How Is Engagement Defined?


As we noted in Monday’s blog post, we are kicking off a new series that will cover increasing deliverability rates through engagement. In order to engage your list to augment deliverability and avoid the spam folder, you must first know how Internet Service Providers define “engagement.”  Engagement is merely a breakdown of who opens your messages and how they are interacting with you. Below are a few significant examples of what metrics ISPs use to determine levels of engagement:

Open Rates
Essentially, how many people have opened or viewed your message? Once the email server has identified that the email has been opened, a tag is placed on the message. This not only allows you to know on your end that your message has been read, but it also lets the ISP separate spammers from actual senders. It is assumed that most people won’t intentionally open every spam email they receive, which is a good rule of thumb for the ISP to judge future correspondence from that sender. If most of your messages are deleted by the recipient instantaneously (or even worse, marked as spam), chances are your list won’t be receiving many of your emails in the future. 

Click-Through Rates
If your email includes a link to a website, as it should to direct the reader to more content or your website, the percentage of how many readers clicked the link per each email sent averages out to your click-through rate (CTR). Although you surely were already aware of this and have been monitoring your CTR for as long as you can remember, did you know that ISPs think your CTR is important, as well? A higher CTR is another way of signaling to ISPs that you are a trusted, highly-regarded source – Not only do recipients want the information you send, they further seek out other content you’ve provided.

Built-In Platform Features
Chances are if you’re using a content-rich platform and avoid embedding spam codes, viruses, or buttons, you’re probably a legitimate marketer. ISPs can identify this right off the bat by how your emails “look.” Do you avoid attachments? Are your messages substantive? Do you avoid using copious hot-button spam words like “FREE”? These are ways that ISPs can instantly flag your email according to how they think readers will respond to receiving it. 

Social Sharing
This is a cross-over feature from search engine optimization that rates the relevance of your material according to how it’s being shared and discussed on social networks. With SEO, the more your topic was trending, the more your content’s SEO rank increased. Since it’s highly unlikely that you’d willingly share spam content like “FIND QUICK WAYS TO EARN THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS FROM HOME” in your Facebook status update, ISPs assume if your content is distributed via social channels then it must be worthy.


Since major ISPs and email providers such as AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo! have recently admitted to judging spam and deliverability by engagement, it would behoove you to take a closer look at how you’re approaching your email campaigns: Are your readers interacting with your emails? Have you seen a direct correlation with the content you include and deliverability rates? How can you influence your list to share your content via social media?

Coming up in future posts in the “Deliverability via Engagement” series, we will provide an in-depth look at ways individual ISPs are affecting deliverability and how you can incorporate these changes into your email marketing efforts.


Sarah Zibanejadrad
Inbound Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

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