Controlling delivery

How much control over delivery do senders have? I have repeatedly said that senders control their delivery. This is mostly true. Senders control their side of the delivery chain, but there is a point where the recipient takes over and controls things.
As a recipient I can

  • report your email as spam
  • forward your email to another account on another mail system
  • file your email in a mailbox I never read
  • block all your images
  • delete your email before it ever hits my mailbox
  • forward your email to public or private blocklists
  • fold, spindle or mutilate your email
  • forward your email to friends
  • blog about your email
  • purchase something from that email
  • visit your website and purchase something else
  • reply to you

Some of these things are going to hurt your reputation as a sender. And there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t make a recipient accept your email. You can’t make a recipient ISP accept your email.
What you, as a sender, can do is send mail that your recipients want to read. Send mail that they expect, even anticipate. For instance, it’s now noon on Tuesday, I know I’m going to get Ken Magill’s newsletter in the next 2 hours. Then I will read it, chat about it with some other delivery folks and possibly comment on his blog. I may even get inspired and blog about something he wrote.
Influence and inspire your recipients. Send them mail they want, don’t just send mail they tolerate. Because they don’t have to just tolerate your email. They can react in many ways, some of them positive, some of them negative.
Senders need to remember they only control one end of delivery, but they can influence the whole stream.


  1. Elena Hekimian says

    Hey Laura – love it, thanks for this post!
    I’d love to prod a bit more into this. What about inconsistent bouncing results? Same-ish email, same IPs, sending to the same addresses, but sometimes they hard bounce, and sometimes they don’t. How does one get control over this seemingly uncontrollable server behavior?

  2. laura says

    That’s a much more complex question than you may think. What are the exact rejection messages? What are the exact emails? Is this an ISP that pushes end user blocks out to the MTA (which some do)? Is this an ISP that does content filtering before accepting the mail? How often is this happening? I’ve seen cases recently where ISPs fall over and 5xx all mail for a few hours because of a config problem at their end.
    If you want to drop me an email with details I’ll see if I can give you some better answers.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.