Key Rules for E-Mail Delivery
You've defined the target audience, constructed the perfect e-mail and pushed send.
Miller time, right?
Unfortunately, much like vehicles on a congested highway, e-mail messages often get detoured or blocked en route to their intended destinations.
There are a number of issues that can cause e-mail messages to be delayed, junked or blocked. The bottom line is that failing to address these issues dramatically reduces the effectiveness of your campaigns and essentially cripples the expected return on investment.
Further, the bigger and unforeseen issue is the potentially damaging effects that failing to address proper sending practices can have on your company's reputation.
So you ask, "What can I do to make sure my customers get the mail I send? Equally important,"How can I insure that my company gets the rewards that it deserves and at the same time be seen as a good net citizen to the Internet service providers of the world?"
Authentication, accreditation, reputation
To shed some light on some of the roadblocks of the e-mail super highway, let's take a look at a few best practices that can make a world of difference.
Authenticate, authenticate, authenticate. The ISP community is moving down a track where unauthenticated e-mail could suffer the consequences of an adverse policy decision.
Simply stated, if the receiver can't be sure you are who you say you are, your email more then likely will be subjected to additional filtering. At some point in the not-so-distant future, failing to authenticate your mail could be reason enough for rejection.
Accreditation and reputation are terms that have drawn immense focus by the e-mail industry over the past year and with good reason.
The list of ISPs who make use of reputation data is growing daily. Having the ability to mark up your mail with a seal of approval from one of the mainstream reputation vendors can provide dramatic results in ISP deliverability.
In essence, a mail marked with this certification is deemed as coming from a quality sender and generally by passes most ISP content filters.
Everything starts and stops with your MTA, or message transfer agent.We can think of the MTA as the engine that moves mail through the Internet.
The No. 1 cause of most deliverability issues starts with antiquated or poorly configured MTAs that cannot manage the e-mail volumes or ISP policies. In looking at message systems, look for performance, policy management, bounce categorization, reporting and adoption of emerging standards.
Consider these aforementioned best practices to insure your next campaign is traveling in the express lane.
Elements to working with ISPS
Each one of us remembers reluctantly playing with the kid who never learned how to play well with others. So we learn early on that playing well with others is a clear path to acceptance.
E-mail deliverability is no different.
Your business depends on getting your e-mail delivered to your customers' inboxes, so learning early in the game what it takes to be a good sender is critical. So much time and money is spent creating compelling campaigns that will deliver the desired result.
However, even the most expensive, sophisticated and compelling campaign will never deliver the desired results if your customers never see it because the email was never delivered.
Because your business depends on ISPs responding to your requests to have e-mail delivered to your customers' inboxes, it's imperative that you learn their rules and that you adhere to them. How do you play well with ISPs? By understanding and making use of the technology available.
Below are four basic rules that will help make the difference between fair play and foul play on your e-mail campaign.
Establish a good reputation. Work with a reputation service that will continually monitor your sending activity and determine a reputation score based on predetermined criteria. This score is used by ISPs to filter your mail for delivery or determines if you are not going to get delivered.
Get "certified." Use an accreditation service, a third-party white list program that assures the receiver that mail from you is "certified," which means it is "save for delivery." This is done through sender policies and is a key contributor to your reputation.
Get recognized. Use authentication standards such as DK/DKIM or Sender ID, which signs outgoing messages to assure ISPs of the identity of the sender. Recognized senders get delivered faster. Without authentication you may not get delivered at all. The final destination of your e-mail campaigns could be the junk folder.
Keep data current. Put a feedback loop in place. ISPs use automated systems that communicate with "approved senders," providing them with feedback on mail in their system. Most of this communication is restricted to complaints and opt-out requests giving the sender the ability to update its system. Keeping your system current helps build and maintain strong ISP relationships.
Play by the rules and your e-mails campaigns will get delivered.
Barry Abel is vice president of operations at Message Systems Inc. (formerly Omni-TI), Columbia, MD. Reach him at email@example.com.