Would you know if your emails were making it to your recipients’ inboxes?  Historically, most deliverability providers have only provided one way to know: traditional seed monitoring.  

The idea of traditional seed monitoring is quite simple — include a list of provided email addresses into your email campaigns and, in return, gain insight into whether your emails are making it into the inbox. And while for the past twenty-years this single-source approach worked well, something interesting began to happen in recent years. No longer were filtering decisions only based upon content heuristics or bayesian filters.  Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook began to get smarter…much smarter. These major providers, which handle over 80% of consumer email accounts, began to use individual recipient engagement behaviors in their decisions. Suddenly, traditional seed approaches went from telling most of the story, to only telling a small-fraction of the story, so additional data sources were needed.

Here at SparkPost, we are the only company to drive our analytics products using eight different data sources to provide you with the most holistic view of your email performance. Two of these sources are non-engaging seeds (i.e. traditional seed lists) and AI-modeled engaging seeds. Our engaging seeds are called IntelliSeeds™. 

Why does this matter? Well, put simply you get all the benefits of the traditional approach plus more. When given a choice between the traditional seed approach vs. IntelliSeeds you should choose IntelliSeeds every time because it will provide a more diverse data view to help you analyze how your program is performing. 

What are the similarities between traditional and Intelliseeds?

Before discussing the differences between the two approaches, let’s first review commonalities between traditional and Intelliseeds.

Both use automation (commonly referred to as a “bot”) to monitor mailboxes.

In recent months, we’ve heard industry chatter over the use of “bots” to monitor inbox placement. The premise is that bot-driven IntelliSeeds are nefarious and violate providers’ terms-of-service. We want to set the record straight: Both traditional and our Intelliseed approaches use non-human bots. For the past twenty-years, bots have been monitoring seed lists to inform inbox placement. IntelliSeeds are no-more-or-no-less a bot than the historical seed approach used for decades. 

Both trigger human-like behavior within the monitored mailboxes.

Another argument against IntelliSeeds vs. traditional seeds has been that IntelliSeeds impersonate user-behavior. Some have even gone so far as to quote providers’ terms of service in their “evidence” that IntelliSeeds are evil. The truth is both approaches impersonate user-behavior. In order to keep mailboxes active, traditional seeds use a bot to log in and delete email from the inbox. A message that isn’t read, but then deleted is a “human” behavior that signals to the provider that the message is irrelevant to the reader. 

Both are ethical in their approach to monitoring inboxes

While it is true that both approaches trigger human-like behavior, neither does so abusively.  This distinction is crucial and one we take very seriously at SparkPost. We identify any service that attempts to influence anti-abuse algorithms or spam filters as unethical and has no place in a legitimate business. Seedlisting (intelli-or-otherwise) exists to understand inboxing, not to directly influence it.

Both track where the email was delivered (inbox or spam).

Both IntelliSeeds and traditional seeds ultimately track whether the email was delivered to the inbox or the spam folder, and in some cases, what category (such as Gmail’s Promotion tab).  

How are Traditional Seeds and Intelliseeds Different?

Now that we have covered what is the same, let’s turn our focus to what truly differentiates IntelliSeeds from other smart-seed and more traditional monitoring approaches.

IntelliSeeds’ daily model examines 100 different user-segments (including non-engaged).

Traditional seeds model the inbox placement for one user-segment: non-engaged and/or new users. IntelliSeeds model one-hundred unique engagement segments each-and-every-day.  Similar to how standardized testing results reflect what portion of the population the tester represents, individual IntelliSeeds represent a particular portion of the Internet population and how that population interacts with email. Each day, we use a complex AI-model to generate the engagement behavior for each individual IntelliSeed. The models take into account upcoming holidays, time of year, work schedules, vacations, even the time of day and location. Each IntelliSeed then engages with the email (reads or deletes) based upon the type of persona it represents.  

This approach works. Our testing indicates IntelliSeeds are 12-15% more accurate at predicting inbox placement when compared to the use of traditional seeds. And this is just the beginning; these models will only get more accurate over time.

IntelliSeeds can be used to accurately test triggered email campaigns.

Triggered emails have always been difficult to test using traditional seeds. IntelliSeeds were purposefully designed to allow senders to reliably test their triggered emails, such as password resets or file-share invitations.  

IntelliSeeds intentionally do NOT take certain actions.

IntelliSeeds were designed to monitor and predict inbox performance, not to influence it. They never will click on links, move email to/from the spam folder, or read email at a rate that would influence spam filters on a macro-level. Not only would that be unethical, but it would also be counterproductive to our goal of helping email marketers send better email that their audiences want to read. Everything we do is rooted in giving senders the intelligence to drive the best experiences possible for their subscribers. 

IntelliSeeds are simply an evolution of the traditional seed, an evolution that is unique to SparkPost because of the multitude of data feeds available to us and our customers. 

If you are a current customer, you can always contact your SparkPost team or contact us via support with questions. If you are considering a move to SparkPost for your email analytics needs or have questions, we invite you to contact us.

~ Chris