Email Deliverability 101

Updated by Justine Hong

[NEW - Feb 2024] Google/Yahoo Policy Changes

Effective February 2024, Gmail and Yahoo are cracking down on sender practices. For Gmail and Yahoo this impacts anyone using a bulk sender like Switchboard. Their policy updates outline the following requirements:

  • Keep spam complaints below 0.1% (per day) and do not exceed 0.3%. Spam complaints should ideally be 0.1% or lower. Both Google and Yahoo are enforcing a spam rate threshold of 0.3%. Any email domain that is getting spam complaints of 0.3% or higher will see decreased deliverability. Improving domain reputation will take time (months, not weeks).
  • Ensure all email domains have a DMARC record. To verify that email senders are who they say they are, email domains will be required to have a DMARC record. The good news is that we help you out with this during onboarding! Switchboard ensures that by the time you can send out an email on our platform, your DNS records are good to go!
  • One-click unsubscribe. If you send email using Switchboard’s email product, we ensure your emails are compliant with Google and Yahoo’s one-click unsubscribe policies, which make it easier for email recipients to unsubscribe from unwanted email programs.

In general, these changes are important but nothing you can’t handle. If you are running an email program, making sure your spam complaint rate is below 0.3% is critical! Switchboard handles the other items for you. You can email us at if you have any questions.

Intro to Deliverability

Email deliverability refers to the ability of an email message to successfully reach the intended recipients' inboxes without being flagged as spam or bouncing. It is a critical metric that assesses the effectiveness of your emails in terms of reaching and engaging your audience.

There are two fundamental elements of your deliverability to keep track of: domain reputation and IP reputation.

IP Reputation

IP reputation refers to the perceived trustworthiness and reliability of the IP address from which an organization sends its emails. Email Service Providers (ESPs) and other filtering systems assess the reputation of the sending IP address to determine the fate of the emails originating from that address. Your domain may be sending email from a Dedicated IP or a Shared IP Pool. Reach out to us if you have any questions about how your organization is set up.

IP reputation for an email program is dependent on the IP your domain is sending from. At Switchboard we have a meritocratic approach to IP pools assignment and are happy to discuss this with you transparently. If your program starts on an IP pool with a medium reputation, for example, good behavior can get you moved to an IP with a better reputation.

Domain Reputation

Domain reputation refers to the perceived trustworthiness and reliability of a specific domain by email service providers (ESPs) and other filtering systems. Often referred to as your “Sender Reputation,” Domain Reputation plays a crucial role in determining whether emails sent from that domain will be delivered to recipients' inboxes, marked as spam, or blocked entirely. Domain reputation is connected to your domain no matter your IP reputation or email platform. It is important to watch your domain reputation trends over time because reputation rehabilitation can take months.

What Impacts Deliverability?

Domain Reputation and IP Reputation are impacted by a few key metrics. Track these metrics over time to ensure deliverability stays consistent across all Email Service Providers (i.e. ESPs). Switchboard will provide you with a detailed email performance dashboard so you can track the following key metrics:

Spam Rate

The spam rate is the percentage of emails from a specific email campaign or sender that are flagged as spam by email service providers or recipient email systems. The lower the spam rate, the better your deliverability.

What should you know?

  • Healthy Spam Rate Threshold of <0.3%: Spam rates for a healthy email program should be at or below 0.1%. Spam rates should not hit or exceed 0.3%. Regular spam rates above 0.3% will have a significant negative impact on your domain reputation, which means fewer of your future emails will land in recipient inboxes.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe: Recipients marking your emails as spam impacts your spam rate and overall deliverability, but unsubscribes do not! Make your unsubscribe link accessible and easy to find. Emails sent on Switchboard will have one-click unsubscribe links, compliant with Google and Yahoo’s bulk sender policies.
Bounce Rate
  • Bounce: a bounce reported by Switchboard means we tried sending the email but the domain was permanently rejected and therefore un-sendable (now and in the future). This is often called a “hard bounce.” An email bounces for many reasons; it could be an invalid email address, a non-existent domain, or in some rare cases the recipient domain is not set up to receive email. Switchboard manages bounces for you and marks emails invalid after the first bounce.
  • Retrying: Often referred to as “soft bounce” in the email world, “retrying” in Switchboard means the email blast you sent out was not accepted by the email recipient or was temporarily deferred. This is often rectified by attempting to send the email again, so Switchboard will automatically retry emails. In some rare cases, if an email is retried enough times without success, it will turn into a “block”. This is temporary and we will eventually retry this email address again to see if it goes through. A high number of retries is usually an indicator that you are sending too fast! Slowing down your sending and spreading it out over the course of the day may help.
  • How do bounces impact deliverability? If you have a consistently high bounce rate, that is often an indicator to ESPs that the lists you are sending to are “spammy” or not highly curated, potentially indicating you are a “bad sender.” In the worst cases, consistently high bounce rates can cause your IP or Domain to be “blacklisted” because of bad behavior. List hygiene is incredibly important to maintaining good domain and IP reputation long-term.
Switchboard makes this easy and moves email addresses that previously bounced into the “skipped” category on future sends. We also verify your email lists through a third party to reduce the number of bounces you get in the first place. This saves you money and improves your deliverability!
Engagement - Open & Click Rates

Open rates and click rates are indicators of how recipients are engaging with your email program. Sending compelling emails to people that want to receive your emails will result in higher open and click rates.

  • Open Rate: The number of email recipients that opened your email over the total emails delivered. Switchboard attempts to disambiguate between machine opens and “real” opens but this data is not always consistently provided by ESPs.
  • Click Rate: The number of email recipients that clicked somewhere on the email over the total delivered. Easy to find CTAs (calls to action) help improve your click rates.
  • How does engagement rate impact deliverability? The higher your engagement stats are, the more you are showing ESPs that you are sending emails that people want to receive. High engagement rate is one of the best ways to maintain your reputation.
Switchboard makes this easy because we will automatically track clicks (unique and total) and ActBlue donations so you have insight into how recipients are interacting with your email program!

Domain Authentication

This one is simple, just make sure your domain is set up with the correct authentication records. Switchboard gives you exactly what you need, which makes the process so much easier!

Every email program sending on Switchboard needs to have the following:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF): SPF helps prevent email spoofing by specifying which IP addresses are authorized to send emails on behalf of a domain.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM): DKIM adds a digital signature to emails, allowing the recipient to verify that the message was sent by an authorized sender and hasn't been tampered with during transit.
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC): DMARC builds on SPF and DKIM to provide a policy framework for email authentication and reporting. It allows domain owners to specify what action should be taken if an email fails authentication checks. This is now required by all large senders because of Google/Yahoo 2024 policy changes.
Switchboard gives you the minimum DMARC records to ensure your outbound emails through our platform are setup for success. If your domain already has a DMARC record or has stricter settings than what we provide, that’s great!

Want to check to make sure all of your authentication records are setup correctly?

Send yourself a test email, find the email in your inbox, and click the three dots and “Show Original” as shown below:

Once here, you will see a print out that looks like the image below. You can see in the table at the top, that SPF, DKIM and DMARC are all marked as “Pass” meaning they are set up correctly and you are good to go!

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