Email Experts Series: Ways to Monitor Inbox Placement

Where are your emails going? We’d all love to assume they’re hitting the inbox of our subscribers, but as we know, that’s not always the case. That’s why we’ve developed our entire suite of tools! But why is it so important to keep an eye on your inbox placement rates? How best do you get the right impression of how your email is performing, starting with where your mail is landing?

Our next video in our Email Experts Series video touches on this exact topic, helping marketers contextualize inbox placement, what it means, and how it affects the success of your email campaigns. Tune in below to hear Anthony Chiulli, director of product marketing, and Sloan Simmons and Sridhar Chandran, solution architects, share their perspectives.

(We’ve found key timestamps and transcribed this video below.)

Total Run Time: 15 minutes
00:43 – Why measuring inbox placement performance is important
1:45 – Differences between delivery rates and inbox placement rates
4:00 – How inbox placement can impact revenue; you can’t measure what you can’t see
5:45 – Evolution in inbox placement algorithms and filtering technology
7:28 – How marketers can use tools and data to effectively measure inbox placement
11:00 – Understanding why Gmail’s Tabs are all considered the “Inbox”
13:10 – Closing thoughts: Ways to measure inbox placement, why it is important, and ramifications of limited visibility

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Anthony Chiulli
Hi everyone. I’m Anthony Chiulli, and I’m really excited about today’s topic. We’re going to be discussing ways to monitor inbox placement and why it’s important. And joining me today are my colleagues Sri and Sloan Simmons. And this is something that I think is primitive to anyone involved in deliverability about the importance of monitoring inbox placement. But there’s some nuances that I think are helpful to understand, and differences in the ways that you can actually do that, the pros and cons with different metrics that help you measure inbox placement, and why it is so important, to reiterate. So Sloan, maybe just to kick us off, just in general for marketers, why measure inbox placement? Why is it something that is important as a KPI for marketers to pay attention to?

Sloan Simmons
Yeah. So inbox placement, in many ways, is directly correlated to open rates which is one of the major KPIs of email deliverability in general. So when you have some kind of, not necessarily one-to-one correlation, but a way that you can visually reference where your mail is landing, you can get an idea of, well, if something didn’t specifically not make it, where did it go? Can I tailor my mail to get to a specific location so that it can get in front of people? So it’s an open-driver. It’s an engagement driver. It helps with your opens, helps with your clicks, which ultimately helps your business.

And to clarify, reporting inbox placement isn’t a statistic that ESPs offer. There’s limited ways in which they can measure that. And so Sri, can you talk about kind of the differences between what we call deliverability or inbox placement and delivery, and why that’s important to understand for marketers?

Sridhar Chandran
Sure. So just coming from the background of a mailbox provider, I always thought that all the marketers had the same kind of visibility that a mailbox provider has. But what I realized is most of them know what your delivery rates. So you send a bunch of emails, how many bounced, how many actually got a 250ok, and so on. But actually, the devil is in the details. It’s the last mile deliverability that matters. So that’s where we need to start using a bunch of tools where we get to know, hey, did the mail actually go to inbox or the spam folder, or did it just go to black hole? So one of the major ticket drivers for us was we usually get a lot of tickets where people used to say, “Hey, my spam complaint percentage is about 0.4%, but still I’m getting throttled. What’s reason?” But when we look into our tools, we see that the spam complaint percentage is around 5%. So what they don’t understand is that the mails have got delivered, that they go to the inbox or that they go to the spam folder? And that’s what I think the tool, the seedlist testing and so on, they’re trying to give that kind of visibility to the user saying that, “Hey, just getting delivered does not mean that your mails are going to get any eyeballs.”

That’s a really strong point. So you were asking about the difference between delivery and— sure, you can create math and have a concrete answer, is your mail delivered? Did it deliver? But the deliverability are those details where you’re looking for what’s the likelihood that this is going to make it in front of somebody? What’s the likelihood that somebody’s going to interact with it? What’s the likelihood that it’s not going to make it to the inbox based on something that I did or make it to a subscriber based on what I did or how I collected, or anything like that? So inbox is really focused, and monitoring inbox is really focused on that deliverability aspect to give you those details.

One of the things that I’ll add, that I think is the universal language for many senders, is revenue and money. And usually, in my experience, measuring inbox placement isn’t really something that is a priority until it becomes a priority. And if there’s any brands that have encountered deliverability issues or inbox placement challenges, whether it be Gmail or another major mailbox provider, not only is it going to hurt open rates and engagement, but at the end of the day, that’s lost revenue. That’s an opportunity missed by a mail not having the chance to land in the inbox. And so, oftentimes, it boils down to you can’t measure what you can’t see. And that’s why having a tool like 250ok, or other means, to monitor and track inbox placement is crucial for any marketer, just like it is paying attention to open rates, to clicks, to conversions, to site traffic, it should be a KPI that marketers certainly take onus of and something that they should be paying attention to, ongoing.

Yep. I mean, we don’t have enough data visibility. And it’s not helping us that a lot of these inbox providers do not provide us a lot of data regarding opens and so on. If you know, Gmail just caches the images, so you have a hard luck over there. Yahoo does the same. So the importance of just having multiple tools that you can just—or a tool where you get multiple data sources fed-in, and looking at that kind of information, I think that’s the trend that we’re going towards, and that’s what we’re going to see in the future.

Yeah. So let’s shift gears and talk about—because I think it’s really important to understand, on this topic of measuring inbox placement, there’s been an evolution in the way that not only the mailbox providers have evolved over the past decade, but also, the means and the channels, or the methods that marketers can actually measure inbox placement. Sri, can you help me understand what some of the ways of monitoring inbox placement are and how they have come about due to the evolution of measuring and monitoring deliverability?

Sure. So as you’ve rightly said, most of mailbox providers, were looking hard at IP reputation because that was very good signal for them, and that was the easy way to go ahead and start filtering messages at scale. But they realized that—I think it was IPv6 which prompted Gmail to just go ahead with the domain reputation. But now, just with a lot of vanity domains in the wild now, there’s a lot of this-that, and with spammers figuring out that they can just go ahead and snowshoe whatever they want to sell, it’s changed a lot. And now we have to—that’s where it’s very interesting that we have data coming in through, say, SNDS or Google Postmaster Tools, which is mostly played to the domain-based reputation. So it’s good that we have that kind of information. And just feeding that data into the seedlist resource that we get, I think that’s pieces of the puzzle that you need to fit together to build a picture.

Sloan, what are some of the ways that marketers can actually, physically keep tabs and measure inbox placement?

Sure. So there’s a couple of things here. And one, I want to talk about what Sri just mentioned, which is the external tools that are just cropping up. Well, SNDS isn’t super new but it is something that more and more people are paying attention to. Because of things like inbox placement that gives you another data point to be able to reference where somebody is telling you your reputation associated with this which is going to directly impact your engagement. Engagement is a lot of the ways that you can utilize your ESP or whatever your sending platform is. So usually, with your sending platform, you have open rates, you have clicks, you have all the engagement that is associated with that. Bounce messaging is really important for being able to identify if something is happening from the mailbox provider level, in case something might be causing a dip in open rates, maybe you’re seeing a rise in deferrals or a rise in what may be an IP block, or something like that. So these are the indicators that you get, with your engagement, from your sending platform. Something like 250ok offers you an additional layer much like these other tools, like SNDS and Postmaster, on building a reputation associated with that. Deliverability is all focused on, what is your reputation? How have you treated your domain or domains to build that lasing reputation and trust between mailbox providers and you as a business? So when you send out seeds, you’re getting a control. Or with 250ok, you can actually weight the seedlist to associate to your brand that you’re sending across or the segmentation that you’re using. You can weight the seedlist to associate closer the results and get an idea of how is this look from an inboxing perspective and spam perspective versus what my open rates are. Am I going to the spam box more on this group of addresses and noticing a decline in my open rates? Maybe, I’m seeing a rise in my deferral rates at the same time. Well, now you’ve used these two different tools to create a story and go try and solve an issue.

Yep. Yep. Yeah. Just to add on, when people have problems, say your delivery dips on a particular day, when you have the visibility to the data that, hey, can I go ahead and check what was the spam complaint rate the previous week? What was my bounce rate the previous week? And then we have data from SNDS and GPT just fed-in. With this kind of information, you can go ahead and just check how your deliverability is going to be for the next one week. So it’s very important nowadays that you need to go ahead and adjust the volumes. You can not just keep on sending the same type of volume throughout the month or the year. You need to just get feedback from these ISPs and you need to either throttle your email or decide if you want to do some kind of send-time optimization or something like that, and need to evolve as a marketer.

So I think one of the really cool things about seedlist testing from that perspective is, you’re not just reactionary anymore. You don’t have to just react to if all of a sudden you see a bunch of bounces. Working with seedlist testing gives you that second set of data where you can start planning your own impacts that are going to happen, whether positive or negative.

What are some of the newer methods and ways that have cropped up over the past few years and ways to measure inbox placement?

Want to take it? Because yeah, I can just go in there.

Yeah. So, I mean, there’s a few different ways that people are measuring inbox. Gmail, is a really good one. We talk all the time about how Gmail split inbox and now has a variety of tabs format. So I’ll use 250ok as an example, again, where you can see where you’re landing in the specific tab. And according to Gmail from a technical perspective, all these tabs, if it doesn’t say spam, it’s still part of the inbox. So if you’re landing in updates, if you’re landing in promotions, if you’re landing in forums, if you’re one of the people that uses forums, those are still all part of the inbox. And you can start measuring the impact across the board for how people are reacting to your mail from these new tab formats as opposed to having everything located in the one spot.

Yeah. I can’t harp on the importance. I mean, I’ve heard a lot of people just saying that, “Hey, I landed in promotions. I should be landing in the inbox.” But from an end-user perspective, it’s much more worse that if you’re a promotional email and you go to the inbox, because the chances of you getting marked as spam are much more higher and—yep.

So there is a few different ways that are coming out, additionally. And I don’t think that every way is created equal. So there’s automated seedlisting, or a smart-seedlisting which will reenact engagement and then focus around there, which is similar to the concept of weighting, but you’re not creating the parameters specifically around that. So you have a less control over that. So it can give you data. It can give you information. But it might not give you the targeted information that you’re looking for. But it is another option that’s out there as well.

Yeah. And I think it’s important to actually have options. And I think no matter what, what I would be remiss to not mention is there’s no foolproof way to know exactly without a shadow of a doubt your true inbox placement. Because that data isn’t shared by mailbox providers. So—

Wouldn’t that be great?

Wouldn’t that? What that leaves us with, as an email ecosystem, is various different ways to get as accurate and as honest feedback about your performance through the variety of means and channels that you’ve mentioned. So I think, again, for a marketer that may be new to deliverability or perhaps inbox placement isn’t something that their currently monitoring, I think the information that you’ve both shared today has been extremely valuable, and educating brands and senders about the different ways of measuring inbox placement not only why it’s important but also the ramifications of flying blind, right? Visibility matters, and if your mail’s not reaching the inbox, it can have not only severe implications to engagement and your audience, but also your bottom line. So thank you guys so much. I hope this was helpful for you all tuning in, and we will see you on another 250ok experts series video.

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