Email Marketers’ Misleading Metrics Count Email in Spam Folders as Delivered

European marketers measure success as ‘delivered minus bounced’ rather than emails that actually reach consumers’ inboxes. New inbox placement guide advises marketers on implementing email best practice.

Many European marketers are counting marketing emails that end up in spam folders as delivered messages.

Rather than monitoring inbox placement rates which provide marketers with the actual number of emails being delivered to consumers’ inboxes marketers are using a delivered rate metric, which counts emails that reach consumers’ inboxes minus emails that bounced back to the sender. This method does not take account of emails being delivered to spam folders or being blocked at ISP level and disappearing completely.

Measuring delivery rates using misleading statistics gives marketers an unrealistic view of the success of their email campaigns, according to Return Path’s new Deliverability and Reputation Handbook: A Guide to Achieving 100% Inbox Placement in Europe.

The guidebook is the most comprehensive guide ever created for making sure that marketing emails make it to the inbox. It follows the DMA UK National Client Email Marketing Survey 2010, which showed that while 70 per cent report that deliverability is their number one concern, only 25 per cent report knowing that sender reputation is the driving force behind deliverability failures.

Return Path’s European Benchmark Deliverability Report, released in September 2010, found that UK marketers have reason to be worried. More than one sixth of legitimate marketing emails sent to European consumers (17.8 per cent) fail to reach inboxes either being routed to spam folders or going missing completely. This means one in every six marketing emails does not generate response and, more importantly, revenue.

ISPs use senders’ email reputation to differentiate between the marketing emails that should be delivered to their customers’ inboxes and emails that should be diverted to spam folders or blocked from customers completely. Nearly 80 per cent of all ISP deliverability decisions are based on sender reputation. However, ISPs do not inform senders when their emails are blocked completely, giving marketers who do not use inbox placement metrics a false sense of the success of their email campaigns.

The Return Path handbook contains six email best practice guidelines that enable marketers to maintain a strong email sender reputation that gives them control of their inbox deliverability destiny.

Guy Shelton, VP for European Sales and Service at Return Path, said: “Many European marketers are not obtaining consent to send emails to consumers, continue to send emails to bad addresses such as unknown users, inactive addresses and spam traps, and don’t send welcome messages to new subscribers. They are also not using email authentication tools to confirm their identity to ISPs, are not getting their email infrastructure in order, and are not sending relevant messages to their subscribers.

“Marketers not implementing these best practices, which are outlined in greater detail in the Deliverability and Reputation Handbook, may see their marketing emails including social media updates, email newsletters and the offers and vouchers that consumers request continue to be treated as spam by ISPs and their customers. This means consumers won’t get the emails they have requested and won’t be able to deliver revenue to the marketers’ business.”


About Return Path

Return Path works to make email work better by scoring and certifying email senders from around the world. We help marketers, publishers and other large-volume email senders increase their response rates by providing the world’s leading inbox deliverability solution. We help mailbox providers and email administrators at ISPs and enterprises block unwelcome and malicious email by providing near real-time IP reputation scores and other data-driven tools. Taken as a whole, these tools and services improve the consumer experience of email by protecting them from spam, phishing and other abuse. Return Path offers free access to Sender Score, the email reputation measure compiled through our cooperative data network of ISPs and other email receivers, at our reputation portal: Information about Return Path can be found at

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