Dedicated IPs are Good

You may or may not have heard of the phrase ‘Dedicated IP’ but if you keep any eye on t’internet about email marketing you should have by now.
Often it is perceived as uber tekki so marketers tend to shy away from it and some even panic at the prospect, well there is no need, it is a good thing and here is why…

Why a dedicated IP?

Out of the box most ESPs will put you straight into a shared pool of IP address and your emails will go out of all of them as will a few dozen-hundred other senders.

This is normal and will suit most good low volume senders, you all share the same sending reputation and due to the volumes being low individually, together they maintain a good rep.

Once you are sending over 50k a month consistently, your volumes will start having a larger affect on the shared reputation and this can make your own deliverability ambiguous.

In order to have full control over your deliverability you want a dedicated IP address. This is a single spot that your emails and only your emails go out from.  You have full control over your reputation and subsequently your deliverability. This is very good thing and as well as your own success getting you better deliverability, it will also get you closer to being able to be Return Path Certified thus making your deliverability even more low maintenance.

How do I do it?

To get one all you need to do is ask your ESP for one.

You will probably need to send slightly differently for the first two to four weeks of having a dedicated IP just to make sure it gets off on the right foot, here’s what you do:

Week 1: send about 10k a day
Week2: send about 50k a day
Week3: up to 100k a day
Week 4: up to 250k a day

If you haven’t got more than 100k a week to send, it means you can go back to your more regular sending habit that much earlier. However, you may find that you don’t want to just fall back into your old ways as you have found that more targeted sends are far more profitable – which you should!

If you normally send one big chunk a month, eg: 600k-2million on a Friday afternoon, break it right down into smaller chunks and send them in small daily batches during this month.

If your total volumes take you over the preferred limit, take out the addresses that have not opened an email in over 3 months and only add address that have a verifiable opt-in – eg: sign-up form.

You may find that by only emailing the people who frequently interact that your open and click count does not go up or down but the percentage flies up. This will be because you are only emailing the people that are likely to open the email. All of the other people who were getting it but ignoring it are out of the way. So you will still be getting opened by the same people as before and the those who are useless too will not be in the way. Once the IP warming period is up you can break down the historical non-openers into to small groups and target them differently each week so see if you can save them or if you should just leave them out forever.

Avoid Bounces and Complaints

It is vitally important that you avoid hard bounces and being marked as spam even more vigilantly than usual because they will do a little more harm during this first month.

Avoid Spam Traps

If you are a big B2C sender, taking out your consistent non-openers (often called ’emotional unsubscribes’) for this period is vital. Very old email addresses can often be turned into spam traps by ISPs. Most of them will hard bounces for a while first so your ESP will have suppressed them but if you have woken up and old list – take it out and put it one side.

Any address that is more than 12 months old and has not opened in the last 6 months, just chop them off, they will do more harm than good in any situation.

It’s not an exact science

No matter how hard you try you can’t manufacture a reputation. Nothing is set in stone and ISPs can be fickle as. However most of this is from experience and research. Other people might start with 10k a day and slowly increase it every day for a month. Some people might just plough into it and just ride the storm until the ISPs makes a decision but the general census is that you start small and slow and gradually increase. One thing is for certain though, negative responses count for more in the early stages, so avoid them at all costs.

The Credit Rating Analogy

If you’ve never had any debt at all, you won’t get a mortgage. This is because you are an unknown as far as lenders are concerned, so they won’t take the risk.

If you’ve had a credit card and even sometimes missed a payment, you are more likely to get approved because at least the lenders can analyse the risk.

IPs’s deliverability are a mortgage from an ISP. They won’t just let you in until they figure out what you’re about. So in order to get in their good book early, play the game and don’t kill of your deliverability whilst you are making yourself known – it’ll be so very hard to come back from.

If you just get your head down and follow best practice, you will be fine.

Pure360 will not only give you a dedicated IP on request but I may realise that you need one before you do & offer you one and I will be there to hold your hand through the warming process.

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Edit 30/10/2010: Since writing this we have had a glowing reference from Al Iverson about this, so in case there is any doubt here is some back-up statements:

Al Iverson

@aliversonAl Iverson
Don’t just take my word for it– here’s some good info from Pure360 on why you should send from a dedicated IP address:
28 Oct via web

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in reply to @getintheinbox ↑
Al Iverson
@aliversonAl Iverson
@getintheinbox good advice! this is very near what we recommend to clients.

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Captain Inbox
getintheinbox Captain Inbox
@aliverson Thanks Al, I’d be interested to know what other methods are in use if any?

in reply to @getintheinbox ↑

Al Iverson

@aliversonAl Iverson
@getintheinbox Well, my struggle is with clients who want to use shareds to avoid a rep issue…doesn’t work the way they think it does.

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PowerMTA interview on twitter: email marketing deliverability awesomeness

[tweetmeme source= “getintheinbox” only_single=false]
Port25 did a very cheeky little twitter interview last night (19:00 UK-Time) where Fred Tabsharani (@tabsharani) interviewed Russ Fletcher (@fletchster) about the up coming V4.0 of Port25’s magnificent #PowerMTA.

After two questions a couple of people butted in with their own questions, My alter-ego asked:
Q: “Hi @fletchster have you added any new features that maybe users have been asking/waiting for?”

A: fletchster: “We are always collecting feedback. 1 new feature born out of multiple requests is feedback loop response management.”

This is a big deal! While many senders large enough to need a PowerMTA box may have the technical skills to handle their own feedback loop management it does mean yet another system. You have your CRM/Profiling database, CMS, Email Software to tie that together and then PMTA to distribute. Normally you would have to manually bolt on the feedback loop management to the CRM/Profiling Database – OR if you have an ESP, that will look after it.
Having PMTA look after it could be a massive weight off.

Also, we’ve seen that some ISPs use different standards to respond to hard bounces, eg: some will use 554 for a spam complaint & 550 for user unknown and others will do it the other way around. It is annoying, even more so when one swaps without telling anyone! fletchster tells us that PMTA has the ability to have rules to handle different ISPs’ codes accordingly – genius!

The final question from tabsharani was:
Q: “What are the most effective and efficient ways to establish IP reputation, in our current deliverability landscape?”

This was the big question, and has us all on the edge of our seat, especially when tabsharani forgot to hash tag the question, so fletchster answered it before people following the just the hashtag saw what the question was (you probably had to be there though – in fact you definitely did)…

A: “In the current landscape, senders should:
1) Use a consistent IP address which is what providers will be monitoring over time.
2) They should also sign mail with DKIM to properly verify sending identity.
3) They should also make sure that FBLs and bounces are properly handled from remote gateways.
4) Senders need to improve content targeting to increase recipient interaction with their messaging as mailbox providers are starting to monitor such activity as a measure of legitimacy”

The usual 3 were listed and as convention has shown, the new 4th aspect of content targeting is there. It’s good that there is consistency.

Then we went onto the Q&A:
Q: MichaelWeisel: How do you see the industry changing re: reputation & deliverability & what are the most important strategies to use?

A: fletchster: I believe the biggest change is that mailbox providers are now looking at interaction metrics as another data point to use for assessing sender reputation and legitimacy. As such, senders will have to re-think their creative prod. processes.
– – –
Q: MichaelWeisel:
We have been pushing transactional to help build IP reputation, thoughts and reassurance this is a good idea?

A: fletchster: I’m not sure deliverability is determined in a transactional v. en masse sense. Rather, transactional content also argue that the way transactional mail is sent is inherently less likely to trip volume filters providers may have in place.

To which MichaelWeisel elaborated: Thought process is, by using existing forms for transactional yields higher % of “good” email addresses = better deliverability.

– – –
It was really good thing to do, I think the build up was a little quiet so the attendance was not as strong as it could have been. I only found out about it 5 mins before it started when I saw tabsharani’s tweet from half an hour earlier.

I think Port25 have the opportunity to really help good senders send good email and help improve deliverability overall. Giving people that opportunity to manage the feedback loops from PMTA and better handle the bounces supports the latest point that senders should focus on the people who really want the content. If you only send emails people genuinely want, they are more likely to get it when they want it and can then share it for you.

Well done guys. Apparently the full transcript will be available on very soon – look out for the retweets!

Correction – as of 03:50 this morning (gmt – 05/08/2010) this post is the transcript 🙂
“Transcript released from @Port25Solutions interview yesterday. #PowerMTA”

Also there is a Twapper Keeper of the entire tweeting:

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If you are a big sender, your volumes probably won’t warrant a pay per email ASP solution, check out Pure360 Unlimited: you can host the software on your own hardware, behind your own firewall, with PMTA. Pure360 will manage it with you and if you like, they can train people up on the way so you can take control of PMTA after 12-18 months and have full control over your deliverability. If you have the resources and the knowledge, Pure360 will manage the software for you and you manage the PMTA box. On top of that, the model means that you don’t pay for emails!