I’ve recently learned a bit about sending bulk email. There are a couple of things to keep in mind when sending out email blasts or promotions. If not done correctly emails will simply wind up in the Spam folder and never been seen. There are a number of best practices for sending email including:
1. Send bulk email only from a domain that implements the Sender Policy Framework. From Wikipedia SPF “is an e-mail authentication system designed to prevent E-mail source address spoofing common in e-mail spam that results in backscatter. SPF allows domain owners to specify which Internet hosts are allowed to send e-mail claiming to originate from that domain by creating a specific DNS TXT record. Mail exchangers that use SPF check the sender’s identity against the DNS record’s contents and reject the message if it does not comply.”
1b. Send bulk email from a domain that has implemented Sender ID. Sender ID is similar to SPF but is recommended by Microsoft. Given the prevalence of Hotmail, Live Mail, and MSN its a good idea to implement Sender ID in addition to SPF.
2. Check you sender score. Sender score is a value calculated by ReturnPath which states “The score will provide you with information about where that source stands in comparison to other email senders, and how it is likely to be evaluated by email receivers. If you are responsible for that email, a Sender Score will tell you the most important factors you need to change about your program in order to improve your delivery rates.” The go on to state that 83% of the time that an email does not make it through to the inbox its the result of a poor sender score. Sender score is based on a scale of 0-100 where higher is better.
Return Path offers a course in improving your sender score which I have not taken but I found some interesting information in their FAQs. Sender score takes into consideration the following:
* Complaints. Each time a user marks an email as “Spam” is viewed as a complaint.
* Volume: Used in combination with complaints. Return path uses the ratio of complains to volume to help influence sender score. Example, 10 complaints in 1000 mailings is not bad where 10 complaints in 100 mailing would be an issue.
* External reputation. Combination of how a given sending domain is viewed relative to other blacklist / white lists.
* Unknown / rejected. The number of emails that are returned as unknown or rejected by an ISP.
The intent of the sender score is to cut down on the volume of unsolicited email. While Return Path does not in of itself block emails it provides a list to ISPs and mail hosts which is very influential in determining whether an email makes it through.
The idea that they are promoting is permission based marketing – or in plain language only send customers emails that they are interested in receiving. Again each time that a recipient clicks on the “Spam” counts as a complaint and impacts your Sender Score.
Some best practices to get emails delivered:
1. Implement SPF and SenderID.
2. “Warm up” the sending domain by sending a series of smaller emails to friendly audience. This does several things. It starts building up an initial positive Sender Score and allows populates white lists with your sending domain.
3. Only send to addresses that will appreciate receiving email from you. Typically this means customers where you have a business relationship. Always allow customers to opt-out of your mailings.
Scores are calculated on a 30 day moving average so a very positive or very negative rating on any given day does not immediately guarantee success(or failure) in the future. The intent is to nurture a high-score by responsible email marketing practices.