A Case Study: The Path to Email Deliverability Recovery from Google’s Spam Purgatory

January 22, 2024
November 9, 2023
Demand Generation Strategy
Email Deliverability

One of The Yellow House’s clients was experiencing a very low conversion and open rates on their emails. I found this odd. We were doing all the traditional things to ensure that we were not landing in spam filters, but no matter what tweeks we made to the copy, spf/dkim records, NOTHING could help. The confusing part was that we were closely monitoring stats and the delivery rate was high - in the mid to high 90s! But our open rate was averaging 3% and our click to open rate was just over 1%.

This was not acceptable.

When we spoke with our email service provider about deliverability and the potential of a dedicated IP ($$$$), we learned that we may be having a problem with deliverability.

NOTE: Email Delivery and Email Deliverability are NOT the same thing.

GlockApps defines email deliverability as: “the ability to deliver your messages to recipients’ inboxes. Low deliverability results in low open rates, click-through rates, and overall engagement every email marketing campaign needs.”

By comparison, email delivery is just the successful delivery of your email from your ESP to the receiving incoming mail server.

These are very different. Email deliverability provides information on the number of emails that actually make it into the inbox and is influenced by a number of factors. 

Determining Email Deliverability Rate

The first thing to do was establish a benchmark. Using an email deliverability service, I learned that the email placement resulted in 58% in the inbox, 6% in tabs and 35.5% in Spam - and this sender was completely blocked by Google.

At this point, I connected the email provider to Google Postmaster Tools and as you can see, the emails were hitting the Google Spam Filters. When I logged into Google Postmaster Tools, our spam rate looked great with a 0.00% spam rate. Well, this is NOT good. This means that your emails are not even passing the spam filters for recipients to mark the email as spam. You do want to see some activity here on your spam rates. Google Postmaster Tools will also help you monitor your IP reputation, which is really important for the road to recovery after being marked as spam by Google Spam Filters. 

The road to email recovery

The first step was the creation of an email deliverability improvement plan. The goal was simple: To improve email deliverability/sender reputation and therefore improve the conversion rate of all emails.

The plan included some drastic actions such as: 

  1. Immediately suppressing non-engaged accounts
  2. Cutting our send list to trusted recipients
  3. Launching a data quality review
  4. Re-Warming up the IP and domain
  5. Adjusting the sender name

In order to begin the repair, a very tight email schedule was established. This resulted in smaller sends to engaged contacts only, improving open and click-through rates and ultimately showing the ESP that the client was a trusted, reputable sender. We switched out CTAs in emails as well to encourage email replies instead of clickthroughs to landing pages. This does result in lower conversion rates, however it shows the the Email gods at Google and Yahoo that the sender represents real companies and individuals and not spammers.

Challenges: Impact on Demand

Often it is difficult for the clients or executives to think of quality over quantity when it comes to email. This old-fashioned mentality is why we are in this place. The size of your email list is irrelevant. The metrics that matter are the engagement of those on your list. It is much more meaningful to send responsive emails to customer inquiries vs blast emails to a bunch of people who have never opened, clicked or responded to an email. This spammy behavior is exactly how Google and Yahoo will filter messages as spam with the changes to email spam rates in 2024.

In this specific case study, this client decided to take steps to repair their email spam rate beginning in April 2023. The client had a huge 3-part webinar series scheduled for July, August and September and they were very reticent to suppress email addresses that had not been active in the last 3-6 months. To overcome this concern, we employed a complicated send schedule that would slowly warming up the IP resulting in sending waves of emails on different schedules, slowing increasing the engagement threshold for email sends, which subsequently suppressed any non-engaged users.

4 weeks later…

Email deliverability rates drastically improved quickly. I was impressed with the immediate impact these relatively small changes had on deliverability and spam rates.

At 4 weeks post-test, our rates had improved significantly:

Other considerations included looking into a dedicated IP or a trusted IP with our ESP. While there was an additional cost, the fact of sending emails from a guaranteed to not be blacklisted IP address made a huge impact as well.  


  1. Always suppress contacts who have likely reported you as spam. Repeatedly sending emails to those who have reported you as spam makes you look like a spammer, especially to Gmail and Yahoo.
  2. Send emails on a regular basis - random spikes look like spam. This affects your IP sender reputation. 
  3. Ensure you have nurture that starts with an email that sets expectations and send regularly - keep these emails very low design, with one single CTA and appear like a 1:1 email.
  4. Carefully monitor who you are sending emails to on a regular cadence. Ensure that those that are not engaged are removed from bulk sends and try to re-engage them with an automated 1:1, personalized campaign. If not reply, suppress them from sends. 
  5. A smaller, more active email list is more valuable than a large, unengaged list.
  6. Ensure you have a one-click unsubscribe feature enabled in the email header to make it easier for recipients to unsubscribe vs mark you as spam in the email interface

Is your organization experiencing similar issues? Reach out today to book a session to review your email deliverability and sender practices today.

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