How Email Engagement Boosts Email Deliverability

How Email Engagement Boosts Email Deliverability

You’ve probably heard that email deliverability is crucial in digital marketing, but have you ever wondered what it entails?

Email deliverability isn’t just about sending emails; it’s fundamentally about ensuring your message successfully lands in your recipient’s inbox. Whether your email graces the primary inbox or the promotional tab, or worse, ends up in the dreaded spam folder hinges on several pivotal factors:

  • Spam complaints: When recipients flag your email as “spam.”
  • Bounces: Occurs when sending to invalid or non-existent email addresses.
  • Spam traps: Used by email blocklist providers to catch dubious sending practices.
  • IP address reputation: Reflects the trustworthiness of your IP based on your email activities.
  • Domain Reputation: Similar to IP reputation, but focuses on your email domain’s credibility.

In this blog post, we’re diving deep into the crux of email deliverability: email engagement. Stick with us to unravel the intricacies of email engagement, its pivotal role in deliverability, and practical strategies to enhance it.

What is email engagement?

Email engagement measures how recipients interact with and respond to your emails. It indicates your email’s relevance and appeal to your audience, gauged through actions like opening the email, clicking links within it, and the duration of engagement with the content. Think of it as a barometer of your email’s appeal and relevance to your audience. 

It’s quantified through several key metrics:

  • Email open rate: How often your email is opened in a crowded inbox.
  • Click-through rates (CTR): The number of times your email prompted action, such as clicking on a link.
  • Time spent: The duration your email holds your reader’s attention—a true test of content engagement.
  • Movement actions: Instances when a recipient moves your email from spam or promotions to their primary inbox—a sign of regained trust and interest.
  • Feedback signals: Subscribers marking your message as spam or deleting without opening.

Every interaction, positive or negative, is a piece of the larger puzzle of email engagement:


  • Email opens
  • Email clicks
  • Time spent/high read rate
  • Movement actions
  • Marking ‘not spam’


  • Moving to spam folder
  • Email deletion
  • Inactive subscribers

How email engagement boosts email deliverability

Email has evolved significantly over its 30-year history, transitioning from a basic communication tool to a sophisticated marketing and sales platform. This evolution has impacted how Email Service Providers (ESPs), or Inbox Service Providers (ISPs), assess email deliverability. Common ESPs like Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, iCloud mail, and AOL initially focused on metrics such as spam complaints, bounces, and spam traps to gauge deliverability.

However, ESPs realized that these metrics could be manipulated or, at times, were not accurately reflecting sender behavior. This led to a pivotal change in approach. As email’s role in marketing and sales expanded, the need for a more reliable and comprehensive evaluation system became apparent. Algorithms and machine learning stepped in to fill this gap, providing a data-driven and more objective way to measure email interactions.

ESPs now consider a range of metrics, including sending patterns, email opens, clicks, and the content itself. These factors collectively contribute to what we now understand as ’email engagement.’ This shift marks a move towards a more merit-based system, with email engagement acting as a trust meter. High levels of positive engagement signal to mailbox providers that their customers want to receive the email that you are sending them, which is the ultimate goal. Email engagement helps build IP and domain reputation

Why your email engagement metrics matter

Understanding and prioritizing your email engagement metrics is not just beneficial – it’s essential. Email engagement metrics serve as critical indicators of the effectiveness and health of your email marketing campaigns. They provide valuable insights into how your audience interacts with your emails, shaping strategies that resonate with your subscribers and enhance overall campaign performance.

At its core, email engagement measures your audience’s interest and interaction with your emails. High engagement rates indicate that your content is relevant, compelling, and valuable to your subscribers, fostering a strong connection between your brand and your audience. This connection is crucial for building a loyal customer base and driving conversions. Engaged subscribers are more likely to open your emails, click through to your website, and ultimately make a purchase, increasing the ROI of your email marketing efforts.

Moreover, email engagement metrics play a pivotal role in email deliverability. Email service providers (ESPs) use engagement data to gauge the quality of your email content and the legitimacy of your sending practices. Emails that consistently engage recipients are more likely to land in the primary inbox, avoiding the spam folder altogether. This improved inbox placement ensures your messages are seen and acted upon, amplifying your reach and impact.

By closely monitoring and optimizing your email engagement metrics, you can tailor your content to meet your audience’s specific needs and interests. This personalization leads to more meaningful interactions, fostering a deeper level of trust and loyalty among your subscribers.

What are email engagement metrics?

Email engagement metrics are pivotal indicators measuring interactions within your email marketing campaigns. These metrics provide insights into your subscribers’ behavior. Analyzing these metrics enables you to refine your email templates and content, driving better engagement and conversions in your email subscribers.

Subscribe and unsubscribe rates

Your subscribe rate shows the growth of your email lists, while the unsubscribe rate reveals how many subscribers choose to opt out of your promotional emails. A low unsubscribe rate, paired with a high subscribe rate, signifies that your content meets your audience’s expectations. Keeping these rates balanced is essential for maintaining a healthy, dynamic content strategy that resonates with your audience’s preferences.

Bounce rate

The bounce rate reflects the percentage of your sent emails that fail to be delivered to the recipient’s inbox. This can occur for various reasons, such as invalid email addresses (hard bounce) or temporary issues with the recipient’s server (soft bounce). 

A high bounce rate can negatively impact your sender reputation, as it suggests poor list hygiene or outdated contact information. Regularly cleaning your email list and re-engaging inactive subscribers can help maintain a healthy bounce rate.

Open rate and unique open rate

The open rate, especially the unique open rate, provides insights into how many subscribers are genuinely interested in your emails. The effectiveness of your email subject lines heavily influences this metric. A well-crafted subject line can significantly increase the open rate, indicating the relevance and appeal of your email content to your audience.

Spam rate and complaint rate

High spam rates and complaint rates are red flags, indicating issues in your email engagement strategy. These rates are influenced by how recipients perceive your emails – whether as valuable resources or unsolicited spam. Ensuring your emails provide relevant content and adhere to best marketing practices is crucial to maintaining a positive relationship with your email subscribers.

Click-through rate

The click-through rate (CTR) is a testament to the effectiveness of your email content in motivating subscribers to take action. A robust CTR often results from engaging content, compelling calls-to-action, and personalized email experiences, all of which contribute to a successful email marketing campaign.

4 best practices for generating positive email engagement

Positive email engagement involves various indicators. This encompasses factors such as the number of email opens, a growing email click-through rate (CTR), the action of moving emails from the spam or promotions tab to the primary inbox, a minimal count of spam complaints, a shorter duration of time spent unopened in the recipient’s inbox, and a longer duration of time spent reading the email.

When striving for positive email engagement, consider strategies and practices that align with these key aspects. If you’re striving for positive email engagement, how exactly can you get there?

Let’s take a look at four best practices to generate positive email engagement:

  1. Understand the contact engagement cycle
  2. Segment your list based on engagement
  3. Attempt to re-engage unengaged contacts
  4. Take the engaged approach

1. Understand the contact engagement cycle

The contact engagement cycle is the natural progression of a contact’s interactions with your email content.

The cycle classifies your email contacts into five categories based on when they last interacted with your emails:

  1. Actively engaged (0-30 days since last interaction)
  2. Recently engaged (30-90 days)
  3. Unengaged (3-6 months)
  4. Re-engagement needed (6-12 months)
  5. Inactive (12+ months)

Every contact is different and may go through the cycle faster or slower than another contact. Some contacts will be attentive and eager to open every email you send. Some contacts will sign up and never interact with a single email.

Thinking about contact engagement in phases will give your email program more direction

What does this mean for your email program?

Your contacts’ engagement phase should inform how you email them:

  • Actively engaged: These contacts are your ‘cheerleaders.’ They eagerly await your messages and want to hear from you. These email contacts drive positive engagement, and you should send to them more frequently.
  • Recently engaged: These contacts are still engaged but might be losing interest. Send to them regularly, knowing that some will become ‘cheerleaders,’ and some will phase out.
  • Unengaged: These contacts are unengaged, and you need to rebuild the relationship with them. You can use re-engagement campaigns, coupons, offers, and other strategies to reinvigorate them.
  • Re-engagement needed: Give these contacts a chance to remain on your list, but most likely, they should be removed from your list—their continued lack of engagement can hurt your deliverability. Re-engage these contacts with caution.
  • Inactive: Remove these contacts from your email list. Continued sending to them is dangerous for your deliverability and can be detrimental to your overall deliverability.

The dates above are just one example of an engagement cycle timeline. It’s important to consider the engagement cycle as it pertains to your industry and business model. How often do your customers purchase your product or service?

If you’re selling cars, the chances of selling a car to someone who purchased one a few months ago are low. The chances are much higher if you’re selling cans of cat food.

2. Segment your list based on engagement

Email engagement is about quality, not quantity. Having a small list of highly engaged contacts is better than a large list of unengaged contacts.

How do you know who’s who? Enter segmentation.

Segmentation is the process of grouping your contacts by similar attributes and behaviors. A list of contacts isn’t really one list—it’s made up of smaller, more refined lists. Segmentation makes it possible to identify those smaller lists within your overall list.

Every email service provider has their own naming conventions for segmentation. At ActiveCampaign, we have three different ways to break up your list:

  • Lists: A list is intended to represent a broad spectrum of contacts who have one main interest in common (like “customers”)
  • Tags: Tags organize contacts on a deeper level than lists by highlighting more specific, dynamic characteristics about a contact (like “cat owner” or “customer for 2+ years”)
  • Custom fields: Custom fields are the most targeted and personalized level of segmentation and indicate fixed, unique contact attributes (example: birthday, shirt size, address)

When it comes to email engagement segmentation, it’s best to use tags. Tags reflect a contact’s engagement level at that exact moment, but tags also allow for status changes as a contact goes through the engagement lifecycle.

This ActiveCampaign automation tags your email contacts in real time as they engage with your content. You can import this automation into your ActiveCampaign account for free here.

Segmenting your email list based on engagement tells you where each contact is in their engagement cycle. The segmentation data lets you improve your email engagement and deliverability.

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When used with the automation above, you’ll always be up to date with who your engaged contacts are! This automation is available for free here.


Sending to your active contacts means more positive email engagement and more positive email engagement means improved deliverability. If you want to maintain healthy email inbox placement, message your active audience more frequently and your inactive audience less frequently.

Spend more time focusing on the email contacts who want to hear from you. The best way to know which audience is which is through segmentation.

3. Attempt to re-engage your unengaged contacts

Some of your contacts won’t engage with your emails for 3-6 months or more, and that’s okay. List turnover is natural—it happens every year, and you’re not doing anything wrong if a subsection of your email list isn’t engaging.

In fact, 20-30% of email addresses decay year over year.

I know, you’ve spent a lot of time growing your email list, and you’re emotionally invested. You’d feel better keeping one contact from unsubscribing than gaining one new contact. This is a tendency known as loss aversion, and it’s why you feel so attached to your email contacts.

Give yourself a chance to win back some of your unengaged contacts by sending a re-engagement email campaign. A re-engagement email campaign is a series of emails sent to unengaged or inactive contacts with the goal of getting these contacts to interact with your emails again.

A re-engagement campaign doesn’t always have to be an email series. It could be:

  • An exclusive offer
  • A coupon
  • An “Are you still interested?” email
  • A text message
  • A “We miss you” email
  • A social media message

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box for your unengaged contacts. Try other channels beyond email. Message your unengaged contacts every so often, but only a few times. If it works, great! If they still don’t respond, it’s time to move on.

Continuing to pester your uninterested contacts is a great way to rack up spam complaints and can harm your email deliverability.

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Follow these tips for best results during a re-engagement campaign.

There’s nothing wrong with an unsubscribe — those are way better than a spam complaint. It’s better to experience a dip in the size of your email list than a dip in your overall deliverability health.

Remember, email engagement and deliverability are about quality, not quantity.

4. Take the engaged approach

Taking an engaged approach means actively using the data and tools at your disposal to enhance your email strategy.

This involves:

  • Segmentation: Assess the contact information you have. How did you acquire it? Use this data to segment your audience and send more targeted, relevant emails. Consider how you can segment your contact lists in innovative ways, tailoring your emails to match the diverse needs of your audience segments.
  • Design: Understand how your contacts are viewing your emails. Are they primarily using desktop or mobile devices? Ensure that your email design is optimized for readability across all devices and that each email has a clear message, theme, and call-to-action (CTA).
  • Response: Pay attention to the actions your contacts are taking. Are they opening and clicking through your emails? Use their responses to guide your next steps. If certain emails get more opens and clicks, replicate those elements in future campaigns.
  • Reporting: Keep a close eye on which emails are generating engagement and which aren’t. Use reporting tools to analyze the performance of your emails, identify successful tactics, and understand areas needing improvement.
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An engaged approach to your email strategy is a smart approach.

Being engaged in your email strategy also means being adaptable and responsive to feedback. Continually analyze the data you collect, iterate your strategy based on these insights, and strive to improve your engagement with each campaign. This approach enhances the effectiveness of your emails and ensures that your content remains fresh and aligned with your audience’s evolving preferences.

Tools to boost email engagement

Improving your email engagement can be complex, but thankfully, various tools are available to assist you. At ActiveCampaign, we offer features designed to provide insights into your email performance and help you identify engaged contacts.

These include:

  • Engagement tagging automation recipes: Automatically categorize your contacts based on their interactions, helping you to tailor future communications more effectively.
  • Segmentation: Segment your list to target specific groups within your audience, ensuring your emails are always relevant and engaging.
  • Email automations: Set up automated email campaigns that respond dynamically to your contacts’ behaviors, keeping them engaged over time.
  • Email list clean-up tool: Regularly clean your email list to maintain high deliverability and engagement rates.
  • Dynamic email content: Personalize your email content based on subscriber data to increase relevance and engagement.
  • Contact and lead scoring: Score your contacts based on their interactions to focus your efforts on the most engaged subscribers.
  • Spam check: Ensure your emails are optimized for deliverability and less likely to end up in the spam folder.
  • Email campaign and automation reporting: Track the performance of your campaigns and adjust strategies for maximum engagement.

In addition to our in-house tools, several external tools can further enhance your email engagement:


Emailable is an email verification service that improves deliverability by cleaning your lists and reducing bounces

Emailable is a great tool to optimize your sender domain reputation by maintaining a clean mailing list. Improve your deliverability by up to 99% and reduce bounces by removing invalid and risky emails. Plus, Emailable improves list hygiene by automating the email validation and verification process directly inside your database.

Kickbox is an email address verification service to help eliminate bounces

Improving your email engagement can be streamlined with the help of several tools, each serving a unique function in the email marketing process. Kickbox is a vital tool for larger email lists, offering an email address verification service that helps eliminate bounces. By verifying the email addresses on your list, Kickbox identifies invalid or misformatted addresses, improving your deliverability and ensuring better inbox placement. This service is particularly useful in reclaiming lost opportunities due to sending emails to incorrect addresses.

They offer a free trial period and a competitive pricing structure.

Postmaster by Gmail helps senders understand delivery errors, spam reports, feedback loops, and more.

Another valuable tool is Postmaster by Gmail, which provides senders with insights into delivery errors, spam reports, feedback loops, and more. As a free tool, it allows you to see how Gmail-specific email addresses are reacting to your emails. Given Gmail’s growing user base, understanding your domain health with Gmail’s ESP is crucial. Postmaster categorizes your domain health as Good, Medium, Low, or Bad, offering a clear picture of your standing with one of the world’s largest email service providers.

Postmaster offers a definitive answer to the question:

“Do I have a good domain reputation with Gmail’s ESP?”

Litmus is a paid email service provider offering a host of helpful insights and tools related to email marketing

Litmus stands out as a paid provider offering a host of insights and tools for those looking for comprehensive email marketing services. From campaign development and pre-send testing to insights, analytics, and design insights, Litmus supports the development of engaging email campaigns. It’s an especially useful service for designers, marketers, and agencies looking for premium email solutions.

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G-Lock Software offers a 60 day free trial and several different paid email services and products

Lastly, with its Advanced Email Verifier, G-Lock Software helps maintain a clean email list by removing invalid or incorrect email addresses. This tool plays a crucial role in avoiding bounces and undeliverables, which are known to harm sender reputation with ISP mail servers. G-Lock Software’s focus on list hygiene ensures that your emails reach their intended recipients, thus supporting better email engagement.

“List hygiene plays a role in the delivery race. It is important to maintain a clean mailing list and remove bounced, undeliverable emails because a lot of ISP mail servers have been known to block a sender’s email domain for repeatedly sending messages to non-existing email addresses.

If you are getting too many bounces, undeliverables, complainers, and being blocked as a result, Advanced Email Verifier can help when nothing else will.”

When used effectively, these tools can significantly enhance your email engagement, ensuring that your content not only reaches the inbox but also resonates with and engages your subscribers effectively.

Frequently asked questions

How do you calculate email engagement?

Calculating email engagement requires a deep dive into various metrics that collectively provide insights into how your audience interacts with your emails. A primary aspect to consider is the click-to-open rate, which measures how many people who opened your email clicked a link within it. This metric effectively assesses the relevance and appeal of your content to the audience.

Another crucial metric is the open rate, the percentage of email recipients who open a given email. This can be influenced by factors like the email subject and the time of sending. Additionally, unsubscribe rates play a significant role in calculating engagement. A high unsubscribe rate could indicate that your content is not resonating with your audience or that you’re sending too many types of emails, such as promotional emails or transactional emails.

To get a comprehensive picture, also look at bounce rates (the percentage of emails that couldn’t be delivered) and spam rates. High rates in these areas could indicate issues with your email clients or your email list’s health. Finally, incorporate email engagement rates by measuring the percentage of recipients who interact with your email in any form, including positive and negative interactions.

What is a good email engagement?

A good email engagement rate reflects a healthy relationship between your brand and email subscribers. While benchmarks vary across industries, a few indicators of positive engagement include a high open rate, above-average click-to-open rates, and low unsubscribe and spam complaint rates. For instance, an open rate of over 20% is generally considered good, but this can vary based on the types of emails and industry standards.

Effective use of dynamic content, which tailors the email experience to individual preferences and behaviors, can significantly enhance engagement. Additionally, incorporating elements of Social Proof, like customer testimonials or user-generated content, can improve trust and interest, thereby boosting engagement.

What is a bad email engagement?

Bad email engagement is characterized by low open and click-through rates and high unsubscribe and spam complaint rates. If your emails consistently have an open rate of below 15%, it’s a sign that your subscribers might not find the email subject lines appealing or the content relevant. High unsubscribe rates could indicate that your emails are not aligning with the audience’s expectations or interests.

Poor engagement can also result from not considering the various email clients your audience uses, leading to formatting issues or deliverability problems. Sending too many emails or not offering value in each communication can lead to a crowded inbox effect, where subscribers overlook or delete emails without engaging. A high spam rate, where a significant percentage of recipients mark your email as spam, is a critical indicator of bad engagement and can severely impact your sender reputation.

How can I increase my email open rates?

Increasing your email open rates involves several key strategies. First, craft compelling and personalized subject lines that grab the attention of your subscribers. Use segmentation to send targeted content that aligns with the interests and needs of different audience segments. Test different sending times to find when your audience is most likely to engage. 

Additionally, keep your email list updated to ensure you’re sending emails to active and interested subscribers. ActiveCampaign’s advanced analytics and testing tools can be instrumental in optimizing your open rates.

What role does email design play in engagement?

Email design is crucial in engagement as it affects how subscribers perceive and interact with your content. A well-designed email should be visually appealing, easy to navigate, and mobile-responsive, as a significant percentage of emails are read on mobile devices. It should have a clear and concise message, with a strong call-to-action (CTA) that guides subscribers toward the desired action. 

Using ActiveCampaign’s email design tools, you can create emails that are not only visually engaging but also effectively communicate your message and encourage interaction.

How to boost your email engagement

Email engagement is a pivotal factor in email deliverability and marketing success. Today, inbox service providers are increasingly adopting a holistic, data-centric approach to evaluate email senders, placing greater emphasis on email engagement metrics. This shift signifies the evolving nature of email marketing and underscores the importance of actively engaging your audience.

ActiveCampaign offers features designed to boost your email engagement. With ActiveCampaign, you can leverage advanced segmentation, dynamic email content, and insightful reporting to tailor your emails to your audience’s preferences, fostering a deeper connection with your subscribers.

Plus, our automation capabilities ensure that your engagement efforts are effective and efficient. Whether automating targeted campaigns or streamlining your re-engagement processes, our platform empowers you to maintain high engagement levels with minimal effort.

First-in-class deliverability

If your emails aren’t landing in recipients’ inboxes, your marketing efforts are going to waste. This is why email deliverability is so important. In Emailtooltester’s 2024 deliverability test, ActiveCampaign came first among competitors with an average deliverability rate of 89.6%.

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Average deliverability among the most popular email marketing tools.

Choose a tool that ensures your email efforts don’t go to waste and place your emails at the top of your recipients’ inboxes. Without good deliverability, engagement cannot happen.

Time to act

Email engagement is more than just a metric; it’s a reflection of your brand’s relationship with its audience. By fostering meaningful interactions and using the right tools, such as those offered by ActiveCampaign, you can elevate your email marketing to new heights.

If you’re ready to transform your email marketing and see the power of heightened email engagement, we invite you to explore ActiveCampaign further.

Sign up for a free trial today and experience firsthand how our platform can revolutionize your email engagement strategy.