July 27, 2011
As you evaluate an Email Service Provider, a CRM or Marketing Automation provider that you will be relying on to deliver your key commercial and customer messages, here are some things that you should consider understanding and assessing in one of these providers:
When you utilize your domain or send mail from a server that is not your own default corporate mailing server, today most ISPs require for the sending server to have the following infrastructure files configured:
- SPF Record
- Domain Keys
- Reverse DNS
In most cases, if you are going to use your main domain name to mail, you will want to inquire if the provider will set up the infrastructure so mail can be sent from that server using your domain. If that is not in place and your mailing volume consists of 100+ messages, chances are the ISP will block your messages.
2. IP Address
Most ESPs or CRM providers utilize a pool of IPs that they share amongst customers based on the following criteria.
- Length of time with service
- List management (number of bounces and complaints your mailings get)
- Premium dedicated IPs
If mailing is a key component of your customer or prospecting communication strategy, you will want to inquire about dedicated IPs. These IPs should be warmed up or have an establish sender score reputation of 80 or higher. Sender Score is one of the key metrics that all of the major ISPs and filtering software assess in determining if your message will get delivered into the inbox.
3. Reputation Management
A proactive mailing provider should have a reputation management solution in place where they are consistently gathering data about your IPs mailing reputation.
There are 3 factors that influence reputation the most:
1) How you manage your hard and soft bounces (keeping them to a minimum) is a direct attribute of how well you manage your lists.
2) Minimizing the number of complaints. This is caused by end users creating complaint tickets with spam cop, their ISP or quite simply clicking on ‘This is Junk’ when using web based free e-mail clients such as Yahoo, Gmail and Hotmail to name a few. If they are legit opt-ins and aren’t mad at you, they should not consider your mail as junk. Believe it or not, those are considered into your reputation score.
3) How often you mail a commercial mailer – sends typically involved a minimum of 2500 messages per week. If do not have mailing consistency (especially with new mailers on new IPs) you can be perceived as suspicious.
There is a reason why most commercial mail providers will not allow you to upload lists of more than 2K and mail to it. You know why?
Chances are those subscribers did not opt into your list and therefore by mailing to those contacts you risk sending to spam traps, and unknown users, and will get more complains on those IPs. Because those IPs are typically shared they prefer not to take on that liability. The Can Spam Act does not prohibit you from mailing to a third party list as long as the collecting party acquired them legitimately. If you are interested in doing direct marketing e-mail campaign to a third party list, SmartTouch can provide a solution. E-mail us to learn more at email@example.com.
4. Content Assessment
One factor to consider in deliverability of your HTML commercial e-mails is content in your code, subject and message. In addition to the key components of mailing mentioned above the variable that has the most eyes on it is your content. A proactive e-mail solution provider will have account service personnel dedicated to making sure that your e-mails are coded properly, that you minimize using words in text in the body of the e-mail and words in the subject lines that will get your e-mails filtered. If you are serious about mailing you will want to select a solution provider that will provide you assistance in this capacity. Refraining from using special charters or spam words such as Free or Viagra is critical in deploying an effective campaign. Serious providers will have tools that you can leverage to clean up your code.
|Link Integrity||Link Reputation||HTML Errors||Spelling Errors||Spam Words|
5. Return Path Certification
Return Path is a third party firm used by all of the major ISPs to assess sender score reputation. Over 2000 ISPs and spam filter providers utilize Return Path as a variable to determine if your message will get filtered. Return Path offers a certification program that will get you in the inbox of the majority of the ISPs in North America, Canada, Latin America and Europe. They charge an application fee and annual licensing subscription to participate in the program. It typically takes 45-60 days of demonstrating good mailing practices (frequent, minimal bounces and complaints) to be awarded your certification.
This is critical now more than ever as the majority of e-mail clients have moved to client based junk e-mail filtering. For example, if you are mailing to a new subscriber or customer that uses a yahoo e-mail account and they consistently ignore HTML e-mails and you do not have an establish mailing reputation or Return Path Certification chances are your e-mail will go into the junk folder. With the ISPs and filtering software, Return Path works with you to have a guaranteed inbox deliverability (assuming your ESP has taken care of the other key components of mailing mentioned above). For more information about Return Path Certification and their coverage visit: http://www.returnpath.net/commercialsender/certification/footprint/
In conclusion the more theses 5 key factors are covered by the email marketing service provider the higher probability that you will be aligning yourself with a partner that will help you get optimal deliverability. With everything else in business you get what you pay for, so expect to pay 2-3 times what you typically will pay for your low-end commercial e-mail service that does proactively cover these factors.
Regards and Best Wishes,
Robert Cowes III, MBA
President & Co-Founder of SmartTouch Interactive
E-mail your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org