Aug 1, 2008

Average Delivery Rate is 56% for Legit Senders

returnpath-reputation-study-q208.jpgReturnPath just released their 2008 Q2 Reputation Benchmark Report. There’s a lot of great data to digest here.

  • Only about 20% of email servers out there are properly setup and can be considered "legit" email senders.
  • Your Sender Score can be closely correlated with your Delivered Rate (something I assumed in this blog post, but couldn’t provide any proof—until now). Note that "delivered" means "it made it to the machine of your recipient" but doesn’t necessarily mean "it wasn’t spam filtered." The mailman delivers your mail, but doesn’t know if recipients will rip it up and throw it away before reading it.
  • Only 0.63% of email from legit servers can be classified as "Commercial." That either means commercial email marketers are not sending as much email (and "clogging up the intertubes") as we all thought, or that they’re all sending from illegit or unknown servers, and not following best practices.

Then, they give two big whoppers of insight:

First, properly configured email servers can expect only a 56% delivery rate (with 19% rejections), while improperly configured servers get only 23% delivery rate (with 60% rejections). Check out the graph:


See the very bottom bar, with 88% delivery rate? ReturnPath explains that one with:

"The good news is that commercial mailers who apply best practices and pay attention to reputation metrics enjoy delivery rates that are much higher than average. In fact, we found that for commercial email servers, which is a very small subset of the legitimate stream, the average delivery rates were 88% delivered, 9% rejected and .71% filtered. They also had a much lower average complaint rate of 1.1%."

88% is the average "delivery rate" (not necessarily "accepted rate") for commercial emailers who follow best practices. Wow. Of course we’ve got to mention that when you use an email marketing service like MailChimp, or Constant Contact, or MailChimp, or iContact, or MailChimp, you can expect accepted rates in the very high 90’s. It’s our job to keep them high, to get your emails into the inbox.

The second big insight, IMHO, is the fact that sloppy list management (which results in spam trap hits, blacklisting, and unknown users) can drop your delivery rate almost in half, almost instantaneously.

Here are some tips on how to prevent such sloppy list management.

Download the free study from ReturnPath (5-page, 1.4 meg PDF file), memorize it, and use it to convince any stupid managers you’re dealing with to follow email marketing best practices. They’ll like the colorful charts.