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Feature updates: This video mentions that Ontraport offers seedlist testing. We no longer offer this service and recommend using a third party for this purpose.

For better deliverability, send email from a custom domain. Use Ontraport’s Custom Domains feature to quickly and easily set up and manage your custom domains. Learn more

HomeOntraport for marketingMessages > Email deliverability tips
Home > Messages  >  Email deliverability tips
Email deliverability tips
There are five things that determine which emails get trashed and which make it into the inbox. Learn how your email content, sender address, IP address and more can influence where your emails end up.
You'll learn:
  • How email content affects email deliverability
  • The impact of email engagement
  • The value of sending emails from a custom domain
  • Setting up a custom Envelope Sending Domain
  • How an IP address can impact delivery
  • Extra resources to improve email deliverability
Sam Flegal
Email deliverability tips
There are five things that determine which emails get trashed and which make it into the inbox. Learn how your email content, sender address, IP address and more can influence where your emails end up.
You'll learn:
  • How email content affects email deliverability
  • The impact of email engagement
  • The value of sending emails from a custom domain
  • Setting up a custom Envelope Sending Domain
  • How an IP address can impact delivery
  • Extra resources to improve email deliverability
Course Instructor
Sam Flegal
Related resources
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In this video, I’m going to explain how inbox providers decide which emails to trash and which to put in the inbox. 

If you use email to communicate with prospects or customers, you’ve probably run into email deliverability issues at some point — and it can be frustrating. But if you know exactly what inbox providers are looking for, it’s a lot easier to look more like “good” sender and less like “bad” one.

It turns out there are only 5 things that inbox providers can look at to judge your email and determine where it ends up. We call these 5 things your reputation chain. They are:

  1. The content within your emails, including the domains you promote
  2. How much your recipients have engaged with your emails in the past
  3. The email address you’re mailing from
  4. The domain that’s sending your email (Ideally, you’ll set up a custom Return Path for this. We’ll cover that in more detail later.) 
  5. Your IP address

These are the five factors that inbox providers use to determine whether your emails should land in the inbox or in the spam folder. I’m going to walk through each one and explain what you can do to ensure your emails look like the good kind and get delivered as planned. At the end, I’ll let you know where to get personalized support for all this if you have any questions. 

Ok, here we go.

Let’s begin with the first link in your reputation chain: your email content and promoted domains.

This is referring to all the words and links you include in the body of your email, and it’s one of the most straightforward ways to boost your deliverability.

It’s pretty easy for inbox providers to decide that certain types of email content are likely spam — for example, topics like losing weight and making money. This makes it hard for legitimate folks in those kinds of industries to get good delivery, but that’s just the reality. Try to figure out ways to talk about your subject without suspicious language in your emails — and keep that stuff on your website instead.

So obviously, the words in your emails count — but that’s just one part of your email content.

Here’s the important part: The URLs you promote, or link to, will carry their own reputations. That means that if you send an email with a link that spammy emails have also used in the past, inbox providers will probably consider your email to be spammy too — even though those other emails were sent by other people.

That’s why, for example, affiliate marketing can be so tricky. Let’s say you have a network of affiliate partners, each promoting your URL to their own list. It only takes ONE sender with bad mailing practices to snag the attention of inbox providers and get marked as spam — then, everyone else’s emails with that same URL can end up in the spam folder, too. Not ideal.

But, now that you know all this, you can tweak your email content to avoid running into these kinds of issues. We recommend following these 10 tips:

1. First, always include a plain text version of your email. Sometimes, spam blockers will block your email from the inbox if the plain text and designed versions of the message don’t match. This is automatic using our simple or quickmail editors, but with ontramail and html emails, you can control the text content separately. We make it easy, though: simply click this “Copy from HTML” button after creating a message.

2. You’ll also want to make sure that every link in your message is either hyperlinked text or connected to a button — not pasted in as a raw URL. Spammers have been known to hyperlink their spammy websites behind a URL that seems harmless at first glance, so inbox providers tend to peg email with raw links as bad mail nowadays.

3. You can still promote legitimate URLs as hyperlinks or buttons. But if you do, don’t repeat the link more than twice in one message.

4. It’s best to keep your formatting consistent through your email as well. In other words, don’t switch between bold, underlined and normal text a lot, because inconsistent style is typically marked as spam, too.

5. Even though it can be tempting, don’t use swipe copy in your emails! Swipe copy is sample copy written for advertising and sales letters that spammers copy and paste word-for-word. Once they’ve done that, they’ve ruined the reputation of that specific copy. So, play it safe, and write your own emails.

6. You may use URL shorteners for social media, but don’t use them in your emails since a lot of spammers do this and those domains carry a reputation, and it’s usually not good.

7. If you’re using images, make sure you have a good ratio of 20% images and 80% text in your emails. Since spammers like to hide their links in images, spam filters tend to block image-only emails.

8. You’ll want to make sure your emails contain at least 500 characters to avoid looking like a typical spam email, which often includes just a few sentences and a link.

9. When writing your subject lines and preheaders, don’t use spam-triggering words. Some are obvious, like “make millions” or a string of dollar signs — but others, like “call now” or “amazing,” might catch the spam filter even if they seem harmless. Moderation is the key here.

10. Once you’ve written your email and followed these tips, test the message before sending it. Just use this “Send Test Email” button in your message editor or create a contact to manually send the email to yourself.

One more thing before we move on: it’s best not to use Ontraport shared domains or any other shared domains in your emails. This includes the tracking URLs that email providers, like Ontraport, use by default to see who’s clicking what.

Instead, use your own custom domain so all the links in your emails are to URLs that you alone control. This is a really important part of owning your own reputation chain, and it’ll come up a few more times throughout this video. We’ve talked about how to set up your custom domain in the Getting Started course, if you need a refresher.

Alright, that’s the first link in your reputation chain! Next, let’s talk about your historic engagement metrics.

Your recipients’ histories of opening, reading and clicking your emails have a major impact on your delivery. To improve this, only send emails that people want to read — and only send those emails to people who want to read them. 

One of the very most important ways to keep engagement high is to always use good list management practices. This means only using permission-based lead generation, and never sending email to anyone who didn’t specifically opt-in to receive it. 

It also means you’ll only want to send high-quality, interesting content. Stop sending emails to people who never engage!  If they don’t want your content; don’t take it too personally. Just remove them from your list and move on. 

There are template automations in the Ontraport marketplace that make it easy to stop sending to unengaged contacts automatically. If you want more details about this, check out our “Email Standards” article in the Support Center.

So that’s how your historic engagement metrics work. Let’s move on to the third link in your chain, your “send-from” address. 

Your send-from address is the email address you choose in the send-from field of each email editor. We don’t allow you to send from a freemail address like Yahoo or Gmail because that’s just a terrible idea, but by default your emails come from our shared domain, like “” Instead, build your own good reputation by sending from your own custom domain.

This way, you’ll have 100% control over your reputation without being affected by everyone else who mails with Ontraport. If you’re sending from a shared domain like “Ontramail,” some inbox providers won’t sift through every email to figure out which ones are yours. Instead, they may lump you in with everyone else and judge everyone’s mailing practices together. Even if you do everything right, that one dude who spams his list with “get rich quick” schemes could mess with your delivery rates.

If, however, you use a custom domain and a unique send-from address, your sender reputation will be based on YOUR mailing practices. No outside influences — it’s all you.

To change your default send-from address in the app, just go to your Administration info, then click here and check out “Email From Address Setup.”

That’s it for your send-from address! Now let’s talk about Return Path and authentication, the fourth link in your reputation chain.

Once you have your send-from address squared away, you’ll want to set up your own custom Envelope Sending Domain, also known as Return Path. This requires a little more set up — you’ll need SPF and DKIM records configured with your domain registrar — but it’s definitely worth it.

Again, this is covered in our ‘setting up your custom domain’ video in the Getting Started course. Make sure to get this step completed!

That leaves us with the fifth and final link in your reputation chain: your IP address.

An IP address is a number assigned to every device that’s connected to the internet. Think about the devices you own: a laptop, smartphone, maybe even a smart TV with internet access. Each of these devices has its own IP address. Our servers that send email also have IP addresses.

Email providers like to look at the sender reputation of each IP address when they pick out good mail from bad mail — so if you share an IP address with senders who have bad mailing practices, that could do some damage to your own deliverability. 

You can use Ontraport’s shared IP addresses, which we monitor carefully. But if you email on a regular basis and send at least 100 thousand emails per year, getting your own IP address and building your own reputation is a great idea.

Keep in mind, if you don’t send a huge volume of mail, you probably won’t need to mess with this — shared IP addresses are fine for most people, and they’re really one of the least-important aspects of your personal reputation chain these days. Don’t worry about this part unless you’ve done the first four things we’ve gone over, and you’re still having issues.

Some final tips: If you qualify for a private IP, contact Support to get the ball rolling. Keep in mind, there’s a one-time $500 setup fee. 

Okay, so you understand the reputation chain. You’ve set up your custom domain, you’re using proper permission-based list management, you’re sending high-quality, relevant emails to people who expect and want to get them, and you’re not sending emails to really old addresses.

And you still think you have a problem.

What do you do now?

Well fortunately, as an Ontraport customer, you have access to our postmaster team. There are a few things we can do for you:

First, we can review everything we just talked about to make sure that what you think is taken care of is actually taken care of. This typically solves 90% of the issues we see. We have a process for going through this with a fine toothed comb, and our postmasters can walk you through that.

If it doesn’t, the next step is to identify if there really is a problem, and if so, where.

In this case, we recommend seedlist testing. We offer this service to clients who are worried about their sending reputation and overall delivery. Here’s how it works:

First, we’ll give you a big list of email addresses to send mail to. Then a third party service goes in and checks where your emails landed — in the inbox, in the spam box, or nowhere at all. This helps us figure out if there’s a serious issue and, if so, where to start fixing it. Ontraport uses a third-party service called 250ok for this. 

If you’re a heavy mailer, it’s a good idea to run a seedlist test every once in a while. It only costs between $10 and $20 to run a test, depending on how many you want to buy up-front.

There you go! Now you know what determines the difference between good mail and bad mail, and you have everything you need to reach more inboxes. For all this stuff — from a delivery review to getting a seedlist test set up — reach out to and we’ll help you out. 

This is our last video about Messages. Up next, we’ll start learning about Automations — one of the most powerful features in Ontraport. 
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