Industry Updates

Microsoft brings Inbox Tabs to Outlook on the web

Last week, a mysterious, newly-created Twitter account shared these screenshots of Microsoft’s Outlook web interface with tabs similar to those found in Gmail:

https://twitter.com/mzgtwt/status/1248663369047052288

The screenshots are the only thing ever posted by the Twitter account and this was the first I had heard of Microsoft adding tabbed sections to their inbox view, so I took it all with a grain of salt.

That is, until I logged into my Outlook.com account today and was greeted with an option to enable inbox tabs in my account. Upon clicking the button to “Try them,” I saw the same dialog box shared by the Mystery Tweeter:

Included in the available tabs are Focused Inbox, Microsoft’s “Priority Inbox” clone, along with Promotions, Social, and Newsletters. When you choose your tabs and click Save, you’re presented with your new inbox with the allocated tabs plus the category “Other” for anything that doesn’t fall under the chosen groupings.

Looking through the tabs, the categorizations seem fairly accurate but not perfect. In my own inbox, different promotional mailings from the same sender (same domain, IP infrastructure, and authentication) were split between the Promotions and Other tabs. When this happens, miscategorized messages can be dragged to the correct tab and dropped there — although it’s not clear how much impact that will have on future mailings.

Maybe I’ve been out of the loop given the current state of the world, but this came as a bit of a surprise to me. Are you seeing the Tabs option in your own inbox? If so, what do you think?

– BG

Best Practices, Delivery Essentials, Industry Updates

Don’t be so quick to suppress those mailbox full bounces

Over the years, it has been a common practice to convert certain temporary bounces into permanent bounces after a series of occurrences. Some ESPs will escalate bounces that occur X number of times in a row, or occur for X number of days without a successful delivery. One of the most commonly affected bounce types for these suppressions is Mailbox Full.

Mailbox full/over quota bounces are considered by many to be a symbol of a dead address. With the nigh-unlimited storage found in most mailboxes these days, no one who actually checks their email should ever have a full mailbox…right?

Not necessarily. In a new blog post on the MessageGears blog, I sat down with Senior Product Owner of Cloud Operations Nick Zeich-Lopez (aka. ‘Mr. Data’). We pored over results from over 20 billion deliveries and found some surprising results.

For starters, the data showed that of those recipients who experienced a Mailbox Full bounce, over 8% engaged with a subsequent email in the next 7 days and over 31% engaged with an email over the course of the next 12 months.

As a sender who’s suppressing Mailbox Full bounces after the first occurrence, you could be losing nearly 1/3 of those recipients for no reason. At the least, it’s worth some analysis of your own data (or your ESP’s) — you’ll likely find some room for improvement in how you’re handling these bounces.

For the details — along with our findings on bounces caused by spam, delivery timeouts, and DNS errors — check out the full post.

– BG

Industry Updates

Gmail tab weirdness

A few days ago I had a client who mentioned seeing something unusual in their Gmail testing. Their messages, which usually end up in the Promotions tab, had been hitting the Primary tab for almost two weeks. They reported clients had seen the same behavior. It’s not unheard of for this to happen at Gmail, but typically it lasts no more than a couple of days.

Turns out, lots of people have been asking the same question to the team at 250ok. Matt Vernhout confirmed via blog post yesterday that the deliverability tools provider is seeing this behavior as well.

There is no official acknowledgement from Google, although yesterday @Gmail replied to a Twitter user’s complaint with instructions on moving mail between tabs:

– BG

Industry Updates

Seeing red at Google Postmaster?

If you logged into your Google Postmaster Tools dashboard late yesterday or today, you may have been greeted with a troubling sight in the IP reputation graph:

From what we can tell, it appears to be an issue on Google’s end. I’ve checked dozens of IP reputations and all show nothing but red for December 10th data, and many in industry forums have reported the same.

Open rates at Gmail appear to be unaffected in my own data, and Laura at Word to the Wise provided some reassurance via Twitter:

Lots of comments this morning about GPT showing bad IP reputation for EVERYTHING this morning. Checked one of my clients on big shared pool and even those IPs dropped to ‘bad’ over night.
Don’t Panic! This is a reporting issue, not a reputation one.— Laura Atkins (@wise_laura) December 12, 2019

No word from Google of course, but since this seems like just a display issue we can all go back to freaking out about other email metrics during this busy holiday season.

– BG

Uncategorized

UPDATED: Verizon Media Mail issues

Overnight in the US, the AOL Mail and Yahoo Customer Care teams both tweeted updates indicating services may be down.

No details on scope or ETA were provided, and in my own testing I was able to access my own AOL and Yahoo addresses. Both brands have indicated engineers are working on the issues and they will provide regular updates.

UPDATED 1pm EDT: around 10AM EDT the @AOLMail Twitter account indicated the issue was mostly resolved. My own Yahoo/AOL queues started to clear out around noon EDT, and unofficial word is that the issue is considered to be resolved at this point.

– BG

Industry Updates

Google Postmaster Tools issues drag into second week

Last week we told you about an outage with Google’s Postmaster Tools data, which was missing data starting on 8/16 (many domains had data for 8/17). According to my own data and reports from others, data was populated for most domains late on 8/21 with data for 8/20 but nothing between 8/17-8/20. For the domains I track, it seems 8/21 data was added for some domains but not others, and no domain has anything past 8/21 at this point.

The ‘Last 7 days’ view of IP reputation looks a bit bare.

At the end of last week we assumed the issue was resolved, but it appears data is still missing in many instances. Spam Rate, IP & Domain Reputation, FBL, Authentication, Encryption, and Delivery Errors are all missing data for the same days. Word on the street hints at something new in GPT (but doesn’t it always?), but we’ll just have to keep refreshing that page until Google makes an announcement or something new appears.

– BG

Industry Updates

UPDATED: More blips at Google Postmaster Tools

Multiple reports have been coming in about Google’s Postmaster Tools data being missing for the past few days. Most reports indicate no data since 8/17, but some of my own domains were last updated on 8/16 even though they sent volume on the 17th.

Generally, GPT data runs a full 1-2 days behind, so the data for 8/17 was likely updated sometime the evening of 8/18. Even so, that leaves us on 3 days without updates. Not terribly uncommon, but many of us are still shook up after the 2-week-plus outage back in June. As usual, there’s been no official acknowledgement from Google.

GPT is a free tool, but it’s the only real insight (directly from Google) we as senders have into Google’s black box of mail filtering. I’m sure it’s not the highest priority project over there, but we sure do miss it when it’s not working properly.

UPDATE 8/22: Sometime last night EST Google appears to have populated data for 8/20 in my own instance and those of multiple others I’ve asked. Data is still missing for 8/18-8/19 (and 8/17 for a couple of my domains). Updates to the data generally happen for me late afternoon EST, so I’ll watch for any new data or backfilling later today.

– BG

Industry Updates

Extended Telus email outage could be hurting your open rates

If you’ve sent mail to Canadian recipients over the past few days, there’s a good chance your engagement rates have been lower than expected. Telus, a major Canadian telecom and mailbox provider, has experienced a multi-day outage of their email system starting last Thursday (August 15th).

Reports have been mixed about the exact impact and scope – Telus claimed on Friday that only 10% of customers were still impacted, then issued an apology video Saturday night in the midst of continued problems. The Telus website carries a banner linking to an Update page. Among the information here, Telus directs users to a temporary webmail account that has been created for them and states that the “old” mailboxes are being rebuilt. No timeline is given for this process.

Will Telus be able to recover all the emails lost since last Thursday? Time will tell, but it’s a safe bet at least some mail will be lost in the process. As a sender, you should evaluate the volume of traffic sent to Telus since 8/15 and whether to halt sending to those addresses until full resolution is received. At a minimum, you’ll have a good explanation when management asks why your engagement rates took a dive.

– BG

Best Practices, Delivery Essentials

The old switcheroo

We’ve talked before about domain and IP reputation, and how mailbox providers use each to determine whether the mail you send reaches the inbox or languishes in the depths of the spam folder. Since so much of your sender reputation is tied to your IP and domain, many senders have the idea that the solution to delivery issues is to simply fire up a new IP, domain, or both, granting yourself the ultimate “do-over” with the mailbox providers. There’s just one problem with that theory…

Wrong wrong wrong wrong
via Tenor

It’s wrong. Last week, 250ok’s Beth Kittle published a great piece on the fallacy of this “email myth.” (If you haven’t yet, go read her post and commit it to memory.) Beth’s illustration of the incognito party guest is a great analogy for how providers spot your mail even when sent from new infrastructure and how your misdeeds will find you there if you continue to use bad practices.

But what happens when you do see a benefit from switching? Over the past few years I’ve spoken with dozens of marketers who had an example of a situation where their deliverability improved when switching to a new IP or domain. They performed a few tests on the new infrastructure and – lo and behold – they got to the inbox! Because of this, these clients often didn’t believe my warnings that new IPs or domains wouldn’t fix the problem – they were more concerned with temporary gains (and quite a few just assumed they’d talk their way into another IP once the new one started to tank). Don’t miss this point: your deliverability may improve when you switch to a new IP or domain – but only temporarily.

I’ll provide an analogy of my own, gleaned from a former coworker who compared IP and domain reputation to telephone caller ID. If you get unwanted calls from a telemarketer, you learn to stop answering when their number shows up on the caller ID. After days of unanswered calls, if the telemarketer dials you from a new number you just might pick up to find out who’s on the other end. As soon as you hear the voice of the unwanted caller on the other end, you’ll hang up and make sure you don’t answer calls from the new number as well.

This is how mailbox providers and spam filters operate – while it’s possible your first mailing might see better performance, as soon as they identify you’re the same sender they blocked before you’ll see those numbers fall off right away. As Beth notes, their algorithms are very advanced and they will quickly find out who you are. If you want to improve your deliverability, there are no shortcuts – you’ll have to put in the work to improve your practices.

– BG

Industry Updates

UPDATED – More Google Postmaster Tools weirdness?

Reports have been trickling in today that senders are seeing spikes in “Bad” reputation in Google’s IP Reputation Postmaster page. In checking my own instance, I found at least 3 major senders whose IPs have been 100% Good for months, then 75% or more in the Bad status for July 3rd.

The results appear to be spotty, but multiple industry folks have mentioned seeing similar behavior in popular forums today. No official word from Google yet, but we’ll keep an eye on this and update as news comes in.

UPDATED 1:45PM EST – After further analysis, deliverability to Gmail does not seem to be affected for clients I’ve checked, and a few others have reported the same. Domain reputation also appears to be unaffected for me, but some others have reported changes in domain reputation that may or may not be related. In any case, these blips certainly lend credence to the loudly-whispered theory that major US holidays wreak havoc on GPT data, with yesterday being Independence Day here in the States.