deliverability_panel_eecI’m in Miami wrapping up #EEC15, The Email Evolution Conference. The closing Keynote Panel Discussion organized by Dennis Dayman and Ryan Phelan was worth the price of admission; the panel they organized featured key postmaster/abuse personal from Comcast, Hotmail/Outlook, AOL and Gmail. Although regular fixtures at M3AAWG meetings, the folks in this room don’t normally have a chance to hear first hand how an ISP measures activity within the inbox and responds to emails as they arrive. There were furrowed brows, heads nodding and a plethora of other emotions as questions were asked, assertions made, accusations levied and laughter enjoyed by all.

 

One of the most important things I took away from this session and I think you may find this valuable too are the signals that most ISPs read as good vs. bad. Here’s a cheat sheet and take away that you can help you better understand how engagement, which was called ‘a philosophical principle rather than a secret sauce’, is measured by a mailbox provider or an ISP. One of the major disconnects I’ve seen between senders and receivers is the idea that engagement is a single measure. Quite the contrary, senders are not privy to the metrics that receivers are and vice versa, there may be some attribution, analysis through web behavioral data, that leads to a very different picture of engagement on the sender side. This is the fundamental conundrum that I think is best represented by the metric system vs. the english system. Both are valid (well one’s more practical than the other), both are capable of measuring the same distance but use different units. One doesn’t invalidate the other, hence the philosophical nature of the construct.

Positive Signals

  • Open an email
  • Adding a sender to the address book
  • Moving a message to a specific folder (filing)
  • Rescuing a message from the spam folder
  • Replying to a message.

Negative Signals

  • Deleting a message without opening it
  • Marking a message as spam
  • Reporting phishing

Thankfully there are more positive signals that inform engagement at a mailbox provider than negative ones. One thing to consider: I’ve seen a number of senders instruct their recipients not to reply to an email, that the email box will not be checked or monitored. Given that replying to emails is a positive signal that will ultimately improve a sender’s engagement, leading to better reputation and finally deliverability, it might be worthwhile to make the sending addresses accept replies and even review them for customer correspondence.

When senders and receivers work together, we all win.

Twitter, Google, Microsoft, AOL and Comcast?

That’s right. We promised that Interact 2013 – The Digital Messaging Industry Conference, would be bigger and better – and we’re making good on that.

The five online titans form the A-list ISP panel that will be spearheading the discussion on Preserving the Email Ecosystem. They’ll be discussing sending best practices and acceptance policies, as well as ways senders and receivers can cooperate to keep the email ecosystem clean and spammers at bay.

Josh Aberant from Twitter will be moderating this event, while the panelist line-up includes:

John Scarrow – Microsoft
Lachian Maxwell – AOL
Olga Gavrylyako – Google
Severin Walker – Comcast

If you’ve ever had burning questions about email deliverability, this is the forum to get those concerns addressed by the gatekeepers themselves.

When it comes to actionable takeaways to increase email deliverability, there’s no better way to learn. Aside from the A-list panel, Interact 2013 features two separate tracks: Digital Messaging Best Practices & Interact Bootcamp, where you’ll hear from email experts – both senders and receivers – from Oracle Eloqua, Groupon, Alchemy Worx, Acxiom, Barclays, OTA, XING and more.

There has been a great deal of talk in the email marketing industry recently about tuning for delivery and effective IP reputation management, but much of it seems to be misguided or misinformed in my opinion. Many of the articles I have read in past months focus on the concept of “getting around” ISP spam filters, or “bypassing” the bulk folder. (more…)