Demystifying Email Deliverability

An insider’s tour of Kajabi email from draft to final destination

If you’re struggling with high bounce rates, unresponsive lists, and other email deliverability problems, you might be desperate for answers. The tech jargon coming up on your Google search isn’t helping. And the answer you hear most often might be, “It’s complicated. It depends.”

It’s true. Deliverability and IP reputation can change from day to day or even hour to hour—even when sending emails to the same list on the same platform. There’s no silver bullet to “fix” overall deliverability because Email Service Providers (aka ESPs like Gmail and Outlook) are constantly changing the rules for what gets delivered and what skips the inbox.

Even your niche itself, along with your products or services, could affect your email marketing deliverability.

What happens in Kajabi Email after you click “send right now” or schedule a specific send time?

A series of interrelated events—some out of your control, some out of Kajabi’s control. 

We’ll walk you through the journey of an email in Kajabi: from the moment you draft your email, to the moment it reaches your recipient’s inbox (if it does). 

Consider this post a guided tour. Whenever a milestone is worth exploring, we’ll get out of the bus together. Otherwise, we’ll point it out and keep going. 

And the journey begins.

1. You draft the email.

Using the new Kajabi Email editor, you control the design and text of the subject line, preview text, and body. Because subject lines and body content can affect deliverability, our smart system is evaluating both:

  • Our email subject line validation is checking for potential spam triggers as you’re typing. If it detects a trigger, it will suggest exactly what to fix. 
  • Our backend email spam service is evaluating your body content before sending. Any content that’s especially egregious gets flagged and rejected from being sent. This happens very rarely.

2. You choose the audience you intend to receive your email.

In the ideal scenario, you’re sending emails only to the people who interact with them. The more your recipients open, click, reply, and forward your emails, the more solid your reputation will be.

Email list hygiene is all about maintaining a clean, high-quality list proactively. You can use Kajabi capabilities like requiring a double opt-in or, as well as unsubscribing and removing inactive contacts and emails that are permanently bouncing. (Your email automatically includes an opt-out to comply with anti-spam laws.)

We’re developing capabilities like email address validation that will automate more of these cleanup tactics. (Stay tuned, more to come!)

3. You click the send or schedule button, which triggers a chain of events that’s seemingly invisible. 

This includes packaging up your message and recipient list so it can be processed by Kajabi’s servers.

4. Kajabi hands off your email to our email delivery platform.

Our email delivery platform’s cloud-based infrastructure scales with growing businesses, and stands out from other ESPs because it’s state-of-the-art. More than 150,000 companies worldwide—including Shopify, Slack, and Lyft—use our email delivery platform.

5. Kajabi divides email broadcasts into batches to optimize efficiency. 

Using our Lightning Broadcast technology, Kajabi splits emails going to big recipient lists into separate chunks of 1000 recipients each. This helps rapidly speed up email delivery to our email delivery platform.

6. Kajabi’s email delivery platform devises a plan to send the email using sophisticated technology.

Sophisticated technologies execute email delivery processes in ways that aren’t always clear-cut. The best way to describe these protocols is a pot bubbling with different ingredients. At Kajabi, we’re working on implementing certain protocols like inbox placement, send time optimization, and various ways to warm up IP addresses. These protocols are constantly analyzing emails and how to place them in inboxes at optimal times.

Email throttling within our email delivery platform controls the amount of emails sent to one ISP or remote server at one time. Without mechanisms to control how quickly emails get released, the emails are more likely to be flagged as spam.

Suppression lists are one of those many processes. Let’s say a recipient's address is invalid, either because the domain name is incorrect, isn't real, or the recipient is unknown. The email will hard bounce every single time. Our email delivery platform will filter out those emails automatically by putting them on a suppression list, so it doesn’t move further down the line.

7. Our email delivery platform sends out the email via one of Kajabi’s dedicated IP addresses.

At this point, we’re at a bridge that connects the email message en route, the sending domain, and the sending IP address. Typically, Kajabi determines two things: the sending domain and IP address. 

All Kajabi customers get the benefit of reputable shared domains and shared IPs. If you’re a new business or don’t send high-volumes frequently, you can leverage Kajabi’s elevated sender reputation. 

For the high-volume, high-frequency senders with high engagement rates and low bounce rates, Kajabi is exploring the possibility of offering additional premium features, such as dedicated IP addresses and custom sending domains. A dedicated IP address would provide greater control over one’s IP reputation, although it would require much more proactive management than a shared IP. 

Stay tuned for future updates as Kajabi continues expanding its email capabilities.

8. The email goes to the recipient’s email service provider (ESP).

Keep in mind, your email broadcast will likely go to a handful or a dozen different ESPs depending on your list, e.g. Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and other providers.

9. Spam detection systems work their magic.

Every ESP has its own proprietary algorithm that’s constantly analyzing incoming emails. Neverending changes to these search algorithms are inevitable as spammers discover loopholes and slip through spam filters. 

At this stage, Kajabi and its users don’t have much visibility of the ins and outs. We know that IP reputation plays a major role in the algorithm. But we’re all in the dark about how each ESP evaluates content, historical patterns, and other technical details. 

Consider the practically unlimited details about email that an ESP could potentially assess:

  • the ratio of images versus text
  • previous engagement between the sender and specific recipient   
  • overall engagement from all recipients 
  • the “reply to” address and how it relates to the source domain
  • historical sending patterns
  • IP/domain reputation

The spam detection systems’ complex analyses tie back to the protocols that our email delivery platform provides for Kajabi: how much we're sending, how often we're sending, the consistency of sending, and more. 

Here’s a quick roundup of the security checks to help ensure the sender is who they claim to be:

  • SPF. Sender Policy Framework checks the DNS record and prevents unauthorized sources from sending emails from your domain. 
  • DKIM. DomainKeys Identified Mail uses public-key cryptography. 
  • DMARC. Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance tells the receiver what to do if an email does not pass SPF or DKIM authentication. 

10. Each ESP handles spam differently.

One provider might hold spam in a junk mail folder. Another provider might give the message a spam header. And yet another provider might allow the recipient to block individual email addresses entirely. In that scenario, all future emails from that sender would skip the inbox completely and go straight into the trash bin before the recipient sees it.

11. Native apps respond differently.

Whether your recipient is checking their email through a web browser like Chrome or Safari or a native app like Apple Mail or Microsoft Outlook, the difference poses another variable. Native apps typically perform their own level of spam detection. For example, one native app might consider a message safe if the sender is in the address book, while another app might follow a different rule.

Bounces get automatically reported back to our email delivery platform and Kajabi, and ultimately back to you as the sender.

12. The recipient accesses the inbox.

Assuming the email survives spam detection from the ESP and native app, it lands in the recipient’s inbox. Now your recipient has control. If the subject line is forgettable or undesirable, your recipient is more likely to scroll past or delete it. In that case, the journey ends there. 

On the other hand, let’s say your recipient opens the email. Again, what happens next depends on your recipient. Has your email message aroused curiosity about an offer? Has your email offered an irresistible freebie they can download? Or did something in the email annoy them enough to unsubscribe? However your recipient responds, that data makes its way back to our email delivery platform and Kajabi, and ultimately, back to you as the sender. 

And finally, the email’s journey comes to an end. 

Deliverability is complicated, but there are still some things you can do to improve it

As complex as the process may seem, the journey no longer needs to be a total black box. Some variables may be out of your control, but the more informed you are, the smarter decisions you’ll make.

Even though several factors that go into email deliverability are outside of your (and our) control, there are still some things you can do to ensure as many emails sent through Kajabi get delivered as possible. 

What’s the No. 1 thing you should do to improve email deliverability?

Clean up your email list. Contacts who don’t engage with your emails risk your ability to reach everyone else. 

Repeat after me: I will clean up my email list.

If you’re looking for more of a list of dos and don’ts of email marketing in Kajabi Email, go to our Email Best Practices

For more specifics about Kajabi Email, check out:

Upgraded Kajabi Email: Your Questions, Answered!

Kajabi Email Deep Dive Training