Linked to the continued rise of SPAM (recent figures have it representing 70% to 90% of all email) is the similar rise in complexity of the email filtering tools being produced to stop it from arriving in your email inbox.

Unfortunately, this does not bode well for legitimate email marketers as they experience, with increasing regularity, these same filters incorrectly blocking their solicited messages thinking they are of the unsolicited kind.

If you are lucky and have a newsletter that has formed a tight bond with its subscriber base, the first indication that this is occurring is when subscribers contact you complaining that they have not received the latest edition.

However, if you publish on a less frequent basis and/or don’t have such a connection then all you may notice is a subtle but ongoing drop in open and click-through rates.

The tasks involved in solving email deliverability problems range from the simple to the complex. Here are five tasks that you can complete before requiring some professional help with those that are more complex. Each task has the goal of ensuring that your message content and the way it is dispatched makes them look more like legitimate email marketing and less like unsolicited junk.

Firstly, it pays set up systems so you, not your subscribers, know when you have a problem. Usually the faster you can react to the problem the easier it is to find a resolution.

Make time to create your own set of seed addresses across the top New Zealand ISPs. Use this list for test sending of campaigns. Also include these same addresses in your live list so that you can confirm both tests and live messages made it through OK.

Establishing these email inboxes across the various ISPs will take time. But it’s time well spent when compared with the amount of effort you put into your content creation – only to have this wasted when the message fails to successfully arrive to the bulk of your list.

Once your seed list sending confirms that you have a problem, you can work through the following actions.

Make sure that you are sending both formats of email content in the one message. Most subscribers will be able to receive your colourful HTML format but also include the TEXT version. These need to be sent in the industry standard multipart format. (Most commercial email marketing sending applications do this by default – Outlook doesn’t.) Spam messages are predominantly sent in just the HTML format.

The ‘cleaner’ your send list, the greater the chances your messages will make it through. A ‘dirty’ list includes a high proportion of invalid and bounced email addresses in the send. When spammers target a domain, such as, they use tools to automatically create options for the name of the email account. For example, Not surprisingly, a lot of these options don’t relate to valid email boxes and show up as bounces. Your send could well mimic this behaviour if you are not diligent in removing previous bounced or invalid email addresses.

If you have completed both of the previous tasks and messages are still being blocked then you have to look at your message content.

Send a message to your seed lists with just a few lines of non-promotional style text including hyperlinks to the websites you want to link to in the live message and using images in the HTML version that are hosted on the image servers that you will use in the live send.

If the message still fails to arrive, you may have an issue with some of your domains being on a black list. You can confirm this by visiting the following site and signing up for the trial to see if the IP addresses of your domains have made it onto any black lists: If this is the case, you will need to work through the removal process to prove your case with the list manager.

This may sound scarier than it is – most list managers are keen to ensure they are blocking the correct type of email and when notified of any errors will make the necessary changes to remove you from their list.

If your message does arrive then the problem is with the content of the message and not so much the reputation of the domains behind its creation.

The quick way to solve this problem is by using one of the range of SPAM checking tools on the market. These tools will scan your message and then email you back a report telling you exactly which part of your email content is causing the problems. (Contact us at Permission and we can send you a price list of what’s on offer.)

Without such a tool you have to meticulously work through your content, removing all but the first few lines of text, testing this with a send to see if it comes through. If you strike success then you can gradually reveal more content in your message until you find which words are causing the issue.

Your cause is helped by having a reasonably equal balance between the number of images and amount of text in the HTML version of your message. Spam messages tend to hide their ‘problem text’ that automatically triggers filters by replacing it with images. This has the knock-on effect of producing a message with a high image to text ratio. (If you are completely stuck and need to include a word that has the same triggering effect in your legitimate messages then you can do the same, remembering to do this for only occasional words rather than complete paragraphs.)

Tried all these steps and are still having problems? Then try to find out what – if anything – has changed between when your messages seemed to be delivering OK and now. New creative guidelines, an implementation of a different email sending tool, perhaps a new hosting platform for your images – all of these can be linked to possible deliverability problems. And, if you are able, try to revert to the old way just to get the current campaign underway to allow you some time to work through a more permanent fix.

For those making it to this stage without any noticeable improvements, it’s time to call in some professional advice. We offer a complimentary 15 minute delivery assessment service – just email us at to book a time.