Commercial email senders using Goodmail Systems' reputation and accreditation services will now more easily reach the inboxes of users of AOL and Yahoo mail services.
New deals with the portals mean that when a Goodmail CertifiedEmail message is sent to a recipient using AOL, Netscape mail, AIM mail, or Yahoo mail, the message will bypass certain volume and content filters to automatically reach the user's server-level inbox. Each message will be clearly marked -- both in the user's inbox and within the message itself -- as coming from a trusted source.
"CertifiedEmail will cost a fraction of a cent to send, which will be generously offset by an order of magnitude ROI in the form of assured delivery, improved open rates, and enhanced click-through rates," Richard Gingras, chairman, CEO and co-founder of Goodmail Systems, told ClickZ News.
Until that ROI is proven, however, it is likely that the service will be used more for transactional messages -- like billing statements or transaction receipts -- than for marketing messages. The company has not yet set a price point, but will base it on the number of messages sent. For certain transactional message senders, the value is clear, according to Gingras.
"Ninety-five percent of email users fear identity theft, and nearly 30 percent categorically refuse to open messages from financial institutions," he said. "Goodmail CertifiedEmail will be distinctly labeled both in the inbox list view and when the message is opened so the user can quickly recognize that the message is certified and thus authentic and safe to open."
Each message sent through the Goodmail CertifiedEmail service is embedded with a cryptographically-secure token. When a token is detected by a participating ISP, the message is delivered directly to a recipient's inbox and identified as a CertifiedEmail message.
Senders must first undergo an accreditation process to ensure that they are qualified legitimate senders. Once they meet those requirements, they will then install an additional software component so they can retrieve the cryptographic token that they will add to each message. Recipients will not have to do anything to begin receiving certified messages.
Each message will contain secure unsubscribe and consumer feedback mechanisms, giving consumers more control and senders more visibility into how their messages are being received.
This shift of costs to the sender, and the increased accountability of senders are elements that have long been advocated by the E-mail Service Provider Coalition (ESPC). Instead of focusing on outsmarting ISPs' ever-changing spam filters, most senders would rather put their time into building relationships with their customers, Dave Lewis, VP of market development at StrongMail Systems, and co-chair of the ESPC's vendor relations committee, told ClickZ News.
"One thing we've been saying to ISPs all along is that we want to be held accountable by the message recipients for what we send," Lewis said. "Don't impair our ability to send messages because of some arbitrary similarity between my content and the content of a message sent by a spammer."
Reputation services, like those offered by Goodmail, Bonded Sender and Habeas, are not meant to replace email authentication standards like SenderID and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM). Instead, they are seen as the next step -- once a sender is identified, they can then be evaluated based on their actions.
"Ultimately, we're going to see acceptance and placement of a sender's message based on authentication -- who they are -- and reputation -- what kind of sender they are and who's asserting that," Lewis said.
Initially, CertifiedEmail imprinting capability will be available through email technology providers Port 25, StrongMail, ColdSpark, and Sendmail. Several email service providers are expected to announce their support for the service over the coming weeks, Gingras said.
"This kind of accountability is going to improve the channel for all participants," Lewis said. "It's ultimately going to improve the reliability of the channel so it can be used for communications and commerce. We've been talking about things like this for a long time, but it looks like now things are actually happening."
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
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