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Best practices … what are they?

“We follow all the best practices!” is a common refrain from many senders. But what does best practices really mean?
To me the bulk of best practices are related to permission, technical setup and identity.

  1. Send opt-in mail.
  2. Follow the SMTP spec.
  3. Authenticate your mail with DKIM.
  4. Publish a SPF record.
  5. Don’t hide you domain whois behind privacy protection services.
  6. Honor unsubscribe requests.
  7. Put your postal address in your email.
  8. Use a consistent From address.

Those are really the only things I tell every client to do. Everything else that makes for a successful email marketing program.
Things like cadence, frequency, welcome programs, content and even FBL processing really depend on the sender’s specific situation. For instance, sender who are using some ESPs don’t need to process FBLs, those are handled by the ESP. Cadence and frequency really depend on the sender and the product and the audience.
George Bilbrey from Return Path has an article at MediaPost (Don’t Let Village Wisdom Make You The Village Idiot) today demonstration how some “best practice advice” given by many folks leads to different results for different senders.
The answer to almost every generic question about email delivery is “It Depends.” This often generates groans from people who get tired of hearing that. That doesn’t change the fact that the answer does depend on the specifics.
We spend a lot of time working with clients to understand their programs, their technology, and their audience. Our advice is then tailored to their program to address their challenges and meet their marketing goals. We don’t really do best practices here. It really does depend.

2 comments

  1. George Wallach says

    I think this list should also be directed at ISPs that don’t conform to the SMTP RFCs. Besides that this list is only a starting point. Following all the mentioned items rarely results in inboxing but an improvement sure.

  2. Bill Silverstein says

    Having the display name in the from field clearly identify the sender or advertiser. Not only does it help comply with the law, it lets the recipient know it is from you.
    I had received support e-mails from “Register” which I almost ignored. “My Starbuck Rewards” , “Expedia Travel Deals” “CNET Cheapskate, ” “Footlocker VIP,” and “Delta Skybonus” are good ones because you know exactly who they are from, you don’t have to guess.

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