While it's not a new topic, e-mail deliverability has taken on even greater importance as more companies look to e-mail as a cost-effective marketing channel in these tough economic times.
Many people worried about deliverability focus on content, things like whether using "free" in the subject line or including images in an e-mail will cause the message to be blocked. In reality, 83 percent of e-mail is filtered as spam because of the sender's reputation. Content has little, if anything, to do with it.
Today I'll share two free resources that can help you identify and address potential deliverability issues related to your sender reputation. The first is Sender Score, a free e-mail reputation service from Return Path. The second is EDS Alerts from Email Data Source, which allows you to monitor e-mail sent from a specified IP address or domain name, among other criteria. Either resource alone is valuable; when used together, they can provide the information you need to safeguard your e-mail reputation and deliverability.
Sender Score allows you to enter an IP address or domain name and retrieve its Sender Score, a quantitative indicator of your e-mail reputation. Every ISP (e.g., Yahoo, Gmail) and anti-spam solution (e.g., Cloudmark, Postini) tracks and evaluates your sender reputation, and each has its own criteria. All criteria are based on the same kinds of data that reflect your e-mail marketing practices, like the number of complaints you generate, the volume of mail you send, how your process bounces, and if you are on any blacklists. A sample Sender Score report:
The Sender Score is based on 100 points, so this Sender Score of 95 is very good. Even so, that doesn't mean your messages will automatically reach the inbox, just like a good credit score doesn't mean you will automatically get the loan you want. The graph shows this score has remained consistent, even as e-mail volume sent has fluctuated. Still, there's a medium risk of deliverability problems, which may relate to the inconsistent volume or infrastructure, a higher-than-average complaint rate on some types of messages, or the lack of Sender Score Certification and Safelist inclusion. If your Sender Score indicates that you might be having delivery issues, you can sign up for Return Path's paid deliverability services to help get to the inbox consistently.
Also of interest here is that 25 different domains send from this IP address. You can read about the pros and cons of shared IP addresses in "E-mail: Evaluating Dedicated vs. Shared IP Addresses."
If you share an IP address, it's helpful to know who you share it with, as you could be tainted with guilt by association if one of your IP address neighbors gets blacklisted. You can ask your e-mail service provider (ESP), which may or may not tell you. Also, your neighbors may change from week to week. Enter Email Data Source's EDS Alerts.
Email Data Source has the largest database of e-mail marketing messages that I know of: more than 15 million e-mail missives from over 400,000 senders, and more being delivered every day. Its Email Analyst tool is great for doing competitive research.
But its new EDS Alerts tool takes it all one step further and adds a new twist. The tool will send you a daily digest of all e-mail it receives from the IP addresses you designate. So if you share an IP address, you can see, on a daily basis, whom you share it with. You can also monitor e-mail by brand (yours or a competitor's), keywords, and other things. The first alert is free; after that you can purchase additional alerts if you like what you see. Here's a screenshot of the free alert registration page:
Good deliverability has more to do with e-mail reputation than it does with content. If you aren't proactively working to have a good e-mail reputation, you may find you have a bad one and your e-mail is blocked. Use these two free tools to get started.
Until next time,
Jeanne is off this week. Today's column originally ran on April 6, 2009.
Need practical tips for taking your successful e-mail marketing program to new heights? Sign up for a full-day workshop with Jeanne Jennings and Tamara Gielen on Feb. 1, 2010 in Miami Beach, FL, in conjunction with the 2010 Email Evolution Conference.
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Jeanne Jennings is a leading authority and independent consultant with over 15 years of experience in the e-mail and online realm. She specializes in all aspects of e-mail marketing and publishing, from strategy through design and metrics analysis. Jeanne works with medium- to enterprise-sized organizations and is expert at helping her clients become more effective and more profitable online. She is the author of "The Email Marketing Kit: The Ultimate Email Marketer’s Bible" (SitePoint, 2007) and publisher of "The Jennings Report," a free e-mail newsletter for online marketing professionals. Visit her online at JeanneJennings.com.
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