Spam was named after a Monty Python sketch

Clicked through a Facebook post called “7 words you probably didn’t know we’re acronyms

And one of those words was spam.

And it stands for: Special Processed American Meat.

The email spam is not an acronym, the description for repeated unsolicited email was aparently adopted from the Monty Python sketch…

 

ISPs reveal deliverability tips for their own inboxes

http://emailevolution.org/

http://emailevolution.org/

Deliverability Facts from the horses mouth

This year’s Email Evolution conference from the EEC had a very popular and enlightening last talk; representatives from Gmail, Outlook.com, Aol and Comcast revealed some great details about how their platforms handle reputation and inbox placement.

Spam Traps

I have mentioned before about Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL recycling dead addresses into traps, I didn’t invent the idea it was from research and close sources.

Outlook.com have now denied it and AOL said it had happened but not if it still was.

Outlook.com also stated that an account would be shut-down after 2 years of inactivity, not the 7-14 months we had previously been led to believe.

Gmail confirmed that there was no recycling but they have not been around for long compared to the rest so have no need for it … yet.

Engagement

  • Opens – Good, obvious engagement
  • Clicks – no-one tracks clicks, it’s a breach in privacy.
  • Replies – Good, signifies a conversation
  • Mark as Spam – Bad, of course
  • Mark as Not Spam – Good, big noise that the ISP has got it wrong
  • Delete without Opening – Bad, signals no interest but with less offense than a mark as spam
  • Move to a folder – Good, signals value in the email’s content
  • Add to address book – Good, signals value in the sender.

The only new one on me here was adding to a folder but it makes sense, it’s a keeper.

No mention of stars (or pins) though, I’d expected that to be good one. Unless it’s such a short term thing it carries little weight whereas folders (labels) are more permanent.

Inactives

Outlook.com said that inactive subscribers do not affect/increase reputation based junking but in an individual’s inbox it may. Subsequently they do not support the notion that kulling the list of inactives will help reputation but added that the people who rarely open your emails are more likely are to take negative actions.

Gmail didn’t openly agree with Outlook.com and they suggest going with a ramp-down for frequency of emails to inactives before you stop sending to them at all.eg:

Daily ramps down to weekly, weekly ramps down to bi-monthly or just monthly etc. etc.

I was a little surprise that they suggest stopping all together from 3-6 months, however, this may have been more targeted to daily senders but apparently the Gmail marketing teams are advised to abide by this.

I’ve always been of the opinion that there was a level of percentages being applied to volumes sent that would affect reputation, rather than just reducing actual actions that were negative. Senders who have had higher open rates have always enjoyed more content freedom and sending volumes & speeds. This may not be the case in Outlook.com and they may put more weight on actual reactions.

The ramp-down has legs though. We already have a ramp up for new IPs.

If you do a ramp down, don’t just keep the same content, pick and choose and experiment, you need to get an open from these people so they get back in the engaged segment … more to come on that I expect.

Authentication

The short version is that not being authenticated is just bad!

DKIM plays a big part in most inboxes nowadays but it is rumoured that SPF makes little difference even to Outlook.com who championed/invented SenderID as the evolution of it but it’s best to have at least those two at all times. DMARC is newer and not yet a requirement, most ISPs use it themselves but do not make it a requirement for delivery.

Content Filters

All agreed that there were no longer any “spammy keywords” which their systems looked for to decide on inbox placement. However, certain copy in the subject and content are more likely to result in negative reactions from users and reputation could then be affected.

I personally have found that I can take out certain collections of words on a junked email and get inboxed in Outlook.com and Gmail.

I’m of the belief that either those content filters do exist and the leniency of their filters depend on reputation.

Alternatively actual copy can have reputation, whether it is a word or a collection of words, which could be learned from user actions. This could have been an evolution of the old bayesian filters.

Either way they so it ain’t so.

Summary

Deliverability is personal to each inbox

… was the catchphrase, which essentially concurs with any deliverabiltiy experts’ advice:

reputation is one thing but each person uses their inbox differently and gets different emails, so each inbox learns differently so can react differently.

So it’s nice to get something from the horses mouth. From experience, I’m not ready to accept all of it at face value but I will adapt my priorities slightly. I hope this is of use to anyone else.

 

 

Further Reading

AOL, Comcast, Gmail, and Outlook.com open up at EEC15” by Massimo Arrigoni
How 4 Of The Top Mailbox Providers (Isp) Determine What Gets To The Inbox” by Al Bsharah

Image from emailevolution.org

Mark multiple emails as not Spam in Gmail

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How to mark multiple emails from the same sender as Not Spam in Gmail desktop

 

As you may know, marking as not junk is a good for reputation.
One mark as not spam counts for more than one mark as spam.
This is because you are telling the Inbox provider that they have got it wrong and you nearly missed an email which you wanted.

It is easy to mark one email as not junk, go to your spam folder open it and click the “not spam” button. Alternatively you tick the email or all the emails in the spam folder you want and choose “not spam” in the control at the top.
If you want to mark all the emails from one sender as not junk, they are unlikely to all be on the same screen to tick them all, so you do a search.
If you select all emails from your search you don’t get the option to mark them as “not spam”.
This is because you are in the search screen and not the junk folder.

To be able to mark them all as “not spam” follow the process to search for all the emails in your junk from one one sender. You then click the tick box at the top to tick them all. Then click the “spam” folder label to take you back to the spam folder.
Once in the junk folder, you will find that all the emails you had previously ticked are still ticked.
Now you have a “not spam” button; if you click it you will have mass marked all emails from one sender as not spam.

If you want to go a step further and mark all the unread ones as read, you should do this by opening each one. This is because marking as read without opening is also not good for your deliverabiltiy reputation.

An easy way to do this is to search to find all emails from that sender which are unread,
eg: “is:unread from:dave@daves.dave”.

Then click to open the oldest one.
Once in the oldest email you will see left and right arrow buttons in the top right. Use the left arrow button to take you through each email one at a time from oldest to newest. this will open each one individually and save any damage to reputation.

[image from Spam Nightlight on Etsy – there are a few other novel spam items there too]

Gmail adds its own unsubscribe link

Gmail Unsub

Gmail Unsub

Gmail is now adding an unsubscribe link at the top of the email, after the Sender Name

Gmail’s had a busy time lately: tabs and auto image loading being the most recent two and before that, smart labels and priority inbox. All there to improve the user experience of the Gmail inbox.

Gmail’s latest little trick is to add an unsubscribe link at the top of the email. This is not far all senders and is not in fact a new feature, they’ve just moved it so it is more prominent.

Back in 2009 Gmail decided to make Unsubscribing easy. This simply gave the user the opportunity to unsubscribe when they hit the spam button. This was kind of pointless, because people who hit the spam button had done so because they did not trust the unsubscribe mechanism provided by the sender and were worried that by doing so they would merely alter the sender of their existence thus ensuring more spam. Alternatively the email might not have had an unsubscribe button at all. All the user wanted to do is not see anymore emails from that sender.

Either way the spam button was still hit and the damage was done to the sender’s reputation in Gmail.

How they unsubscribe them

They key point here is how they were able to unsubscribe them. The funny thing is that Gmail did not invent anything new and nor did any of the other ISPs who also rolled out that same functionality. The method employed is in fact very very old and it’s called the “List-Unsubscribe Header”. (Try reading that back again but in your best Jeremy Clarkson voice!).

In the old days is was simple and the receiving server or person would just process the opt-out of the address which sent the email. Nowadays we have software to send millions of emails very quickly all from one spot, ie: ESPs. This means that the unsubscribe method has to be unique for that recipient at that sender and sometimes even on that particular list but it works the same.

All that used to happen was when someone hit the spam button on an email with an Unsubscribe-Header, Gmail would let them also unsubscribe thus stopping that sender from hitting someone’s junk folder for ever or until they did some engagement cleaning.

(That is if they did engagement cleaning, they might be one of the “Never Remove Inactives Crew” which incidentally has a very long list of “Don’t be stupid rules” which if you break them and have deliverability problems, you don’t get to blame the people who told you to never remove inactives and it’s definitely not their fault, it’s your fault).

So in short, the List-Unsubscribe header is quite a bit like a Feedback loop when activated automatically by hitting the spam button and quite a lot like a unsubscribe link when activated manually by the user.
Of course all of this relies on the sender having these headers.

What Gmail Have Actually Done

Gmail have simply copied the “Unsubscribe” bit of old “Unsubscribe and report a spam” from their spam button process, into the inbox.

Only one email I get actually employs the List-Unsubscribe header, and it’s my Favourite place to get baby gear from for my daughter – free next day delivery if you spend £30 – Kiddicare.

This is what I get from my favourite on-line shop when buying toys and stuff for my kid – this lot do free next days delivery on orders over £30 if you order early enough in the day!!!

… Below they are correctly signing with DKIM, if they didn’t properly sign the Sender-Name would be followed by some kind of “via e.sendersender.com” or something like that and then they would have the unsubscribe link.

kiddiecare

Essentially it looks a little like an Inbox Snippet Preview, where in the inbox they take the top line or two from the message and stick in grey after the bold subject line, except it’s underlined to show it’s a link.

Apparently it is to save their users from scrolling around looking for the link. I think it is far too prominent and should be at the bottom of the page where everyone expects it to be. It could be at the bottom of the frame so people still don’t have to scroll, it would just mean that as they open the email, the new easy to use unsubscribe link won’t appear right under their mouse.

Either way, it’s here if you have a List Unsubscribe Header.

If you don’t and are quite spammy, you might think, “I’m not getting one of those, people will just hit that link”, what you are missing is the fact that without that link your recipients are just hitting the spam button!

If you get on the eventual Gmail FBL you’ll be able to see the counts and when you add your List-Unsubscribe header you should see the complaints go down.

Scrapple – spam-like but not quite spam emails

Scr@pple

Scrapple

Scrapple is a new email genre to join the ranks of ham, bacn and spim.

Scrapple means “SPAM-like But Not Quite SPAM Emails”.

I spotted this on Word to the Wise recently, where Laura reported this word emerge from a load of Science fiction writers discussing a recent unsolicited email they were all CC’d on, from someone promoting them-self for an award, after taking their addresses from the Science Fiction Writers Association directory.

They went on twitter to complain and decided on a word to classify that kind of email and came up with “Scrapple“, this same thing got onto Storify later on for an easier read and the first post about the birth of Scrapple.

According to Laura, those who know will know that Scrapple is also a pork based dish and according to the coiner of Scrapple (@talkwordy): “Scrapple is the world’s most delicious meat bread”.

Normally i’d be simply happy to take their work for it, as I tend to for most modern American concoctions which sound like a heart attack on a plate, however, some of the pics don’t look so bad: with eggs for breakfast? looks like a nice hash 😉

But whenever I say the word I think of scrabble more than meat bread though.

4 factors of disengagement

Whatever

Engagement is currently one of the hottest topics in Email Marketing success at the moment because more and more ISPs and Inbox Hosts are using their users’ engagement with your emails to decide how to allow your emails in. In order to help optimise your inbox placement, content freedom and open reach: it helps to know what could be causing engagement problems and how to attend to them.

Here are four main factors for disengagement, unsurprisingly deliverability has the most copy about it but it should not be the biggest cause if you collect and treat your data well. All of these things need to be considered when you upgrade your programs to include engagement monitoring and targeting to optimise results

1. Disinterest.
The obvious one is list fatigue. People have been on your list for a while, you’ve been emailing them regularly with the same stuff for a while and some of them deprioritised you. They don’t opt-out but they don’t open.

You can get through to these people by mixing it up a bit, more with subject lines than anything else. These people are whom a re-engagement campaign are for; segment by engagement levels, find the people who have opened at all but not for a while and talk to them differently than those who have recently. These people are not opening your emails so the only touch point you have is the subject line, use it wisely, use it better. Be relevant, be novel, be different and even remarkable. Test, test, test!

And while you are at it, don’t forget: those that see your subject line still see you your subject line! So even if they don’t open the email, you have exposure, so consider the story you are telling them over time. Where is the ending? Christmas? Easter? Summer Holidays? All of them?

2. Abandoned inbox
The owner of this address has got a new primary address and just left this one alone. They have already updated their main subscriptions: Amazon, their bank, Twitter, Facebook etc.  They may have , at some point, intended to check it every so often just in case there is something they want to move over and may have done a couple that they couldn’t live without, eg: Groupon, Wowcher; and left some they found could, eg: Livingsocial etc etc. but now they are continuing their lives in joyful ignorance of the contents of their now long forgotten former email address.

At some point it is likely that this inbox will fill up and start to soft bounce, rejecting the emails because it has reached it’s storage capacity; where possible these should be spotted and opted out after 3 or 5 sends because you know it’s abandoned.

Eventually, the inbox provider or ISP, will see that this inbox is abandoned and decide to close it in order to save wasted space.

Once this happens, emails to this inbox will hard bounce, so as long as you are able to catch and suppress your bounces, you will not longer email it.

On some occasions, the Inbox provider will decide to re-open the inbox after a certain amount of months (commonly 7-14) and turn it into a spam recycled spam trap or a “zombie trap”. This email address will stop hard bouncing and start to accept emails; it will not register any other activity but will be very bad for your sender reputation in that particular ISP. As long as you have been emailing every address at least once a quarter since the day it signed up and you have been efficiently managing your hard bounces, you will catch it at the hard bounce and avoid the trap. If you, however, leave a list too long, try to wake up an old list or attain a list from elsewhere (purchase, rent etc.) you run the risk if acquiring spam traps which you will not know about until you have sent many emails to that list and you segment based on opens or lack of.

3. Typos
It may not be obvious but people sometimes spell their own address wrong. Email to these address might not always hard bounce either, they will simply swallow email up like a black hole.
Sadly some typo black-hole domains have been acquired by email security organisations and act like zombie traps.
It is worth while avoiding getting them on your list in the first place but look out for them as you analyse records which have never reacted to an email from you.
If the typo is in the prefix you may never know it is a typo, so it is best to try to help the user spell it right when they first sign-up.

4. Deliverability

One variable which really helps to eliminate is your ability to get the email in front of the recipient in the first place. You cannot really know if they are worth trying to engage or if they are abandoned etc. if they are not getting the email for some reason or another, so you need to test for deliverability at some stage in a re-engagement process.

Normally this is one of the last things you do in a re-engagement process…

These problems can come in 5 main flavours:

  1. High Risk Content
    Your content, from the copy to the HTML could be triggering content spam filters at recipient’s inboxes causing them to be catagorised as spam and consequently junked. This can from key words, image to text ratio, hidden content, phishing issues and more. How much of the content is tolerated can be decided upon by your sender reputation in that ISP…You get around this by experimenting with safer content just to get a reaction, eg: at least 60% text, upto 40% images & 3 images not all touching; plain text only with one or two tracked links or simply requesting a reply.
  2. Email Address & Domain Blocking
    In clients like MS Outlook, if someone hits the spam button you don’t get to know about it, like you would from an ISP with a feedback loop; this means that when they hit the button your from address is blacklisted in that inbox, probably forever. There are a few inboxes which work this way, some installed clients some server side web-apps etc. Some can even tell the mail admin about it and cause them block all mail from that address to all users. Most of these are business servers of course. Some of these servicesYou can get around this by targeting people who have not opened in a long while from a different email address all together with a reminder of who you are and how they know you.
  3. Bad Reputation
    If your reputation in a particular ISP is not good your inbox placement and general email acceptance can be at risk. As you may or may not already know, your reputation is a direct result of your recipient’s reactions to your emails in that ISP or inbox host. So recipients hitting the spam button a lot is bad and high number of opens and replies is good – the main point is to prioritise messaging rather than marketing and then give users the opportunity to manually safelist marketing emails with various flagging options.If you collect your subscribers in the right way, this should never be a real problem for you and you could explore Sender Score Certification to remove further ambiguity.
    If your data collection methods do push the ISP’s and recipients’ definitions of permission, this is likely to be a problem for you. You will need to do a very good clean of your existing data and alter your methods or collection and emailing, in some cases severely, in order to prove to the ISPs that you deserve the inbox placement you want because you are essentially in breach of all of their Ts & Cs for email senders.
  4. Black Listing
    This is not really an engagement issue but more of a data collection and email compliance issue but will obviously cause lack of engagement because it is a sure fire way to avoid the inbox.
    If you have previously hit space traps or been marked as spam by many recipients, you domain or IP address could have been blacklisted, this could have either been on a specific ISP or a more open backlist which other filters refer to. Most of these will allow you to apply for a delisting but there are correct answers to their questions and they can tell if you are lying. IP backlisting is slightly more common because there are more IP lists out there because it is an older and far more proven tool to stop real spammers. Some backlists are worse than others and some you are likely to know about because your ISP may have been listed as a result eg: Spamhaus.
    The idea to avoid this is to only send to people who have provided their email address in the process of wanting to receive emails, not forced or sneaked; don’t buy lists, don’t scraped from the web and don’t guess addresses.
    Once you have tidied up your act you can ask for delistings, although it would be worth experimenting with a new domain and IP.

Can you think of any more reasons, could some reasons be more important than others, do some reasons only apply to some senders?

[image source cynthiakane.com]