Publishers Clearing House Becomes a Winner in E-Mail Delivery

Improving e-mail delivery is a constant issue for marketers, facing the ever-changing policies and spam filters at ISPs and ESPs. Amid the current difficult climate, a major direct marketer found a way to boost its delivery rates to nearly 100 percent.

Executives with Publishers Clearing House, Port Washington, NY, which sends millions of e-mails monthly, had implemented several best practices to get promotions through to people who signed up to receive them in the past few years. Still, some major ISPs blocked the e-mails.

At the peak of its “intermittent delivery problems,” nearly 10 percent of PCH's e-mails were blocked, though the average was lower, said Sal Tripi, director of operations at PCH.

“Our core group of customers is used to receiving stuff from us on a daily basis,” Tripi said. “When those are absent from their mailbox, they ask us about it. It creates real customer issues.” And the blocking problem was “beginning to negatively affect our revenue and relationships with partners. It also was impacting our ability to acquire new customers.”

To turn things around, PCH added staff and money last spring to examine all areas of delivery. PCH enlisted Habeas, Mountain View, CA, which certifies the reputation of e-mail marketers. Habeas audited PCH's system, then helped make changes, including establishing feedback loops with several ISPs.

“They send us specific complaint data so that we can immediately analyze that information and take appropriate action. This data was not previously available to us,” Tripi said. Because e-mail blocking practices are not standard among ISPs, “we were able to focus on what was important to each of them, make the appropriate changes and try to get that delivery rate up.”

PCH tracks its Internet protocols and domain presence across 50 blacklists and complaint information from major ISPs and anti-spam groups. It also uses a content checker to prescreen its e-mails. It changes subject lines and content to get more e-mail through ISP filters. In addition, PCH closely monitors hard and soft bounces to ensure that its list is up to date. It requires double opt in on all of its e-mail lists.

After undergoing Habeas' accreditation process, it is included on the Habeas Safelist.

“We value our reputation as a legitimate sender and are pleased to have the Habeas Certified Sender seal on all of our e-mails,” Tripi said.

Once changes were made, blocking issues virtually disappeared. Delivery rates rose to more than 99 percent consistently. Tripi said e-mail delivery is a company-wide initiative because executives know missed e-mails can affect the bottom line.

“Anyone from the beginning creative person to the last person pushing the e-mail has to go through training to make sure they understand all the best practices,” Tripi said.

Christine Blank covers online marketing and advertising, including e-mail marketing and paid search, for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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