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Why Is Your Email Delivery Performance So Bad?

During these difficult economic times, every penny counts and with email marketing considered to be one of most profitable marketing activities of all, it makes sense to squeeze out every drop from your email infrastructure investment.

One of the areas receiving more focus in the world of email these days is email delivery rates and deliverability as a whole. But in spite of supposed positive claims from Email Service Providers (ESPs), email delivery rates are actually on the decline.

Here’s some facts, insight and more into email delivery and what you should be asking of your ESP.

Dyn - Email Deliverability

What are the email delivery facts?

  • In 2009, 10.5% of emails did not reach the inbox and in 2010, that number grew to 14.9%. Worse yet, 1/12 of it didn’t end up making it anywhere, vanishing into the dreaded “black hole”. If these are average stats, then it also means some senders are performing even worse than 85% delivery achievement.
  • In the first half of 2011, 19% of email sent did not reach the inbox.
  • More than 50% of email is sent through larger email senders (think Dyn).
  • At least 90% of small businesses are sending through ESPs.

Therefore, most email being sent is either by big companies that by definition should know how to achieve good levels of deliverability or by the large ESPs that often boast 99.98% deliverability. Yet, we know that at least 20% of mails are not reaching their inbox destination. So when email vendors claim 99.98%, what does this really mean?

They are usually referring to the percentage of email delivered without bounces, but that doesn’t consider spam / deleted folders. It’s really a measure of how many emails get delivered to the ISP’s gateway. Are they right? From the stats, it’s clear there’s an issue here.

If we accept that email delivery is about simply sending, email senders are often not aware of their delivery problems. In spite of the stats, they are sending emails blind because they don’t have the tools to monitor if the mail is going to the inbox, spam folder, bounced folder or simply deleted.

What’s causing the problem?

Mainly, poor sending habits. Even those that are aware that tools are available are still causing their own problems due to their poor sending habits, either with content, sending frequency, the purchasing of lists, the lack of proactive engaged and unengaged list management practices and erratic / sudden increases in email volumes.

The importance of throttling email to ISPs and the capability to manage high volumes of email delivery over short periods of time is crucial. ISPs change their regulations and policies often, so it’s important to go with a company with established and growing relationships with those ISPs. Bad reputations stick, so avoiding these issues early is incredibly important.

Rules and regulations are different around the world. In the UK, for example, they still allow email lists to be purchased. In the U.S., CAN-SPAM regulations say you can only send to an opt-in list, be open and transparent about who you are, publish the unsubscribe button in a obvious and accessible place and above all, be a responsible sender. Canada has just issued even more strict emailing rules, so this is the way the market is going.

Often, all ESP vendors are doing what they can to ensure their clients’ mail gets delivered, have strict acceptance policies for the clients they take on and build those aforementioned relationships. But what they are failing to do is educate their clients in a proactive and meaningful way that actually changes long-term behaviour.

Part of the reason for that is it takes time. There are two ways email vendors make their money: by selling high-cost, feature-rich front end applications like list management, social media integration, list cleansing and/or back end campaign analysis or selling the classic low operational cost, high-return ecommerce model by sending as many mails as possible without having to engage with their clients. Education is extra time and time, as we know, is money.

What’s the email delivery solution?

ESP Vendors should analyse and identify the problems that each email sender is having and build an action plan to work on each of the individual components. They need to coach their clients in how they can implement the changes and keep going through this process in an iterative cycle of continuous improvement.

The ISP and email landscape is always changing, but continuous improvement will yield lots of additional ROI. Companies should take responsibility for their own email delivery and understand, check and question their own stats constantly.

Look for a solution which provides spam complaint levels for each campaign. They should have reporting of the actual email addresses that have issues, insight like inbox delivery confirmation, seed addresses or actual inbox analysis (reads, skims, etc.) and spamtraps.

Understand (or ensure your vendor does) the technical issues and terms vital for managing email IP reputation:

  • Forward DNS, A and MX records
  • Matching reverse DNS
  • SPF and DKIM
  • SMTP matching HELO
  • Monitoring of abuse@ for all domains
  • ISP and third party feedback such as Spamcorp
  • Whitelisting
  • Frequent blacklist checking
  • SURBL monitoring

Engage with your ESP and ask them to coach you as to how and what you can improve. Understand how ISPs are monitoring for spamming activity like spam reporting and feedback loop tracking (AOL, Windows Live, Yahoo). Recognise the email territory is changing all the time, move with the times and outsource email delivery to experts like Dyn that can deliver the technology, the coaching,the analytics and ultimately, the inbox results.

Heard enough? Let’s talk.


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