Getting into the in-box: relevance and reputation

The reaction to the recent changes announced by Microsoft and AOL,
two giant e-mail gateways, confirmed our worst suspicions — many e-mail
marketers still resist following best practices to the detriment of
their e-mail campaigns and the industry on the whole. We hoped
marketers and e-mail service providers would embrace these changes and
have long insisted that clients follow practices that will let them
easily accept these adjustments.

What are the changes?
Microsoft now severely limits the amount of mail a marketer can send
from a new Internet provider address through the Microsoft gateway
until the company can determine the e-mail reputation of the marketer.
AOL is newly blocking images and links from rendering by default in
their Web client, in addition to this being a standard feature of AOL
9.0. These changes are intended to root out illegitimate mail and
protect customers from spam, viruses, phishing, and similar practices.

actions by Microsoft and AOL are only the latest in a series of
industry efforts over the past few years, which include the advent of
authentication and accreditation schemes and of course, legislation, to
cut down on spam. Each of these brought about new deliverability
challenges, but through them all one overriding best practice has
helped marketers consistently get their mail delivered: relevance. Now
the industry is looking at reputation and again relevance is the key.

marketers who have been protecting their reputations all along will
have no problem accepting Microsoft’s, AOL’s, or any other Internet
service provider’s (ISP) changes in the way they process e-mail for
delivery. Your e-mail reputation is based on the credibility of your IP
address, which can be accomplished with authentication and further
enhanced by accreditation, your deliverability rate (at least 90
percent, preferably higher), a low level of complaints (below 0.5
percent), and the weeding out of spam traps on your lists. You can
ensure a good e-mail reputation if you meet these criteria and just
follow one simple rule: Send the right message to the right person at
the right time . These will be to people who have opted onto your
e-mail list and find value in the relevant e-mail you send — so they
won’t complain or opt-out.

The message here is not that you
should aim for relevance in your e-mail campaigns just to get around
the latest ISP hurdles. Rather, by focusing on relevance you will have
more successful e-mail campaigns in the long term. Legitimate marketers
and ISPs are on the same side in this battle. Relevance boosts e-mail
success along with boosting your e-mail reputation. Sending
data-driven, relevant e-mail will build a good reputation. Opens,
clicks, and conversions naturally follow, and u ltimately revenue will