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ISPs Continue to Reach Out

  |  August 13, 2008   |  Comments

New tools are intended to help commercial e-mail senders better understand ISP rules for blocking and filtering mail.

I get a little impatient these days with e-mail marketers who gripe about ISPs that block or filter their e-mail messages or blame their lousy delivery rates on not understanding how ISPs operate.

Maybe that was true 10 years ago or so, when ISPs were secretive about how they handled bulk e-mail. But today, while I'm not about to start an ISP fan group on Facebook, I do see more ISPs publishing information on their Web sites and talking about their e-mail operations with their users.

Today, I'll call out two unrelated developments that show how ISPs are working hard to reach out to both personal and commercial users.

Comcast Launches Its Postmaster Site

Comcast is the newest entry in the field. The cable and ISP giant recently created a postmaster site, an easily navigable site that provides quick access to the most urgent information, such as how to apply for the feedback loop and how to get a block removed.

Comcast also launched four RSS feeds: postmaster site news, new Comcast mail servers, new mail delivery errors, and Comcast's dynamic IP range.

This second feature is noteworthy, because it means you have multiple ways of getting the information from Comcast that you need, not just to resolve blocking or delivery issues but also to stay on top of changes and developments that can affect your delivery to Comcast addresses. Although no information has been published yet, you should add them to your list of feeds to watch.

Yahoo Mail Managers Participate in an Open Chat

Recently, two Yahoo Mail folks -- Ryan Knight, who manages Yahoo Mail Blog for users, and Mark Risher of the Yahoo Mail anti-abuse team, conducted a live workshop chat with users, including both commercial senders and consumer users.

Although "we have a lot of smart people working on that" was a typical answer for a number of technical questions, the two clarified what clicking the "spam" and "not spam" buttons can do to e-mail messages.

One sender asked, "What are your recommendations for handling blocks due to complaint volume, since FBL requests are not accepted at the moment?" Risher urged commercial senders to confirm (and reconfirm) opt-ins and remove inactive addresses to reduce spam complaints. "The FBL, or feedback loop for those of you who aren't familiar with the lingo, is a way that Yahoo communicates back with commercial e-mail senders to let them know their messages are being marked as spam by Yahoo Mail users," he said. "We recommend commercial e-mail senders ensure they're sending mail that Yahoo Mail users want to receive. This means following recommended practices, like confirming -- and even periodically reconfirming -- that users want to be on their mailing lists and proactively removing anyone who doesn't read their mail." (If you missed it, the entire transcript has been posted.)

How ISPs Are Reaching Out

Maybe all the efforts to bridge the gap between ISPs and commercial senders through industry conferences and groups such as the Email Sender and Provider Coalition, the Authentication and Online Trust Association, and the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group are finally bearing fruit.

Whatever the reason, e-mailers have more contact points with the ISPs than ever before. Here are four examples:

  • Postmaster Web sites. ISPs now post information and guidelines aimed at volume senders. These can be complex sites, comprising several pages, such as Yahoo's and AOL's, or fairly stripped-down and efficient, like Comcast's new page. Most are written using everyday language. If you haven't checked them out before because you don't understand geek-speak, that excuse doesn't hold up any longer. Bookmark these postmaster sites, if you haven't already:

  • Automated complaint handling. This speeds up complaint resolutions and puts all volume senders on an equal footing with the ISPs.

  • Tips and advice directed specifically to volume senders. You should know which ISPs make up the bulk of your e-mail database. This information will help you work more effectively with them. Most ISPs now use their blogs to announce changes that can affect your e-mail delivery. Sign up for the RSS feeds, when offered, to stay on top of these changes.

  • E-mail delivery rules for various formats that reduce perceptions of secrecy. These cover issues like permission, sending volume, IP ranges, and authentication protocols,

All this information sharing can help senders fine-tune their e-mail programs and get more messages delivered correctly. It's all there for you to find, or it comes to you directly via RSS or e-mail. Now it's time for you to absorb it and use the information to improve your e-mail performance.

Until next time, keep on deliverin'!

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Stefan Pollard

Stefan Pollard, who started his career in online marketing in 1999, was considered a selfless mentor and champion of best practices in e-mail marketing. He held the position of senior strategic consultant at Responsys where he was responsible for developing e-mail marketing and lifecycle messaging strategies to increase clients' ROI. Before that, Stefan led the e-mail consulting program for Lyris clients, frequently speaking at industry events on best practices. Prior to that, he managed the audit process and consulted with clients to improve their e-mail delivery challenges for Habeas. As an e-mail marketer, he spent several years building and executing acquisition and retention campaigns at E-Loan and Cybergold.com. He died May 14, 2010.

In Memoriam: Stefan Pollard
E-mail marketing community mourns the loss of a marketing pro dedicated to helping his peers and clients and working to improve an industry. Here are their tributes celebrating his life.

E-mail Marketing Expert Stefan Pollard Dies
An expert in deliverability is remembered as a champion of best practices and someone who selflessly gave of his time to others.

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