E-mail Deliverability Report Card: Permission Isn’t Enough

Even when prospective recipients give permission for advertisers to send e-mails, Internet Service Providers in the United States route about 13 percent of the messages to “junk” folders, according to a new study.

The findings, part of the latest Lyris EmailAdvisor ISP Deliverability Report Card, show that ISPs in Canada present marketers with even more of a challenge as Canadian ISPs were found to label as junk or spam more than 14 percent of the permission-based e-mails.

The Report Card also showed that, of the 25 United States ISP that were studied, some of the most popular providers turned out to be the most likely to route the messages to junk or bulk mail folders instead of inboxes.

Google’s Gmail deep-sixed 28 percent of the messages while Yahoo sent to the spam bucket 19 percent and Hotmail disposed of 16 percent. “Noticeably absent from the top ten ISPs with the worst inbox delivery is AOL, which ranked 14th on the list with a junk delivery rate of only 2.33 percent,” noted the study’s authors.

There is no easy way for marketers to prevent their legitimate e-mail pitches from suffering the same fate as unwelcome Viagra solicitations, get-rich-quick scams and other spam, said Stefan Pollard, director of consulting services at EmailLabs.

But Pollard, discussing the new Report Card, said diligent advertisers need not throw in the towel on e-mail marketing. “It takes work,” he said. “The easy answer that marketers always try to look at is the content. It’s the most simple thing to change and the part that’s most in their control. When we say content is not the delivery challenge… we are thinking about automated spam filters that look at words and phrases and try to identify patterns seen in spam.”

He said many problems are actually caused by recipient actions. Even after agreeing to accept e-mails from companies, many people mark them as spam or engage in other forms of “feedback” that triggers ISPs to block further e-mails by the supposedly approved sender from going to that person’s inbox.

That means it’s incumbent upon marketers to make their electronic newsletters and other missives interesting and informative, said Pollard. He asserted the key to getting into the inbox is creating “wanted and relative messaging and having a content line that makes them want to open it.”

EmailLabs, along with J.L. Halsey’s Lyris and Sparklist brands, has integrated with the EmailAdvisor deliverability monitoring tool.

Pollard said marketers should adhere to e-mail marketing best practices instead of routinely blaming content filters when their campaigns do not yield good results. The Report Card noted that the e-mails used in the test, more than 1,705 of them, were run through the EmailAdvisor content scoring application, a program that includes the content scoring rules subset of the heavily used Spam Assassin project. The average content point score of these e-mails was 1.04 – “well below the filter’s generally accepted spam identification level of 3.0 or higher,” but a good percentage of the e-mails were still diverted.

Some message content problems cannot be discounted. The study showed marketers should never use images in their messages. Also, “from” names should never include numbers or symbols.

The study took place between January 1 and March 31. The Lyris EmailAdvisor service monitored the delivery of 440,694 production level, permission-based e-mails sent from 69 different businesses and non-profit organizations to accounts at 54 ISP domains in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia.

Messages represented “a cross-section of typical e-mail marketing and newsletter activities,” said Lyris. They included publishing, business-to-business, retail, travel, finance and many others. “In all cases, the recipients to whom the e-mails were sent had made an explicit “opt-in” request to receive the messages at the specified e-mail addresses,” said the company.

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