Category Archives: Email Authentication

Email Delivery Tips for Marketing to AOL Users

By | Email Authentication, Email Delivery Tracking, Marketing Email Deliverability | No Comments

aol logo

AOL Mail is a free web-based email service provided by AOL that launched in March 1993. It is also commonly referred to as AIM Mail (AOL Instant Messenger), which is is a division of the Verizon Communications. It is available in 54 languages and continues to be one of the leading webmail service providers in the United States.

AOL has always been a tough cookie for email marketers. While AOL’s subscriber base is not as strong as it used to be, thanks to the more popular Gmail and Outlook options, it still comprises around 20 percent of the overall B2C email database. Having optimized messages according to AOL’s specifications can help improve delivery and performance.

 

Feedback Loop

Feedback Loops (FBLs) can help bulk email senders identify which email campaigns are receiving more complaints. According to AOL’s official website, “Every email that is sent from one of your IPs to an AOL member that gets marked as Spam is considered a ‘complaint.’ We recommend both bulk mailers and ISPs monitor Feedback Loop Reports (FBLs), to help manage mailing lists as well as providing early warnings of network security issues.” You can learn more about AOL Mail’s Feedback Loop policy here.

 

Whitelist

AOL Mail uses whitelists to identify and streamline emails sent from organizations and individuals who send high volume solicited emails.  IPs listed in the whitelist are usually safe from more of the AOL’s spam filters. If a user adds an IP address in the whitelist, the sender will be marked as “not spam” and their emails will not end up in trash. You can read more about AOL’s Whitelist policies here.

 

Postmaster Tool

AOL has one of the best Postmaster Tool platforms that we have seen. Here you can analyze and monitor the health of your email campaigns and all the guidance needed to help you route your messages to the right people and in the right folders. Click here to visit AOL’s Postmaster page now.  They also have an IP reputation test tool.  If you use a dedicated IP and are seeing some delivery issues, this tool is a must to check.  Click here to check your AOL IP reputation.

You can also use many of the delivery tools in the Mail Monitor platform to help manage your email lists, deliverability and spam rankings.

 

AOL Delivery Tips

Below are some additional tips to ensure you create and launch an optimized email campaign on AOL:

  • It is important to always have a clear and visible “unsubscribe” button in your emails.
  • Ensure that all email addresses acquired have been done using opt-in methods. Explicit permissions are necessary to avoid being flagged by recipients as spam.
  • Mail servers need to have a correctly set-up Reverse DNS (RDNS) or their messages can risk being blocked.
  • Avoid having shortened URLs as they have a bad reputation in the market, thanks to all the spammers frequently using them. Make sure the URLs are relevant in description and content.
  • Have a regular health check for all sending IPs blacklists.
  • Get an AOL test account – this will cost you around $25 a month but will allow you to test messages before sending them out to your lists and also become familiar with the platform.

Email Delivery Tips for Marketing to Gmail Users

By | Email Authentication, Email Delivery Tracking, Tips and Resources | No Comments

gmailIn a relatively short period of time, Gmail has become the email service provider of choice for over a billion users around the world. That’s pretty amazing considering that its a free, advertising-supported email service which launched just 13 years ago – making it the youngest rival to the likes of Hotmail, AOL and Yahoo.

The success of Gmail can be attributed to the fact that users of Android devices, Google Play Store, Google Chrome browser, Google Drive, Google+ and other services must have an account with them. Gmail is also accessible for users through the mobile apps for both Android and iOS, and is also configurable for syncing emails through POP and IMAP protocols.

 FeedBack Loop

FeedBack Loops (FBLs) can help large volume senders identify campaigns in their traffic that are receiving large complaints from Gmail users. With FBL, the email service providers can detect abuse of their services and take the necessary actions to counter that. You can find out more about Gmail’s Feedback loop here.

Whitelist

Email Whitelists are lists of IP addresses from which users are expecting to receive legitimate emails from. When an IP address is added to your whitelist, most of the emails sent from that IP will not be marked spam and will be delivered immediately. The Email Whitelist feature is available on G Suite. You can read more about it here.

Postmaster Tools

With Gmail’s Postmaster Tools you can analyze and monitor your email performance to help Gmail route your messages to the right place.  You can find out more about it here.

Gmail Delivery Tips

Here are 8 tips to help you stay in Gmail’s good books:

  • Make sure that your list contains users who have confirmed opt-in. This is very important as it provides explicit permission from the users to avoid any “mark spam” actions from them.
  • Have a clear and seamless “unsubscribe” process. It is important to add the users who unsubscribe to the “do not email” list.
  • Take care in promoting affiliate products. Gmail is not the friendliest place to do affiliate marketing, so you might want to pass on this.
  • Avoid using shortened links. Thanks to the spammers, URL shortening services like bit.ly have been used too much for all the wrong reasons that it is best to avoid them.
  • Check the sending IP against blacklists. This should be a continuous, ongoing process to ensure your IPs are healthy.
  • Pay special attention to engagement.  Gmail is particularly sensitive to whether your email list is interacting with your email sends.  If too many of your addresses do not engage, you are likely to end up in the Gmail bulk folder.  You can optimize your Gmail engagement by periodically segmenting your list into 2 groups: one that has opened your emails recently (within 30-90 days) and another group who has not.  Send to your engaged Gmail users as you normally do.  Send less frequently or with special messaging to your less engaged Gmail users to try to bring them back into your active list.  The overall effect is that your engagement percentage is higher and more of your mail is delivered to the inbox!

Improve Engagement

Despite all the safety measures and standard delivery tips to stay off black lists and out of spam folders, things are tightening up, thanks to the recent changes to email categorization by Gmail.  According to these changes, senders are scored according to the relationship that they have with the recipients.

An important element of this relationship is the actual content of your emails and the kind of engagement that you’re pulling out of it.  Google now measures the recipient engagement, meaning the level of interaction from the recipient your marketing emails are able to get.  This includes, but is not limited to: email opens, archives, skim reads, deleting without opening, link clicks and of course, reporting as spam.

More positive interactions from readers will likely get you a higher score, ensuring direct delivery of future emails in their inboxes. So how do you get these positive interactions? Here are 5 tips to get you started:

  1. Have attention grabbing subject lines that intrigue the readers to the point of clicking on them. This blog by Hubspot should help.
  2. Ask the recipient to mark your email address as ‘not spam’.
  3. Encourage the recipient to add you to their address book on Gmail.
  4. Tell users to make sure they click on ‘always display images from this address’ button when downloading the images.
  5. Make sure you either remove inactive users from your list or do effort to re-engage with them.

Feedback Loop: All That You Need to Know

By | Email Authentication, Marketing Email Deliverability | No Comments

What is a Feedback Loop?

A Feedback Loop (FBL) is a dedicated service offered by some of the leading ISPs that reports back complaints to senders in the event of a subscriber hitting the spam or junk button in their inbox. This service helps senders in keeping a clean email list. The main aim of the Feedback Loops is to help senders listen to the subscribers and take necessary actions, including removing such subscribers from an email list.

As an email marketer, the complaints registered by the FBL should be taken seriously and should serve as a starting point in identifying the underlying issues with both your content and the sending frequency.

 

Benefits of Feedback Loop

  • Remove Members Who Complain – As stated above, the primary purpose of Feedback Loops is to unsubscribe complaining members from your database. This helps in decreasing any damage to deliverability.
  • Identification of Compromised Hosts – You should never take network security lightly. It is possible that your IP has been compromised, in which case you may receive complaints on content you never sent – something an FBL can help you identify.
  • Detect Faulty Acquisition Methods – An FBL can help you identify which campaigns are problematic, leading to understanding factors like frequency and content.

 

Requirements for Feedback Loop

The requirements vary from one ISP to another. Below are some of the standard guidelines that will help you set up while applying for a Feedback Loop:

  • You must be the owner of the IP/domain or have administrative rights in order to register
  • The domain must have a functional postmaster@ or abuse @ email address
  • The rDNS of the IP being entered must match the domain used
  • ISPs also specify that you have a good reputation to be accepted for FBL (one way to build a good reputation is to never buy email lists)

 

Famous ISP Feedback Loops

It should be noted that Feedback Loops are not provided by all ISPs, and they are resource intensive. Below are the major ISPs that provide FBL:

 

5 Reasons to Never Buy Email Lists

By | Email Authentication, Marketing Email Deliverability | No Comments

With so many businesses looking to buy and sell their customer lists, it’s no wonder that direct marketing has gotten a bad wrap over the past few years.  While some of those lists that are being sold might advertise themselves as being an “opted-in list”, the reality is that they’re not. And even if a customer had opted-in to a vendor’s mailings, they have certainly not given their permission to you, so any emails they receive from you would be considered spam.

If you’re considering buying email lists, you might want to consider the following 5 reasons against any such idea:

  1. Spam Complaints. Remember that when you buy an email list, you aren’t getting the list exclusively.  Odds are that same list has been sold to multiple companies.  Because of that fact, there is a high chance that email recipients who suddenly get an influx of emails from a variety of vendors, will unsubscribe and even report the emails as spam. Receiving multiple spam reports will cause a spike in feedback loop reports and complaints which will give ISPs reason enough to be leery of future mailings coming from you.
  2. High Rate of Unknown Users. Email lists are always sold by quantity, so don’t expect quality to be there. Most of the time, vendors fabricate the true quality or nature of opt-in statuses on their lists. You will only be able to verify and guarantee that the subscriber is real and current if you use standard channels like web-form signups.
  3. ESP Violation. Use of rented or purchased lists are often prohibited by Email Service Providers. A violation of these policies will mean that the ESP could terminate your contract. It is important to review your ESP’s terms of violation for clarity before purchasing any email lists.
  4. Low Open Rate. ISPs these days are far more sophisticated in how they track user engagement when evaluating bulk mailings. Data measures have gone way beyond just the standard complaints, unsubscribes and bounces.  They now include behavioral stats like open rates and clicks. ISPs also measure the quality of your messages when scoring you and granting continued white label status, allowing you to send emails to your subscribers.
  5. Bad ROI. Keep in mind that email marketing is a business; therefore, there is a cost for every message sent. Hence, with each investment you expect a decent return. Purchased lists will have a seriously low response rate, meaning that your ROI goes down the drain and the bounces, spam flags and unopened deletes seriously damage your sending reputation.

So the next time you or anyone on your team suggests buying email lists, remember that quality will always trump quantity. Stick with best practices and the standard approaches of acquiring subscribers. Check out this article by Hubspot for additional information on the topic and for tips on how you can build your own lists, naturally.

Single Opt-In vs. Double Opt-In: Which One Is For You?

By | Email Authentication, Marketing Email Deliverability | No Comments

The public opinion for using Single Opt-In (SOI) vs Double Opt-In (DOI) is one that is split. So how can you decide which one is for your email marketing campaign? Well, let’s try and sort this out, once and for all!

But first, let’s review both of these major email permission approaches to ensure that we’re on the same page:

  • Single Opt-In (SOI) – This is a subscription process in which a new email address is automatically added to your mailing list, without the need for the owner of that email address to confirm conclusively that they willingly opted-in.
  • Double Opt-In (DOI) – This is a subscription process in which a new email address will only be added once the owner of that email address clicks on a confirmation link in an opt-in confirmation request email, sent to them after they opt-in thru a checkbox or form. DOI is also known as Confirmed Opt-In (COI).

Now that the definitions have been clearly defined, let’s discuss some of the benefits and risks associated with each approach:

  • Benefits & Risks of SOI – This process helps maximize your email list growth, but can result in a higher deliverability risk. A poorly executed SOI is more likely to encounter higher spam complaints and, quite often, the engagement rates are much lower, meaning you email deliverability will suffer.
  • Benefits & Risks of DOI – This process does minimize deliverability risks; however, it also results in a slower email list growth. A poorly executed DOI could result in a lower confirmation rate, potentially stifling your email list growth rate.

Want to find out more?  We think this is a great article for you want to find out more about the two opt-in methods and their many pros and cons.

So, coming back to our question – Which one is for you?

  1. Single-Opt In is not for everyone, especially if:
  • Your ESP requires Double Opt-In
  • Your company is a harassment magnet
  • There is no clear visibility into your deliverability
  • There are stronger permission requirements in your industry, especially due to regulations on marketing to minors, financial information or healthcare
  • You have real concerns about getting junked or blocked by some inbox providers
  1. There are three core components to email permission, which should help you decide which opt-in method is good for you:
  • Signup – What is the process of indicating that a person would like to receive promotional messages?
  • Context – What are the circumstances under which the person signed up?
  • Confirmation – What is the process for the sender to confirm that the owner of the email address knowingly and willingly signed up to accept promotional emails?
  1. Many brands never use just one of the two opt-in methods exclusively – there is often a mix of both approaches across the various touch-points. However, as list quality concerns and engagement rates affect sending reputation and the global performance of email campaigns, at Mail Monitor we recommend Double Opt-In due to the high deliverability risks associated with Single Opt-In.

6 Best Practices for Email List Acquisition

By | Email Authentication | One Comment

The quality of your email address list will directly correlate to the results generated from your various email marketing strategies. An accurate, well-targeted customer list will have a positive impact on your campaign’s response rates, click-throughs and ultimately, your end revenue. While this concept is easy to understand, you might not know exactly where to start when it comes to strengthening your own email list.

Traditional strategies of well thought-out campaign offerings, such as newsletters or free downloadable content, offer several opportunities where you can gather email contact information from your target users.  Our experience tells us that the best strategies will always capture email addresses at a variety of locations and will use customized messaging to get better participation from the recipients.  The key is that in order to get what you want, new target user information for your email list, you must offer something worthwhile in exchange.

Best practices indicate that to keep your email list accurate and fresh, you need to connect with your user base regularly — prompting them to interact and potentially update their information.  It is a great idea to keep testing things out to see what works and users respond to best.

Here are six great tips to get you started with your email list management:

1.      Customized Welcome Emails: Always remember that different subscribers have different expectations. Sometimes, the email marketing service providers do not have this level of customization available or it simply may not part of your purchased plan.  If that is the case, then you should focus your efforts on users that most likely fit the persona of becoming profitable customers.

2.       Target Point of Sale:  It has been experienced by market leaders that customers are usually less resistant to sharing personal contact information at the point of sale. In fact, many times users are looking for ways to stay in touch and welcome program participation when they feel it benefits them.

3.       Give Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse: That’s right! Research has shown that customers who get the promise of discounts on their next purchase are more likely to sign-up or opt-in to an email list.  If they don’t respond to your discount, you might want to send in a reminder a few days before the coupon is expiring.

4.       Use the Power of Choice:  Trust us – it will help if you give your potential customers the option of either signing-up via email or text messages. People like choices and are likely to choose one over the other.  An added advantage of this is that you’ll potentially grow both, your email and mobile marketing programs.

5.       Offer a Second Chance: Remember the ones who didn’t opt-in the first time?  Give them a second chance with an even better offer. They might have simply been too busy the first time and your follow-up could compel them to opt in.

6.      Capture All Data: The secret to successful list acquisition is to measure everything. Constant measurements will help create benchmarks for you to work on and further improve. Save data until it becomes useful, track the results and then act on it. Repeat regularly.

We also found this blog by Oracle to be very insightful. Hope these tips on best practices will help you in coming up with a Rockstar email list acquisition plan of your own!

Email Authentication Next Steps – DMARC

By | Email Authentication, Product Features | No Comments
How DMARC Email Authentication Works

How DMARC Email Authentication Works

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) can be regarded as the latest advancement in email authentication. However, since it is not as conventional as SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail), we believe it is important to understand how DMARC is different, how it works and why should it matter to you.

So, to explain as clearly as possible, DMARC is a process that ensures that all legitimate emails are authenticating properly against established SPF and DKIM standards. It also ensures that any fraudulent activity appearing to be coming from domains that are under the control of the organization (defensively registered domains, active sending domains and non-sending domains) is blocked. Domain Alignment and Reporting are the two values of DMARC.
DMARC’s alignment feature effectively prevents any attempts of spoofing of the ‘header from’ address in the following way

⦁ It matches the ‘header from’ domain with ‘envelope from’ domain name that are used while performing an SPF check.
⦁ It matches the ‘header from’ domain name with the ‘d=domain name’ in DKIM signature.
In order to pass DMARC, the message has to pass SPF alignment and SPF authentication and/or DKIM alignment and DKIM authentication. A message will certainly fail DMARC if it fails any of these.

DMARC also helps senders in instructing email providers on how the authenticated mail has to be handled via a DMARC policy, eradicating any grey area for guesswork on how to treat mails that fail the authentication.

Senders can choose to either:
⦁ Quarantine the message(s) that fail DMARC (move it to spam folder),
⦁ Reject the message(s) that fail DMARC (don’t deliver the mail at all), OR
⦁ Monitor each and every mail, understanding the brand’s email authentication system and guarantee that a legitimate email is authenticating adequately enough, without any interference with delivery of the message(s) that failed DMARC.

Mailbox providers regularly send forensic and DMARC aggregate reports back to the senders, giving them complete visibility of the messages that are getting authenticated and the ones that are not, and why.

So why does DMARC really matter to you? The answer is quite simple – DMARC is the first and the only widely deployed technology that can authenticate the trustworthiness of the ‘header from’ address. This foolproof process protects customers and the brand, as well as discourages all cybercriminals to go after brands that have a DMARC record.

Read this article to find more about Mail Monitor’s email authentication processes.

First Things First – Email Authentication

By | Email Authentication, Product Features | One Comment

So you’ve scheduled a new offer for potential customers and you think you’ll be getting great conversions on these emails. But just when you hit your dashboard to monitor the results, you see a very different picture – you notice that a lot of your emails never got opened, ringing an alarm that maybe you’re much anticipated offer has been eaten up by the recipient’s junk folder. You might be having the common authentication problem that needs serious troubleshooting if you want your email marketing strategies to be a success.

To understand email authentication and how major services work, you need to know the following methods most commonly used by major mailboxes:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF)SPF is an email validation system that identifies email spoofing by checking that the incoming email is from a domain’s authorized host. All authorized hosts for a domain are published in the Domain Name System (DNS) records on behalf of that domain in a specially formatted TXT record. SPF records prevent spammers from using your domain to send content from a forged address. With increase of spam attacks and hack attempts to encourage recipients to share sensitive information via emails, all major commercial and corporate mailbox providers have layers of SPF checks in place to defend their customers.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) – Just like SPF, DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) is an authentication method for emails that detects spoofing. The purpose of DKIM is to help recipients check if an email has come from an authorized owner of the used domain and identify any forged sender addresses. DKIM allows an email message to associate with a domain by affixing a digital signature. The verification is done by using the public key of the signer published in the DNS. DKIM also usually helps ensure all attachments in an email are safe to open. While these email authentications can seriously affect your email marketing campaigns, they also mean that if you are prepared, you have a stronger chance of being trusted and noticed by your recipient.

The good news here is that Mail Monitor already has SPF and DKIM authentication checks in place for each and every email that our customers send. Having full control on evaluating email authentication helps us inform you of any issues so that you can get to troubleshooting in real time.