By Irene Cherkassky
Authentication helps get your e-mail campaigns to inboxes.
It's no secret. Every e-mail marketer knows spam and phishing pose the biggest challenge to getting legitimate e-mail into recipients' inboxes today.
In a recent report released by Austin, Texas e-mail service provider, Skylist, 72 percent of e-mail marketers responding to the company's survey cited deliverability as their greatest challenge. According to New York City e-mail service provider Return Path's Mailbox Monitor service, in 2004 an average 22 percent of permission-based commercial e-mail did not reach inboxes, by virtue of being blocked or filtered to the recipients' junk/spam folders by ISPs.
The truth is, there are no magic bullets that will get you delivered. However, most direct marketers are learning that implementation of the emerging authentication protocols is a vital step in boosting deliverability, now and in the long term.
"Authentication protocols are the key innovation in the last year to year and a half," says Quinn Jalli, director of privacy and ISP relations for digital marketing solutions provider Digital Impact, in San Mateo, Calif. "They're the first major step in ending the spam crisis, because once you're able to identify positively who a sender is, you're then able, as the next step, to attach a reputation to that sender."
Simply put, authentication helps ISPs verify that a sender of an e-mail is indeed who it claims to be, thereby facilitating the delivery of legitimate e-mails and reduction of fraudulent and unwanted mail.
The ABCs of SPF and SIDF
Several technological options recently have emerged to help ISPs verify the identity of e-mail senders. The easiest of these protocols to implement is the Sender Policy Framework (SPF). Used by ISPs such as AOL and Earthlink, this is an open-source solution, free from licensing requirements. SPF requires e-mail senders to publish their SPF records in the Domain Name Service (DNS). DNS specifies which computers are authorized to send e-mail from a specific domain. When the e-mail passes through the DNS server, it's compared to the SPF record for that domain to verify that the IP addresses listed as authorized to send e-mail from that domain match those listed in the e-mail header.