How to send better emails: engagement


Today Direct Marketing News hosted a webinar: ISP Mythbusters: How to Send Better Emails. The speakers were Matt Moleski, the Executive Director of Compliance Operations from Comcast and Autumn Tyr-Salvia, the Director Of Standards And Best Practices from Message Systems.
The webinar went through a series of myths. After Autumn introduced the myth, Matt commented on it and explained why the statement was, or was not, a myth. Throughout the webinar, Matt clearly explained what does, and does not, get mail delivered. Don’t let the Comcast after Matt’s name fool you. He is very active in different fora and discusses filtering strategies with experts across the ISP industry. His insight and knowledge is broadly applicable. In fact, many of the things Matt said today were things I’ve heard other ISPs say over and over again.
One of the very first things he said was that ISPs want to deliver mail their customers want. They want to give customers the best inbox experience possible and that means delivering mails customers want and keeping out mails customers don’t. He also pointed out that recipients complain to the ISPs when they lose wanted mail, perhaps even more than they complain about spam.
He also touched on the topic of engagement. His message was that absolutely engagement does matter for inbox delivery and that engagement is going to matter more and more as filtering continues to evolve. There has been some discussion recently about whether or not engagement is an issue, with some people claiming that some ISP representatives said engagement doesn’t matter. The reality is, that engagement does matter and Matt’s words today only reinforce and clarify that message.
Matt did say is that ISPs and senders have a bit of a disconnect when they are speaking about engagement. ISPs look at engagement on the “macro” level. They’re looking to see if users delete a mail without reading it, file it into a folder, mark it spam or mark it not spam. Senders and marketers look at engagement on a much more finite level and look at interactions with the specific emails and links in the email.
When discussing the relationship between senders and ISPs, he pointed out that both senders and ISPs have the same goal: to personalize the customer experience and to give customers a great experience. As part of this, ISPs are mostly aligned when it comes to blocking principles, but each ISP responds slightly differently. ISPs do adhere to best practices for handling incoming email, but those practices are implemented based on the individual company  and handles incoming mail in ways that better supports their company specifically.
Matt talked about Comcast’s Postmaster pages and says they try to give feedback to senders before putting a block in place. He mentions that invalid recipients and poor list hygiene as the fastest way to be blocked or throttled when sending to Comcast. He also said that the core filtering rules at Comcast are static. Changes are mostly “tweaks around the edges.”
During the Q&A portion, Matt took a number of questions from the audience.

  • “What recommendations do you have for ESPs?” To get the best delivery to Comcast do not do things that make you look like a spammer. Ensure your systems are following the best practices. Changing IP addresses is not the solution to poor delivery.

Some of the other questions asked during the Q&A:

  • “Does time when an email is sent have an impact on delivery?” No, the engagement of the message by the recipient is more important.
  • “Does volume increase my chances of getting blocked?” For the most part, no, again it’s back to the engagement of the message.
  • “If I get marked as spam once I will be blocked in the future?” No, as engagement improves and the reputation of the sender improves, you can start to transition from messages going to the junk folder to going to the inbox over time.

This last answer is why delivery folks recommend cutting down a list to your most engaged folks when trying to get mail back into the inbox. Recommendations to trim a list are not general delivery recommendations; they are recommendations directed at people who are having delivery challenges. Senders who are getting all their mail to the inbox should do nothing different!
For those senders who are seeing some or all of their mail delivered to the bulk folder, trimming a list is part of the strategy to move that mail back to the inbox. That strategy typically includes adding back in the removed addresses in a controlled fashion once reputation is repaired.
The webinar is very much worth a listen. Folks can get delivery advice direct from the ISPs, addressing many of the most common questions ISPs, and delivery folks deal with on a daily basis.

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  • Thanks for sharing Laura! No surprises here, just more affirmation engagement does matter, just through a different lens between ISPs and Marketers based on metrics they have access to.

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