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E-Mail Delivery Monitoring

  |  April 13, 2005   |  Comments

Your e-mail is being delivered... into the bulk folder. That’s where delivery monitoring comes in.

You’re not on any blacklists. You use confirmed opt-in methods and get a spam complaint only once in a blue moon. Yet your messages are sent to the bulk folder... and you may not even realize it.

A number of companies can help you figure out when and why this happens. The basic methodology behind all these services is the same; after setting up a testing network of mailboxes across a number of ISPs, you embed this seed list into your mailing list. After you send a message, an automated process checks all the mailboxes to determine if that message was received, and, if so, if it was sent to the inbox or the bulk folder.

Understanding whether your email went into an inbox, bulk folder, or ISP blackhole is only the beginning. Once you accurately determine you have a Hotmail bulk folder problem, for example, analyzing your email and figuring out what’s behind the problem is the more difficult next step.

We recently looked at four leading delivery monitoring companies. Though the core offering is the same, each offers a different way to utilize the seedbox data. How each approaches the resolution of discovered delivery issues also varies.

Piper Software

Piper tailors its services to email services providers (ESP), companies that offer an email delivery suite, rather than to individual marketers. With a no-frills interface, you can track performance over a wide variety of ISPs and corporate-level anti-spam filtering technologies, including Brightmail and Postini. Besides tracking delivery, you can use Piper’s message-rendering utility to preview how the email will appear in various email clients, such as Outlook, Hotmail, and Lotus Notes.

Piper’s strength is in the system’s ability to integrate with an ESP’s platform. Through API (define) functions, a framework of system-level queries and responses, all Piper’s functionality can be tied directly into the mail system.

Pivotal Veracity

Pivotal Veracity offers an extensive array of reporting options. Headed by marketing industry executives, the company understands marketers’ specific needs, and its system reflects this. Detailed reports can compare multiple performance metrics of both current and past campaigns. Its HTML validation tool ensures messages are error free, and troubleshooting tools allow side-by-side comparison of message variants.

Pivotal Veracity’s comprehensive reporting carries over to issue resolution. If your message trips up a spam filter, a comprehensive set of possible causes is made available and explained.

Return Path

Return Path also is focused on the marketer and offers API functions for tighter integration. Though somewhat limited in reporting functions compared to Pivotal Veracity, Return Path proffers expertise in issue resolution through its acquisition of Assurance Systems, one of the first companies to offer delivery monitoring. Return Path plans a significant update of its product in the coming quarter.

Habeas

Habeas, the email accreditation company, is launching a delivery monitoring product called MailTrack. The feature set currently has the basics, such as seedbox monitoring, HTML validation, and a blacklist monitor. Habeas’ strength is in the subsequent resolution of detected delivery issues, as the company’s primary line of business is auditing email marketing practices and mitigating delivery problems when they’re detected.

If you’re noticing declining open and click-through rates, especially if you deal with business-to-consumer (B2C) mailing lists or your messages contain often-filtered content, such as discounts or product offers, these companies’ services may be useful. Each offers in-depth demos of its solution and services. Take the time to evaluate all of them and determine which fits your needs.

Till next time, keep on deliverin’.

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kirill Popov and Loren McDonald

As director of ISP relations and delivery, Kirill Popov creates and enforces strict usage and anti-spam policies, maintains ISP and community relations, and oversees all abuse and policy investigations and inquiries for EmailLabs clients. Kirill works with clients on best practices, content, design, and list hygiene to minimize potential delivery issues. He's a registered member of the SpamCon foundation and representsEmailLabs on AIM's Council for Responsible E-Mail.

Loren McDonald is vice president of marketing at e-mail marketing automation company EmailLabs, overseeing corporate marketing activities and client consulting services. He has 20 years experience in marketing, consulting and strategic planning. Earlier, Loren was founder and president of Intevation, an e-marketing services firm specializing in e-mail and SEM. He's held executive marketing positions at companies including USWeb/CKS (marchFIRST), NetStruxr, and Arthur Andersen.

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