Reputation front line for filtering, content last defense: DM Days' speaker

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NEW YORK - Reputation has taken over content as the most important test for e-mail delivery, according to a session at yesterday's DM Days Conference and Expo in New York.

In his talk, "What is your e-mail reputation?," Matt Blumberg, chairman/CEO of Return Path, discussed the importance e-mail reputation has assumed for Internet service providers when deciding whether to let an e-mail get into a consumer's inbox. A few years ago content was king, with about 80 percent of filtering controlled by what was in the e-mail. Today 77 percent of filtering is driven by sender reputation, 6 percent by domain reputation and only 17 percent by content.

"Reputation is used as the front line of filtering and content is used as a last defense," Mr. Blumberg said. "Complaints put the consumer in charge of your deliverability and they are the main driver of whether or not you make it into the inbox."

Five key drivers that ISPs look for when measuring reputation are consumer complaints, unknown users, sending to spam-trap addresses, sending infrastructure and sending stability.

This doesn't imply a red light for marketers. It just means that they need to be informed of ISP expectations.

"Marketers need to start learning the speed limit and recognize that that is how the receivers of the world make their decisions," Mr. Blumberg said.

Some ways to build a good reputation are to sign up for free feedback loops offered by many ISPs.

In addition, marketers should do the basic math. Reducing complaints is really a function of meeting subscriber expectations. It's about how you build relationships with the consumers. It's also about sending welcome messages that inform a consumer of what to expect from your communications with them, like how often you send e-mail and what content you will include.

It is key to always keep a clean list and respect unsubscribe requests, as well as to measure complaints the way any other metric is measured. One Return Path client upped its delivery rate by identifying that a number of people over age 40 were marking their e-mail as spam.

The lesson learned? E-mail should be relevant to consumers, and house lists should be cleaned on a regular basis.

"If you send what you say you are going to send and you keep a clean list by removing consistent non-clickers, then you will have a higher delivery rate," Mr. Blumberg said.

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