International e-mail deliverability: What you don't know could hurt you…

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Legend has it that the brave crew of the Titanic saw the iceberg that ultimately sunk the ship and was able to take counter-measures in an attempt to avoid a direct hit. They may have believed they had successfully avoided the disaster when the force of the larger, hidden, iceberg under the surface of the water slashed a hole in the side of their unsinkable ship.

Is ignorance bliss? Or is ignorance a threat?

Internet service providers stateside have greatly developed and adapted their spam filtering tools and allowed more visibility to their inner-workings, with access to complaint feedback loops, friendly bounce messaging, whitelisting and sender support lines. The access to most ISPs around the globe, however, remains murky.

A threat lurking under the surface is the diverse international legal environment. Whereas some joke about our CAN-SPAM Act as being the "you can spam" act, some international laws have more teeth to them. Take the EU Privacy Directive, which specifies a required opt-in when mailing consumers. Australia also has an opt-in standard per their SPAM ACT 2003. Ignorance of your list make-up or opt-in policies could be a threat when sending to either locale. More details can be found at www.spamlaws.com

Another trend is e-mail providers such as Yahoo, AOL (AIM), Hotmail and Google increasing their share of the global demand for personal e-mail, and in turn their mix of a typical global business-to-consumer list. One example would be Yahoo that also manages e-mail delivery for the SBC Global and Rogers Cable in Canada.

In fact, per our internal data, US-based ISPs comprise a little more than 29 percent of a typical file of UK-based consumers. Hotmail may be an even more significant international email provider. Based on our internal data, Hotmail ranks among the top 5 e-mail providers in a number of countries.

On the positive side, these major freemail providers function internationally much as they do in the States, meaning their bounce codes, rendering, spam filtering, and consumer complaint logic often remains constant. The threat here is that all of these ISPs are moving toward image suppression in their latest releases - thereby shifting the image-display problem of HTML emails to the international stage.

Our testing to Pivotal Veracity's international seedlists shows similar deliverability rates for most clients internationally as those sending in the US only - most often north of 95 percent deliverability. When problems exist, however, they tend to be from smaller ISP's with limited resources to respond to your inquiries. So, though the choppy waters aren't as bad as one might expect, threats to your deliverability still exist in international waters.

How does one avoid the threat? The solution internationally is similar to locally. Maintain your reputation with solid opt-in, list hygiene, and address-book practices and steer clear of the threat.

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