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How My Bad Email Advice Almost Ruined a Friendship

Jeff Kershner

Founder
May 1, 2005
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Jeff
Our resident Email gooroo, Malinda Terreri just published an article over on the blog - How My Bad Email Advice Almost Ruined a Friendship. If you have yet to read it, I highly advise you to do so.

There are several takeaways from the article but what stuck out to me most were the behaviors that are being tracked that have a direct impact on your email deliverability and reputation. Some were obvious and there are a few I wasn’t fully aware of…

In a nutshell, when a company sends out an email, the email providers (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) consider the following behaviors, which negatively affect your reputation:
  • High bounces due to bad email addresses
  • High unsubscribe rates
  • Subscribers deleting your email without reading
  • Subscribers marking your email as spam (Your goal should be not more than 1 spam complaint per 1000)
  • Sending to spam traps
The email providers also look at following behaviors, which positively affect your reputation:
  • Subscribers opening your email
  • Subscribers clicking on your email
  • Moving your email from the junk folder and marking it as not spam
  • Adding your email address to the safe sender’s list
  • Replying to your email
What type of content are you including in your email marketing that’s you find receives the most engagement?

If you don't have an email marketing strategy, that's okay - but I'm curious to what keeps you from doing so?
 

yescats

Noob
Jun 5, 2015
3
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Cat
Our resident Email gooroo, Malinda Terreri just published an article over on the blog - How My Bad Email Advice Almost Ruined a Friendship. If you have yet to read it, I highly advise you to do so.

There are several takeaways from the article but what stuck out to me most were the behaviors that are being tracked that have a direct impact on your email deliverability and reputation. Some were obvious and there are a few I wasn’t fully aware of…

In a nutshell, when a company sends out an email, the email providers (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) consider the following behaviors, which negatively affect your reputation:
  • High bounces due to bad email addresses
  • High unsubscribe rates
  • Subscribers deleting your email without reading
  • Subscribers marking your email as spam (Your goal should be not more than 1 spam complaint per 1000)
  • Sending to spam traps
The email providers also look at following behaviors, which positively affect your reputation:
  • Subscribers opening your email
  • Subscribers clicking on your email
  • Moving your email from the junk folder and marking it as not spam
  • Adding your email address to the safe sender’s list
  • Replying to your email
What type of content are you including in your email marketing that’s you find receives the most engagement?

If you don't have an email marketing strategy, that's okay - but I'm curious to what keeps you from doing so?
Only two things in the article doesn't sound right. Email providers don't know if you're opening your mail or clicking on a link unless they are putting some sort of tracking code in their customers email. I don't know of any provider that does this. That would be a gross violation of privacy.
 

Chris Leslie

Sr. Refresher
Oct 28, 2012
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Chris K
Wow, all of these things re a great start but in reality they are on the very tippy top of the email marketing mountain.

Deliverability isn't really the same thing as spam filtering. Deliverability really refers to whether or not your email actually makes it to a person. Not all email will be delivered to even a spam folder. It'll just get left out on the side of the road to die.

Because most email is sent out using a shared IP a single bad apple on that server can turn things into a nightmare for the rest of the folks on that server. For example Dealersocket uses a shared IP which is why in some cases you may see the sender name "[email protected]" versus the from name that you've chosen. Because of this I think it is important to segment out the types of email you send and utilize other platforms for different messages.

Mass email campaigns should not be sent from the same platform you use as your CRM. The possibilities of multiple dealerships doing the same thing with the same amount negative reputation mean that your email for an appt confirmation is subject to that same scrutiny.

Here is some more reading from Mailchimp on the topic

How Spam Filters Work
Spam filters consider a long list of criteria when judging the “spamminess” of an email. They’ll weigh each factor and add them up to determine a spam score, which then determines whether a campaign will pass through the filter. They might look for spammy phrases like “CLICK HERE!” or “FREE! BUY NOW!” Then they'll assign points every time they see one of those phrases. Certain criteria get more points than others. Here’s a sample of criteria from SpamAssassin:

  • Talks about lots of money (.193 points)
  • Describes some sort of breakthrough (.232 points)
  • Looks like mortgage pitch (.297 points)
  • Contains urgent matter (.288 points)
  • Money back guarantee (2.051 points)
If your campaign’s total “spam score” exceeds a certain threshold, then your email goes to the junk folder. Passing scores are determined by individual server administrators, so unfortunately, what passes some filters doesn't pass all of them. As for that list of spammy criteria, it’s constantly growing and adapting, based on—at least in part—what people identify as spam with the "Mark as spam” or “This is junk” button in their inbox. Spam filters even sync up with each other to share what they’ve learned.

Spam filters don’t publish their filtering practices, as doing so would give spammers the knowledge needed to bypass filters and harm their users. But even though there's no magic formula, we can still help you avoid common mistakes that result in emails landing in junk folders.

Avoid these common mistakes
MailChimp has been helping email marketers create and send email campaigns since 2001. During that time, we’ve found that there are a few common mistakes frequently made by email marketers that can result in accidental spam filtering:

  • Using phrases like “Click here!” or “Once in a lifetime opportunity!”
  • Excessive use of exclamation points!!!!!!!!!
  • USING ALL CAPS, WHICH IS LIKE SCREAMING AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS VIA EMAIL (especially in the subject line).
  • Using bright red or green colored fonts.
  • Using bad content. This one’s broad, but important. Email delivery expert Laura Atkins details content-based filtering in this article.
  • Coding sloppy HTML, usually from converting a Microsoft Word file to HTML.
  • Creating an HTML email that’s nothing but one big image, with little or no text. Spam filters can’t read images, so they assume you’re a spammer trying to trick them.
  • Using the word “test” in the subject line. Agencies can run into this issue when sending drafts to clients for approval.
  • Sending a test to multiple recipients within the same company. That company’s email firewall often assumes it’s a spam attack.
  • Sending to inactive lists. These are lists which have not engaged in the campaigns through opens and clicks. Because subscriber engagement is a huge part of getting emails into the inbox, when an ISP sees low engagement rates they will often begin to bulk the campaigns to the spam folder. Then they will block the domain and IP addresses used to deliver the campaigns.
  • Sending to stale lists. Permission generally goes stale within about 6 months, so if your subscribers haven’t heard from you within that timeframe, you’ll need tor reconfirm your list.

Email Firewalls
By now, most email marketers know that spammy phrases like “FREE! CLICK NOW!” will trigger spam filters to flag their message. But before an email even gets to that filter, it first has to pass through a gatekeeper or "firewall." (Yep, spam is now such a problem that spam filters now need filters of their own.) Firewalls are used by ISPs, large corporations, and small businesses alike, and they all communicate with each other to help identify spam and spammers.

If IronPort’s Email Security Appliance thinks your email is spam, it’ll gobble it up and shoot its remains into cyberspace before your recipient’s spam filter even has a chance to look for the word "V1AGRA." It won’t even waste the energy to tell anybody about it (which means it won't appear on a bounce report).

But how does this server know what spam is? Your own recipients teach it. When you send an email to your list, and someone on your list thinks it’s spam—or doesn’t remember opting-in to your list, or if you never had permission in the first place—that recipient can report you to SenderBase, the world’s largest email monitoring network. If you get enough complaints, SenderBase will propagate your data to all the IronPort servers around the world, letting everyone know you’re a spammer.

Your ESP should be registered at SenderBase, so they can properly investigate every complaint generated in response to their users’ campaigns. MailChimp’s staff receives copies of any complaints that come in, so we can disable the sender’s account and investigate immediately.

IronPort is only one of many email firewalls, gateways and security appliances. There's also:

All of these gatekeepers rely on reputation scores to block emails before they even get to the content-based spam filters. They all calculate sending reputation differently. You can make sure your reputation is good by sending clean emails to clean lists.

If you think you can send junk, get reported, then just switch to a new email server, you’re sadly mistaken. Once you get reported, your company’s name and domain name are on the lists. Gatekeepers will know to block all emails with your name in it from now on, no matter who sends it or where it comes from. This is why affiliate-marketing programs can be so risky. Imagine thousands of sloppy email senders (your affiliates) buying lists and sending emails with your company’s domain name in them.


I know it's a lot of reading but just think. This is all before we even get to the Design of Email and the way that should be done.
 
Reactions: eddyshaf
May 28, 2009
13
0
1
First Name
Brad
O
There are several takeaways from the article but what stuck out to me most were the behaviors that are being tracked that have a direct impact on your email deliverability and reputation. Some were obvious and there are a few I wasn’t fully aware of…

In a nutshell, when a company sends out an email, the email providers (Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) consider the following behaviors, which negatively affect your reputation:
  • High bounces due to bad email addresses
  • High unsubscribe rates
  • Subscribers deleting your email without reading
  • Subscribers marking your email as spam (Your goal should be not more than 1 spam complaint per 1000)
  • Sending to spam traps
The email providers also look at following behaviors, which positively affect your reputation:
  • Subscribers opening your email
  • Subscribers clicking on your email
  • Moving your email from the junk folder and marking it as not spam
  • Adding your email address to the safe sender’s list
  • Replying to your email
What type of content are you including in your email marketing that’s you find receives the most engagement?

If you don't have an email marketing strategy, that's okay - but I'm curious to what keeps you from doing so?
Such a great topic. So i have a couple of questions. We have a huge number of emails in our system, filled with both prospects and customers. Are you saying that removing all of our inactive emails will help our delivery rate? If so, what is the best way to go about it? Delete all emails that have bounced? Do we send a reopt in to everyone on our list?

Also, i was a little confused on what Chris said. We use elead as our crm, though the email is delivered via our domain using their email server hosting. YOu are saying its bad that we send email blasts from the same crm we send individual replies to internet leads and customers??
 

Chris Leslie

Sr. Refresher
Oct 28, 2012
401
267
93
First Name
Chris K
Brad, great question.

So on the front it looks as if the email is coming from Elead. But if you do a source or a view all headers look at the email you get from the CRM you will see that the return path is actually the CRM's email. In short it is spoofing its own email to make it look like its your email.

The reason why I think it helps to send different types of emails from different places is because you are not the only business on that shared server that elead is using to send emails. That being the case if everyone keeps sending mass emails that have high spam scores and bad content it will hurt the server Ip that they are being sent from. So when you go to send a customer email it is going to be treated like the spam.

For example I use email marketing solutions like Mailchimp to send mass emails and I use the crm for our transactional/customer emails. CRM's aren't really designed to be an email marketing solution as much as a database management solution.

I hope that helps.
 

malinda.terreri

Getting Refreshed
Jun 4, 2011
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Malinda
Only two things in the article doesn't sound right. Email providers don't know if you're opening your mail or clicking on a link unless they are putting some sort of tracking code in their customers email. I don't know of any provider that does this. That would be a gross violation of privacy.
Everything can be tracked. The email providers (Gmail, Yahoo) are not only tracking opens and clicks, but filtering for content as well. How else would they know what to do with the billions of spam messages that are filtered daily? Additionally, email marketing companies also do behavior-based marketing in which the emails you receive, and when you receive them, can be triggered by what you opened/clicked on previously.
 

malinda.terreri

Getting Refreshed
Jun 4, 2011
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25
8
First Name
Malinda
Chris - that is great reference information.

One thing I would add is if you are trying to determine the sending reputation of your IP address, there is a free tool from Returnpath. You need to create an account, then you enter the ip address from your CRM email (or whatever ip you are using to send email from) and it will give you a rating from 1 to 100. The link is https://senderscore.org/
 

malinda.terreri

Getting Refreshed
Jun 4, 2011
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First Name
Malinda
@Brad Burlingham - cleaning up your database is no easy task, There was a recent thread on inactive prospect lists that might help you determine what to do with your inactive lists:

http://forum.dealerrefresh.com/threads/long-term-follow-up-does-it-really-matter.4441/page-2#post-38609

Before you begin cleaning your list, here is one important thought on working with a CRM from someone who is not a CRM expert:

Find out from your CRM how they are handling bounced emails (Hard bounces and soft bounces).
  1. Some CRMs remove the bad emails from the system automatically
  2. others mark them as bad
  3. others seem to leave them in the system and have their own invisible suppression list which they don't give you access to.
The last kind is the hardest to work with, here's why. Let's say you send a bulk email from your CRM and within that list are a bunch of emails that have bounced before. Your CRM is most likely not repeatedly sending to these bad email addresses. They suppress them before they leave your CRM's server.

Now let's say you decide to do an email campaign from Mailchimp. You export your list which unknowingly includes all of the bad emails and do the send from mailchimp. You'll end up with a high bounce rate and problems with Mailchimp compliance because your CRM's suppression list was not there to keep you from sending to the bad emails.

There's a lot more to cleaning up a list and I'm late for an outing. I'd be happy to offer what help I can if you want to give me a call next week. 314-488-0494.
 

yescats

Noob
Jun 5, 2015
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0
1
First Name
Cat
Everything about you is being recorded including your email address, subject line, and content.
Everything can be tracked. The email providers (Gmail, Yahoo) are not only tracking opens and clicks, but filtering for content as well. How else would they know what to do with the billions of spam messages that are filtered daily? Additionally, email marketing companies also do behavior-based marketing in which the emails you receive, and when you receive them, can be triggered by what you opened/clicked on previously.
Content is one thing, opens is another. I'm very familiar with silent tracking. How can they track an open without planting code or an image in the email? There is no tracking code or images in my Outlook via Gmail emails unless it was sent by a marketer. I've looked. Please tell me where you got this belief from. I'd like to learn how it's possible to make code invisible to a html editor.

Install Chrome's UglyEmail plugin and you'll see who's inserting tracking code.
 
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malinda.terreri

Getting Refreshed
Jun 4, 2011
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Malinda
@yescats

This is a 5-year-old video directly from Google about their Inbox Priority which used your opens to determine email priority:
And this is 2 years old, but talks about how Google tracks your activity across all platforms. http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2013/05/10/15-ways-google-monitors-you

I think what you may be missing is that when the opens and clicks are happening on Gmail's own platform, they don't need to add additional tracking to monitor it.