DM News' Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing: How to Maintain Your E-Mail Reputation

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By far the biggest hurdle facing marketers who use e-mail is getting past spam filters. Thousands of filters and blacklists are deployed at e-mail gateways of enterprises and Internet service providers worldwide.

Many marketers' carefully crafted e-mail messages just aren't being delivered. They're being filtered mistakenly as spam for various reasons. Here are steps you can take to ensure that your company's e-mail is not caught in spam filters and to boost the reliability of e-mail as a sales, marketing and customer relationship management channel for your company:

Audit internal e-mail practices. Carefully review your e-mail sending practices. Ensure that each type of e-mail - commercial, promotional, transactional, business-to-business - is assigned a unique mail server IP address. If you're not already doing so, ensure you use some form of authentication.

We encourage our customers, as part of our best practices standards, to immediately adopt the path-based Sender ID/SPF authentication standard and to begin planning for future adoption of DomainKeys Identified Mail, a PKI-based authentication standard that is in the final stages of definition.

Size up the problem. What are your e-mail delivery rates? Are some Internet service providers treating you better than others? Is the problem related to frequency, volume or content? Often, your e-mail service provider can assist with these issues.

Also, sender accreditation and certification agencies can tell you which ISPs have you pegged as a spammer and are refusing to deliver your e-mail. Some can even help resolve problems with specific ISPs.

Address blacklist issues. Next, you need to know how ISPs view you. That means understanding your e-mail reputation. If somebody reports your company as a spammer, your entire organization's ability to send e-mail can be compromised.

You need to work with an organization that knows how to poll the various blacklist operators. Many spam filters continually refer to these blacklists. If you are on a blacklist, you need to understand how your company got on that list, figure out how to prevent the problem from reoccurring and then get your company's domain or IP addresses removed.

Become squeaky clean. To avoid future delivery problems, you'll need to ensure that your company can be identified as a reputable e-mailer. This means becoming a certified sender of legitimate e-mail. An e-mail accreditation agency can perform an audit of your sending practices and provide counsel on steps you can take to improve delivery rates.

Develop internal policies. Ensure your company has a stated policy on how the e-mail addresses of customers, prospects and partners should be treated. Pay particular attention to departments that send high volumes of e-mail and help them understand how their actions can result in e-mail delivery issues.

These steps help you take control of your company's e-mail reputation, and that means you can expect a better ROI on your online marketing efforts.

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