153 posts categorized "Deliverability" Feed

New Tool To Check The Deliverability Quality And Authentication Settings Of Your Email Campaigns

Message Systems launched a cool new tool recently, called The Validator.

It's a free web application that enables email senders to test the deliverability quality and authentication settings of their messages prior to sending.

It does this by flagging and identifying issues or failures for the major email authentication and validation schemes used today, including DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance).

The Validator also scans message content for viruses, scans headers, checks for blacklist hits, and performs a series of virus and spam tests. 


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Mind Your Email Reputation, Watch Out For Spam Traps

Having spam traps in your emailing list is a big problem. They damage your email reputation, resulting in your emails getting stuck in spam filters. That’s why, as an email marketer, you should do everything in your power to prevent spam traps from ending up in your databases.

What are spam traps?

Spam traps are seemingly valid email addresses that are created with the sole purpose of identifying spam emails. These addresses are scattered over various locations on the internet, without ever using them to actually send emails.

Should any emails arrive on these addresses, then there is no other explanation possible than being the result of harvesting. Or at least, that is the idea.

So what’s wrong with that idea?

In general? Not much. But there are ways that spam traps can end up on the emailing lists of legitimate email marketers, in the end unjustly landing them on various blacklists.

How does that happen?

For spammers, it is in their interest to damage various blacklists’ credibility by luring legitimate email marketers into a spam trap. So if they get suspicious that certain email addresses are spam traps, they will sign up these addresses up for bona fide emailings. The more often this happens, the less reliable a spam trap becomes, damaging the credibility of the blacklist that resulted out of that trap.

Also, a lot of email providers use invalid email addresses as spam traps. They will then monitor emailings that are sent to addresses that have never existed for example. Or in many cases they even use email addresses that were once valid, but are now expired. So if someone signs up for your emailings and changes his email address after a while, this could lead to you being placed on a blacklist.

What can I do to prevent sending emails to spam traps?

There are a few precautions you can take to prevent spam traps from ending up on your address list:

Make sure that anyone signing up for your emailings is human. You could do so by adding a (re)captcha to your sign up form, or by requiring someone to log in before he can sign up. One of the big issues with this method however is that it annoys a lot of people, raising the bar for someone to sign up.

Double opt in
Double check every opt in for your newsletters by letting someone confirm his subscription by clicking a link in an email (or by sending a reply).

Keep your database clean
Always be sure to maintain a clean database. Don’t limit yourself to only processing opt outs, but also check for bounces that might be the results of expired email addresses.

What it comes down to

In the end, spam traps are not the cause but a symptom of the problem. An email list filled with spam traps is a sign of a corrupted database. Always be careful when gathering opt ins, and make sure to keep a clean database.


Profielfoto-MichaelMichael Linthorst (1976) is an internet entrepreneur and CEO of Copernica Marketing Software. 10 years ago Michael set up Copernica together with his business partner. Copernica is now one of the most powerful email service providers in Europe. It provides marketing software which enables its users to single-handedly set up (automated) campaigns using emailmobileweb pagessocial media or print.

Next to full-time entrepreneur, Michael is also an avid blogger on subjects such as email marketing, database marketing and eCommerce.


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Monitoring deliverability problems: advice from a deliverability guru

In an interview with Direct Mag, email deliverability guru Laura Atkins provides these tips on how to monitor email deliverability:

  1. Sign up for Feedback Loops (here's a current list of available FBLs). For small senders, the FBL may be able to be processed by hand. Medium-size senders may need to develop some tools for processing ARF messages.

  2. Check free reputation monitoring sites such as Sender Score and SenderBase to identify if there are any reputation problems.

  3. Monitor delivery logs to identify if any ISP is blocking outright [5xx responses]. This will also show rate limiting [4xx responses], which often is the first sign of a problem at a specific ISP.

  4. Set up dedicated accounts at major ISPs—Yahoo!, AOL, Gmail, and Hotmail—and add those accounts to every mailing. You can also talk to employees and determine if they have accounts at some of the for-pay ISPs and would be willing to designate one of their e-mail addresses for business use.

  5. If the senders continue to have problems they can either hire a consultant to help them identify underlying issues causing delivery problems or go to a certification service.

I highly recommend reading the entire interview here.

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Stuff you should read

Do you track your opt-in data?
"Surprisingly, I'm finding that many marketing managers aren't tracking this. This is sad, because sometimes this data is the last line of defense against you getting sanctioned over allegations of sending spam. When an ISP, ESP, or recipient asks for proof that a recipient opted-in to your email, they're asking for those exact details."

Four odd email ideas that (maybe) make sense
Mark Brownlow shares four email marketing concepts that seem wrong but might be right.

Three more odd email ideas that (maybe) make sense
And the list continues: poor open rates are a good thing, good responses don't indicate success, and delivering value is a bad idea.

You Need to Have a Privacy Policy 
When I reach out to ISP’s to resolve delivery issues, one of the items they almost always require is that email marketers have a clear and detailed privacy policy.

Let Your Subscribers Tell if the Email is Relevant 
Don't know if your subscribers find your emails relevant? Just ask them!

Link Tracking - Profiles Drive Greater E-mail Relevance
Stefan Pollard "The following two tactics will help you collect data at different points in the customer or subscriber relationship. There are more, of course, but these two work for me time and time again."

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Great email marketing advice from Stephanie Miller

In this 5-minute video, Stephanie Miller shares what she's learned at the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Summit last January. Some great take-aways here, so make sure you watch the video:

As you might know, Stephanie Miller will be a speaker at a webinar that I'm hosting next Tuesday. In this webinar she'll talk about why your campaigns are not reaching the inbox and what you can do to solve that. Don't worry, it won't be a pitch to become a Return Path customer, I'll make sure of that! ;-) More info here.

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Myth: Sender reputation is irrelevant for B2B marketers.

According to George Bilbrey and Stephanie Miller: 

It's actually more important. Many corporate system administrators use the same types of data as Yahoo, Hotmail and other leading ISPs do -- and in many cases, their standards are even tougher.

The reality is that B2B marketers have to work twice as hard as B2C marketers because smaller files make each email address that much more valuable.

Layer in the fact that B2B files are comprised of people's work email addresses, which change frequently (unlike in the consumer world, where people keep their email accounts for 5+ years).

Finally, B2B email is about persuading the subscriber to engage with your content over a long period of time in hopes of building a relationship that will lead to a large sale. There is no unquenchable revenue number to mask poor performance in B2B.

Source: Seven Myths And Two Truths About Inbox Placement

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GoodMail to pilot CertifiedEmail at Microsoft

According to a communication that GoodMail sent to their partners, later this month they will start to pilot CertifiedEmail messages at Hotmail, Windows Live and other associated Microsoft domains in North America and in Europe. 

CertifiedEmail messages sent to Microsoft domains will enjoy: 

  1. Assured delivery to the Inbox 
  2. Images always displayed 
  3. Links always active

More about GoodMail here.

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Email marketing and deliverability: an interview with Reputy

"The days that emails were filtered based on content only are long gone. In the war against growing volumes of spam and fraudulent email such as phishing, ISPs and incoming spam filters are continuously using more and more techniques to filter the bad guys from the good guys. Since email is critical for most businesses, getting email into the inbox is valuable. Deliverability is not only an issue for bulk email, such as newsletters and smart campaigns, but also (and maybe even more important) for transactional email like order confirmations. In fact, it is an issue for all outbound emails"
Read the full post here: Email marketing and deliverability: an interview with Reputy.
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Some Good Deliverability Advice from AOL

AOL's Sr. Account Manager AntiSpam Operations Annalivia Ford, posted some good advice for email senders on her blog:
...reputation systems don't care about business models, protestations of opt-in, legitimacy, or urgency. They care about the response generated by a given stream of bulk mail. Whitelisting no longer provides bullet-proof protection from blocks; whitelisting is mostly dynamic and dependent on reputation.

Spam-foldering is also now largely driven by reputation. It's a much more fluid environment, wherein how mail is treated can change by the moment, and in which is it much, much easier to drive reputation down than it is to bring it back up.

Don't worry about what to tell the ISPs. If your mail isn't being treated the way you want it to be, look at the mail! Figure out what is causing the issue, and fix it.
Read the full post here: Polly wants a cracker!.
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Email deliverability: an interview with Return Path’s Mario Marlisa

"Big companies with large lists should focus on devising strong segmentation strategies.  List hygiene is incredibly important: make sure to not only regularly remove bounced email addresses, but also look at who is engaged. If you have subscribers that never open, click or buy your offerings, it may not be worth keeping them on your list? You want a healthy, active file. Check in with your subscribers. Ask them what they like and don’t like and remember to focus on three key factors - permission, engagement and frequency"
Read the entire interview here: Email deliverability: an interview with Return Path’s Mario Marlisa
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Goodmail in my inbox – on unsolicited mail

Alex Schultz, a good friend and ex-colleague of mine posted the following message on his blog:

I am confused. I thought goodmail was meant to fix spam or help it and yet here I have two goodmail certified mails from a company who I did'n’t subscribe to and have no idea who they are.

These are the first two goodmail certified mails I have ever seen.

Here’s a screenshot of his inbox:


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Bounce Codes Now Collected in One Location

eec_logo There are so many bounce codes used by the various ISPs and receivers that it's hard to keep them all straight. Now there is a great resource for most of the known bounce codes to help simplify your tracking and processing.

Thanks primarily to Chris Wheeler of Bronto Software, Jack Sinclair or Return Path and Josh Baer of OtherInbox, the eec’s Deliverability Roundtable has put together a repository of common and available bounce strings senders might see from current ISPs (email receivers).

The forum is setup on Get Satisfaction as a dynamic and interactive site that allows users to request information and update bounce strings as they change. The ISP serving the bounce, the bounce string text and next steps for a sender are written out by bounce code here.

For more information, visit the eec blog.

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Big Reputation Changes Loom: What They Mean to You

In a trend that may dramatically increase some e-mail marketers’ ability to get their e-mail delivered, several household-name inbox providers have reportedly confirmed they are increasingly working toward domain-based reputation monitoring. 

For marketers who don’t send spam, this is great news and a development to be taken advantage of. 

According to e-mail deliverability firm Pivotal Veracity, AOL and Yahoo! are in the midst of implementing domain-based reputation monitoring for mailers that have authenticated their servers using DKIM. 

AOL plans to implement domain-based reputation monitoring sometime between the beginning of October and the end of March, according to Pivotal Veracity. 

Yahoo! will “soon” begin collecting data based on mailers with good existing reputations that are also using the DKIM authentication scheme, according to Pivotal Veracity. 

Microsoft, on the other hand, is implementing a domain-based reputation system for mailers using the Sender ID authentication method—not to be confused with e-mail deliverability firm Return Path’s Sender Score Certified program. 

The information was obtained through interviews with the postmaster teams at the various e-mail inbox providers, according to Pivotal Veracity.

Continue reading here: Big Reputation Changes Loom: What They Mean to You.

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Improving Your Deliverability Rates: Some Hints and Tips from Bob Frady

Here's a few hints/tips from Bob Frady on how to improve your deliverability:
  1. Regularly mail your file - Constant communication with your file is the key to building your reputation at ISPs. 
  2. Aggressively handle opt-outs & bounces - This is probably the single most important thing you can do to improve deliverability.  
  3. Use an ESP 
  4. Clean up your code - It's amazing how many companies still sent crappily-coded HTML to recipients. Stop with the Front Page templates and have a professional review performed. 
  5. Use dedicated IPs. A lot of them. The key is to have a range of IPs that you use - if one gets "blacklisted", then you swap in new and cleaner IPs to get your mail through.  
  6. When in doubt, slow down - Throttling your email sends can help prevent some basic ISP blocks. 
  7. Send a confirmation email - Double-opt in is (usually) overkill, especially for sites where you're not doing much except signing up to get email. That said, it's still a great idea to send a confirmation email to the listed address. 
Read the entire blog post here: Direct Marketing Central: Email Deliverability.

While I agree on point #5, I often come across clients here in Europe that have email lists with only a couple of thousand email addresses at max. In this case, it often doesn't make sense to have their own IP address because they don't send enough volume to ever warm up that IP address - let alone have multiple IP addresses.

Read Jeanne Jennings article on the subject of choosing between a dedicated or shared IP.
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Changes to AOL Bounce Processing

"Last week AOL announced on its postmaster blog changes to the way it will be handling mailer daemon errors. 

What does this mean for large-volume email senders? You should expect to see a change in the From: address, as well as the number of asynchronous bounces you receive from AOL. Asynchronous bounces occur after the SMTP conversation, which means that the ISP accepts the senders' email first and then rejects it later. As a result, the bounce notifications trickle in minutes to days after the initial send in the form of an email. This is different from synchronous bounces, which occur during the SMTP conversation. Most MTAs record those bounces in the form of a log entry."

Continue reading here: Changes to AOL Bounce Processing :: Return Path Blog.

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1 in 5 Commercial Emails Never Reach the Inbox

According to Return Path’s latest Deliverability Benchmark Report, only 79.3% of commercial, permissioned emails reached the inboxes in the United States and Canada during the first half of 2009. With the undelivered email, 3.3% is routed to a "junk" or "bulk" email folder and 17.4% is not delivered at all - with no hard bounce message or other notification of non-delivery.

Some other interesting findings from the study include:

  • The US deliverability rates are slightly better than Canada with an average of 82% inbox placement rate, while Canada's inbox placement rates are lower with just 75% of commercial, permissioned emails reaching consumers' inboxes.
  • Reaching business addresses, which are protected by systems like Postini, Symantec and MessageLabs, is even more difficult: on average only 72.4% of commercial email is delivered to the inbox through these enterprise systems!
  • In the US, the toughest inboxes to reach are those at MSN, Hotmail and Gmail

Read the press release here and download the study here.

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Get Your Recipients To Add You To Their Safe Sender List

In this article, Stefan Pollard explains why it is important to get your recipients to add your email address to their address books or safe sender lists and he shares some best practices on how to get them to do that:

Ask for inclusion at the start.
Don't wait until you begin sending messages. You want to be on that personal whitelist even before you send a confirmation or welcome e-mail. So, make your add-to-sender-list request right on the subscription form. However, you should still repeat your request in your confirmation and welcome e-mails as a reminder to those who overlooked this step or neglected to do it at opt-in. 

Explain why whitelisting benefits the recipient.
Don't expect much action if you simply say, "Add our sending address to your address books or contacts lists." Show them the value of doing so, or what they'll miss if they don't do it. 

Explain that adding your address to the personal whitelist will keep your messages coming. This works, if you make a compelling reason to the recipient that your messages have value. If you simply ask without showing any value, few will respond. 

Add a quarterly whitelisting campaign.
This campaign should remind subscribers to add your address to their sender lists. It's also a great opportunity to test segmenting and targeting of e-mail messages if you are generally a broadcast sender. 

Create segments for low responders -- those who seldom open or click, or recent openers or clickers who have stopped responding. Target those segments with messages that not only spell out the benefit of adding your address to their sender lists but also provide more explicit directions. 

Track actions on these messages. Also, watch your delivery reports to see if delivery and inbox placement improve. 

Include the request in every e-mail, but not necessarily at the top of the message.
In most cases, your preheader line - the first line of copy in the message - should show your call to action or sum up your e-mail contents, because it might be all the reader sees when viewing the message in a preview pane or with images off. Unless, of course, you're sending your quarterly sender-list message. 

However, it definitely belongs in the footer information of every e-mail message, where you include other standing information, such as postal address, contact addresses and phone numbers, etc. Every e-mail should have add-to-sender-list language in the footer. 

Again, don't just ask to be added. Highlight the benefits subscribers will miss if they don't do it. For example: "Don't miss out on future subscriber-only offers. Add Sender@XYZ.com to your address book or contact list." 

Create a reply campaign.
Most e-mail clients will either automatically add your sending address to the sender list if the subscriber sends you e-mail, or it will present the option to add the address. Instead of the lame and off-putting "Do not reply to this e-mail address because we won't read it," turn your reply address into a place subscribers can ask questions, comment on products, or even enter to win prizes.

Read more here

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How to Reduce Your Spam Complaints by 75%

The guys over at StreamSend posted a couple of tips on How To Reduce Your Spam Complaints by 75%. Here's a summary:

If you find that you are getting 1 complaint out of 1,000 emails sent or more, you risk getting your IP address blocked by one or more ISPs.

We have found that customers who place the unsubscribe link at the top of the email often reduces their complaints by about 75%. This can easily make the difference between getting blocked and not getting blocked.

Move the unsubscribe link to the top and make it very visible and very easy to find. You might even want to make the text bigger. Some senders might be concerned that a very easy-to-find unsubscribe link will reduce their list size. The fact is, people who want to get off your list are going to do so either by using the very easy-to-find spam complaint button (which can hurt your delivery) or they will click your very easy-to-find unsubscribe link.

By making your unsubscribe link highly visible, you keep your emails from being blocked from those who really want to receive them.

It might even be a good idea to put the unsubscribe link at the top regardless of your complaint levels. The ISPs have made it extremely easy to complain with a click of a button so you might as well make it easy to unsubscribe.

For some people, the "mark as spam" is the standard way they unsubscribe from lists rather than taking the time to scroll down to the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. If you have low complaint levels now, you could make them even lower.

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