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How to Understand Email Marketing

Clients sometime contact us because they experience an issue with their email campaign. More often than not, these concerns are easily resolved. This document is a useful resource that describes what typically causes most of the problems we see and how they can be prevented or, if necessary, resolved.

Attributes of a great email list: We help avoid problems in the first place by offering tips for how you can create a great email list.

Our checks: We describe the checks we perform to validate clients’ email lists to help ensure emails get to where they’re supposed to go. We also explain what some common terms mean and why they are important to your email campaigns.

FAQs: We also provide answers to many frequently asked questions and offer instructions for how to troubleshoot and correct issues you may see pop up. Email is a technology, and, like most technology, things go wrong even when we think we’ve done everything right. But don’t worry. We’ve got your back.

Attributes of a great email list

Let’s first talk about the qualities of an effective email list and some best practices that will help avoid many problems clients sometimes experience.

  • Opt-in. Make sure the people on your list have explicitly agreed to receive emails from you. Send only to people you know; don’t purchase email lists. Put an emphasis on quality over quantity.
  • Accurate and up-to-date. Regularly review your list and remove addresses that are invalid, have bounced, or unsubscribed.
  • Consists of engaged users. These are the names on your list who open your emails, click your links, and respond. Typically, they are current clients you work to strengthen relationships with and leads you nurture. An engaged list of recipients will keep our domain strong—and that’s a win for everyone.
  • Easily segmented. A segmented list helps you to send personalized and targeted emails more likely to engage your audience. For help segmenting your list, consult this article.

How ReminderMedia validates clients’ email list.

When a client submits an email list to us, we run it through four different checkpoints to ensure that all addresses are valid:

  • Internal filter check
  • External validity check
  • Send history check
  • Universal unsubscribe

If an email address is flagged by any of these four checks, we mark it as invalid. We don’t send to invalid or unsubscribed addresses. Once an address is marked as invalid or unsubscribed, it remains that way unless we receive a request to investigate.

Internal filter check

Our system automatically removes addresses suspected of being spam or corporate. Here are a few examples:


If it turns out that our internal filters are removing a legitimate client email address, let us know and we’ll put it on our whitelist of approved addresses.

External validity check

We run all clients’ email lists through an external server that sends a test ping to each address. The results come back as either “deliverable” or “unable to deliver.” If the test comes back as “deliverable” it means that email can be delivered, but we do not know which folder it will go to.

Send history check

We run a check of an email address to see if we’ve ever sent to it before and received an error. For example, if we receive an address and determine that we previously received a hard bounce, that address is marked as invalid, and we will not mail to it.

Universal unsubscribe

If an email address was previously unsubscribed, it will always show as an unsubscribe regardless of whether mail is from a past or new sender.

Email Deliverability FAQs

Why are my emails bouncing?

When an email cannot be delivered to an email server, it’s called a bounce. It’s almost impossible to predict whether an email will bounce because, in part, different internet service providers (ISPs) bounce email messages based on their own rating systems and definitions, which are constantly changing.

Even so, if your emails bounce, there are things you can do to minimize the problem. What’s recommended depends on the type of bounce.

Hard bounces

A hard bounce indicates a permanent reason an email cannot be delivered. We mark these addresses as invalid and remove them from future mailings.

There are three common reasons an email may hard bounce:

  • The recipient email address doesn’t exist or is misspelled.
  • The recipient email server has completely blocked delivery.
  • The domain name is incorrect or unknown.

To avoid a hard bounce, we recommend keeping your list up to date and routinely cleaning your list to remove invalid email addresses.

Soft bounces

Soft bounces can be attributed to many reasons, but generally indicate a temporary delivery issue that will usually resolve itself in time. When we receive notice of a soft bounce, we attempt to deliver the email seven times over a 24-hour period. If the email is still not successfully delivered, it is marked as a hard bounce.

One of the best ways to avoid soft bounces is to ensure you have recipients’ permission to send them emails.

Before your first mailing is sent, reach out to everyone on your list and tell them to expect your email. Some first-time emails may be diverted to a recipient’s spam, junk, or promotions folder (in Google). If that is the case, then ask recipients to move your email to their inboxes. Your future emails should then be delivered as desired.

Why are my emails ending up in spam, junk, or promotion folders?

Emails you send to recipients who have included you in their list of contacts will likely make it into their inboxes. But even legitimate emails sent to first time recipients (cold emails) can get trapped in spam, junk, and promotion filters because of issues you may not have considered, like your sending name or email address, the subject line, the message content, and your reputation with ISPs.

Sending name or email address

You can lessen the chance your email will hit spam or junk folders by using a verified domain name—like,—rather than a free email service like Gmail, Yahoo, or Outlook.

Subject line

If a significant number of recipients are suspicious of your emails and mark them as spam, then email clients may start to block your emails delivered to other recipients using the same email client, and deliver emails directly to the spam or junk folder.

To avoid this problem, avoid clever subject lines and opt instead for being clear and direct.

There are also some subject lines features that may cause an email to go directly to a spam or junk folder. To minimize this happening to your emails:

  • Don’t write your subject lines in all caps.
  • Avoid using exclamation marks.
  • Steer clear of trigger words.

Email blasts

Most email campaigns are sent out at the same time; it’s called an email blast. This can sometimes cause ISPs to sort emails into promotion or other folders.

Poor reputation

The overall poor health of your email list can damage your reputation with ISPs. If, for example, you export every address from your Gmail account (including do not reply, help desk, or otherwise “bad” addresses) or you buy a list (which typically includes invalid email addresses) and continuously send to those addresses, it damages your reputation with ISPs that will then adversely classify your emails.

Why are recipients not receiving my emails?

There are three general reasons why recipients may not be receiving your emails:

  • They are bouncing.
  • They are being sent to the recipients’ spam, junk, or promotion folder.
  • Either your recipient, their ISP, or their email service provider is blocking your emails.

If you’ve confirmed that your emails are not bouncing or landing in your recipient’s spam, junk, or promotion folder, then the issue probably rests with a recipient’s ability to receive emails, their ISP, or your ISP.

Sometimes companies, and oftentimes brokerages, filter out marketing emails to prevent spam. If this is the case, we recommend using a recipient’s personal email address.

Companies that make it possible for you to connect to the internet are called ISPs (examples include Comcast, Verizon, and Optimum). Many of these same companies are also email service providers, but not all email service providers are ISPs (examples include Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook).

Different ISPs have different ways of trying to prevent spam, malware, and viruses from getting into your recipients’ inboxes, and it’s possible that you and/or your recipient may need to contact your respective ISPs to solve the problem.

In the meantime, you might want to ask your recipient to:

  • Add your email address to their whitelist.
  • Check their computer’s firewalls and filters to see if your email is being identified as spam.
Why is an email showing as invalid?

We pre-validate emails uploaded into our system. That means we send out a ping to the email to make sure it connects. If it doesn’t, it’s marked invalid. 

The most common issue with invalid emails is typos in the address. Ensure you’ve got the name of your recipient and all other components of their email addressed spelled correctly. Check for missing or added letters in the recipient’s name, extra spaces, misspelled domain names, and misplaced @ marks.

Other common problems include:

  • The recipient has changed their email address and either deleted, or it was rendered inactive because they no longer use it.
  • The recipient who used a work email address was either promoted or fired and their email address was either changed or deleted.
  • The domain, server, or provider is dead. Whichever it may be, the result is your email can’t get through because it can’t be delivered.
Why do some recipients say “unsubscribed?”

If you received an unsubscribed notification, it’s because a recipient no longer wants to receive emails from you. They have likely clicked the unsubscribe link in your email.

When is the best time to send an email?

The short answer is it depends.

If you search the Internet for the best days and times to send, you’ll find a range of recommendations that will often contradict one another.

Our best advice is to test what works for your audience, but if you are looking for a place to start, then try the middle: middle of the week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) and middle of the day (10 a.m. – 2 p.m.)

Once you find what works best for you, continue to send your emails on that same day and time. Your recipients will come to expect to receive your emails and will look forward to them.

How are email opens tracked?

HTML emails, as opposed to plain text emails, can make use of tracking software that adds to your email an invisible image called a tracking pixel that is displayed when the subscriber opens your email. When that image is downloaded from the web server, the email is recorded as being opened.

It’s possible that not all emails will be tracked.

  • If the recipient is selecting to only use plain text, then neither opens nor clicks can be tracked.
  • The recipient’s email client may not be able to display HTML emails with images, or the option may be turned off.
  • The recipient may choose to read HTML emails but not to display images.
  • The recipient may have added a browser extension that alerts then to the presence of a tracking pixel and they choose to either delete or not open the email.
How do I export my list from [X] program?

We’ve developed a separate document providing instructions for exporting your mailing list from a large number of the most often used CRMs. You can access that document by clicking here.

What is an open rate?

The open rate tells you the percentage of recipients that opened your email. To find your open rate, use this calculation:

A good email open rate, which will vary by industry, is an indication that your subject line was able to spark enough interest that your recipients wanted to read your email. It can also tell you how much your recipients look forward to receiving your emails.

What is a click through rate?

Also known as a “click rate,” the click through rate (CTR) is a measure of how many people have clicked something in a specific email. Recipients can click on a hyperlink, an image, or a call to action. You can calculate your CTR this way:

The CTR is an important metric because it can tell you whether you are connecting with what your recipients want. A high CTR means what you are sending is relevant and valuable to them. A low CTR means you have a chance to send different information or retarget your audience.