Is Your E-Mail Getting Delivered on Prime or Subprime IP Addresses?

  |  March 26, 2009   |  Comments

When evaluating an e-mail service provider, be sure to ask what neighborhood you'll be placed in. One bad apple could spoil the whole barrel.

Are you shopping for an e-mail service provider? This month ClickMail Marketing released a white paper entitled "Choosing the Right Email Service Provider" in which it lists 20 factors to consider when shopping for an e-mail service provider (ESP). Number two on the list? Deliverability.

ClickMail Marketing, which sells, licenses, or represents over 24 ESP products, recommends looking for the following items in making your decision:

  • Is the ESP rated by analysts like Forrester, Jupiter Research, eMarketer, or MarketingSherpa?

  • Will the ESP allow a third-party deliverability audit by a company such as Pivotal Veracity or ReturnPath before requiring a contract?

  • Is deliverability consistently monitored?

  • Can you have your own dedicated IP mail server address?

  • Can you elect to be in a shared or distributed IP mail server pool?

  • Does the ESP have a team of postmasters to interact with ISPs?

  • Is there reputation support within the ESP service offering, including whitelisting, enrollment to feedback loops, authentication protocols, and optimization for all?

Key to all of this, of course, is the reputation, or lack of reputation, of the IP address (define) your ESP uses to delivery your e-mail. Not only will a bad reputation prevent deliverability, but no reputation will also impact your ability to get into the inbox. There is a well-known story about a flower company that sent out a massive e-mail campaign near Valentine's Day on a new IP address that had no reputation. A major ISP blocked the campaign because it saw a massive amount of e-mail being sent from an IP address it didn't have data on. Don't let that happen to you.

Many companies will work with you to help improve your IP reputation, but lately I've been wondering how one's reputation might be affected by the reputation scores of the IP addresses around you.

I've been monitoring blocks of IP addresses recently to see which e-mail messages share a common range of IPs. For instance, Marriott sends e-mail from the same block of IP addresses used by QualityHealth, Ralph Lauren, Nubella, LeapFrog, Elderhostel, Home Made Simple, U.S. Bank, Olay, AbeBooks, Beinggirl, CoverGirl, Crest, the Ritz-Carlton, Luvs, Clairol, and P&G Everyday Solutions.

Could the reputation of any of the brand's IP addresses affect its neighbors?

To find out, I recently chatted with leaders in the ISP world to get their take. And, perhaps not surprisingly, the answer is yes. Someone who works with a top ISP said the reputation of nearby IP addresses can help an IP's reputation or tarnish it. For instance, according to my source, an ESP will sometimes put a brand with little or no reputation near an IP address with a great reputation to boost the score of the lesser-known address. And a new client might be placed in a subprime block of IP addresses until its reputation is made or lost, then transferred into a prime block later.

Of course, ESPs aren't keen to give out this information. They don't want to have to micromanage IP addresses and move brands unhappy with their current location.

With a shared IP address your reputation is only as good as the worst person e-mailing from the address. When evaluating an ESP, then, it's probably a good idea to discuss what neighborhood you'll be placed in, since one bad apple could spoil the whole barrel.

If you're interested in monitoring your block of IP addresses, I've developed a free tool to help you. Go to Email Data Source and sign up for a free alert. Once you have your license, you can set up an IP alert and be notified every time someone mails from a specific IP address (e.g., 123.45.789.111) or a block of IP addresses (e.g., 123.45.789.). Leaving the last blocks of numbers off will allow you to monitor everything coming in on that block.

Does your company or client offer one of the best online marketing products or services? Nominate it now for one of the 2009 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards!

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Bill McCloskey

Bill McCloskey is the founder and chief evangelist for Email Data Source, a competitive intelligence resource for e-mail marketers. He was named one of online advertising's 50 most influential people by "Media" magazine and one of the 100 people to know by "BtoB Magazine." He's been a recognized pioneer in interactive advertising for over 10 years.

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