153 posts categorized "Deliverability" Feed

In the EU You Cannot Filter Email by Inspecting its Content - huh?

Just read this on Terry Zink's blog and thought it was worth re-posting here. Here's what he says:

Some of this stuff I couldn't make up if I tried...

With all the hoopla about the David Ritz case (which I will blog about in a future post), I thought I'd remark about a very strange legal requirement about filtering mail.  As usual, this unreasonable legal requirement only applies to the EU.

In the EU, you cannot filter mail by inspecting its content.

I am not making that up.  When I heard that, I said "Are you serious?  How are you supposed to filter mail?"  For goodness sakes, by definition, email filtering is based upon content inspection.  Apparently, you can only filter mail by doing IP blocking and other high level techniques without actually inspecting the content (I guess also doing SPF checks and whatnot, but I would think you would need some content, namely the MAIL FROM, on which to do that).  Now, spam filtering companies have a provision in that we are doing it on behalf of our customers, that is, we are doing it because they want us to do that.

Now you may say "We are using automated techniques to do spam filtering and there is no manual inspection."  That actually makes it worse.  Using automated techniques to inspect content makes regulators and privacy commissioners feel more uncomfortable about the data is being used, rather than more at ease.  Presumably, their point of view is that an automated technique can be more easily used to harvest and extract information.  They are really big about protecting PII (Personal Identifiable Information) over there.  Too bad they have no clue about the way the email world actually works.

Anyone care to comment on this or share some more insights? This is the first time I've heard about this...

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Several Domains Disabled on the Road Runner Network effective Jan 7

Matt Vernhout reports that he's received several notices today stating that the following domains have been disabled on the Road Runner network effective 1/7/2008, as part of their planned migration announced in 2007:

  • jam.rr.com
  • midsouth.rr.com
  • mn.rr.com
  • se.rr.com
  • sport.rr.com
  • swfla.rr.com
  • ucwphilly.rr.com
  • houston.rr.com

Mail that is being sent to these domain is bouncing as "User Unknown". For the last several months these domains have been forwarding to the users new Comcast address and the users have been reminded by their service provider to give senders their new Comcast address.

Continue reading on Matt's blog to find out what this means for you and what you could/should do and what you should NOT do.

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White-lists: an explanation by Charles Stiles

by Charles Stiles (on the Goodmail blog)

You’ve worked hard to build your distribution lists, you’ve adhered to the best practices in the industry and you’ve done what was asked by mailbox providers but your mail still isn’t reaching the inbox.  This is not an uncommon problem; the typical solution is to be put on a white-list.

Blacklists or block-lists are routinely shared among mailbox providers in an effort to combat spam.  White-lists on the other hand are a guarded secret, holding the identification of those mailers that have received “special permission”.  The special permissions may permit your mail to be delivered, may reduce or eliminate spam filtration on your mail or might simply be providing you with false hope.

Why would mailbox providers provide access to something which was apparently so sacred and so carefully guarded?  Frankly, white-lists are intended to address the shortcomings of spam filtration technology.  Acting in the best interests of their customers, mailbox providers will block spam to enhance the user experience.  Unfortunately, the rules for catching spam also catch some legitimate thus a need for an exemption based system.

Just because you’re on the white-list doesn’t mean your mail is getting delivered

What type of white-lists are you on?

  • Location lists – Used to identify your mail server as a localized to a specific location. Some early spam rules treated mail from outside the continental US as highly suspect and blocked in instances delivered in volume.  White-lists were used to exempt certain foreign IP addresses.

  • General identification – Used to assert an identity and attribute a reputation to it, typically uses IP addresses but could use other authentication technologies such as Sender ID Framework, Domain Keys or cryptographic tokens.

  • URL lists – Used to identify specific URL’s in your message as legitimate and not spoof url’s or otherwise malicious.

  • Domain lists – Used to identify a mailer as a recognized legitimate mailer, widespread use early on but has declined significantly due to bogus DNS records

  • Reputation/Accreditation lists – This list uses some form of authentication (generally the IP address) to identify the mailer and either asserts a reputation for the mailer or an indicator that the mailer has passed some form of accreditation.  Mailbox providers may have an agreement in place with the list provider to provide some privilege.

Clearly, the trend is towards reputation or accreditation lists and the best solutions incorporate both. 

Incorporating an authentication mechanism that is not spoofable with such systems is the best case scenario and forces marketers to be accountable for their online actions not just their brand reputation

What this means for marketers is that the white-lists they once relied upon for getting their email delivered are going to become less effective as mailbox providers transition to reputation based systems.

Source: Goodmail

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Chad's takeaways from the Email Insider Summit

Chad White posted his takeaways from the Email Insider Summit on his excellent blog. Here are some of the highlights:

  • While sender reputation was, of course, much talked about, the newer angle was the effect of content links on deliverability. For instance, Craig Spiezle, director of online trust at Microsoft, said if you create a link to an IP address, [the email] is going to be blocked because that’s a known spammer tactic. “Just like you don’t want to look like a spammer, you don’t want your links to look like a phisher,” he said.
  • Dennis Dayman, director of deliverability, privacy and standards at StrongMail, told the story of a teen furniture and accessories retailer that was getting blocked by MSN/Hotmail because they used “teen” throughout their emails along with other key words that led Microsoft’s systems to suspect that their emails were pedophilia-related. He said it took six to eight weeks before the realized the issue and were able to get it resolved.
  • 8% of email users triage their email with handhelds, deleting spam and unimportant emails so when they get to a computer only the relevant emails remain, according to Daniels.

Continue reading here.

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Content or Reputation: What's More Important?

In his latest blog post, Spencer Kollas says it depends.

"If you have a poor sender reputation it won't matter what your content looks like, because it probably won't get to your customer's inbox. On the other hand, if you have a good reputation, but your content is getting caught by every anti-spam software available, your customer still won't get your message."

Head over to Spencer's brand new blog and read what he recommends us to do.

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Just Meeting CAN-SPAM regulations is No Longer Enough!

A quick tour through the bulk-email or postmaster pages at major ISPs and email providers shows that they have moved beyond technical requirements to specify procedures such as getting explicit permission before sending email, sender authentication and list hygiene.

This confirms that for U.S. senders, just meeting CAN-SPAM regulations for commercial email, such as a working unsubscribe, a street address, and permanent removal within 10 days, is no longer enough.

In this article, Loren McDonald gives 5 examples of best practices that ISPs have codified into requirements and recommendations (which you should interpret as requirements):

1. Use double opt-in subscription
Sure, CAN-SPAM permits opt-out. But everybody else, including European Union countries, mandates a minimum of single opt-in. Yahoo even specifies double opt-in.

From Yahoo's Postmaster page: "Send email to those that want it. … use confirmed, opt-in email lists. To do this, after you receive a subscription request, send a confirmation email to that address which requires some affirmative action before that email address is added to the mailing list."

2. Don't pre-check the subscription box
"Negative consent" works for the Book of the Month Club, but not email marketing. Although CAN-SPAM allows opt-out, it also defines permission as "affirmative consent." In other words, make sure your page loads with an unchecked box. Gmail singles out this practice:

"Each user on your distribution list should opt to receive messages from you in one of the following ways (opt-in):

  • Through an email asking to subscribe to your list.
  • By manually checking a box on a web form, or within a piece of software."

3. Authentication
Do your eyes glaze over when we talk about Sender ID or DKIM? It's time to learn, because ISPs are beginning to insist on it.

From Yahoo: "Use email authentication such as DomainKeys. This will help us show users that the email is legitimately from you, and, if you sign all your email, it will help us point out the forgeries to users too. It will also help us to minimize delivery disruptions when you need to change or add IP addresses."

4. Purchasing lists
Renting a list, especially one that can certify the permission level, is okay. Buying a list is not. If you don't believe me, read what Yahoo and Gmail say.

From Yahoo: "We have found that using bought email lists is the quickest way to ensure that your email will be delivered to the bulk mail folder."

From Gmail: "The following methods of address collection are not considered 'opt-in' and are not recommended:

Using an email address list purchased from a third-party."

5. List hygiene
Why do I urge you to read your delivery reports every time you send email and to remove hard bounces when the law doesn't require it? Besides being a foundation of Deliverability 101, the ISPs say you have to:

From Road Runner: "Organizations must immediately unsubscribe any Road Runner email addresses that receive a permanent failure email bounce from Road Runner's inbound email servers."

Maybe in the past you've brushed aside best-practice discussions by countering that it's just somebody's opinion. But now, the ISPs have raised the bar, and you must jump higher now.

Raising your own standards will pay off, though. Meet the ISPs on their terms, and you should see more email delivered to the inbox, which in turn should improve your outcome, whether you measure it in fewer spam complaints, lower list churn or higher ROI.

Get more information at these ISP Web sites:

Source: Email Insider.

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How To Establish a Reputation on a New IP Address?

Some of the top ISPs are putting new IP addresses with no sending history on a short leash until they can gather enough reputational data to determine how to deliver the email. In order to establish a reputation on a new IP address, you will have to do the following:

   

1. Determine your typical volume. Start small by sending batches of only a few thousand per day. After a week, ramp it up to a few thousand per hour until you are able to send your typical volume of email messages. You can determine these thresholds by using tools like Return Path's Mailbox Monitor and Microsoft's SNDS.    

2. Verify that your MTA is also configured for each ISP connection and throughput settings. Each ISP has their own specific rules on how many connections a sender can have and how many messages you can deliver during a specified time period. If you fail to adhere to them, you risk your mail not being delivered or accepted.    

3. Make sure your new IP is authenticated, whitelisted and set up on all available feedback loops. Continually monitor your mail server's log files to see if ISPs are returning any policy related bounce messages. Also check for complaint rates, spam trap rates and any reputation score changes.

Whether or not you decide to add a new IP address, you may still meet with some resistance. When sending your messages, you may want to consider deploying during "off peak" hours. With the increase in volume at all ISPs this year, more senders will experience the dreaded "too busy, try again later" message. By sending between the hours of 12:00 AM to 5:00 AM, you can avoid some of the gridlock and experience a little less competition for the prime spot in the inbox.

Source: Return Path.

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17 Email Deliverability Tips

Justin gathered some tips for ensuring your email makes it successfully to the inbox:

  1. Join Feedback Loops: Feedback loops allow you to see who is marking your email as spam (so you can remove them). Some ISPs, like AOL, provide an easy way to join the feeback loop. For other ISPs, you may need to contact your email service provider to see if they can provide you with this information.
  2. Remove Inactive Subscribers: Inactive subscribers are most likely to mark your email as junk. Sure, nobody wants to willfully shrink the size of their opt in list, but you have to think long term.
  3. Consistent Timing: ISPs love it when you consistently send email on the same day at near the same time. Since spammers don’t care, consistency is the mark of a responsible email marketer.
  4. Use Consistent From Information: Be sure to always use the same from name and address. Changing the from email will require your subscribers to add each address to their address book in order to ensure deliverability. In addition, a consistent from name helps readers recognize your brand.
  5. Use Double Opt In: Double opt in is a best practice required by many ISPs in order to be considered for white listing. In addition, it protects your database from misspelled email addresses.
  6. Unsubscribe Link at Top: Why at the top? Because if unhappy subscribers can’t find it within a few seconds, they may hit the junk button instead, which damages your rep. Better to lose a subscriber than get a spam complaint.
  7. Static IP Address: If you send marketing emails from your own server, always send from the same IP address. If you use an email service provider, find out if they offer a dedicated IP for an additional charge. If they do, it’s worth it. Like shared webhosts, many ESP’s group many clients under one IP address. In other words, what another company does with their email marketing can affect your deliverability. It’s much easier to manage the reputation of one IP address rather than many.
  8. Reverse DNS: Many ISPs perform a reverse DNS lookup, which checks to make sure the IP you are sending from is authorized to send from your domain.
  9. White List Reminder: Encourage subscribers to add your email address to their address book or white list. Some ISPs look at the number of times you are added to an address book as a sign of trust.
  10. Get Authenticated: Email authentication is confusing as heck. There are a few standards out there that are not necessary competing. The Sender ID Framework uses a simple SPF record with your DNS Zone. Microsoft has a handy Sender ID wizard to help you create this text record for your DNS. In addition to Sender ID, DomainKeys is another popular authentication method. Both methods help to both ensure deliverability and prevent spammers from spoofing with your domain.
  11. Don’t Worry about SPAM Words: Don’t stress about using the word “free” or occasionally putting all caps in the subject. I find these tactics to be successful and have no affect on delivery.
  12. Remove Bounces: Be sure to remove all hard bounces that come back as undeliverable. Repeatedly sending to an invalid email will send off red flags with most internet service providers.
  13. Reply to Challenge Responses: Occasionally, SPAM filtering software will send back a reply to your email asking you to confirm that you are a real person. Invest the 30 seconds or so it takes to do this for each challenge response you receive. Not only will it ensure that this particular recipient receives your message, but it can improve your sender reputation as well.
  14. Be Relevant: Nothing encourages spam complaints more than sending people stuff they didn’t sign up for. If they signed up for a ezine newsletter, and you send them nothing but sales pitches, you’re likely to get complaints.
  15. Send In Spurts: Some ISPs have limits as to how many emails you can send to in a given period of time. If you’re having trouble sending email to a particular ISP such as Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail, see if your email service provider gives you the ability to stage the email over a longer period of time.
  16. Get Off Black Lists: MxToolBox offers a great tool to check if your email server is blacklisted. If it is, begin the process of contacting each of the the black list service and find out the process for getting your IP removed.
  17. Get On White Lists: Achieving white list status with the major ISPs is no small feat. If you’re not up for the challenge, consider uses an email deliverability consulting firm such as Return Path that specializes in this area.

 

Source: Palmer Web Marketing

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Your Recipient's Inbox Is the Hottest Party in Town

In his latest column on ClickZ, Stefan Pollard says:

"Your recipient's inbox is the hottest party in town. You have a legitimate invitation to be there, and the spammers figure they can crash the party by looking like you. Make sure your hosts recognize you so you don't get stuck on the wrong side of the door with the undesirables."

I like the way he uses this analogy to make this point:

"Spammers and their malicious counterparts, who want to infect your computer or steal your identity, work just as hard as you, and probably harder, to write action-inviting subject lines.

Many use clever social engineering to get e-mail readers to open and click by taking advantage of major holidays, newsworthy events, or common opening lines a friend, relative, or coworker would send. This time of year, of course, anything relating to Christmas, Hanukkah, the New Year, holidays, parties, and the like is fair game.

Your problem is you have a legitimate reason to use holiday themes in your e-mail messages. The challenge is walking the fine line between writing clever holiday-themed subject lines and not looking like a spammer or malicious e-mailer while you're doing it.

The answer is to monitor spam outbreaks to avoid using clever holiday-themed subject lines that can make your message look like spam."

Stefan suggests to try the following:

  • Monitor your spam folders. That's your front-row seat to watch the spammer party-crashers as they jostle for an entry to the inbox. Watch both your work and personal e-mail folders, and enlist others in the watch. If you detect a theme that looks similar to the brilliant subject line your boss or client just OK'ed for the next campaign, swallow your pride and rewrite it.

  • Check the Internet news portals. Look out for information on new virus attacks. Yahoo News's technology section often has timely alerts that include not only the virus-related information but often also the actual subject lines.

  • Review expert blogs. Monitor reports about the latest spam, phishing, and virus e-mail: The Internet Patrol / McAfee.

Source: ClickZ

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Sender ID vs. SPF: What's the Difference?

Stefan Pollard explains what's the difference between Sender ID and SPF in this ClickZ article. Here's the summary:

The Sender ID and SPF protocals are almost identical in syntax. They differ in how the receiver domain looks up your authentication record, which is a line of code inserted in your DNS record that appears in your e-mail message headers.

SPF checks are performed against the domain from the envelope's return-path address, typically called the bounce address. Sender ID checks are performed against the purported responsible address (PRA), that is, the visible sender address in the message.

Let's say the domains in those addresses are the same. Then you as the sender can pass a Sender ID check with only an SPF record. If the domains are different, you should create both records and place them in the corresponding domains.

When in doubt, place your SPF record in all domains you have control over. This increases the chance the record will be placed where the receiver is checking.

Hotmail has been the most vocal Sender ID advocate. Recently, it issued guidelines for creating a record and the mechanisms to avoid. Hotmail has specifically requested senders not to use the PTR (define) mechanism. It also recently asked senders to use a hard fail " -all" at the end of their records to indicate their e-mail infrastructure is secure.

One last note on implementing Sender ID and SPF: It's not uncommon for a sender to change IP addresses or providers. Most ISPs will perform authentication checks on inbound e-mail by directly querying your DNS zone.

Hotmail asks senders to notify it when they make changes, allowing it to cache the records. This makes authenticating senders and applying reputation scoring easier for Hotmail.

If you've changed your Sender ID and SPF records recently, use the following URL to update Hotmail: http://support.msn.com/default.aspx?productKey=senderid&mkt=en-us.

In some cases, if the Sender ID/SPF record contains syntax errors, Hotmail will even send an e-mail to alert you of the problem so you can make corrections before you have delivery problems.

Source: ClickZ

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DNSBL Resource Blacklist Statistics Center

Al Iverson's created a new DNSBL Resource Blacklist Statistics Center. It provides week-by-week graphs for twenty different blacklists. At a glance, one can easily see the accuracy rates and false positive rates for the past thirteen weeks for any blacklist in the system. This data will be refreshed weekly, automatically, and new blacklists can be added easily.

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How to Create a Trust-Inducing Unsubscribe Process

It isn't enough to include unsubscribe instructions in the message body copy. Marketers must make the unsubscribe process as trustworthy as possible so subscribers will feel they can use it with confidence and not have to resort to the "spam" button in desperation.

In this article, Stefan Pollard explains how to create a trust-inducing unsubscribe process through these five simple steps:

  1. Use an unsubscribe procedure that takes as few steps as possible. Ideal is a one-click instant removal or a click that leads to a prepopulated form without requiring a password or log-in. More than that, and it looks like you're doing everything possible to prevent unsubscribing.
  2. Tell users exactly where you got their names. If there's more than one source (Web site, referrals or forwards to a friend, points of sale, trade shows, downloads), include the source in database files so you can merge the correct information. If not, maintain a separate list for each source, and use Web links or e-mail addresses unique to each source.
  3. Place the statement where readers can easily see it. If you don't want to use valuable real estate at the message's top, place it in your e-mail admin center, which should appear in the same place in every message.
  4. Test your unsubscribe procedure regularly, either by clicking the links or sending test e-mail. Patrol all e-mail inboxes associated with your program to capture any misdirected unsubscribe requests.
  5. Provide alternate methods for removal, such as a telephone number or dedicated postal address subscribers can use if they can't or choose not to use the online version.

Read the article here.

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How to Build a Reputation for a New IP Address

Following a question that was posted on the Email Marketer's Club, Matt Vernhout wrote a blog post outlining the steps you should take when you start sending emails from a new IP address:

"The best way to build reputation, or to repair a reputation, on an IP address is to send small amounts of email to the ISP your working to build reputation at. These numbers have varied across the ISPs but you can be safe by starting with a few thousand message a day (less than 5000) after a couple of days or a week you should double this and then double again after another week. To build a proper reputation on an IP address between 50 and 100 thousand messages need to be sent and monitored by an ISP, approximately 3 business weeks mailing daily"

Continue reading here.

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ISPs Are Starting to Perform SPF Checks, Are You Ready?

A study released today revealed that marketers should begin attending to Sender Policy Framework (SPF) authentication to improve e-mail deliverability.

For the first time, according to a statement from Stefan Pollard, director of consulting services at EmailLabs, SPF checks are becoming part of content filter tests done by Internet service providers. These checks, which compare the sender’s return path domain and the IP address to a list of approved IPs the sender includes in their DNS zone, are often failed because a company changes IP addresses or e-mail service providers, and doesn’t update its SPF records.

The Lyris’ EmailAdvisor ISP Deliverability Report Card for Q2 2007 measured the delivery path of more than 436,000 permission-based e-mail marketing messages using ISP domains in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.

Increased attention to SPF ratings requires marketers to ensure that their SPF records are current in order to maintain delivery rates for permission-based messages. SPF record maintenance is not something done automatically by ISPs. But failing an SPF check can carry double the spam-rating penalty compared to the other Top 10 spam triggers identified in the study.

Source: DM News

Find out more about SPF and authentication here:

Check out also this overview of authentication resources on Mark Brownlow's blog.

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How Does Content Filtering Work?

In his ClickZ column, Stefan Pollard gives us some insights into how content filters work:

"Many major content filters rate messages according to how many elements in them are commonly associated with spam, such as copy, format, coding, and headers.

A content filtering system doesn't automatically flag a message because it contains one or two words associated with spam. Instead, a system like SpamAssassin runs hundreds of tests on a message, searching for spam-like elements. When the system encounters one, it assigns a point value, from a fraction for a suspect word to several points for major infractions, such as being blacklisted.

If a message accumulates too many points, the filtering system flags it as spam. Just how many points it takes to cross the threshold depends on how the filters are configured at the destination. Some are set very low, with three to five points being all that's needed. Others are more liberal.

More issues are also likely to trigger filters and collect higher point values than those assigned to words in the message body. They include:

  • Incorrectly formatted or incomplete e-mail headers, which list technical details of the message transfer, including the sender's IP and e-mail sending address
  • Broken tags and sloppy HTML coding
  • Too large an image relative to the amount of text
  • Scripting that could launch viruses or spyware
  • Attachments
  • URLs or domains that have appeared in spam

Using "free" in a subject line or "click here" in the body may add a fraction of a point to a total content score, but if other e-mail elements are in good order, the message shouldn't be flagged as spam.

How concerned should you be about content filtering?

Most of the time, major portals such as Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL rely more on the sender's reputation than on message content. Even if content scores high with the filters, a good reputation should help messages get to an inbox.

Most corporations rely on content filters to block spam. Thus, content plays a larger role in business-to-business (B2B) message delivery.

You know your market segments. Analyze domain names in your e-mail address database, and you'll see your major destinations."

Read the full article here.

Source: ClickZ

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Will Suspect Words Get You Filtered? It depends!

Melinda Krueger asked some industry experts if suspect words will get you filtered. Here's what they replied:

Loren McDonald (JL Halsey) says content CAN get you filtered, but it is more likely going to be a combination of several words, phrases, not passing SPF tests, using bad code, etc., then combined with your reputation scores….

According to George Bilbrey (Return Path), very few delivery issues are based on keywords. The most common problems are:

  • reputation problems with the server sending the email: high complaint rates, unknown user rates, spam trap hits or bad sending infrastructure make the IP or domain sending the message look bad to the receiver.
  • reputation problems with the content: a message containing a given URL or unusual set of words (typically very specific to a particular message or mailer) hits a lot of spam traps or is complained about a great deal

Josh Baer (Skylist) says it’s worth noting that each ISP is different and while the big ones are more advanced, others are often still archaic. They may be using outdated tactics or old versions of software like SpamAssassin instead of the latest version.

Ray Everett-Church (Habeas) concurs: "Unfortunately many smaller ISPs and untold thousands of businesses are still using filtering/blocking technologies that can only be charitably described as archaic and/or ham-handed."

Source: Email Insider

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Gmail Guidelines for Bulk Senders

Yesterday Bronto's DJ Waldow pointed a fellow member of the Email Marketer's Club to a page that contains guidelines for email marketers to get their emails delivered in the Gmail inbox.

Some key take-aways:

  • Use a consistent IP address to send email.
  • Use the same "from" header on every email you send.
  • Keep valid reverse DNS records for the IP address(es) from which you send email and point them to your domain.
  • Publish an SPF record and sign with DomainKeys.
  • Automatically unsubscribe users whose addresses bounce multiple pieces of mail.
  • Provide a 'List-Unsubscribe' header which points to a web form where the user can unsubscribe easily from future mailings.
  • Explicitly indicate the email address subscribed to your list.
  • All bulk messages you send must be formatted according to RFC 2822 SMTP standards and, if using HTML, w3.org standards.
  • Messages should indicate that they are bulk mail, using the 'Precedence: bulk' header field.
  • The subject of each message should be relevant to the body's content and not be misleading.
  • Gmail does not accept 'whitelisting' requests from bulk senders.

There are two important factors that, under normal circumstances, help messages arrive in Gmail users' inboxes:

  • The 'From:' address is listed in the user's Contacts list.
  • A user clicks 'Not Spam' to alert Gmail that messages sent from that address are solicited.

If you are sending mail in accordance with their guidelines and Gmail continues to mark your messages as spam, you can contact the Gmail Team.

Read more here.

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Major Brands Are Spamming!

According to a Direct Magazine survey of DMers concerning the online practices scheduled to come out in September's issue, 14% of traditional business-to-consumer DMers say they send marketing emails to people on an opt-out basis. "And it's not just fly-by-night direct marketers that are spamming. I personally have received unsolicited e-mail from Circuit City, Kmart, Colgate-Palmolive, Williams-Sonoma, Plow & Hearth and, of all things, Smithsonian magazine", Ken Magill says.

The sad thing is that this practice is even legal in the US (except for some states like Utah). But let's be clear: even if it's legal, that doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do! How do you feel when you receive an email in your inbox that you did not sign up for? Do you "report it as spam"? I know I do. I have zero tolerance for emails that arrive in my inbox without me requesting them -- unless they are highly relevant to me.

So be careful: by running your email program on an opt-out basis, you risk having high complaint rates at the big ISPs and that will serious impact the inbox delivery of your future emails. Keep in mind: ISPs are under no obligation to deliver your emails.

Source: directmag.com via The Email Wars.

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Some Less Obvious Spammy Words to Avoid

The folks at Blue Sky Factory provide a list of some of the less obvious “spammy” words and phrases to avoid in your emails in their article "Dirty Words in Disguise".

These is the list of words and phrases to avoid in both the subject line and the body copy:

  • Information you requested
  • Important information regarding
  • Guarantee, Guaranteed
  • Special Promotion
  • Great Offer/Deal
  • Visit our website
  • Opportunity
  • 50% Off
  • Click Here
  • Call Now
  • Subscribe
  • Bonus
  • Free
  • All New
  • One time
  • Order Now
  • Amazing
  • Discount
  • Save up to
  • One time
  • Winner
  • Prizes

Also, beware of using exclamation points, quotation marks, dollar signs, percentage signs and all capital letters (DON’T SCREAM AT YOUR RECIPIENTS!).  Do not put a toll free number in the subject, and avoid using a font larger than two point.

So what steps can you take to ensure “spammy” words and phrases aren’t flagged in your emails? Blue Sky Factory recommends the following:

  1. Keep the above “naughty” list in the back of your mind or taped to your monitor when creating emails.  Make sure none of these words or phrases are included in your subject lines or body copy, even when used with the best intentions.
  2. Test your emails to several different ISP’s to track where they land. If the email lands in any spam or junk folders, try making changes to the subject line and body copy and test again.
  3. Use a spam check tool.  It will catch things like “spammy” words and large fonts, as well as suspicious from addresses.
  4. When in doubt about a word or phrase, rewrite it!  If you’re doubting it, a spam filter probably is probably questioning it too.
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