The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Trend: Consumers Demand (& Win) In-Box Overhauls

Marketing Trends & Takeaways

Consumers Demand (& Win) In-Box Overhauls
Here Come the Opportunities for Marketers...

Web-based email has recently experienced a wave of changes, aligning with consumer expectations for several things -- improved user interfaces, seamless integration with everyday needs and an upgraded approach to in-box control.
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First Yahoo, Now AOL is having Error Code Issues

AOL is currently experiencing issues which are causing incorrect error codes to be issued.  This is an issue on AOL's side and they are currently working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.  We will keep you updated as soon as they have a resolution.  Here is what the AOL Postmaster Blog is reporting...

"We are at present issuing a "451 4.3.0

This is not replacing the existing two codes:

500, text= 5.1.1 : Recipient address rejected:


550 Mailbox not found

Senders using scripts to remove unknown users automatically should be looking for all three codes for the moment.

AOL AntiSpam"

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Q&A: Feedback Loops and Spam Filters

We recently hosted a Q&A webinar to give our clients more information about feedback loops and spam filters — two major factors that determine the deliverability of your email campaigns. In case you missed it, here are the most common answers to your feedback and spam questions.

What is a feedback loop?
According to Wikipedia, a feedback loop is “the casual path that leads from the initial generation of the feedback signal to the subsequent modification of the event.” OK, but what does that really mean, especially in terms of email?

  1. Let’s trace the flow of feedback for an email. Let’s say…
  2. You send an email to Michael at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., inviting him to complete a survey in order to receive a free iPhone.
  3. Michael’s having a really bad day. He’s cranky. Plus, he already has an iPhone. So he clicks on that oh-so-powerful button “MARK AS spam,” rather than scrolling down to the bottom of the message to simply opt-out. This marks the initial generation of the feedback.
  4. That feedback is then sent to Yahoo as a complaint, which gets marked against your reputation.  Because you are signed up with Gold Lasso to receive these complaints, a message is then sent back to us, parsed and placed in to your account.
  5. Now for the “closing the loop” part. If nothing is done — that is, you don’t check the feedback loop — technically speaking the process has not been completed. Therefore, it’s important to finish the loop by responding back to Yahoo with the proper information to back up the fact that the recipient opted in, and to mark the user as opt-out in eLoop ASAP.

Why should I use feedback loops?
The better question is why shouldn’t you? It’s really a no brainer. Without this mechanism in your email marketing plan, it leaves you wide open to poor deliverability and ultimately a notch on your reputation.  

How should I use feedback loops?
You should use them as a means for opting out people who have complained, which ultimately will help improve your deliverability and reputation.

Where can I find them in eLoop?
The feedback loops (FPLs) are under the Reporting module, under Deliverability.

How often should I check them?
Every day, ideally. If you’re sending daily campaigns then you should be checking it every day before you send out your campaigns. You should definitely check them before every campaign goes out to limit the possibility of sending to someone who complained about your last campaign.

What should I do if I get a complaint?

There are three possibilities:

  1. First, you can do nothing. Obviously, we don’t recommend this, but it seems to be the most popular of the three choices.
  2. You can use your opt-in information and good personality to respond back to the ISP and, with the proper fodder, hopefully have the complaint rescinded.
  3. Lastly, you can simply mark the individual as opt-out in eLoop.
  4. The best solution is a combination of option 2 and 3. We always hope that the client has the proper opt-in information to back up any complaint, but we know that’s not always the case. At the very least you should be marking the users as opt-out ASAP.

Why is there a $200 setup fee for only the Yahoo Feedback Loop?
The short answer is that Yahoo made the signup process more difficult and lengthy than the others.
Most feedback loops allow us to send a bulk list of IP addresses through a basic online form. Yahoo, however, has a more detailed procedure that takes one of our staff members time to complete for each individual domain name. We’ll continue to offer new feedback loops that we can bulk submit free of charge to our clients as they become available.

Spam Filtering

What is a spam filter?
A spam filter is mechanism (it could be software, hardware or a combination of both) used to determine if a message is “clean” or not, and allows or blocks messages based on these rules before it hits your inbox.  

How do these filters work?
The process works by assigning a score to an incoming message. That score determines if the message is clean or spam. Companies have invested hours and hours into monitoring messages and coming up with algorithms to determine what is and what is not spam.  Some spam filters are simple, like the Junk Mail feature in Outlook which filters mail as it comes to your inbox. This is usually managed by the individual who can white list, block, release, and monitor the messages that have been filtered right from their PC or MAC. There are also server-level filters like Symantec’s BrightMail, which filters the mail at the server level before sending it to the recipient’s inbox. This process usually involves the IT staff in some fashion and is a little bit tougher to manage from the recipient level. Also, this process leaves the recipient at the mercy of the IT staff, who can make a change to the sensitivity of the filter that might affect deliverability to the recipient’s inbox. In this case, if the recipient has trouble receiving your message they may either never know or have to go through a lengthy process to have the IT staff resolve the issue. And that will probably damage your deliverability.  There are also outsourced solutions like POSTINI, which filter messages before they even reach your corporate mail server.

How are spam filters used/implemented?
There are various ways to use a spam filter, although most of the process is pretty automatic. The process is based on preset (and constantly managed, monitored and tweaked) settings either at the client, server or outsourced level. These presets determine whether a message is spam or not.  As noted previously, the implementation can be done on three levels, outsourced, server/appliance or at the client level. All of these need some kind of monitoring and tweaking to be successful.

How can it affect my email deliverability?
If there are enough complaints or your messages meet the criteria of being spam, then ultimately the filters can mark you as a “spammer” and cease to deliver your messages. The big problem with this, of course, is that your marketing success will suffer. If your messages are being caught in the filters (which in most cases you aren’t going to know unless your recipients are calling you and telling you that they aren’t receiving your weekly newsletter anymore) then they are not reaching the recipient’s inbox. And if your recipients aren’t getting your message, they probably aren’t interacting with you. Meanwhile your deliverability looks fine on the reporting side because they aren’t bouncing back. We offer enhanced message testing through Pivotal Veracity, which can help determine or troubleshoot any problems with deliverability. This is available in your eLoop account under Outbound Messaging. What is the delivery process of an email from eLoop to the recipient’s inbox?

Once the campaign has been executed from eLoop:

  1. The message is compiled on our end between our database and web servers. This process consists of modifying the links to be trackable, inserting Dynamic Content, compiling the list, comparing statuses, etc.
  2. The messages are then sent immediately to one of our mail servers to be delivered.
  3. The mail server will immediately try to send the message to the recipient’s mail server by looking up the appropriate records.
  4. If the mail server is up and accepting messages, then the message will be delivered and the process ends.
  5. If the mail server is not up and not accepting the message (for one reason or another) then the message will be sent back to our server to try again later. At this point our mail server has to determine what kind of bounce this is, and that will determine the next action. If the message is a hard bounce then the message process ends and the message is bounced back to the client’s eLoop mailbox, parsed and applied as a bounce in the eLoop system. If the message is a soft bounce, then based on settings of our servers the message will be retried x amount of times before determining if the message can be delivered or bounced back. Keep in mind: Just because the message has been delivered to the recipient’s mail server does not mean that the message has reached your recipient’s inbox. According to our mail server the message was accepted by the recipient’s mail server, which does constitute as a “delivered” message. This is where the filters come in to play.

Also note: Be sure to check your bounce reasons. This can give you a good indication why messages are being bounced back along with an action to apply to help with future deliverability. We can’t stress enough how important it is to monitor this information using the tools that we provide and test.

What does it mean to be blacklisted? What does it mean to be flagged or labeled as spam?

These two questions have a lot of synergy. Being blocked for spam is also considered being blacklisted, but it’s usually at the ISP level and then filtered down to the recipients depending on the ISP. For example, MSN or Road Runner (both of which you can check under Feedback Loops in eLoop) may block you from sending to their recipients based on a high level of suspicious mail coming from your IP address.

First, a little bit of backgrounds on blacklists. The term “blacklisting” refers to someone being prevented from access to something based on the judgments of others. In the case of email, it refers to your IP or Domain being blocked by one of the many blacklists being utilized on the Internet. This could be a permanent block or a temporary block depending on the severity of the infraction and or the frequency of the infraction. The eLoop Blacklist Check located on the main login screen uses many of the most well known blacklists to determine if your IP is blocked or not. Some companies have independent internal blacklists that they manage and monitor themselves. Other organizations subscribe to one of the many blacklists that are run by various organizations on the Internet. Some of these organizations are friendly and understand how to work with you. But others have a zero-tolerance policy for spam and are EXTREMELY difficult to deal with.  

As we have stated before with feedback loops it is so important to retain any and all opt-in information. This is vital to being removed from blacklists.  

What can I do to better manage my deliverability and sender reputation?

  1. Create an abuse@ sender profile in eLoop. Here’s how:  Under Account Settings/Reply Profile Settings, you can add a new email address. Simply     create a new profile for This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The abuse@ email address is the default for spam complaints. Once you create this profile, please be sure to check it often. To check this account, login to Horde using the Webmail tab under Outbound Messaging, use your abuse@emailaddress and the password you chose when creating the profile.
  2. At the top of your emails, request that the recipient add the “from” email address to their safe sender list. For example: Please add “This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.” to your address book or safe senders list to ensure our messages are delivered to your inbox.
  3. Keep clear and accessible records for opt-in information.
  4. Place terms and conditions for your spam policy on your Web site. To see an example, visit As an ESP, our spam policy is a bit different, but the gist of it is there. If you’d like assistance creating one, please contact your account manager.
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Audit your Email Campaigns - 5 Things to Consider

If it’s been more than a year since you took a good, hard look at your email template, metrics, reports or design close the door, shut off the phone and schedule a check up.  Too often marketers spend time and resources setting up their e-mail marketing programs and forget that they need a little TLC (testing, list management, and cleansing) to function properly. 

Here are five things to include in your check up.  

  1. Cleanse the code – review and clean-up the HTML code in your message template. This is especially important if more than one person uses the account. Small changes can flag spam filters and cause formatting issues that discourage recipients from opening it.  
  2. Remove inactive contacts – keep distribution lists clean and manageable by analyzing and possibly removing inactive contacts. Try to find out why they’re not reading your message and brainstorm ways to grab their attention.
  3. Test the opt-in process – do all the links work and take the intended reader to the right place? If it takes the reader too many clicks to sign up or they end up in the wrong place they’re likely to walk away completely.  
  4. Test platforms and email clients – what does the message look like in AOL, Gmail and Yahoo? Does it make it through to mobile devices such as Treos and Blackberries? Don’t rely only on the computers in your office, move testing to off-site computers and servers also. 
  5. Provide a little human touch – if you’re using your ESP correctly all process should be automated, but that doesn’t mean mistakes aren’t made. Assign a staff member to check all mailboxes to ensure that any messages or responses are handled in a timely fashion. 
  6.  Above all…don’t forget the metrics. eLoop has extensive reporting capabilities that help you gauge the success of the campaign. Don’t forget to incorporate them into the email marketing process. 
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Working Around the Image Blocker

Images can enhance a message and draw attention to its key components. But, when they are blocked and appear as a big, red X in the recipient’s preview pane (often with the instruction to “right click to download”) they can lose their effectiveness. The reason images are often blocked is to enable users to prohibit unwanted (or inappropriate) images from loading automatically.  Blocking images also protects readers from spammers who use them to verify the email address is real. 

The impact of blocking images comes in multiple forms (such as lower open rates and disabled banner ads which can hurt advertiser supported material), but they all lead to lower deliverability. Like other delivery issues, email marketers can institute practices to help minimize this issue. 

  • Get whitelisted and ask your readers to add your company to their “approved sender” or “safe list” to ensure email is allowed through with a minimum of filtering, image blocking included.
  • Add a link to view the email online.  The “view Web version” links back to a version of the email hosted on your server where images are easy-to-view.
  • Provide a prominent text link to the message at the very top of your message so recipients can always choose a text version.   
  • Before sending check the appearance of your message in the preview pane.  Is there enough information to entice the reader to open the message? Or, is the preview pane filled with images and graphics that won’t download.   
  • HTML is beneficial but don’t neglect the text version of your message. A strong, relevant text version ensures you still reach users, regardless of format preference.   
  • Don’t ignore text links.  If your email includes several key linked images, consider adding text-based links as a caption to the image or in the copy of the message.
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