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Poor delivery can't be fixed with technical perfection

There are a number of different things delivery experts can do help senders improve their own delivery. Yes, I said it: senders are responsible for their delivery. ESPs, delivery consultants and deliverability experts can’t fix delivery for senders, they can only advise.
In my own work with clients, I usually start with making sure all the technical issues are correct. As almost all spam filtering is score based, and the minor scores given to things like broken authentication and header issues and formatting issues can make the difference between an email that lands in the inbox and one that doesn’t get delivered.
I don’t think I’m alone in this approach, as many of my clients come to me for help with their technical settings. In some cases, though, fixing the technical problems doesn’t fix the delivery issues. No matter how much my clients tweak their settings and attempt to avoid spamfilters by avoiding FREE!! in the subject line, or changing the background, they still can’t get mail in the inbox.
Why not? Because they’re sending mail that the recipients don’t really want, for whatever reason. There are so many ways a sender can collect an email address without actually collecting consent to send mail to that recipient. Many of the “list building” strategies mentioned by a number of experts involve getting a fig leaf of permission from recipients without actually having the recipient agree to receive mail.
Is there really any difference in permission between purchasing a list of “qualified leads” and automatically adding anyone who makes a purchase at a website to marketing lists? From the recipient’s perspective they’re still getting mail they don’t want, and all the technical perfection in the world can’t overcome the negative reputation associated with spamming.
The secret to inbox delivery: don’t send mail that looks like spam. That includes not sending mail to people who have not expressly consented to receive mail.

7 comments

  1. Andrew says

    Hit the nail on the head their Laura with our roles as advisors ( or medics. we can offer the medicine but its up to them to take it).
    In regards to my approach I can confirm mine is much the same as yours in regards to initially double checking the technical aspects, I am sure we are not alone. My next step is to go through the whole sign-up process, and thats where you begin to identify how some email address may sneak in the back door.
    Even then, some companies do run extremely good policies on permission, but inconsiderate mailer behaviour … I believe has resulted in reputation issues.
    Mail is often marked as spam as soon as the user decides it is mail they no longer wish to receive. Undoubtedly some of that sticks around from the advice ‘never click an unsubscribe link’. Some find it easier and there are a host of other reasons.
    Whilst mailers can complain that it simply is not fair, they have confirmed permission, the user at the end of the day has control. Too many pushing the report spam button and its all over. Regardless of your opt-in process. SO at the end of the day make sure it is mail the recipient wants to receive and you have permission to send.
    So completely agree with what you have said, but I would go even further… I believe ‘permission’ in itself is no longer enough.

  2. steve says

    All very true – but there’s a flip side as well. While technical perfection will never fix poor delivery on its own, technical perfection is a much simpler, faster thing to achieve than the more complex “not sending mail that looks like spam”.
    And yet, almost all the commercial email I receive is horrible technically. Fixing that is fairly easy, is never going to hurt delivery and will usually help, and you can get that easy bit out of the way while you’re still gathering data and thinking hard about the broader issues.
    And then, once you’re working on the broader delivery issues and you go and talk to a blacklist, a filtering company or an ISP about a squishy filtering or bulking issue they’ll look at the email you’ve sent recently and won’t go “Ew. That’s horrible and looks like what spammers do, no wonder it’s blocked!”.

  3. Kris says

    Right ON! Hopefully marketers out there will read this and gain some understanding, but there’s an awful lot of selective readers out there.
    I agree with Andrew’s analogy to being a medic, with a slight alteration:
    It’s more like someone telling their doctor they want to look good in a bathing suit. Diet and exercise are the obvious answer, but they take too long, are inconvenient and can be painful. If there was a pill, they’d take it.
    And many see technology as that pill.

  4. Bill Silverstein says

    I had one of my customers, type in a list of e-mail addresses from one of those Hollywood type of directories,. She was using the e-mails to publicize upcoming events for her charitable organization, took keep at risk kids in school.
    I had to explain to her that just because the e-mail address is part of a book, they were not given to her. It seems like a common mistake, misconception, that if the information is in public it is usable for any purpose.

  5. Jonathan Loriaux says

    This is simple for email marketing specialist. But very hard to explain with clients …

  6. En vrac : Affichage Hotmail et Yahoo!, basiques de l'e-mail marketing, délivrabilité, ... | Kunfluo - Agence E-mail Marketing says

    […] Poor delivery can’t be fixed with technical perfection – Word to the Wise – Et non, ce serait beaucoup trop simple. La technique est incapable de résoudre tous les problèmes de délivrabilité. […]

  7. The Proverbial Barry says

    waste of time to explain to them, i’d rather just just block them
    that goes for deliverability consultants too, mostly your part of the problem

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