In other blacklist-related news, it appears the Spamcannibal blacklist has shut down. The domain (don’t go there, really) now presents a number of nefarious redirects instead of the blacklist content. No official announcement has been provided, but the Spamcannibal list was considered among the less-reliable blacklists by many in the industry. If the shutdown is permanent, the impact is likely to be minor as the list was not widely used for inbound mail filtering.
6/1/18 UPDATE: And just like that, the data is back. Reports (as well as my own account) indicate the data is currently populated until 5/30. The data typically runs about 2 days behind in my experience, so it seems the issue is likely resolved.
This Monday’s Memorial Day (US) holiday and its extended weekend was accompanied by many reports of missing data in Google’s Postmaster Tools. In my own account (as in most of the reports I’ve seen) the data stopped rolling in on May 24th. Unlike some previousinstances, all GPT data appears affected – Spam Rate all the way down through Delivery Errors.
Each time this happens, many of us hope it’s the oft-promised Postmaster Tools update – the one that brings API access, flexible dashboards and other as-yet-unannounced Google Goodness™. Thus far that hope has been unrealized….but there’s always next time. In the meantime, we’ll just stick to hoping Google restores the missing data in a timely fashion.
Over the past week, there have been many reports of missing data for Google Postmaster Tools. From what we can see, it appears data on the Spam Rate, IP Reputation, Domain Reputation, Feedback Loop, and Delivery Errors tabs stopped updating for some folks around April 11th or 12th. According to information posted in an industry forum, Google is aware of the issue and working to resolve it. Some progress has been made, but no official statement has been made (seems to be par for the course with Google).
As of this morning in my own account, most tabs have data up to 4/13 (with a gap on 4/12) and data for 4/17, but everything between is missing. It remains to be seen whether the missing data will be restored. After a similar issue last September, Google was able to restore the data pretty quickly – hopefully that will be the case here as well.
Though most senders may be trying to pin down why Gmail isn’t displaying their images by default, there are still other mailbox providers out there to worry about. AOL, for instance, recently disabled their reputation checker and rDNS lookup tools while many of us were enjoying the long Easter holiday weekend (thanks to Word to the Wise for the heads up).
Gmail’s Postmaster Tools and Microsoft’s SNDS may have provided more data points, but the AOL reputation check was a great way to see at-a-glance where you stood with one of the major mailbox providers. It may not have been perfect, but I must say I’m a bit sad to see it go. Chalk is up as yet another casualty in the ever-changing email landscape.
There have been some reports floating around today of Gmail not displaying images for some messages.
In my testing I’ve been able to reproduce it with some messages in the Promotions tab, but only in the “classic” Gmail web interface. However, these same messages display images when viewed in Inbox.
This seems intentional, although no official announcement has been made. Maybe Google is launching a push to encourage migrating to Inbox? We’ll await word from the Gmail team, but in the meantime more testing is in store to pin down exactly what in the message is triggering the change.
4/5/18 UPDATE: It seems this change was not permanent, with all messages appearing to display images (even those previously not displaying them). Google has been silent about this, so we’re still unsure if this was some sort of test, an error, or something else entirely.
In late 2013, Google began to cache all images in email sent to Gmail users, storing remotely-hosted images on their own servers instead of accessing them each time an email is opened. Laura at Word to the Wise wrote up some good info at the time, focusing mainly on the parts of email tracking that were (or were not) affected by the changes.
Fast forward to 2018, and it looks like Yahoo has adopted a similar policy of image caching. According to Litmus, Yahoo recently began caching images on their servers in the same manner as Google. And like Google’s version, this one won’t break open tracking – but could cause some unusual data points or issues with geolocation or user agent tracking. If you track the location of email opens, you’re likely to start seeing a lot more traffic from Sunnyvale, CA (the location of Yahoo’s servers), and any dynamically-generated content based on the location of the recipient will reflect that. In fairness, IP geolocation has never been a precise science, so most marketers should rely on other signals along with that data to serve up location-specific content.
When Google introduced this feature, they used it as a platform to allow images to load by default for all mail sent to the Inbox. There has been no announcement or indication thus far, but Is it possible Yahoo is planning a similar feature? As with most of the changes taking place under the new Oath umbrella; we’ll just have to wait and see. Yes, according to the answers provided by the Yahoo Engineering blog.
This morning, they officially announced the change, also confirming images will now be on by default for Yahoo and AOL in desktop and mobile versions. We can likely presume this applies only to messages in the inbox, though no specifics are provided. The post also indicates that Yahoo will “continue to support most” open tracking via pixel, though again details are sparse.
And for those using IP geolocation to serve dynamic content, the authors “recommend falling back on other tools and technologies which do not rely on IP-based targeting.” I won’t say I told you so.
In late February Return Path released the 2017 installment of their annual Deliverability Benchmark Report, which tallies inbox and spam folder rates by country and industry. Each year the data is generated by monitoring more than 2 billion consumer emails to identify trends and averages for each region and industry segment.
The data, compiled between June 2016 and June 2017, shows little change overall from last year’s report. On average, around 20% of mail worldwide never reaches the inbox, with the majority of that – 70% – rejected at the server gateway (bounced). As in years past, the US falls short of that average: just 77% of mail made it to the the inbox. The good news for US senders is that this represents an increase of around 4% from ’15-16 numbers.
Around the world, Canada and Australia tied for the highest inbox rates, with 90% of mail in those countries reaching the inbox. The merits of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law may be disputed, but it certainly seems to have had a positive impact on inbox placement there. Prior to the law taking effect in 2014, inbox rates in Canada dipped as low as 79% – but they have hovered around 90% since then. CASL certainly isn’t guaranteed to be the cause, but it’s a good bet there’s some correlation there.
Results by industry
The breakdown of inbox rates by industry uncovered a couple of interesting trends. Among the 16 industries tracked, none averaged below 76% inbox rate on the year. The Automotive industry, previously in last place with 66%, now edges out the Nonprofit/Education/Government sector by a point at 77%. Meanwhile the Insurance industry, perennially at the low end of the spectrum, saw a 13-point jump to 89%. Apparel, Electronics, and Home Improvement all saw decreases but remained at 85% or above, while Finance took the top spot with 94% of their mail reaching the inbox.
A few weeks ago we told you about AOL’s migration of their MX servers to Yahoo’s infrastructure as part of the merger of the two entities under Verizon’s new Oath brand. Since that change in early February, mail to AOL recipients has been handled by Yahoo’s servers. No specifics have been released on how the combined mail system will handle filtering, but observations of recent bounces may shed some light on that.
Over the past 2-3 weeks a number of senders have been seeing the dreaded “Yahoo deferrals” from recipients with AOL email addresses. These deferrals – temporary bounces usually caused by a high complaint rate – occur frequently for many high-volume senders mailing Yahoo recipients. These bounces are typically returned in a format similar to the following:
The appearance of these types of bounces when sending to AOL recipients means you now have to contend not only with AOL’s spam filtering but with that of Yahoo. While AOL is known for its useful resources and responsive Postmaster team, the Yahoo Mail team can be more difficult to reach when issues arise. If you do run into any of these bounces, it’s probably a good idea to reach out to Yahoo via their Support form since the filtering is occurring on their mail servers.
Last week I wrote about the changes taking place at major email providers, specifically the convergence of AOL and Yahoo’s mail servers. Today on their Postmaster blog, AOL issued confirmation of these changes. The statement indicates the “majority of AOL’s MX records” will be routed to the new combined mail servers with little if any visible impact to senders.
The message also assured senders that established feedback loops (FBLs) should continue to function without interruption. While AOL notes that issues are unlikely, if you see any abnormalities firstname.lastname@example.org remains the best way to reach out for assistance.
New year, new you…that’s what they always say, right? Just a few weeks into 2018, it seems like some of the big 4 ISPs (soon to be Big 3?) are really taking that concept to heart.
Microsoft’s major migration of Outlook.com to the Office365 backend was technically completed in 2017, but based on feedback from senders in industry groups delivery issues still abound. The indications from MS are that the mail handling and filtering infrastructure are a work in progress, but no formal statement has been issued to that end. Some senders have stated MS support is unable to provide remediation for many of these issues, even though there may be backend adjustments taking place. If you’re having trouble getting mail to Microsoft, just know you’re not alone and that someone over there is paying attention.
Verizon ended its own webmail service last year, and consolidated its AOL and Yahoo brands under the Oath moniker. AOL and Yahoo’s email services have remained separate thus far, but indications are that will change in the next few days. It’s been reported that the merger of these mail platforms starts in earnest on or around February 1st. As of that date, mail to AOL will be routed and handled by the Yahoo mail servers. To me this sounds a bit like the SBCGlobal arrangement between AT&T/BellSouth and Yahoo, wherein one provided the mail interface while the other handled the mail routing and filtering. At this time, no formal announcement has been made, so we’ll have to sit tight to find out exactly what this means for sending to AOL recipients.