Partner Insights: What’s the Number One Cause of Email Deliverability Problems?

Your roving reporter had an opportunity to sit down (over email, of course!) with several leading email industry experts and ask a series of questions of interest to our readers. This is the first in a continuing series of “Partner Insights”, which we hope will provide you with answers to some of your most vexing issues.

Today’s panelists are:

Rick Buck, Vice President Privacy/ISP Relations, e-Dialog

Dennis Dayman, Email Deliverability & Privacy Officer, Eloqua

Stephanie Miller, Vice President, Strategic Solutions, ReturnPath

Stefan Pollard, Senior Strategic Consultant, Responsys, Inc.

FreshPerspectives (“FP”): Rick, as you see it, what’s the number one cause of email deliverability problems?

Rick Buck: The single most important thing influencing whether or where an email gets delivered (i.e. bounced, inbox, or junk folder) is the reputation of the sending IP(s). The most critical metrics influencing reputation are all hygiene based: bounces, complaints, unknown users, traps, role accounts, etc. If you 1) hygiene your registrations before putting these into your marketing database and 2) carefully manage and segment your list prior to deployments, it is very likely that deliverability issues will not be something you need to worry about.

FP: Dennis, your thoughts?

Dennis Dayman: At the top I would have to say the lack of proper list hygiene and management. I find that many people responsible for list management or campaigns really don’t have any idea of what’s in their database, or how to ensure it’s kept clean. It’s important to be proactive versus simply being reactive. Many senders don’t take the time to really review or trend their failures after a campaign has been completed to understand where an issue –if one exists– might be or how to improve on their metrics. Too many times, marketers think all they need to do is rely on their sending systems to remove the hard bounces or complainers without further intervention or review.

Marketers need to take advantage of their ability to analyze their failure data and track back issues to determine what caused their reputation data to change so drastically. Could it have been a stale list? A purchased list? A problem with their capture forms?

Don’t become lazy with your digital communications; see what’s going on within your lists and continue to put in the hard work to improve your metrics.

FP: Stephanie, what would you say is the leading cause of email deliverability problems?

Stephanie Miller: Spam complaints. Every sender of bulk email (like marketers, publishers and retailers) has a sender reputation, a “score” that the ISPs like Yahoo! and Gmail and corporate system administrators use as one of the factors to determine if your messages should reach the inbox, go to junk, or get blocked completely. A complaint is counted every time a subscriber clicks the Report Spam button, and it only takes a small number of complaints to put a marketer or publisher on the radar for being filtered. Complaints are so important because they are a measure of subscriber satisfaction. The best way to keep complaints low is to clean your list of bounces, inactives, and complaints on a regular basis, thereby keeping your subscriber satisfaction high. Proper targeting and segmentation will also help ensure your customers are receiving information specifically of interest to them.

FP: Last, but not least – Stefan, what’s your take on all this?

Stefan Pollard: I agree with Rick & Stephanie. Reputation as determined by the receiver (ISP) is the number one reason for delivery problems. The top factors that impact a sender’s reputation are Spam complaints from recipients, poor list quality (e.g. bounces, role accounts like info@, and spam traps), and poor engagement metrics (i.e. open/clickthrough behaviors). What should be noted is that all of these conditions are in the control of the marketer. Careful address collection at the source and proper hygiene take care of the first challenge; sending wanted and relevant content takes care of the other two.

FP: Thank you all so much!

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November 27 (Black Friday) and December 10 (Giving Tuesday) are rapidly approaching. Email sending volume will double over the next month. As a result, you want to do everything in your power to ensure that your emails are read by the largest possible audience.
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