Industry Updates

Google Rolls Out ‘Gmail Postmaster Tools’ for Senders, Improved Spam Filters

Google Postmaster Tools

Many in the email industry have a love/hate relationship with Gmail: they love that their opt-in mail usually gets delivered to the inbox without any trouble, but they hate that there seems to be no help from the Gmail team for those times mail doesn’t make it to the inbox. However, an announcement on the Gmail blog today could prompt a change of heart from many senders.

Starting today, Gmail is rolling out a new feature called Gmail Postmaster Tools, which it says will allow senders to “analyze their email, including data on delivery errors, spam reports, and reputation.”  These tools, which are presumably the evolution of Google’s pilot FBL program of 2014, are designed to help senders “do better” at getting mail delivered to the Gmail inbox.

The Gmail team also announced that their spam filtering technologies are becoming even more advanced, including the use of an “artificial neural network” to identify spam that might seem like normal, wanted mail at a glance. In addition, they have made improvements in honoring individual preferences (I like newsletters but my friend doesn’t), as well as sniffing out well-spoofed phishing emails.

Keep your eyes on the WhatCounts blog for an upcoming post with more details on the Postmaster Tools and how they can help get your mail delivered where it belongs.

– BG

Deliverability 101

Deliverability 101: Shared or Dedicated IP?

As children, most of us probably learned that it’s nice to share with others. It’s one of those timeless lessons that often carries throughout adulthood – but does it also apply to mail server IP addresses? It can, but there are a number of factors to consider to accurately make the determination whether a shared or dedicated IP environment is better for you.

The Basics

The question of shared vs. dedicated IP is most often asked when choosing an email service provider (ESP). While some ESPs specialize in one or the other, many offer both shared and dedicated IP options for senders depending on their sending patterns.

In a shared IP environment, one or more IP addresses are arranged into pools that are shared among multiple senders. At any given moment, mail from multiple senders is likely to be sending over one or all of the IPs in the shared pool. This also means any mail you send will be spread across some or all of the IPs in that pool.

A dedicated IP environment will provide you with an IP address that sends mail for only your organization. No other traffic from any other sender will use that mail server and it will be easily identifiable as ‘your’ IP.

Which Option is Right for You?

Hopefully we all have a clear understanding of what constitutes a shared vs. dedicated IP setup, but the burning question remains: which should you choose? There are a few factors that help make this determination:

  1. Sending volume.
    When you send from a dedicated IP, you need to be sure that you have enough sending volume to establish and maintain a reputation as a “known” sender at the ISPs you are attempting to reach. Volume recommendations will vary depending on list composition and other factors, but we typically suggest around 500,000 in average monthly volume as a good rule of thumb. This will help to ensure that getting a few extra complaints or bounces one day won’t completely derail your deliverability.
  2. Sending frequency.
    When considering a dedicated IP, the consistency of your send volume is every bit as important as the volume itself. In order to maintain that reputation with the ISPs, you need to send consistently and regularly. For example, if you send 1 million emails per month, but your sends are split 800,000 on the 3rd of the month and 200,000 on the 17th, you may not see the full benefits of a dedicated IP. We suggest at least 100,000 emails every week as a good starting point.
  3. Reputation.
    Even if you aren’t paying attention to reputation as a factor in your decision, you can bet your (potential) ESP is. If you are a sender who is following best-of-the-best practices, gets confirmed opt-in for every subscriber, and sends consistent high volume, you are not likely to see benefits from a shared IP pool. Since shared IP pools send mail for multiple marketers, the positive or negative reputation of each can impact delivery for every sender on the pool.

    While many ISPs are placing more weight on domain-based reputation, the IP address sending the mail is still a major factor at most every mailbox provider. As such, your mail delivery rate could be negatively impacted by the performance of others on the shared pool. Most ESPs have monitoring in place to ensure senders do not take actions that will seriously harm the shared IP reputation, but there will always be a higher level of shared risk than with a dedicated IP. However, by the same token, if you are not getting clear permission, sending irregular volume, or otherwise not following best practices, you are likely to see issues no matter which IP option you choose.

If you have the volume and/or consistency to support it, there are few cases where a dedicated IP setup would not be recommended. But if you are a smaller-volume sender, or only need to send sporadically, you can certainly find success on a shared IP pool with the right ESP.

– BG

Deliverability 101

Get Ready for Deliverability 101!

Question BoxOn May 27th, I presented a webinar with WhatCounts titled Deliverability 101: Back to the Basics. This webinar covered many of the core ideas and concepts of deliverability including bounces, mail filters, spam traps, and inbox delivery. The turnout for the session was excellent, and the content drew so many questions that time wasn’t available to answer them all.

Starting next week, I’ll be diving deeper into some of those same topics, both here and at the WhatCounts blog. Some of the posts will be based on questions received during the webinar, and questions or comments received on the posts as they progress. This will be an ongoing series designed to provide an easy point of reference for anyone in the email industry to get a basic education in the science (or is it art?) of deliverability.

If you’d like to download the WhatCounts webinar, you can find it here.

Also, if you’d like a bit of insight into my daily delivery activities and thoughts on the industry, check out this Q&A with Ashley Hinds of DataValidation.com.

– Brad Gurley

Charlie Bucket and his golden ticket
Delivery Essentials

The Relentless Pursuit of the Inbox

If you’re reading this post, you most likely have a vested interest in email as a means of communication. If you’re like me, you’ve been incessantly refreshing your inbox since your address ended in “@aol.com” – or even before – and email likely plays a major role in your personal and/or professional life. You know that it’s not dead, despite what you might have heard…but it has evolved, and it continues to grow and change at a rapid pace.

Specifically, email deliverability has become far more complicated than it was even 5 years ago. With mailbox providers taking every step possible to minimize unwanted email, senders have found new challenges awaiting them at every turn. A small group of senders who were following “best of the best” practices have seen little impact from these changes, while a few others made quick modifications to get out ahead of the changes. But most senders have been left wondering how to deal with the shift in the industry that has revoked their golden ticket to the inbox.

The answer is deceptively simple: senders must adapt. Too many senders are looking for a quick fix or a way to succeed in spite of the ISPs and mailbox providers, but success is rarely found in these methods.

As senders, we must grow and change with the industry. What worked when your email program started in 2005 doesn’t fly under the heightened standards of 2015. You wouldn’t keep the same email creative for 10 years (hopefully), so why should your list management and delivery practices be any different?

Today, email engagement is key. An active, engaged user base has become more important than ever as more mailbox providers track user interaction with your messages and use this data to route mail. Instead of simply avoiding ‘spammy’ words and purchased lists, senders must now employ a more holistic approach to email – driving readers to engage, targeting those who engage most often, and cutting loose the dated, inactive, and unengaged subscribers that are killing their inbox rates.

That’s not an easy proposition for many senders, but this adaptation is vital to any successful email program. If you’re not sure where to start, then stick around! We’ll be sharing knowledge and insight on the the new best practices in upcoming posts.

Readers, what say you? Have you made changes in your email practices in response to the recent changes in the industry? If so, were they minor shifts or drastic disruptions?

– Brad Gurley