5 Misunderstood Email Marketing Terms

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Email marketing has managed to acquire a number of terms over the years which are often misunderstood. Here are 5 key terms and how people misunderstand their real meaning.

5 Misunderstood Email Marketing Terms

Delivery Rate

This is possibly the most meaningless statistic for marketers. Many believe it tells you how many of your emails reach the inbox, but in reality it just tells you how many didn’t bounce. This used to be a good idea of how many emails land in the inbox (well maybe 15 years ago!) but very few junk mail issues now result in a bounce. Look to seed your list with addresses at key email providers to get a better understanding of inbox placement, the more modern term for assessing email deliverability.

Open Rate

So if I send an email to 100,000 email addresses, and 20,000 are tracked as opens then this means 20% of people read it right? Nope. It means 20% of email addresses served the tracking pixel, and indeed, a lot of those would have read and digested the email. Research from Litmus though has shown 50% of opened emails are done so for less than 2 seconds. This has a huge impact on how you go about understanding what an open means, as in many cases it is a simple glance, no content has been digested.
Don’t assume because someone has opened your email that you shouldn’t remind them and repeat that content again as they were not interested.


Relevance is a term intertwined by many with techniques such as personalisation and segmentation. Relevance is the key to maximising your email marketing as it leads to stronger engagement and response rates and leads to lower unsubscribes and general list fatigue.
Just doing personalisation and segmentation doesn’t equate to relevance. Relevance means your message is of interest for a particular individual who receives it – therefore, you need to go a long way beyond basic segmentation techniques that put customers in one of a few still fairly generic pots.

Sender Score

Have you ever referred to your Sender Score? Sender Score is all to do with a company and friend of Emailcenter called Return Path. They operate a free website (and more premium tools) that provide a score (hence the Sender Score) of any IP address that sends email, which gives an indication of how good an email sender it is, and how much spam is sent. There are other tools out there which do something similar such as Reputation Monitor and Senderbase. Whatever your score is, it’s only one metric which doesn’t tell you if you have or have not got issues reaching inboxes.
There is also the Return Path service Sender Score Certified, which, if you pass their exacting standards for data collection and complaint metrics, allows whitelist access to major email providers such as Hotmail and Yahoo.

Multi-variate Testing

Multi-variate testing is not the same as A/B testing. A/B testing is where one element such as a subject line is changed to see what works best. While it is called A/B testing you can have more than an A and a B, but for reliable results, you should change more than type of element across those emails.
Multivariate testing allows you to change many things as any email system capable of multi-vate testing will show you the impact of all of the combinations. So if you have 2 subject lines, 3 different hero messages and 2 styles of call to action that is 12 variants that will get tested (2 x 3 x 2).
This is a crucial definition as many ESP’s will claim MVT capabilities just because they can do A/B testing to more than 2 variants, yet you would have to setup all 12 of these variants manually to achieve this.

About Rupert Adam

Marketing Manager at Emailcenter, the UK's largest independent ESP.