Getting into the in-box: relevance and reputation

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The reaction to the recent changes announced by Microsoft and AOL, two giant e-mail gateways, confirmed our worst suspicions - many e-mail marketers still resist following best practices to the detriment of their e-mail campaigns and the industry on the whole. We hoped marketers and e-mail service providers would embrace these changes and have long insisted that clients follow practices that will let them easily accept these adjustments.

What are the changes? Microsoft now severely limits the amount of mail a marketer can send from a new Internet provider address through the Microsoft gateway until the company can determine the e-mail reputation of the marketer. AOL is newly blocking images and links from rendering by default in their Web client, in addition to this being a standard feature of AOL 9.0. These changes are intended to root out illegitimate mail and protect customers from spam, viruses, phishing, and similar practices.

These actions by Microsoft and AOL are only the latest in a series of industry efforts over the past few years, which include the advent of authentication and accreditation schemes and of course, legislation, to cut down on spam. Each of these brought about new deliverability challenges, but through them all one overriding best practice has helped marketers consistently get their mail delivered: relevance. Now the industry is looking at reputation and again relevance is the key.

E-mail marketers who have been protecting their reputations all along will have no problem accepting Microsoft's, AOL's, or any other Internet service provider's (ISP) changes in the way they process e-mail for delivery. Your e-mail reputation is based on the credibility of your IP address, which can be accomplished with authentication and further enhanced by accreditation, your deliverability rate (at least 90 percent, preferably higher), a low level of complaints (below 0.5 percent), and the weeding out of spam traps on your lists. You can ensure a good e-mail reputation if you meet these criteria and just follow one simple rule: Send the right message to the right person at the right time . These will be to people who have opted onto your e-mail list and find value in the relevant e-mail you send - so they won't complain or opt-out.

The message here is not that you should aim for relevance in your e-mail campaigns just to get around the latest ISP hurdles. Rather, by focusing on relevance you will have more successful e-mail campaigns in the long term. Legitimate marketers and ISPs are on the same side in this battle. Relevance boosts e-mail success along with boosting your e-mail reputation. Sending data-driven, relevant e-mail will build a good reputation. Opens, clicks, and conversions naturally follow, and u ltimately revenue will increase.á 

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