If there’s a problem getting your emails into inboxes, then you definitely want to know about it. Fortunately, most email campaign reports include your delivery rate. Excellent! Except, as we’ve explained before, this delivery rate isn’t telling you how many of your mails actually reached the inbox. So how DO you measure inbox delivery rates?

First, let’s recap the problem. Most campaign reports consider a mail delivered if the receiving system says nothing different. Unfortunately, these systems rarely send feedback when mail is deleted as spam before reaching the subscriber (or rerouted to junk folders). Thus, your campaign report could indicate a high rate of delivery, even if many of those emails never saw an inbox.

Option 1: Compare results across address domains

A poor inbox delivery rate obviously means your open and click rates will be low, too. It’s hard to open or click on something you don’t see!

One option, then, is to club email addresses together that share a common domain (the bit after the @ in the email address) and compare results across domains. Imagine your entire campaign got a 20% open rate and a 5% clickthrough rate, but the equivalent figures for all your yahoo.com addresses were 4% and 1% respectively. That tells you that you probably have an inbox delivery issue at Yahoo! Mail.

This approach can be very powerful, but requires some tricky analysis to do it correctly. As a simpler alternative, you could peek behind the curtains at various address providers and see where your email really ends up. That’s the principle behind the seed list.

Option 2: Use your own seed lists

You can open email accounts at the popular address providers used by your subscribers and add them to your list. Then, examine what happens after you send out an email. A quick review of your test account at Gmail will reveal whether the email ever arrived or whether it landed in the spam folder.

This is a time-consuming task, particularly if your subscribers use a wide variety of public address providers. Also, email routing can vary from email account to email account. One test account at each provider won’t give you a complete picture of what’s going on.

Option 3: Use a third-party service

Your third option is to use an automated inbox delivery monitoring tool. Your email marketing service may already offer this, or there are standalone services available. These services typically use their own seed lists and/or email-user panels, perhaps combined with email analytics tools, to give you a better understanding of what happens to your emails.

No tool is perfect, but these services do help you move beyond the simple delivery rate number.

Can you recommend any inbox monitoring tools or alternative approaches to measuring inbox delivery rates? Let us know in the comments!

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