Get Into the Feedback Loop

E-mail marketers got another boost for deliverability recently when Yahoo Mail announced that Return Path will handle its feedback loops for managing spam complaints.

This helps you as a commercial e-mail sender, because a good portion of your mailing list likely goes to yahoo.com domains, even if you mail primarily B2B (define). Up to one quarter of a typical consumer list could be Yahoo-bound.

Having this new feedback loop in place means you can manage and process spam complaints coming from Yahoo Mail users that you might not have gotten previously. Once your feedback loop request is accepted, you will receive e-mail that Yahoo recipients marked as spam at the e-mail address you specify. Remove those complaining addresses promptly from your database.

This quick action should help improve your delivery into the inbox, because your e-mail reputation rests heavily on how fast you act on spam complaints. ISPs rely on reputation when deciding whether to block commercial e-mail or send it to the junk-folder.

My advice: Jump on this now, and apply to be included. If you previously signed up and have been receiving Yahoo complaints, you don’t need to reapply.

It’s not hard to sign up. Sign in to the service, then fill out the four data fields on the Complaint Feedback Loop form. You can create one request or several at one time. You also get access to a dashboard to manage your feedback-loop service.

One catch: You must send e-mail that has been authenticated using Yahoo’s DomainKeys (define) or DKIM protocols to participate. You should be doing this already to protect your sender reputation and deliverability. If not, joining the feedback loop is a good reason to authenticate now.

Don’t Forget Other ISPs With Feedback Loops

Sign up with these ISPs to get on their feedback loops:

Monitor These Feedback Sources

It’s a drastic step, but the spam complaint might also be your recipient’s only way to get your attention. Your e-mail program has many listening posts where you can pick up on subscriber happiness or discontent. Here are a few:

  • The feedback loop. When spam complaints spike in heavy e-mail seasons, like Christmas, your recipients are indirectly telling you that you’re sending too much e-mail. Look for a spike, too, if you send irrelevant e-mail, if you e-mail too infrequently, or if you wait too long after opt in to send your first message.

  • Your “questions or comments” e-mail address. This is often placed in the footer of your message. If you don’t get much traffic on it, it doesn’t necessarily mean people are happy. Maybe they couldn’t find it in your message or didn’t read that far down. Or, perhaps, it got left off the template in your last redesign. Feature it prominently, especially with images disabled and in the preview pane.
  • Social networks. Start monitoring social networks to see who’s saying what about you. Twitter, the best-known microblogging service, is an excellent place to eavesdrop on conversations about your e-mail program. Sign up for an account, then look for a search service like Tweet Scan that will send all posts (called tweets) to your e-mail address.

    Other places to look are blogs related to your topic area to see if your subscribers are posting or commenting on your latest messages. Consumer-generated shopping sites like RetailMeNot.com allow users to post, comment on, and rate your offers.

  • The unsubscribe. Treat it like a spam complaint. Your e-mail software should remove the unsubscribed address promptly but track unsubscribes to look for trends. Also, juice up your unsubscribe page to give readers other options, like changing addresses or preferences, or to explain why they’re leaving.
  • Clicks (or the lack of them). Track open and click rates from one mailing to the next and over several periods (last 5 to 10 mailings, last 6 months, last 12 months, etc.). Downward trends mean you’re losing your audience.
  • Also, look where people are clicking within your message. If recipients aren’t jumping on sure-bet offers, then maybe they can’t find the link, the offer doesn’t have a strong call to action, or the link doesn’t work.

Final Thoughts

Yahoo Mail’s new feedback loop system will help you listen more closely to what Yahoo readers are telling you. If you stay on top of it and pay closer attention to your other listening posts, you’ll detect problems before they can derail your entire e-mail program.

Until next time, keep on deliverin’!

Join moderator and ClickZ columnist Jack Aaronson for Dynamic Display Ads: Putting All Your Best Offers on Display to Double ROI, Thursday, February 5 at 12 p.m. EST. This Webcast will show you how dynamic display ads stream live offers from your Web site to get the right offer to the right customer at the right time.

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