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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
As of now, data seems to be trickling into my own Google Postmaster Tools display, with some monitored domains showing current data (i.e. 2-3 days ago, as is standard in GPT).
The data is still spotty, though: some domain reputation listings show data points for each day while others show nothing between the 13th and now. IP reputation appears to still be missing for the outage period for the domains I’ve checked that are showing anything since June 13th.
Obviously the issue is not entirely resolved, but it’s nice to see something showing up after 2 weeks of dead silence.
Earlier today, VMG (the mailbox provider formerly known as Oath) announced via Tumblr that their all-new Postmaster page is live. The page, which will serve as a unified resource for all things delivery-related for AOL and Yahoo mail, will soon take the place of the venerable but languishing AOL Postmaster site.
At the top of the page, a message informs visitors the site is “still in beta mode. Things might not work.” Prominently featured on the page are the most recent posts from the provider’s Tumblr, along with some links to Tools, FAQs, and FBL resources.
I’m not alone in thinking AOL’s Postmaster site was one of the best and most informative around, and it’s nice to see VMG carrying on this tradition.
In the meantime, though, Al Iverson was able to get in touch with the operator, who has since retaken control of the domain and is working to sunset the list in a more respectable fashion. So Spamcannibal remains dead, but at least the malware zombies no longer have control of the domain.
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.
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.