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Are inbox providers and your email recipients giving you positive feedback? Are your emails making it into the inbox as a result of that positive feedback? Or is negative feedback resulting in poor email deliverability? Email performance determines if your emails make it into the inbox or not. It can take extensive research and deliverability knowledge to fully understand the performance of your email deliverability. To help senders better understand their email deliverability performance and where they need to improve, Twilio SendGrid has developed an email performance metric called SendGrid Engagement Quality (SEQ).
The SEQ score was created to reflect changes and the status of a sender’s reputation based on cues from mailbox providers. It carefully weighs the following five metrics to create a composite score: opens, bounces, blocks, spam complaints and engagement recency. After thorough evaluation and rigorous sample set screening, we have found that SEQ score is very effective at identifying what senders need to improve on within their email program practices to have better email deliverability.
Over the coming months, senders will start to see the SEQ more readily available and used throughout SendGrid to talk about email deliverability performance. This score is currently being used to determine pool placement among our shared IP pools. Now we will be making SEQ available via API so anyone can determine their total reputation score and break it down by each individual key metric. Breaking down the score to better understand your five key metrics will indicate where you need to improve for your score to improve.
There are five key metrics that make up the composite score for SEQ.
Engagement recency measures the percentage of unique email addresses a customer has sent emails to in the past 30 days that have also engaged with an email in the past 90 days.
Open tracking and open rates have been the cornerstone of measuring email success for many years. When enabled, open tracking allows customers to infer whether an email has been delivered and opened by a recipient. Recent updates to Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection may have reduced the reliability of open tracking, but we have been able to compensate for this in the SEQ. In this scoring, we are looking at 7-day and 30-day performance. We are also taking into consideration inbox providers with feedback loops and ones without.
Senders with low bounce rates tend to have good data collection and maintenance practices, compared to senders with high bounce rates. Poor acquisition and maintenance practices reduce a sender’s reputation and can lead to deliverability problems for a client’s entire email program. In this scoring, we are looking at the bounce rate by both 30-day and 7-day rates.
We consider one dimension when assessing a sender’s email bounce classification rate: the amount of reputation and content related blocks as a percentage of emails attempted (processed). This rate feeds into the overall SEQ calculation. We currently provide bounce classification back to senders via API. More on that can be found here.
A spam complaint is feedback provided by a mailbox provider, such as Microsoft, that informs SendGrid about a recipient marking an email as either spam or junk. Not all mailbox providers supply this information, and those that do provide the information will only ever supply a small sample of these emails. Despite the small sample size, spam complaints are one of the primary drivers of email deliverability problems. Therefore, this is a vital metric for us to feed into the SEQ.
The spam rate evaluates a “complaint to open rate” over the most recent 7-day period and only for sends from the previous 7-day period. The spam rate then uses that score to contribute to the overall SEQ. This metric also takes into account inbox providers that do or do not have feedback loops. An email cannot be marked as junk/spam when it is already within the junk/spam folder. It’s usually necessary for an email to be open in order for it to be marked as junk/spam
Inbox providers will determine your email’s reputation based upon how well your email is being received by recipients. SEQ looks at the feedback we receive about your email’s performance and provides a score based system to identify areas to improve. It’s good to keep in mind that there are still other factors around email deliverability such as email authentication, domain, and IP age that still need to be considered when looking at email deliverability. SEQ should be used in conjunction with other deliverability metrics.
As email deliverability experts, we encourage you to do more of what recipients are showing you that they like and to decrease negative interactions as much as possible. Focus on sending emails to those who you know are excited about and engaging with your brand in a positive way, such as customers who have shown recent interest through engagement or purchases. This will help influence a positive email reputation and experience. Ultimately, SEQ should be used as a guide on how to improve these positive interactions.
Let’s look at tips to improve each of the five key metrics discussed, and therefore improve your SEQ.
If you are seeing a low engagement recency score, this simply means that you are sending to a larger group of unengaged senders than senders who have engaged with your emails in the last 30 days. In order to improve your engagement recency score, you will need to implement better email sunsetting practices. We know that focusing on sending to those that have recently engaged with your content can result in increased positive reputation and engagement.
If you are seeing a low unique open rate score this indicates that you are either sending too frequently and your recipients are reluctant to open your emails, or they are not seeing them at all. We know that engagement, like opens, drives a positive reputation at inbox providers. In order to improve your unique open rates, you will need to implement a sunset policy that focuses on sending to those you know are opening and engaging with your emails. We recommend never sending marketing emails to recipients past 6 months of no engagement.
A low bounce rate indicates that you are sending to a significant number of addresses that are undeliverable. There are various reasons a message can bounce, and responses provided back from inbox providers can give you insight as to why messages are bouncing. If you have a low bounce rate, the best way to fix it is by implementing better validation practices such as confirmed opt-in. Confirmed opt-ins require people to confirm that they would like to receive further emails from your brand in the future. This helps eliminate errors that can happen in the sign-up process and create a better brand experience for recipients.
If you have a low bounce classification metric, this is an indicator that inbox providers are reluctant to accept your emails due to the nature of your sending. I recommend checking bounce reasons you are seeing to see if the related inbox providers indicate what behaviors you need to change in the responses. It’s likely that if you are seeing reputation related bounce issues you will need to scale back sending to those who are not engaging with your emails along with ensuring you are sending to those who have signed up for your emails. If inbox providers are seeing the negative signals from your sending outweigh the positive, they will start to bounce and block your emails.
A low spam rate indicates that a large number of your recipients are marking your emails as spam. There are a few reasons a recipient will mark your emails as spam: they either do not recognize your brand, or you are sending to them frequently with irrelevant content. You want to ensure that you are sending emails that people love, or it will impact your sending reputation. When improving spam rate, look at what campaigns have recently caused the most spam reports. How was this email list collected? What was the last time those recipients were communicated with? Is the content you are sending useful to this recipient?
Using SEQ as an additional metric in understanding your email performance allows you to also understand where you have room to grow. There are many useful ways to use SEQ beyond understanding your engagement quality. For example, we are currently using SEQ to help power our shared IP pools. SEQ can be useful in grouping like senders, which can also be helpful if you are a sender who sends on behalf of several brands. Low scores can be an indicator of email compliance risks. In these cases, you can use the breakdown of scores to coach you customers on where they need to improve their sending. The use of this metric is not only limited to these use cases, but it should be kept in mind that metrics are only given where senders are using open tracking and have sent at least 1,000 messages in the last 30 days.
If you are looking at your SEQ scores and still want further guidance on how you should better implement best practices, you should consider working with our professional services team. Twilio SendGrid’s email deliverability consultants have the ability to access your entire deliverability performance using SEQ, their extensive knowledge of email deliverability, and more to ensure you have the best deliverability practices possible.
Check out our SEQ user Guide here for more information on how to start using the SEQ API today.