The Importance of User Engagement in Deliverability

Amanda DeLuke

Let’s say you walk to your mailbox and find it bursting with lots of mail. The next logical step would be to sort it out because it’s easier to manage, right?

You separate your mail into bills, magazines, promotions, and letters. However, even though you sorted your mail into separate piles, each one is still important. Anything that you did not classify as junk went into separate piles to be dealt with later.

How nice would it have been to have your mail pre-sorted based on your preferences and interactions with the sender? Well, I think that’s what Gmail’s and Outlook’s approach is and what makes their applications so successful.

I have seen some confusion surrounding mail classification folders and their purpose (specifically Gmail’s “Promotions” tab and Outlook’s “Clutter” folder). These inbox classification folders are not junk folders, but rather a pre-sort method based on the user’s interaction with the sender.

Gmail and Microsoft rely heavily on user engagement to determine whether a message should be considered spam or should be moved to an inbox folder. Mail receivers use data collected from users in order to help determine what is spam and what is not.

The purpose of these additional folders is to make the inbox less cumbersome and therefore easier to manage. Users have control over how their messages are sorted and marketers are more likely to get their messages seen!

What is user engagement?

User engagement is the way in which users interact with messages. Some examples of these interactions are: opens, moving the messages to a folder, “starring” them, classifying as “not spam” or “safe sender,” two-way conversations, and adding the sender’s address to their contact list.

These mechanisms assist the filter’s inbox placement decision-making process, which emphasizes the importance of sending only to engaged recipients.

What can the sender do to make sure mail is filtered properly?

Separate your content using different “from” addresses. Try to keep newsletters, promotional/marketing, and transactional messages separate and use different “from” addresses. (Example:,, etc.).

Make sure to keep the messages and their corresponding “from” addresses consistent to consequently establish proper inbox classification. This could mean the difference between some of your messages being misclassified to all of your messages being misclassified.

What can the recipients do to properly classify your mail?

Recipients should add the sender’s email address to their contact list and then check their spam folders for messages that may have been accidentally misclassified. If users see an email in their spam folder that is legitimate, they should mark it as “Not Spam” and/or move it to the inbox.

User engagement plays a big role in getting messages properly classified and seen by the recipient. As a result, this reinforces the importance for marketers to maintain a highly-engaged list. This means, suppressing invalid recipients, recipients who are not opening, and making sure that subscribers have directly opted in.

Here are more ways to help properly classify your mail:

  • Complete sender authentication (SPF and DKIM).
  • Keep your messages consistent with your “from” address.
  • Send to opted-in and engaged subscribers only.
  • Encourage subscribers to interact with your messages.
  • Ask subscribers to add your email address to their safe senders list to ensure delivery.

Pre-sorted mail based on a recipients’ preferences is a good thing; and, just because your mail does not make it to the primary inbox folder, doesn’t mean your message isn’t important and is not being read.

In the end, high user engagement is imperative to getting emails in the inbox, where they belong. Your revenue depends on it. For more information, check out our complimentary ebook, Deliverability’s Impact on Your Email Marketing ROI.

About the Author
Amanda DeLuke

As a Deliverability Specialist, Amanda helps with client sender reputation, abuse management, and internal deliverability process. When she is not busy at work, she enjoys playing the alto sax, mountain biking, and chasing after her identical twin boys.