Opens, Clicks, Junks, and Blocks in the Third Age of Email Deliverability

View all of Chad's MediaPost columnsIn the First Age of Email Deliverability, there were no rules and few if any consequences for bad behavior. In the Second Age, ISPs armed their users with “report spam” and “junk” buttons and senders that received too many spam complaints had their emails junked or blocked.

In the Third Age, which we are in now, ISPs also factor engagement metrics into their filtering decisions and make those decisions on the individual level as well as on a global level. These changes mean email subscribers not only have to tolerate marketers’ emails, but have to at least occasionally engage with them. That in turn means marketers can’t bloat their email lists with inactive subscribers to lower their spam complaint rates. In the Third Age of Email Marketing, the need for list quality keeps list size ambitions in check.

However, an ISP panel at the Email Evolution Conference in Miami earlier this month seems to have muddied the water on whether email engagement affects junking and blocking. The two quasi-revelations from the panel—which included representatives from Gmail,, AOL, and Comcast—were that:

  1. Clicks don’t affect deliverability.
  2. Only spam complaints factor into blocking decisions at

While not news to those in the deliverability community, these two things surprised many and caused some to question the recent emphasis that’s been placed on engagement metrics. Don’t be confused. Here’s why you should still be concerned about engagement and inactive subscribers…

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