• April 12, 2006
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

Return to Sender

Four of five email marketers surveyed face significant challenges getting their emails delivered due to filtering by ISPs and corporate servers, according to new research from EmailLabs, a marketing solutions provider. About half the 415 marketing professionals who responded to the March 2006 survey stated that filtering is the biggest delivery challenge, with hard bounces and a lack of expertise or resources also listed as big problems. Despite this, only 10 percent of respondents said their single greatest email marketing concern for 2006 was improving deliverability. Only 10 percent of respondents said deliverability was not a challenge for them, with 7.4 percent unsure. The range of issues with deliverability ranged from filtering by ISPs and corporations (48.3 and 45.1 percent, respectively), to hard bounces (31.5), lack of expertise (25.4), and beyond. Appearance on blacklists accounted for 15.3 percent of delivery failures, and spam complaints 11.8 percent. "Nearly 90 percent of respondents track hard bounces and unsubscribes in each delivery, but only 58 percent monitor spam complaints," the report states. "Also, 53 percent say their [content] and coding or permission practices have the greatest influence, but only 13 percent cited spam complaints." These contradictions are a sign of serious trouble in the marketing department. "There is a real disconnect for marketers between what they perceive is the impact on delivery and what ISPs actually do when deciding to block or not block an email," says Kirill Popov, director of deliverability for EmailLabs and report coauthor. "While aggressive content may get you filtered, a high number of complaints or bounced emails will get you blocked." Marketers are focusing on directly controllable factors like content instead of the more ephemeral delivery rate metric, Popov says. "Delivery doesn't show a direct correlation to marketing results, but a 2 percent change in open rates is easily trackable to one email outperforming another." This approach is not the best for email marketers in a business climate where recipients are more likely to block messages or never even see them. Good metrics are key to knowing where the problems are, and how to fix them. "When you're troubleshooting delivery issues, content is a good starting point, but bounce numbers and spam complaints must be considered as well," Popov says. "Recipients can vote you off the island, so you must respect them and their time." Fixes like switching to a dedicated, static IP address for marketing emails, using third-party accreditation, or establishing a formalized whitelisting process can make a tremendous and immediate difference in delivery, according to Popov, thereby increasing penetration and open rates. Popov also recommends tracking email results by individual ISP, not just the aggregate delivery rate. "If you see that Hotmail is junking a disproportionate number of your emails, or AOL is blocking them, you have a clear course of action in resolving the issue." Related articles: AOL and Yahoo! Will Charge Bulk Senders
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