E-Mail: Think About Your Rep
As dutiful marketers, we pay close attention to our delivery results and identify e-mail marketing campaigns with lower than expected opens and clicks as harbingers of potential delivery issues. But as ISPs tweak their spam filtering techniques, marketers must consider user engagement in addition to the basic precepts of deliverability best practices if they intend on making it to the inbox.
When e-mail started taking off with consumers in the early '90s, ISPs put up few to zero obstacles to senders en route to the inbox. Small advances in spam filtering took place every few years, helping keep volumes manageable. When spam volume began to explode in the 2000s, ISPs honed their technologies and processes to reduce mailbox clutter, most often by looking at basic triggers such as whether the sender generated too many user spam complaints or mailed to too many invalid addresses and spam traps.
In today's "Web 3.0" era of e-mail deliverability, individual customer preferences prevail in the eyes of the top ISPs. Major providers such as AOL and Yahoo now look for signs of positive user engagement when processing incoming e-mail, such as opens and clicks, and how many users are clicking "this is not spam" when messages are erroneously filtered into the spam folder.
When, in the summer of 2009, Yahoo began including opens and clicks in its reputation equation, acquisition mailers felt the pain immediately. Yahoo caught on to their gaming of the system by mailing to large numbers of inactive users in order to artificially deflate overall spam complaint rates. By adding engagement metrics into the mix, many of these same acquisition mailers who were previously whitelisted and received preferential inbox treatment suddenly faced blocking and spam folder placement.
These changes represent a paradigm shift for e-mail marketing: ISPs are off-loading some of the responsibility of identifying legitimate mail directly to their users, who are being given the opportunity to evaluate and determine which senders' e-mails they're most interested in reading. As members anonymously vote on their favorite senders and brands, ISPs gather millions of data points with which to filter incoming mail. Voilà—a smarter inbox!