21 Email Deliverability Terms You NEED to Know

One thing I’ve recently realized in the email deliverability and compliance field is that I use a lot of terms that aren’t really common knowledge, which is why lately I’ve been making an effort to ensure everyone understands the vocabulary that I’m using. Try talking to a non-marketing friend about how confirmed opt in improves your acceptance rate, how your senderscore is looking pretty good, and the fact that you aren’t on any blacklists right now…and watch the look of confusion cross their face as they try to figure out what it is you said.

In today’s post, I’m going to try and clarify some definitions of common email terms so that you and your friends can be on the same page. Let’s take a look!

1. Acceptance rate – The percentage of messages accepted by the mail server. It’s important to note this does not guarantee the email will be reaching the prospect’s inbox. Once a receiving server accepts mail from a sender, it’s up to that server to decide what it then does with the email.

2. Blacklist – a (generally) publicly available real-time database that receiving servers can query in order to obtain information on the reputation of an IP address or domain used to send email. Receiving servers use blacklisting information to help determine if an email should be accepted or rejected. For more information on blacklisting, see our blog series here.

3. CAN-SPAM – Officially called the “Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act of 2003,” CAN-SPAM was designed to make it easier to label marketing email and sexually explicit mail. It’s the US law for email sending, but did you know it’s not strict enough for the email industry?

4. CASL – Canada’s anti-spam law, designed to attempt to control Canadian spam. Notably, CASL requires documented opt in of prospects and is significantly more stringent than CAN-SPAM. You can read more about CASL here.

5. Deliverability – A blanket term used to measure a significant number of factors that determine if an email gets into a subscriber’s inbox. It involves all aspects of email delivery, including SPF records, bounces, senderscore, spam issues, and other factors that determine if your email reaches the inbox.

6. DKIM – Domainkeys identified mail, an authentication mechanism to help protect email senders and receivers from forged email.

7. COI – Confirmed opt in, also erroneously known as a double opt-in, is a way to verify that an opt-in request came from the owner of the email address. It also verifies that the address was not forged, mistyped, or otherwise fraudulently subscribed. For more information on setting up COI in your Pardot account, check out this article!

8. Hard bounce – an email returned to the sender with the indication that the recipient is somehow invalid. Hard bounces are generally classified with a 5.x.x or 500 code.

9. SPF – Sender policy framework, a record of IP addresses allowed to send on a particular domain’s behalf. This is especially important for third-party senders such as Pardot. For more information on SPF, we’ve got a great overview here and technical setup information here.

10. DNS – The service that translates words (such as www.pardot.com) to IP addresses.

11. Senderscore – A numerical indication of the trustworthiness of an email sending IP address. The senderscore is used by email filters to help determine whether to accept or reject an email.

12. Single opt in – The most common version of obtaining prospect data, by having a prospect fill out a form and immediately adding them to email marketing.

13. Soft bounce – An email returned to the server indicating a temporary issue, such as a mailbox being full. Soft bounces are generally categorized with 4.x.x bounce codes.

14. Spam – Unsolicited bulk email. Unsolicited means that the recipients have not explicitly consented to receiving emails from the sender. Bulk means that the message is sent as part of a larger collection of messages, all having nearly-identical content.

15. Spam report – When a prospect marks an email as spam in their email client. These spam complaints are recorded in Pardot and will show up in your spam complaint reporting. The limit for abuse complaints is one per every thousand emails, or 0.1%.

16. Direct complaint – When a subscriber complains that they no longer want to receive email from you by emailing an abuse@domain.com address. These cases are different from standard abuse complaints since you get a direct email from a complaining prospect.

17. Spamtrap – Email addresses owned by major blacklisting organizations that are specifically designed to catch spammers. These email addresses may seem legitimate, but sending an email to them will often cause you to get blacklisted.

18. IP warmup – The process of gradually sending more email from an IP address in order to show receiving servers you are a sender of legitimate email. Take a look at our IP warmup worksheet here for more help.

19. IP address – a unique string of numbers separated by periods that identifies each computer using the Internet Protocol to communicate over a network.

20. Whitelisting – the use of anti-spam filtering software to allow only specified email addresses or mail originating from specific IP addresses to get through the mail gateway.

21. Confirmed opt in lite (COIL) – The process of requiring new subscribers to confirm their interest by engaging with emails sent to them within the first few sends, or the relationship is terminated.

That wraps it up for today’s post! Any terms I might have missed? Let me know by tweeting to me @holobachgirl with #emailterms. And check out our newly revamped Complete Guide to B2B Email Marketing for even more information on deliverability, email design, email best practices, and more.

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