The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Deliverability is a Collaborative Effort

With new advanced spam filtration technology, getting email delivered to the inbox is the biggest challenge with email marketing. And contrary to a lot of sales talk, no email service provider (ESP) can guarantee deliverability. There is no magic formula or service that can guarantee to deliver your email directly to the inbox. However by following technology and list management best practices coupled with monitoring and relationship building can substantially increase your probability of reaching the inbox.

Gold Lasso has a dedicated delivery staff to help its clients follow technology best practices, manage black list and ISP relationships and contribute to the ISP and spam fighting community. Gold Lasso expects its clients to do their part by adhering to acceptable ISP list gathering practices, basic message design guidelines and list cleansing processes.
The Three Components of Deliverability:

Reputation:
Many consumer-based ISPs determine deliverability based on the sender’s reputation. It is important to understand that email reputation works similarly to the financial credit system. If you have a good sending reputation, your chances of good deliverability increase just as your probability of getting a good deal on a loan increase with good credit. You might be thinking how does an ISP identify me as a sender? An ISP uses your IP address since it uniquely identifies machines on the Internet similarly to how a social security number identifies you as an individual. Just as an IP address acts as a social security number a domain name functions as your face displaying to the world your unique characteristics. Pairing your domain name to a unique IP address provides a complete identity allowing for transparency with your recipients and ISPs. Based on this, ISPs have developed or outsourced reputation scoring systems, similar to a credit reporting agency, to determine the sending reputations of IP address and domains. The scoring system, based on a host of information such as authentication, volume of email sent, internal complaints, black lists, etc., assigns your unique IP address and domain a score that will ultimately decide if your email goes to the recipient’s inbox or to a black hole.

Content:
Although most ISPs use reputation filtering processes, corporate networks and consumer security software use content filtering as their main weapon for fighting spam. Gold Lasso provides basic and advanced content analysis tools to help client increase their probability of bypassing content filters. Clients need to be flexible with their message design and copy to be successful with content filtering deliverability.

Authentication:
Authentication uses a set of protocols to verify that an e-mail message has been sent by the domain name in the from line since spammers falsify the from line to conceal their identified. These protocols include Spenders Policy Framework (SPF), SenderID, DKIM and DomainKeys. They all rely on DNS records, either to obtain sending mail server addresses or public keys for decrypting a digital signature. Both ISPs and corporate networks use authentication to filter spam. Gold Lasso configures all client domains with these authentication protocols.

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New Delivery Authentication Technology Rising in Popularity

DomainKeys, OpenSPF and Sender ID – if you don’t know what these things are, find out fast! Mail server authentication, both from a marketing and corporate admin standpoint, will become a necessary defense in the spam war.  It is estimated that only 30 percent of mail servers currently use these email authentication technologies, but this number will grow quickly as email marketers rush to take advantage of technology that will help distinguish actual email from spam.
 
Review and commit these terms and definitions to memory.

DomainKeys
DomainKeys is an e-mail authentication system designed to verify the domain of an email sender and evaluate the message integrity.  Simply stated, it verifies the sender’s domain name, confirms the message hasn’t been altered somewhere along the line, matches the "from" address to the sender's domain name to sniff our forgeries, and traces the message back to the sender's domain name.

This particular form of email authentication is valuable because it positively identifies the sender’s domain, which makes domain-based blacklists and whitelists more effective. It also allows abusers to be identified more easily. 

OpenSPF
A large problem in the complicated world of SPAM is the use of fake or forged sender addresses. The innocent marketers who fall victim to forgery pay heavy consequences for this stealthy activity.  Sender Policy Framework (or SPF) protects the envelope sender address, which is used for the delivery of messages and is often not seen by the receiver.

Sender ID
Sender ID is another authentication tool that is built on the idea of verifying the domain name from which email messages are sent. It validates the origin of a message by checking the IP address of the sender against the owner of the sending domain. Using this tool requires that e-mail senders and domain owners publish or declare all of the Internet Protocol (IP) addresses used by their outbound e-mail servers, or the IPs authorized to send e-mail on their behalf, in the Domain Name System (DNS).

Gold Lasso uses all three of these technologies already, but don’t be surprised if the FTC made these a mandatory practice as part of compliance with the CAN SPAM Act.

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SPF And Email Deliverability In 2007

Another year in email marketing is almost gone and the good guys' battle against spam has barely made a dent.  Black lists, content filters and challenge response are all a joke to spammers.  Ninety-nine percent of spammers are never identified because of their uncanny ability to hide behind hijacked pc's and servers.  As an email marketer, the only real silver bullet to combat spam is the unified use of SPF or Sender Policy Framework.  SPF is a simple string of code attached to a domain that forces an email sender to be identified hence there is no place for spammers to hide.  The biggest issue to using SPF in the battle against spam is getting network administrators to implement it on their DNS (Domain Name Service) in addition to them not allowing email to enter their network from a sender who has not implemented SPF.  Two very simple things that need to be done in concert. 

However there is a dirty little secret among domain registrars and DNS providers.  This dirty secret is the simple fact that many of them do not support SPF. 

2007 is going to be a lull for deliverability and email marketing in general is going to suffer.  I think that network admins will be so fed up dealing with spam that there will be a quiet revolution to push DNS providers to support SPF.  Once this happens these revolutionary network admins will be able to implement it causing a chain reaction down the network admin pyramid forcing broad-base implementation.

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Lower Your Bounce Rate: 12 Quick Tips to Help

An active email-marketer knows that managing your bounce rate is critical. Reducing your bounces decreases your delivery costs and increases conversions – ultimately increasing the ROI of your email campaigns.

There are two types of bounces that are important to understand in the delivery process.

A soft bounce is an email message that gets as far as the recipient’s mail server, but is bounced back undelivered before it gets to the recipient. Soft bounces can occur for the following reasons; recipient’s mailbox is full, the message is too large, the recipient’s server is down, or the recipient has abandoned the mailbox. Most providers will try to deliver the email regularly for a few days. If it is still not successful, it becomes a hard bounce.

A hard bounce is an email message that has been returned the sender and marked undeliverable. Hard bounce causes include invalid email addresses, invalid domains, or the recipient’s server has blocked your server.

Here are 12 “Quick Tips” to help manage and reduce your bounces:

  1. Clean Your Lists: Whether manually or via a list-hygiene service, check for incorrectly formatted addresses, invalid domains and typos.
  2. Consider Using An Email Change of Address (ECOA) Service: With many companies experiencing email address churn of 2.5% a month, an ECOA service could pay huge dividends.
  3. Confirm Email Addresses: Send an auto-reply confirmation when a user subscribes, registers or makes a purchase. If that message bounces, you can attempt to correct it right from the start. Additionally, you may want to consider requiring a second email address line (in your online forms) that confirms the correct address was entered.
  4. Include Subscription/Account Management Links in Your Emails: Make it easy for your customers and subscribers to update their email addresses by including a link in your emails to your Web site account/subscription management page.
  5. Prompt Customers to Update Information: When a customer is completing a transaction, prompt them to verify and update information – particularly their email address.
  6. Use Mail or Phone to Update Information: If you have postal addresses or phone numbers for customers/subscribers with bad email addresses, consider contacting them via mail (such as a postcard) or telephone.
  7. Understand and Monitor Spam Filters: Get to know the more common things that most spam filters block.
  8. Remove "Spam Flag" Addresses: These are often added maliciously. Examples include: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  9. Pretest Your Emails: Prior to distributing your email to your entire list, send a test to yourself and others (make sure you include all the major email services used by members of your list).
  10. Understand How Your Email Provider Processes Bounces: Gain a thorough understanding of how your email provider classifies and handles soft and hard bounces – and manage accordingly.
  11. Monitor Changes Among ISPs: After mergers, financial troubles and other announcements, many users of a particular ISP may decide to switch to a different account or ISP for their email. Consider sending an email to members of your list with the domain name in question, asking them if they would like to update their email address and other information.

When All Else Fails, Suppress or Delete Recurring Bounces: Determine an appropriate bounce suppression/deletion strategy for your email program. For example, if you distribute a monthly email or newsletter, you may want to suppress/delete accounts after three consecutive bounces.

Michael Weisel is Chief Technology Officer at Gold Lasso,Inc. He can be reached by telephone at 301-990-9857 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Visit Gold Lasso at http://www.goldlasso.com.

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My Prediction for Commercial Email If Sender ID is Accepted – A Windfall for Email Marketers And Price Descrimination For Consumers

For those of you who define spam as a commercial email sent from a legitimate company help is on the way. Large ISPs such as AOL, Microsoft and Earthlink have been pushing the adoption of Sender ID technology which authenticates that email sent to your mail server is from a legitimate Internet domain and one that has not been forged in the mail's header. This is the most promising technology to date for stopping all the solicitations for diet pills, mortgages and body enhancement drugs since these are the types email solicitations that usually contain false domain information. Sender ID technology can also give an ISP, corporate network admin or even an individual an easier way to block all information from a particular company.

As an email marketing executive, I applaud Sender ID technology and can't wait for it to be accepted and implemented. My reason for being pro Sender ID is simple LONG TERM economics. Sender ID technology should eliminate most of the hucksters and fly by night companies and decrease the volume of email sent in general. In addition, many consumers will opt not to receive any type of commercial email easily taking advantage of the technology's power. With a decrease in the supply of email that makes it to a recipient's inbox, the more apt consumers will be to review and respond to legitimate commercial email. When the medium starts experiencing better response rates, the more valuable my products and services will become, allowing me to charge higher prices for volume being sent through my system.

At first glance this seems like a great for people who consider all commercial email to be spam. But in the end consumers who opt not to receive any commercial email will become the biggest losers in the spam game. My rationale for this is based on the fact that companies and marketers will reward consumers who have a lower cost per acquisition or a lower cost to market to and punish consumers who make them jump through hoops to communicate with them. Lower prices will come in the same format as they do offline; coupons, rewards programs and preferred pricing. The simple fact is that the incredible efficiencies email and other Internet technologies affords are too great for companies to ignore even if it means ticking a few consumers off by sending unsolicited commercial email.

Just keep this in mind. In five years from now long after Sender ID has been accepted and implemented, if you have turned a blind eye to the commercial email world don't get upset when your neighbor has 100% of his vacation paid for because his frequent flier's miles program decided to give him some extra points for receiving some spam.

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The Email Monetization Playbook
Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!

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Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!