Partner Insights – Volume 1

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 second in a continuing series of “Partner Insights”, which we hope will provide you with answers to some of your most vexing issues.

Our panelists are:

Stephanie Miller, Vice President, Strategic Solutions, ReturnPath

Dennis Dayman, Email Deliverability & Privacy Officer at Eloqua

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

FreshPerspectives (FP): Stephanie, what would you do if you were being blacklisted by multiple ISPs?

Stephanie: First, I would check to be sure nothing is broken in the DNS/MX records and that bounces and complaints are being processed correctly. If all is fine on infrastructure, then I suggest you do some due diligence on your program. Filtering – especially when at multiple ISPs – doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Filtering is a function of a marketer’s practices – if subscribers are engaged, welcome the messages and do not complain, it is unlikely that a sender will be blocked. So first, you need to look at your own practices. Are complaints high? Did you just dump in some data from a third party or old source that may have contaminated the file? Did you change your template or message header? Are your messages authenticated correctly? Did you send a message from a sister brand without explanation or permission? Did you increase frequency? Did you sign up a new data source of dubious quality? Did you accidentally email your suppression or other forbidden file? Is there something going on in the outside world that might make your messages seem “spammy” to subscribers? I’m sure you can understand that many of these “checklist questions” are practices that would drive subscribers to click the Report Spam button.

Be sure you do some research before you contact your ESP or your deliverability experts for help in reaching out to the ISPs. You can only get a block lifted if you change whatever practices are causing dissatisfaction and high complaints among subscribers. When you correct these practices, you will see your sender reputation move back into the good zone, and the blocks can be lifted. There is also a lot of information on the various ISP postmaster sites about how to gather the data you need before contacting them.

FP: Dennis, what would you do in this situation?

Dennis: There are free services available from several ISPs to help you understand what your reputation is within their systems and users and what problems might exist. Some examples are Hotmail’s Smart Network Data Services (SNDS), AOL’s Postmaster, and Return Path’s SenderScore.



Return Path SenderScore:

If you can address the issues yourself, many of them will go away on their own. Most ISPs have systems set up so that if you’re not a egregious abuser of their systems, the issues expire on their own without you even having to call on them. In fact, many of the failure bounces you receive from them will have links and times showing what caused the issue and when it will go away, if you fix it. Here’s an example of AOL’s page that explains and helps you fix these issues:

FP: Rick, is there anything to add?

Rick: This process should actually begin far in advance of getting blacklisted. You should be assessing undeliverable and non-responsive segments of your list on a regular basis. Employing list hygiene programs, reconfirmation campaigns and other best efforts to save a customer will dramatically reduce bounces, complaints, unknown users, traps, role accounts and ultimately prevent you from landing on a blacklist.

Further, you should be closely watching your delivery metrics for all of your mailings. How many people did you mail to? How many emails were delivered, opened, clicked, converted. By keeping a close eye on this, you should begin to get fair warning from the ISPs that your mail is moving in the wrong direction. It is at that point that you begin to assess the forensics of your mailings. The question you need to ask is “What has changed that is causing trouble for me?” Did you mail to a new list? Did you mail to a very old list? Did you test new creative? Did you mis-match the offer and audience? Any of these or other circumstances could be causing an increase in the hygiene-related metrics driving your mail further from the inbox.

FP: Thank you all so much! Next month: “What’s the one thing you’d recommend to help ensure the quality of co-registrations or other forms of lead generation data?”

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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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