Deliverability insights: avoiding spam traps and other revenue risks during the festive period

Deliverability risk alert: We get it – the c-level execs are clamoring for bigger databases and more potential customers to squeeze some revenue from. The temptation to send a quick, cheeky email to that list from 2016 you found in a long-lost folder on a colleague’s shared drive is strong. After all, who wouldn’t want to hear about your awesome company with its amazing products and services and fantastic seasonal discount discounts?

Merrily you go, on your way, importing this list full of hope and promise into your Engagement Cloud. But wait, something’s wrong: your data has been quarantined by the dotdigital data WatchDog. The important has been blocked. “Why!?”, you scream internally as your frantically raise a ticket with our support team.

High-risk data is a deliverability risk and can jeopardize revenue

There are certain addresses which are never going to give consent to receive marketing communications. For example, we keep an eye out for role alias addresses (generic/shared inboxes used for a sales team, support team, abuse reporting, etc.), as these almost never actively sign up to receive emails. Uploading a list which contains these kind of non-consenting addresses is an indicator that the process for ensuring consent wasn’t reliable at the point when the data was collected. Even if your permission game is strong now, it might not have been in 2016 – or even in early 2018, before the GDPR came into effect.

Sending to recipients that have not given explicit consent to receive marketing emails from your company can have disastrous results for your business.

Reduced engagement, increased complaints

The best-case scenario, in this instance, is that recipients ignore your emails. If they do this, mailbox providers like Hotmail and Gmail will notice the lack of engagement and decide your emails are unwanted. Your future sends, even to previously engaged and fully consented contacts, are more likely to end up in the spam folder or the junk box.

It gets worse though…

Some recipients might see your emails and, having not recently given permission for you to contact them, actively mark the emails as junk or spam. These are recognized by mailbox providers as complaints and are given much more weighting as an indicator that you are sending unwanted email. Your marketing ending up in junk or spam will become even more likely.

Plus, if you’re on a dedicated IP then it’s possible that receiving mail servers will start throttling your IP, slowing down how quickly they’ll accept emails from you. This can be incredibly tough when you’re against the clock, with time-sensitive content and flash sales going out the door.

Deliverability alert: inactive inboxes

Do you still use the same email address today that you were using last year? How about in 2016? How about in 2011? (Showing my age here, but I’d just graduated from university and set up my first professional-looking tamara.bond inbox and ditched the old g0thg1rl4lyf alias…) Maybe you had your own website or blog and signed up using that domain has long since defunct – who has time for personal blogging these days? Sending to lots of addresses which don’t exist anymore is another sign to the mailbox provider that your strategy is targeting people who haven’t opted in, and is likely to land you in the spam folder. They might have even turned the unused inbox or domain into a spam trap.

Spam traps: the real nightmare before Christmas

Hitting a spam trap is the worst-case scenario. Traps are addresses that are operated by mailbox providers and anti-abuse networks to identify senders who are not following data collection and management best practice. There are different types of spam trap that indicate sending to old data or email or recipients who haven’t verified their email addresses, collecting contacts using a form that’s opened to abuse, and more. Increasingly, information collected about mail sent to traps is used in machine learning. You really don’t want your emails to be used as examples to train an AI bot how to identify spam, as it’s likely to negatively impact your inbox placement for a very long time.

Hitting one or more spam traps can result in a mailbox provider directly blocking your emails. Hitting one or more spam traps operated by an anti-abuse network can result in them blacklisting your sending domain, your IP, or (in the really bad cases) all 255 IPs in the range that your sending IP belongs to. Mailbox providers can query these blacklists and block your emails if they find you or your IP on the list.

Reputation and revenue

If your recipients can’t see your emails because they’re not in the inbox or promotions tab, they’re less likely to engage with your brand and make purchases. During the busy period, they’re receiving so many emails (including from your competitors) that they’re unlikely to have time to go through their spam folder and retrieve your messages. There’s a potential for a lot of revenue loss. However, hitting a spam trap or being blacklisted and not being able to deliver any emails at all… well, that’s a nightmare before Christmas, male to mistake.

It can be really difficult and take a very long time to repair reputation damage, get unblocked or de-listed, and make a come back to the inbox or promotions tab. Our deliverability experts are here to help you with this, but we’d rather not see it happen at all. That’s why we created the WatchDog – to protect your reputation as a sender, as well as protect other customers using the platform.

Don’t give me problems, give me solutions

When an import is quarantined, customers often ask us to tell them which addresses are the ‘bad’ ones so that they can remove them and continue uploading their data. The catch 22 is that there’s no real way to tell which contact is going to be your deliverability Achilles’ heal. Sure, you could go through and remove all the role alias addresses, but those are simply indicators of the health of the list as a whole. The rest of that import is still a revenue-ruining minefield riddled with complainers and spam traps and people who aren’t interested in what you’ve got to stay.

List validation and data cleansing

We often ask about using a third party email validation tool to ‘clean’ the list. These can check for and remove things like misspelled addresses or those with no active mail server to receive emails. Depending on the service, they may be able to identify some spam traps or known unused inboxes. However, they aren’t perfect. In particular, spam trap addresses are closely-held secrets and new ones are constantly being created, so no validation tool can guarantee removal of all traps from a list.

More importantly, list validation can’t confirm that the recipients actually want to receive your emails. ‘Spam’ doesn’t mean illegal; it means unwanted. And if you’re sending unwanted emails, sooner or later there will be consequences for your deliverability that impact your revenue.

Analyze how your data was acquired

You should be checking:

  • whether data was given explicitly for your brand
  • whether there was an incentive such as a voucher or WiFi access that could have tempted people to put in false details
  • whether the email addresses submitted were confirmed to be correct and active using doubt opt-in
  • whether the submission for had CAPTCHA or other preventative measures against bot submissions

You could also analyze other sources of information, such as your website or CRM data, to see if any email addresses are associated with people who have recently purchased your products or services.

In our experience, we never see any success from emailing an old list; instead, we’re picking up the pieces and walking customers through the arduous process of rebuilding their reputation after succumbing to temptation. If Winston the WatchDog has quarantined your import, it’s best to heed his advice: ditch the risk to your revenue and instead focus on your existing engaged, valued, and loyal customers


If you’re looking for more actionable deliverability best practice, check out our free 101 guide here.

The post Deliverability insights: avoiding spam traps and other revenue risks during the festive period appeared first on dotdigital blog.

Reblogged 6 days ago from blog.dotdigital.com

Email deliverability: make Black Friday about consent, not spam

The last email deliverability blog I wrote was about how communicating to everyone in your lists needs to be done strategically, and that email may not be the best path. One of the seasons where senders feel pressure to expand their email audience is fast approaching.

Sometimes that pressure focuses on legal arguments.

To re-iterate from last time: Making sure that what you are sending and to whom is legal, is something I cannot advise on. Most often, when having a conversation on email deliverability, and specifically when I’m giving advice on who to send to, I get the response: ” but it’s legal”.

Please leave the legal conversation for the lawyers. For me – and this may seem harsh – I don’t care. The legal argument is just that – an argument. And it misses the point and moves the whole focus away from what the conversation should really be about.

Email deliverability: Wanted vs. unwanted

The focus of the conversation should be on: do the recipients of the emails you’re sending want to receive those emails?

Consent and setting expectations are both key to having a successful, revenue-generating email program. As we come up to the busy holiday period, it’s easy to let the pressures that come with it change this key part of the message. But there are no exceptions because of timing.

Mailbox providers have a job to do: to make sure that the emails being sent to recipients are wanted. They measure whether or not an email is wanted through many different indicators. Some of those include:

  • when recipients mark a message as spam
  • sending to an email address that’s being used to identify senders collecting email addresses without consent or continued consent (a.k.a ‘spam trap’)
  • sending to recipients that no longer exist at that mailbox provider

Once you reach one or more of those thresholds, mailbox providers (such as Gmail and Yahoo) can see clearly that you’re sending emails that their users – the owners of the email addresses you’re sending to – do not want.

Re-focus on email deliverability

If your biggest argument for sending an email is, “oh, but it’s legal”, then you need to re-focus. Because you run the risk of alienating people who actually do want to hear from you. These are the contacts that drive revenue or any other intended outcome of your email program.

Build a robust sending plan

Building back your reputation is hard; it’s better to build your sending plan for the busy upcoming holidays. Here are some email deliverability tips:

  • Use past years’ data to understand how your recipients interact with your emails. Look at the demographics of your recipient base and what they want to know.
  • Continue to respect recipients that have shown they are not interested. Consider carefully before sending to inactive contacts who may still be opted in. Whatever value you might get from sending a campaign like that is not worth the risk to your email deliverability. Find the data point where revenue drops. At what age of inactivity does the lack of revenue make sending to that data set irrelevant? Remember, the answer to this question will be different for each sender.
  • If there is consent and data to show a larger audience wants to hear about your Black Friday deals, then plan any volume increases accordingly – slowly build to the volumes where you need to be.

Who should I be sending to?

Want more advice on email deliverability during the busy festive period? Get in touch with your account manager to set up a consultation.

For more killer insight, download our email deliverability guide here.

The post Email deliverability: make Black Friday about consent, not spam appeared first on dotdigital blog.

Reblogged 2 weeks ago from blog.dotdigital.com

Deliverability: it doesn’t have to be the Pandora’s Box of email marketing

Email marketers should not be scared of Deliverability – it’s an essential part of email marketing that needs to be understood in order to drive best-of-breed sending practices.

What is Deliverability?

Deliverability is quite literally the ability for your email campaign to reach the inbox of the recipient. It is crucial not to confuse “Deliverability” with “Delivery”. According to Return Path, Delivery measures emails that have not received a hard or soft bounce – i.e. that haven not been rejected – but it does not measure where the email has landed. Deliverability on the other hand refers to the placement of your emails, be that in the inbox, the spam folder or a black hole in some galaxy far, far away.

How can I – as an e-marketer – maximise the deliverability of my email campaigns? Here are my top 5 tips:

  1. Get permission!

Make sure that the contacts you are emailing have given permission to receive emails from you and are expecting what you send. Getting consent from your contacts and setting the right expectations from the beginning helps build a strong sending reputation.

  1. Listen to your contacts

Target your engaged contacts; this helps you to maintain a healthy sender reputation which helps maximise your delivery to the email client (i.e. Hotmail) and placement in the inbox. The contacts that are continually engaging are showing you that they want to hear from you. Be strategic when emailing your un-engaged contacts; it is recommended not to email subscribers that have not historically engaged with your brand. This depends on your recipients – when does it make sense to remove them? Different product/service/email lifecycles will dictate different engagement strategies. As said in tip #1, this is a conversation. If the recipient isn’t interested in continuing, it’s time to change what you are saying to them. At this point, create a strategy that will target unengaged recipients with the purpose of wining them back. If they don’t respond to your “win-back” strategy, stop emailing them. Continually emailing unengaged subscribers weakens your sender reputation, causing lower inbox placement and response rates.

  1. Maintain your list hygiene

This will help you with targeting content to specific subscribers. Ensure that you are utilising the folder system within your account in order to manage address books. This will help you identify contacts and organise them in a way that best fits your sending strategy.

  1. Segment based on suitability and email behaviour

Look at contact interactions such as opens, clicks and conversions. Remember, a conversion does not necessarily mean a purchase, but rather a positive action in response to a call-to-action. This will give you more visibility of your contacts, helping you to target and engage with them further.

  1. Use in-built deliverability tools

Use the dotmailer-provided tools to help you maintain a strong reputation. Run your contacts against the Global Suppression list: this will help remove any hard bouncers/known unknown users (recipients that don’t exist). This tool is in place to help maintain your sender reputation.

As a last note, it is worth mentioning that the Email Marketing Industry – in terms of regulation – is becoming very focused on anti-abuse. With the GDPR coming in to effect in 2018, it is essential that email marketers enforce best sending practices. Conforming to these practices doesn’t just help with compliance, but it also protects your business interests. From a deliverability perspective, reaching your customers’ inboxes is a pre-requisite of driving ROI through the email channel.

Get a free copy of our deliverability myths guide, written by our Chief Privacy Officer.

The post Deliverability: it doesn’t have to be the Pandora’s Box of email marketing appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

Reblogged 2 years ago from blog.dotmailer.com

The increased importance of domain reputation on your deliverability

In recent years, email classifying technologies have moved beyond basic IP address reputation measures and have focused on other signals, including placing a heavier value on domain reputation.  This means the classifier looks at all of the data associated with the sending domain — therefore the singled-out IP address is overshadowed by the other ‘good’ IP addresses.  In addition, domain-based measurements incorporate the reputation associated with transactional email sent from the same domain, which will most certainly help overall sender reputation.

Earlier this year I moderated an email receiver panel, comprising Google, Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo! and Comcast.  During our time together IP address and domain reputation was discussed, and while the change has not yet been formally adopted by all receivers, they are taking steps now to shift to this – meaning – they are now looking at domain reputation closer than ever.

The overall message is very clear: domain-based reputation is the future.

The good news

For most senders, this change will actually benefit their delivery rates.  The fact remains that ISP classifiers still have ‘false positive’ situations where an individual IP address is singled out due to insufficient data or a glitch in the system, while the same sender’s other IP addresses are highly reputable and reach the inbox.

The bad news

If there truly is a reputation problem from anywhere within a sender’s domain, it will affect all of the mail coming from that sender.  This means that senders must be mindful of their complaint rates and email acquisition practices because they both will affect their domain-based reputation — and by extension, their ROI.  Equally important, if a sender is using the same domain for transactional messaging, those emails may also see their deliverability rates decline.

If you are using an unbranded or shared from domain, like dotmailer’s cmp.dotmailer.co.uk or dotmailer-email.com, you risk having to deal with the bad news.  This is because not only are you sharing an IP address in a pool, but you are also sharing a domain name.  With receivers looking at both the IP and the domain, if you are stuck with a bad actor on your domain, you have a very high risk of email deliverability issues.

One simple way of better representing yourself in the new world of domain reputation is using a custom from address.  The cost of these addresses is low compared to the potential cost in lost revenue due to email deliverability problems.  Not only do you gain the ability to differentiate yourself in the eyes of the email receivers, you also have a fully branded email solution, incorporating your own custom domain name in the “from address”.  This helps your recipients better identify your mail, giving it a branded feel and fostering trust.

For more information on how to order and set up a custom from address for your dotmailer account, take a look  at our help center or please contact your account manager.

The post The increased importance of domain reputation on your deliverability appeared first on The Email Marketing Blog.

Reblogged 2 years ago from blog.dotmailer.com