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Dear Tucson E-mailers: The Engagement Train is Coming Straight at You

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Listen up Tucson E-mail marketers: the days of one-size-fits-all E-mail blasts may be coming to an end. Have your E-mail based customer newsletters, or promotional updates, been sent out regularly to the same list of subscribers every however often?

Spammers have been getting smarter at gaming the system by using fake E-mail addresses to receive their own spam, and declare that it is not spam, to drive down their percentage of spam and make themselves look more wholesome with the ISPs. So, ISPs are beginning to take steps to raise the bar on deliverability to include measures of customer engagement with the E-mail. This post describes the moves AOL is making…….

This post came from Ken Magill of Direct Magazine, originally posted on Dec 1, 2009

“AOL made an announcement last week about its enhanced whitelist—an internal list of low-spam-complaint mailers whose messages get delivered with graphics and links intact—that, in and of itself, has little effect on most marketers who use e-mail.

The note has vast implications, however, on where ISPs’ spam-filtering techniques are headed and what marketers had better start doing if they want their e-mail lists to continue to perform.

“Historically, any IP on our regular whitelist that fell below a certain [spam] complaint threshold was added to the EWL. This meant that IPs with excellent mail statistics were not included in the EWL if they had not applied for the whitelist,” said the post. “Similarly, some IPs were on the EWL due to low complaints, even though the IP didn’t have the best IP reputation,” it added.

“Taking this into consideration, we have modified our EWL process to benefit IPs with our highest internal reputation score,” the post continued. “This means that IPs being added to the EWL have consistently maintained a low complaint level as well as high user engagement.”

The most important phrase in that post is “high user engagemenet.”

According to deliverability expert Laura Atkins, one reason AOL may be making this move is because spammers have gamed the spam-complaint-rate metric—the percentage of recipients who hit the “report spam button—rendering it less useful as a factor in determining whether incoming mail is unsolicited or not.

Historically, a sender’s spam complaint rate has been one of the main metrics ISPs use to determine whether its mail is wanted or not.

According to Atkins, some spammers have set up thousands of dummy e-mail accounts, sent e-mail to them, and then hit the “this is not spam” button to artificially drive their complaint percentages down.

“The spammers really destroyed the metric,” she said.

Atkins added that complaint rates can also be kept low simply by keeping older non-responsive addresses on a list, a practice inbox providers would like senders to avoid.

As a result, according to multiple sources, some e-mail inbox providers are increasingly looking at how engaged recipients are with a mailer’s messages when determining if the sender is a spammer or not.

Put another way, some inbox providers are reportedly increasingly looking at how individuals interact with a sender’s messages when deciding how to handle incoming mail.

How do they determine engagement? Hard to tell. But common sense says they’ll look at such factors as open and click rates, how many people dig through their spam folders to move the mailer’s messages into their inboxes, how many forward the mailer’s messages, how many reply to the messages—where applicable—and how many add the mailer to their address books.

Moreover, inbox providers are also increasingly monitoring for when recipients don’t interact with a mailer’s messages, according to Deirdre Baird, president of e-mail deliverability and optimization consultancy Pivotal Veracity.

At AOL and Yahoo, for example, if someone signs up for an e-mail list and then never opens the messages, at some point the mailer’s messages will start being shunted off to the recipient’s spam folder, even though the messages are permission based.

As a result, where a mailer’s reputation traditionally was gauged by—among other things—the number of people who took the effort to hit the “report spam” button, now a mailer’s reputation can be damaged by people who do nothing.

“People who don’t interact are becoming as dangerous as those who explicitly, negatively interact,” said Baird.

Added Atkins: “Keeping lists fresh and getting rid of folks who haven’t done anything with your mail in 12 or 18 months is something marketers cringe at, but those dead addresses are hurting reputations these days.”

It is important to note that currently, this trend does not affect business-to-business mailers who send to large enterprise domains as significantly as it does consumer mailers.

In any case, the days of sending the same message to everyone on a list appear to be numbered.

See the original post at Direct Magazine


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