Category Archives: Marketing Email Deliverability

Outlook: Email Delivery Tips

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Outlook LogoOutlook is the oldest webmail service provider in the world. It originally started off as Hotmail back on July 4th, 1996, and has since evolved into a web-based suit of webmail, tasks, calendaring services and contacts from Microsoft.  Available in 106 languages and with over 400 million users, Outlook is a preferred email service provider for people from all around the world because of its easy integration with multiple apps and services offered by Microsoft.

The platform follows Microsoft’s Metro design-language and features unlimited storage, contacts management, integrated calendar, Ajax, as well as close integration with Office Online, Skype and OneDrive.  It’s one of the most popular of the free service emails available on the market today.

FeedBack Loop

With the help of FeedBack Loops (FBLs), volume senders can identify campaigns in their traffic that are receiving high numbers of complaint from Outlook users. The Outlook team can detect an abuse of their services with FBL, allowing them to immediately initiate any necessary actions needed. Click here for more information on Outlook’s Feedback Loop.  Scroll to the JMRP section (Junk Mail Reporting Program), and click the link to sign up and start receiving feedback within as little as 72 hours.

 Whitelist

Whitelists are lists of IP addresses that are expected to send your users legitimate mails. Adding an IP address to your whitelist will categorize the sender as “not spam” ensuring that most of their emails will show up directly in the user’s inbox and not the trash or spam folders. You can find out more about whitelists and blocking features for email recipients by Outlook here,  Outlook does not currently have a whitelist for senders.

Postmaster Tool

Outlook’s Postmaster Tool site gives senders information about getting your messages to the right place. The postmaster site is https://mail.live.com/mail/postmaster.aspx, which includes helpful troubleshooting tips at https://mail.live.com/mail/troubleshooting.aspx

SNDS

Microsoft provides sender reputation information with their SNDS program (Smart Network Data Service).  This applies only to IP addresses so in order to get the data you will need to be using a dedicated IP in order to take advantage of this.  The data provided will show reputation, sending volume, complaint rates, spam trap hits, and more.  This is a fantastic tool for any sender.  You can sign up for a free SNDS account at https://postmaster.live.com/snds/.

With Mail Monitor’s Performance and Enterprise plans you will also be able to track SNDS data each day to easily analyze.  Another advantage of tracking this data through Mail Monitor is that we will track your data over time so that you can easily track trends.  This is very helpful when troubleshooting delivery issues.

Outlook Delivery Tips

Here are 4 tips to help you stay clear for Outlook:

  • Always confirm that your email list was acquired using opt-in method. It is imperative to have explicit permissions from the users to avoid them marking you as spam.
  • Make sure your emails come with a clear “unsubscribe” section.  Hiding them or keeping it vague will not help you retain any readers – in fact, it will increase the chances of you being marked spam and even reported.
  • Shortened URLs are usually associated with spam by most of the leading webmail service providers, so avoid using them in your email.  Try and keep the URL description as relevant to the subject of your email as possible.
  • Continuously check the sending IP against blacklists.  This needs to be a regular exercise to maintain healthy IPs.

Blacklists: How You End Up On Them & How You Get Off Them

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Email blacklists are real-time , automated databases that use specific criteria in determining if an IP is sending spam emails. Blacklists are also known as DNS-based Blackhole Lists.

There are a number of blacklists in the industry, including SpamCop, Spamhaus, SURBL and Barracuda Reputation Block List.  The criteria each blacklist company uses for accepting inbound mail varies based on their own company determined standards. However, all of them can have a long-term damaging effect on your delivery rate.

 

How Do Blacklists Work?

At a high-level, anyone who sends an excessive amount of emails that are marked as spam, will be added to a list of offenders (a.k.a. blacklisted email senders) and will no longer be able to have their emails delivered to user’s inboxes.

For a more detailed understanding of how blacklists work, take a look at the Spamhaus diagram below. In the event an incoming email fails to meet the Spamhaus’ criteria for legitimate emails, the sender’s IP gets added to the list. There are some ISPs that use this data to make their conclusions on filtering the email messages sent on various IPs.

While Spamhaus doesn’t have any control over the delivery or placement of the messages, it does aide many ISPs in making their decision as to whether or not to deliver your message to your target user’s inbox or to send it directly to their spam folder.

Courtesy: www.Spamhaus.org

Courtesy: www.Spamhaus.org

 

How to Find Out If You’ve Been Blacklisted

Most of the email service providers send out some level of warning when your IP has been added to a blacklist. However, for a more robust audit, you can manually visit the top DNSBL lists periodically to ensure you haven’t been flagged somewhere along the way:

  • Spamhaus – This is one of the top blacklisting companies providing thorough, real-time spam protection for internet networks around the world.
  • Barracuda Reputation Block List (BRBL) – This is a free DNSBL of IP addresses notorious for sending out spam emails.
  • SURBL – This is a second-tier filter which works with Spamhaus in identifying some of the most difficult unsolicited messages.
  • SpamCop – SpamCop Blocking Lists (SCBLs) manage and share IP addresses that contained emails reported as spam by the SpamCop users.

The good news here is that as a Mail Monitor customer, you’re receiving the most robust audit of your domain and IP for any blacklisting automatically. You can learn more about our features here.

 

How to Get Off Email Blacklisting

One of the main reasons for IPs to end up on a blacklist is the high rate of spam complaints from users.  Should you discover that you’re on a list, you’ll want to contact the company immediately.  All of these DNSBL websites listed above have detailed instructions on how to be removed from the blacklist. Being proactive always helps – so show the ISPs that you are trying your best to remedy your delivery challenges.

Once you’re out of the blacklist, you might want to invest more time in the best practices for email list acquisition and staying away from buying email lists.

With deliverability experts like Mail Monitor on your side, you will have professional help navigating the ISP landscape.

An Introductory Guide to Spam Traps

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WHAT IS A SPAM TRAP?

Spam traps are used by blacklist and inbox providers to detect and catch malicious email senders. It is common for legitimate senders to find themselves becoming a victim of spam traps unclean email data, inappropriate subject lines and poor practices for email list acquisition.

Spam traps will look like an authentic email address – the catch is that they don’t belong to any real person and are not used for any communication by the company or inbox provider. The sole purpose of spam trap email addresses is to identify spammers and faulty senders and remove them from the ability to reach their user base with unwanted information.

 

IMPORTANCE FOR EMAIL MARKETERS

As an email marketer, you might already be sending emails to spam traps without knowing it is happening. Having even a single spam trap in your mailing list could mean hazardous dents to your ability to reach your subscribers.

Sending emails to spam traps typically indicates that you’re indulged in bad practices to collect email addresses or haven’t managed to keep your list clean.  Either effort could land you on the wrong side of email providers, greatly impacting you ability to continue to send and reach your target users.

 

TYPES OF SPAM TRAPS

To get an understanding of how spam traps end up in your mailing list, it’s important to understand the different types that are out there:

  • Pristine Traps – These are email addresses published on public websites that are hidden to a normal user. Only people using bad collection processes will find and send to these addresses. So if you collected your email addresses by scrapping from web pages, chances are you may have picked up by a pristine spam trap.
  • Recycled Traps – These email addresses were once used by real people, but became abandoned and got converted into a trap by their inbox provider.

 

IDENTIFYING A SPAM TRAP

It is extremely hard to spot a spam trap email address because they don’t look different from any regular email addresses. However, there are many useful tools designed to help you evaluate the sender’s reputation and identify any emails that may be sending emails to spam traps. One such tool is the Microsoft Smart Data Network Service (SNDS).

 

GET THIS FIXED

Spam traps are structured to identify senders with irresponsible list building behaviors. One sure fire way of getting this fixed is to have a thorough audit of your own email list quality, and then evaluate it on a consistent basis.

Since spam traps do not belong to real people and provide no level of engagement with your emails such as clicks and/or opens. Getting rid of inactive subscribers would help you get rid of such spam traps as well. One quick way to garner engagement of active users and identify inactive users or potential spam emails is to run a campaign reconfirming user interests.

However, this is just one part of the entire picture – the most important part is reevaluating your strategies of email list acquisition to ensure only genuine, healthy email addresses are in your marketing plans. Use double opt in procedures, validate incoming addresses, and do not buy or rent lists.  You also may want to perform a list cleaning process to get rid of these spam traps.

Feedback Loop: All That You Need to Know

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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:

 

List Cleaning Services 101

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Email marketing can be a walk on a minefield if you come unprepared. Thresholds for bounced emails, unsubscribe requests and spam complaints are set by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), corporate email protection services and anti-spam groups. If your email campaign has a high rate of any of these metrics, then there will be a good chance of harming your sending reputation and getting your emails sent to the bulk folder or blocked altogether. The pickle is that a lot of account suspensions actually happen due to the stale or old email addresses in your list, that are never used by the owner, and not by any violations on your part.

Below we will tell you about List Cleaning services, what they can do for you and when to use them.

What is List Cleaning?

List Cleaning is a third-party service that scans your email lists to identify and filter out invalid addresses. It is also commonly known as List Cleansing or Email Verification. While a lot of companies offer List Cleaning, not a lot of them come with reliable accuracy.

It is also worth noting here that most of the List Cleaning services will not remove the invalid addresses on their own; instead they will detect the addresses not likely to be successfully delivered, and rely on you to remove them from the list yourself.

 

When Should I Clean My List?

There is no black and white answer to this, as some email delivery services like MailChimp advocate not relying entirely on List Cleaning in a majority of cases. However, if you are faced with the challenge of bad email delivery, then you should always choose a reliable third-party service like BriteVerify. They claim to offer a reduction of bounce rate by 98%.

What cleaning a list will surely do is help you get rid of all those stale addresses. However, you should never expect List Cleansing services to be a one-stop solution to all your worries, as it is not going to help you with issues like spam traps, blacklists or abuse complaints.

List Cleaning can be very effective if you already have a record or subscriber permissions and you are following the best practices for email list acquisition.

5 Reasons to Never Buy Email Lists

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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?

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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.

Region Specific Seed Lists Added to Deliverability Tracking

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Different marketers often need to look at different sets of deliverability data depending on the client location and list ISP distribution. Up until now, each Mail Monitor report would display every ISP available for tracking. This is not always ideal and many of you have requested more control over your reports.

We’re happy to announce that each Mail Monitor account now comes with the ability to specify the region or regions to be tracked. To choose regions, simply check or uncheck checkboxes next the the regions on the setup page. Here is a peek at the changes to the setup page:

Region Specific Seed Lists

Region Specific Seed Lists

When adjusting regions, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • When adding regions, make sure to download the seed list again and add it to the outgoing distribution list
  • Campaign reports are updated for a 72 hour period after first received. If removing regions, reports sent within the last 72 hours can be inacurate for the removed regions.

Hotmail / Outlook.com supports IMAP….FINALLY

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Just recently Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail) began supporting IMAP.

http://blogs.office.com/b/microsoft-outlook/archive/2013/09/12/outlook-com-now-with-imap.aspx

What is IMAP and what does this mean for Mail Monitor accounts?

IMAP allows applications to connect and read email from any folder inside an email account. The other method of connection is POP3 which only allows access to the inbox of email accounts. When Microsoft only allowed POP3 access this meant that Mail Monitor only had visibility into the inbox for delivery reporting. That was fine if your email was delivered to the inbox but if your email was delivered to the Spam/Bulk folder it showed up as missing which was often confusing. Missing at Outlook.com could mean blocked completely or delivered to the spam folder. Those are very different things.

Now that IMAP is supported we can see right into the bulk/spam folder and report on delivery more accurately to Hotmail and Outlook.com accounts. Well done Microsoft…finally!