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Santa’s Naughty or Nice Deliverability Lists

  |  December 21, 2005   |  Comments

Will Santa fill your e-mail stocking with high response rates or a lump of coal?

Remember when your mom told you Santa would leave a lump of coal in your stocking because you sassed her just before Christmas?

Today, St. Nick still makes a list and checks it twice. Now, naughty email marketers go on a blacklist, and instead of coal they’ll get blocked email or response rates in the single digits.

Are you on the naughty or nice list? Take our pop quiz to see whether there’s a big lump of bitumen in your future:

  1. Did you set up your SPF (SenderID) records this year?

    1. Yep, my IT department set it up in early 2005.
    2. No, but it’s at the top of our to-do list right after our next campaign.
    3. Gnarly, dude! The only SPF I know about is the number on my suntan lotion.

  2. Have you updated your email message design and code to be preview-pane, blocked-image and filter friendly?

    1. We’re redoing it right now so people can get the goods even if images are blocked or they read our email in an itty-bitty preview pane.
    2. We finally dropped the single, large image format, but what is this image-blocking thing?
    3. Ugh, the guy who did our template is long gone, and nobody around here knows anything about HTML.

  3. Did you get your email program audited by an outside accreditation or reputation-management firm?

    1. Yep. It was a tough process, but we found lots of issues, corrected them, and have seen our delivery rates go up several percentage points already.
    2. No, but we switched email service providers this year, and it assessed our email practices pretty thoroughly.
    3. What for? E-mail is so cheap, we just keep resending until we get the response rate we need.

  4. Do you actively manage your deliverability rates across major ISPs?

    1. Yes, we set up an account with one of the major delivery monitoring firms and were able to resolve an issue we had with one of the big ISPs.
    2. We set up accounts with AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, and Gmail and check the status of the messages when we send a proof.
    3. What’s delivery monitoring? Are you suggesting some of my emails don’t get delivered?

  5. Did you do anything to tighten up your permission management?

    1. Yes. We audited our site for all the places we collect opt-ins, especially demo and download requests, and converted them to double-opt-in.
    2. Yes, we got marketing and sales to stop sending newsletters to people who just requested a one-time white paper download. Next up, mopping up the trade show lists.
    3. What permission? We say right at the end of our terms and conditions that anybody who gives us her email address agrees to get email from us or anybody who rents our list.

  6. How do you manage the affiliates who email their own lists on your behalf?

    1. Affiliates have to meet our email-marketing guidelines, which include requiring opt-in, honoring opt-outs, and forwarding them to us in 10 days or less. We also subscribe to their mailing lists to track what they’re sending and how often. Anybody who violates the guidelines gets dropped.
    2. We try to keep up with what they’re doing. If somebody complains, we probably will drop that affiliate.
    3. We have too many to keep tabs on. Besides, those guys know the laws, right?

  7. Do you still load your site-registration or email opt-in form with prechecked boxes to collect more email addresses?

    1. No, we got rid of the prechecked box years ago.
    2. That whole affirmative consent thing has gotten our attention, so we convinced everybody but the e-commerce manager to uncheck the boxes.
    3. You guys are crazy, how else are we supposed to grow our list big time?

Scoring: Give yourself two points for every A answer and one point for each B answer. C answers are so off the beam, you don’t get any points for them.

10-14 points: You made the nice list! You might not be pitch-perfect on these deliverability best practices, but you’re doing well.

7-9 points: You could go either way. You’re doing a couple of things right but missing the boat completely on some key points. Better try harder in 2006.

0-6 points: Sorry, this is the naughty list. But at least you’re reading this ClickZ column. Still, you have a lot of work to do. Set down the eggnog, and pick out at least one problem to fix in 2006.

And remember: 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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