New Year, New Email Delivery Changes jan2012

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Learn more about email delivery, including changes that the top 4 ISPs have implemented and how that will impact your emails. Join delivery and marketing team members to find out whats new in 2012.

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  • Gmail’s Priority Inbox released Last January. Gmail like to introduce new product updates slowly and thishas finally rolled out to all Gmail users and we have had a chance to experience it “in the wild” and watch it respond to user activity. Filtering changes at Hotmail are more recent, announced in October and there has been a lot of buzz in the email industry about their changes. We will start with Gmail.
  • What is Priority Inbox? So, Google’s definition of spam is anything unwanted by the user. Unfortunately this has no relation to the legal definition – and can dramatically vary from user to user. Even the same email sent from the same sender can be perceived differently. Google takes this complexity into account and they filter on a number of different factors all based on the individual’s behavior: CLICKSocial features, this is what I view is standard Engagement,based on the degree of interaction between sender and recipient, e.g. the percentage of a sender’s mail that is read by the recipient. CLICKContent features attempt to identify key content indicators that are highly correlated with the recipient acting (or not) on the mail, e.g. If you constantly geek out about recording music, so anything with 'audio', 'recording', etc is much more likely to receive an open. That would be taken into consideration when a new sender attempts to send youmail containing these keywords. CLICKThread features note the user’s interaction with the thread or sender so far. Has the Gmail user ever replied to this sender? BINGO! This seemed to be where we found an interesting feature, after 3 replies from a Gmail user you are automatically added to their Safe Sender list, meaning image rendering by default and guaranteed inbox placement for that user... a.k.a. inherently better engagement!  CLICKLabel features examine the labels that the user applies. Gmail users may attach labels to filter email. As labels are proactively applied they are a strong indicator that you actually want the message you've applied the label to. Gmail provides a public .pdf file that goes into some serious detail about the algorithms used. Most people in the email industry generally agree that they're ultimately rewarding senders that have active subscribers with inbox placement, and attempting to place everything else outside of it unless otherwise taught not to.  CLICK - Encouraging replies seems to be an increasing trend and a surefire road to inbox placement.We have been hearing form a few more user’s lately asking about how to troubleshoot delivery issues at Gmail specifically and they do put some resources that are accessible to try to retrain their filters when they misroute an email to the Bulk Folder. 
  • Gmail provides a publically accessible Contact Form. Don’t let the name fool you, filling out this form does not mean that Gmail will respond to the form submission. This is for you as a sender to contact them and alert them to the false/positive spam filtering of your content. You will not get a response from filling this out. I have seen changes to delivery after submission. Again I caution, not everytime, this is not a silver bullet, but it can help.I recommend Googling Gmail Bulk Sender Contact Form to get the link to this form. CLICK3. Using the list segmentation tool in your account, segment your most engaged recipients from the rest of your subscribers - engaged recipients have opened and/or clicked links in your past few campaigns.  4. Target your most engaged recipients *first* for your next campaign, to help ensure Gmail is categorizing your email properly. Consider a campaign that asks the subscriber to reply, click links or perform an action on the campaign to help rank it as 'important' in the Gmail network.  Unfortunately there is no magic bullet or shortcut to improving delivery at Gmail, but adhering to these practices should improve the likelihood of inbox placement for all of your recipients. 
  • The form is simple to fill out if you have the right information.You’ll need to submit the content, the form gives instructions on how to capture the right information required.You’ll need your email addressYou’ll need to know the affected domain which is vresp.com    Add the comment that “This message was incorrectly routed to the bulk folder.”Attach your .txt file of the message and 'submit'.
  • After you have submitted the content for review it is time to turn to your contacts and focus on who you are mailing to to improve inbox delivery.3. Using the list segmentation tool in your account, segment your most engaged recipients from the rest of your subscribers - engaged recipients have opened and/or clicked links in your past few campaigns.  4. Target your most engaged recipients *first* for your next campaign, to help ensure Gmail is categorizing your email properly. Consider a campaign that asks the subscriber to reply, click links or perform an action on the campaign to help rank it as 'important' in the Gmail network.  Unfortunately there is no magic bullet or shortcut to improving delivery at Gmail, but adhering to these practices should improve the likelihood of inbox placement for all of your recipients. 
  • As ISPs are growing more sophisticated and confident with fighting Real Spam they are beginning to addressing the issue of helping their user’s manage their experience with Marketing email, Transactional Mail, Social Media Updates, etc. We have seen this with the increase in inbox management tools over the past year. Most dramatically Hotmail has launched the most public changes and issued declaration of war.
  • So what brought forth this posturing from Hotmail?
  • What does Graymail mean and why are they fighting a war? Hotmail explains that the contents of a typical email inbox has changed over the past few years, they have found that 50% of the mail in people’s mail boxes today are Newsletters, only about 14% is person to person email anymore and their user’s are overwhelmed. Hotmail Defines graymail as:Newsletters you signed up for and forgot about (but keep getting), or it could be newsletters you get when you join a new service (and forgot to email subscription check box). Or it could even be updates you get from a social network or website. What really characterizes graymail is that the same message that one person thinks is “spam” could be really important to another person.They have responded to this with a few new features to help user’s manage their inbox.
  • They already had categories to help their user’s manage social updates, messages that contain Office documents, messages with photos, and even shipping notifications. Hotmail recently addeda special category for newsletters. Using the same SmartScreen™ technology they developed to help them fight spam – a machine learning engine that gets better over time. Right out of the gate they boasted about being 95% accurate with the mail they categorize as newsletters.One of the new features is something that I like quite a bit – it’s their one click unsubscribe feature. This is Hotmail’s attempt to get user’s to stop complaining or labeling as JUNK this type of graymail. Graymail is typically sent by reputable senders who will honor unsubscribe requests. When a user unsubscribes using Hotmail’s feature as opposed to labeling the mail as JUNK this does not go into harming the sender’s reputation within Hotmail filtering system. In fact – by removing the unengaged user’s through this unsubscribe feature you should end up with a more engaged audience and a better sending reputation because people aren’t complaining as a way to be removed from the mailing but are unsubscribing. This also addresses some of the fear email user’s can have of clicking links in emails from sender’s they don’t recognize. If your email frequency is too infrequent or if you have waited too long to send out that Welcome email your subscriber may have forgotten they subscribed, perceiving them email as non-permission they may be hesitant to scroll to the unsubscribe link – Hotmail is attempting to build trust into the unsubscribe process for their user’s by taking the mechanism that is inserted in the email to unsubscribe and presenting it in a safe and trusted format enabling the recipient to unsubscribe with the same embedded links that VR already employs. Scheduled CleanUp enables the user to delete messages or move them to certain folders as they age. You may want to be sure you are archiving your email content and distributing this via your social channels and/or cataloging the email content on your Facebook page, etc. This way you can be sure that user’s can have as many avenues to access older content in case they are over aggressive about cleaning out their folders.
  • SEE other SHEETNow that we have focused on Gmail and Hotmail specifically looking at their user facing changes I wanted to review at a high level the filtering in place at the Big Four ISPs. These four ISPs make up a vast majority of the average B2C sender’s contact list. All the Big Four employ filtering technology that they have developed themselves based on their own unique user bases as well as incorporate other 3rd party filtering partners to ensure the best user experience for their user's. All are also incorporating more and more engagement metrics in their filtering. Are user’s interacting with the email, opening/clicking it. Moving it to a special folder. Do they delete it right after receiving it or do they spend some time with the content, rereading it more than once. Do they forward it to their friends – do they REPLY to the email sender?All are monitoring complaint metrics carefully – this has not changed. Some are able to narrow the cause of complaints down to a repeated string of text in an email sent from many different sources, sometimes a single link or domain in the email will trigger filtering because that content element has been too often associated with emails complained about in the past.Yahoo! Incorporatedcontent and URL filtering in its email evaluation. They are one of the few ISPs that filter email by domain versus only IP address.Hotmail utilizes SmartScreen technology; machine-learning. Microsoft considers volume, spam complaints and spam traps into filtering. Dramatic changes in volume can be a trigger to Hotmail to filter or Block mail outright. They also use a Sender Reputation Data (SRD) network, this is a panel of live, active Hotmail users who agree to receive additional email that they then rate on their perception of whether the mail is Spam or not. The SRD helps to train and improve the way SmartScreen technology classifies messages based on email content and sender reputation. Participants in the SRD program are selected from active Hotmail users at random from over 200 countries and no one is allowed to volunteer for the program. Their votes on whether or not they think your email looks spammy and this holds a lot of weight in filtering.VR is also enrolled in Hotmail’s Junk e-Mail Reporting Program (JMRP) this is their program where they inform us of who complained and about what, this enables us to remvoe the complainer from our user’s contact list as a Unsubscribe but also enables us to monitor accounts that are generating too many complaints. Gmail primarily uses its community of users to determine whether email is spam or not. Reputation is based on a sliding score of 0 to 100 with 100 being the best score. The reputation score at Gmail indicates the probability that a given sender’s mail is not spam. So, if the reputation score is high, Gmail feels confident delivering more of that mail to the inbox.Like most reputation systems, the foundation is user reports of ‘spam’ and ‘not spam’. As email arrives, Gmail measures how many times email is automatically delivered to the inbox or the spam filter and how many times a user manually reports an email as spam or not spam. A formula taking into account these four actions is then used to calculate the sender’s reputation that will determine future deliverability. Of course, not all user reports are considered equally. The reputation system only uses the reports of a subset of users – those who they believe will provide the most useful information for the system.Inbox delivery is also impacted by content filtering. Gmail does sophisticated content filtering, scouring the content of the email headers, body, and attachments for key words, images, HTML, URLs, malware, and other spammy components.AOL’s reputation system is home-grown. As a general observation, if you are a responsible sender and on AOL’s whitelist you will not see a lot of bulking.
  • If there is anything that will remain consistent with these ISPs and their filtering is that it will not remain consistent. These ISPs are engaged with keeping SPAM out of their user’s inbox and making their user’s experience as sticky and positive as possible. The spammers are constantly changing their techniques and look for ways to mimic the good senders to gain coveted inbox placement. These recommendations for managing change apply to all ISPs and generally do remain consistent. Keep Complaints and Bounces Low.To Keep complaints low I recommend that you brand your emails consistently. Think about how you are marketing yourself via other channels, print, web, social networks – even your brick and mortar identity. Keep you email branding as consistent with your other marketing efforts to be sure you are recognizable and welcome.Set Expectations, and Meet Them – Send a Welcome letter to new subscriber’s previewing content they should expect and the frequency you will be sending that content. And then stick to this contract with your subscriber. In a meeting Comcast once explained that one of the number on trigger for complaints in the network were changes in email frequency, generally this was due to an unexpected increase but also to a sudden decrease as well.Be Relevant – don’t send the same content over and over or your engagement will surely drop off. Keep your subscribers engaged and looking for your email.Review Reporting for spikes or changes in Unsubscribe activity – this can indicate there is a problem with your mail program. Maybe a poor new sig up source. Keep Bounce Rates Low – if you are regularly mailing your contacts you shouldn’t see bounce rates creep above 5%. If the bounces are higher it is a signal to the filters that your contact list may be older and your contacts may not be as engaged with your email. Email contacts right away Maintain steady frequency Review new sign up sources regularly
  • These are a lot of the same recommendations made to improve delivery to Gmail – Target your most engaged contacts more frequently! Reward them with special content or offers. Re-Engage Nonresponders – I have been sent what ended up being successful reengagement campaigns. The most recent from Etsy – Their Subject Line was simply something like “Come Back! We miss you!” Partnered with their From Address which I recognized because it was consistent with their regular campaigns, I opened that emial and Came Back into the fold of the Active and Engaged in their database. Keep List sources separate – this way if there are problems with a particular source it will be easier to identify and resolve.Watch for increases in unsubscribes – ties into the recommendation above.
  • In the end email is a Retention tool. Drive those engaged with your business through other channels to sign up for email marketing. Push your email content out to your Social Network channels driving them to subscribe directly to your value-add content!Use ROOST!We bought a new company called Roost™. With ROOSDT you can keep friends, fans and followers up-to-date with promotions, offers and the latest news all from one place managing all your Social Network content in one tool. Roost makes social media marketing simple and saves you time.Effective immediately, VerticalResponse users can now sign up to create, schedule, manage and measure their social media marketing campaigns from one convenient dashboard.Create, schedule and publish Facebook and Twitter campaigns from one place, in just 20 minutes per week. Choose what to share from free suggested content, solving the problem of “What to post?” ROOST will help you stay more engaged with your Social media channels building and maintaining an audience for your email channel.
  • New Year, New Email Delivery Changes jan2012

    1. 1. Delivery Changes in the New Year Presented by Jill Bastian, Training and Education Manager & Kiersti Esparza, Director Email Delivery
    2. 2. Agenda ISP Updates Managing Change Leveraging New VR Tools
    3. 3. ISP Updates Gmail Priority Inbox Hotmail’s Filtering Changes
    4. 4. ISP Updates Gmail Priority Inbox • Social Features • Content Features • Thread Features • Label Features 3 Replies!
    5. 5. ISP Updates Gmail Delivery Remediation • Gmail Bulk Sender Contact Form • An email address to contact you: [your email] • Affected domain(s): vresp.com • Comments: “This message was incorrectly routed to the bulk folder.” • Attach your .txt file of the message and submit’. • Segment your most engaged recipients • Target your most engaged recipients *first* for your next campaign
    6. 6. ISP Updates Gmail Delivery Remediation • Gmail Bulk Sender Contact Form
    7. 7. ISP Updates Gmail Delivery Remediation • Gmail Bulk Sender Contact Form • An email address to contact you: [your email] • Affected domain(s): vresp.com • Comments: “This message was incorrectly routed to the bulk folder.” • Attach your .txt file of the message and submit’. • Segment your most engaged recipients • Target your most engaged recipients *first* for your next campaign
    8. 8. ISP Updates Hotmail’s Filtering Changes
    9. 9. ISP Updates Hotmail’s Filtering Changes WAR On
    10. 10. ISP Updates Hotmail’s Filtering Changes“75% of email identified as spam by our customers actually turns out to beunwanted graymail that they receive as a result of having signed up on alegitimate website”
    11. 11. ISP Updates New Newsletter category Clean Sweep Features • One-click unsubscribe • Schedule Cleanup • Keep only the latest message • Delete or Move messages as they age (3 days, 10 days, 30 days, or 60 days)
    12. 12. Side by Side Filter Comparison All • In-House development, generally hybridized • Engagement • Complaints Yahoo! • content and URL filtering • Filter email by domain also versus only IP address. Hotmail • Homegrown SmartScreen technology; machine-learning • Volume • Spam traps • Sender Reputation Data (SRD) network, panel of active users Gmail • User reports of ‘spam’ and ‘not spam’. • Sophisticated content filtering AOL’s • In-house solution, coupled with a 3rd Party Filters • URL Filtering
    13. 13. Managing Change How can you successfully navigate the changing sending environment? Keep Complaint Rates Low • Brand your emails consistently • Set Expectations, and Meet Them • Be Relevant • Review Reporting Keep Bounce Rates Low • Email contacts right away • Maintain steady frequency • Review new sign up sources regularly
    14. 14. Managing Change How can you successfully navigate the changing sending environment? Monitor engagement •Target your most engaged Contacts more frequently • Re-Engage nonresponders •We Miss You or Come Back in the Subject Line • Keep List Sources separate in your database • Watch for increased Unsubscribes
    15. 15. Leveraging New VR Tools
    16. 16. Q&A

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