October 11, 2007, 12:00 AM

How to work with ISPs on e-mail deliverability

As retailers plan their holiday marketing, they should avoid e-mail blasts that seek the maximum number of eyeballs at the expense of meeting the deliverability requirements of Internet service providers, Stefan Pollard of EmailLabs advises.

As retailers plan their holiday marketing, they should avoid e-mail blasts that seek the maximum number of eyeballs to cash in fourth-quarter sales at the expense of meeting the deliverability requirements of Internet service providers, Stefan Pollard of EmailLabs advises. One tip: Use an authentication technique like DomainKeys for Yahoo accounts, but then send a test message to your own Yahoo account to see if DomainKeys was properly set up and approved by the ISP, he suggests.

“This time of year unfortunately many retailers go after the maximum reach, rather than targeted lists, to get the largest number of eyeballs during peak fourth-quarter sales,” says Pollard, who is director of consulting services for e-mail services provider EmailLabs, a unit of J.L. Halsey Corp.

The major ISPs, meanwhile, have been more forthcoming than usual of late in telling marketers what they must do to get beyond their spam filters, Pollard says. “The ISPs are saying to keep the e-mail lists clean with accurate addresses, don’t send to invalid addresses, and don’t generate too many complaints from recipients,” he says.

To differentiate themselves from spammers and increase relevancy and open rates, e-mail marketers should also prominently display their brand in one or more places, Pollard says. At the least, marketers should display their brand in the e-mail’s “from” column; ideally, they should also display their brand in the subject heading and in the content preview that can appear in inboxes. For image-heavy e-mails that may require recipients to click the preview pane to view images, marketers should include their brand in a message that requests recipients to click to view images, he adds.

It’s also good to use one of several forms of e-mail authentication, such as DomainKeys, Pollard says. But an improper set-up could backfire, causing an ISP to include notes at the top of e-mails indicating that a sender was not properly set up with its authentication method. One way to ensure proper set-up, Pollards says, is for a marketer to send a test message to his or her own account. If an authentication method was properly deployed, the received message should indicate proper authentication near the top of the message.

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