Some experts will tell you that email deliverability is based on what you write in your subject lines or how you design your messages. In reality, deliverability is more involved than that.

Deliverability is increasingly influenced by how your readers engage with your emails: Do they open your messages or delete them as soon as they hit the inbox? The more your subscribers open and click through your messages, the more likely they are to land in the inbox every time.

Marketing Sherpa’s 2012 Benchmark Report notes two simple steps for improving your email’s deliverability.

Step One: Maintain An Opt-In Only List

“A list compiled of opt-ins only will better position organizations to deliver relevant communications since the reader requested to receive email messages.”

Even though permission-based email marketing is the easiest and most effective way of improving deliverability, only 41% of businesses use an opt-in only list. That means the majority either buy or rent lists or use co-registration.

No matter how well-targeted the list you’re considering claims to be, buying or renting a list is not nearly as effective as building your own list of subscribers who request your emails themselves.

A customer who actively requests your emails is already more interested in your company and your content than a name on a purchased or rented list. They want to hear from you, which means they want to open your emails, which means your messages get delivered to the inbox more consistently.

Emailing strangers on a purchased list is unsolicited, a.k.a. spam. You might start out with a bigger list, but your deliverability will take a huge hit as recipients start reporting you for spamming them.

It’s easier to send relevant messages when your inbox audience is genuinely interested in what you have to send. And when your emails fit your audience, ISPs notice. Building your list yourself through opt-ins is the first step for better deliverability.

Step Two: Make Unsubscribing Easier

“47% of email recipients click the spam button in their email client rather than looking for the unsubscribe link.”

While your opt-in list of email subscribers is more engaged with your content, not everyone wants to stay on your list forever. But why would a customer who once wanted and requested your content report you for spam instead of clicking your unsubscribe link?

The answer is simple: It’s easier to click the spam button at the top of the message window than scrolling down to the bottom of the email to find a small link that blends in with the background to unsubscribe. Especially when some marketers try to hide the unsubscribe link by pushing it further down to the bottom of the message. Your subscribers gravitate toward what’s easy for them over what’s considerate for your campaign.

Luckily, your solution is just as simple: Make it easy for your customers to find the link and unsubscribe by placing it at the top of your email in the header. Your subscribers naturally look for the spam button at the top of their email window because it’s an easy fix for unwanted emails. Make unsubscribing just as easy by placing your link where they’re already looking for an easy out.

HauteLook uses an unsubscribe link in their email preheader.

69% of marketers use an easy unsubscribe process to improve their email deliverability. Making your unsubscribe link easy to find essentially cleans your list for you.

Clean Lists = Less Complaints

The above steps work together to keep your list clean, with only people who are truly interested in your messages. And a clean list means better deliverability, as your subscribers are opening and interacting with your messages on a more regular basis.

What other techniques have you used that help improve your campaign’s deliverability?

Deliverability is just one piece of your campaign puzzle. Learn more techniques for building relationships with your email subscribers in our Special Report: Five Steps to Stronger Email Relationships. Download the ebook and sign up for the 6-part follow up series to make the most of your campaign.