AOL EWL: low complaints no longer enough
This morning AOL announced some changes to their Enhanced White List. Given I’ve not talked very much about the AOL EWL in the past, this is as good a time as any to talk about it.
The AOL Enhanced Whitelist is for those senders that have very good practices. Senders on the EWL not only get their mail delivered to the inbox, but also have links and images enabled by default. Placement on the EWL is done solely on the basis of mail performance and only the best senders get on the list.
The new announcement this morning says that AOL will take more into account than just complaints. Previously, senders with the lowest complaint rates qualified for the EWL. Now, senders must also have a good reputation in addition to the low complaint rates. Good reputation is a measure of user engagement with a particular sender.
This change only reinforces what I and many other delivery experts have been saying: The secret to good delivery is to send mail recipients want. ISPs are making delivery decisions based on those measurements. Send mail that recipients want, and there are few delivery problems.
For a long time good delivery was tied closely to complaint rates, so senders focused on complaints. Spammers focused on complaints too, thus managing to actually get some of their spam delivered. ISPs noticed and started looking at other ways to distinguish wanted mail from spam. One of the better ways to separate spam from wanted mail is to look at user engagement. And the ISPs are measuring engagement and using that measurement as part of their decision making process. Send so much mail users don’t read it, and your reputation goes down followed by your delivery rates.