails, ISPs will route those emails to the spam folder. And if that happens to a lot of your subscribers, it can hurt your sending reputation in the long run. Not only does this impact subscribers who aren’t interested in your emails, but it could make it impossible for those who do want to receive emails from you to even see them in the first place.

Additionally, if you think that moving from one email service provider (ESP) to another will help, that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, doing so can actually hurt your deliverability because you’re moving to a new IP address and domain – which means you’re resetting your sender reputation each time you move.

The key to sending engaging emails

The team here at AWeber has written a lot about email deliverability and best practices for maintaining a kick-butt reputation so your emails make it to the inbox instead of the spam folder. Too often, we’re quick to assume that when we say “spam,” we’re talking about emails with lots of “$$$” in the subject lines, and demands for money for a lost and helpless cousin in a foreign country. In reality, spam is the label an email gets when it contains content that’s inconsistent with what a subscriber signed up for, or is completely irrelevant to that subscriber.

If you’re thinking that means it seems pretty subjective, it is. That’s why it’s imperative that everyone who sends email also sets clear expectations about what the emails will be about before a person subscribes to their list. And as part of that, it’s essential that the email sender delivers on that promise and doesn’t break it.

And that is the key to sending emails that subscribers will want to engage with.

For improved deliverability, content & design matter

To boost subscriber engagement, you’ll want to focus on ways to increase the number of people who open your emails, click links within them, and share your content with others. Here’s how you can tackle that:

Keep your subject line interesting.

To get people to open your emails, you need to get crafty with your subject lines. After all, this is the moment where subscriber engagement begins.

As you think about your subject line, there are a few best practices to keep in mind.

According to Litmus, your subject line shouldn’t be longer than 50 characters. Not only does this force you to get to the point, it also comes in handy on mobile. With 40 percent of people opening their emails on a mobile device first compared to a desktop web browser, there’s significantly less space to display your subject line.

As a result, you’ll want to be as clear and concise as possible with your message. Tell subscribers exactly what they’ll get when they open your email, whether it’s a 50 percent discount or the latest lesson in your email course.

Check out these subject lines from a copywriting course created by professional writer, Neville Medhora:

Neville Example

Neville Example 2

The subject lines short and get right to the point. Plus, they provide enough intrigue that urges subscribers to open and read these emails.

Another important tactic to keep in mind when crafting a subject line is creating a sense of urgency. This is perfect for your broadcast emails that announce a new sale or upcoming event, just like these examples below:

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With this increased pressure, your subscribers will be more likely to open your message so they don’t miss the opportunity.

Share content that your audience cares about.

Check out how subscribers have interacted with previous emails you’ve sent. Were there any that had higher click-through rates than others? If so, what did you do differently in that email that may have caused that spike in engagement? This could have been a specific product or feature, or maybe a certain blog post that seemed to resonate with your audience.

Try sending more emails related to that content, that feature or that design element to see if you can mimic those engagement results.

You can also look at other places where you publish content to your audience, like social media or your blog, to see if there are certain content topics that seem to interest your audience.

Tweak or test the design.

As I mentioned earlier, 40 percent of people open their emails on a mobile device first. And if your email isn’t displaying properly across different devices and email clients, that could be preventing your subscribers from even reading your email content in the first place.

To ensure your subscribers are getting the full email experience, be sure to test your emails before sending them to your list. Tools such as Litmus allow users to view how their emails will appear on various devices and in different email clients. You can also create email addresses in the most common email clients used by your subscribers, and send yourself tests to see how they display.

If you need to optimize your email to be responsive on mobile, there are some best practices to keep in mind. Adding a strong call to action with an accent color and leveraging white space, for example, can help you achieve this.

Not sure what this would look like? Check out these before-and-after photos of a business that recently optimized their emails to be mobile-responsive:






Not only does the large font, big buttons and white space make the email easier to read, it’s also easier to click the calls-to-action.

Improving engagement and deliverability

Email deliverability can be a confusing and intimidating topic for many. But at its core, making it to the inbox is really simple: just follow the tips above and aim to delight your subscribers through valuable email content.

For more information on email deliverability and best practices, read all about it in this downloadable guide.

Have other thoughts on improving subscriber engagement? Tell us about it in the comments below!