If you haven’t been keeping up with the current deliverability tempest in a teacup, you haven’t been missing too much. There’s some interesting material on both sides of the argument and at least one amusing troll, but there’s nothing there that, by itself, should make you change how you’re doing things. (Unless you’re spamming. If you are, you should stop doing that right now.)
It all comes on the heels of remarks by a Microsoft representative at a recent email conference, in which he appears to have reiterated that Outlook.com does not measure clicks on links in email. The premise advanced by some observers following the conference seems to be, “Free inbox providers don’t count clicks, so marketers should send more mail.”
Maybe I’m just not the the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I don’t see how they get there from here. Continue reading
A colleague of mine pointed out last night that Outlook.com changed its DNS record from publishing no DMARC policy to publishing a record specifying “p=none; pct=100”.
In DMARC, “p=none” is used to collect feedback and gain visibility into email streams without impacting existing flows.
Earlier this spring, both Aol and Yahoo began publishing “p=reject; pct=100” on some or all of their domains’ DMARC records, causing lots of mail to be rejected at all domains that participate in DMARC – and not just spam. The change caused mail lists to break and inflicted serious deliverability damage on small businesses who’ve relied on Aol or Yahoo for their business needs for years.
Outlook.com hasn’t made any public announcements about when or if they will publish a reject record, but I take yesterday’s change as a clear sign that they’re thinking about it.
The thought of blogging predictions for the New Year in Deliverability makes me cringe. I’m not exactly sure why; it may have something to do with the fact that everyone else has already done it – we’ve had a bumper crop so far this year. Mostly, I think, I’d hate to be proven wrong later. So, instead of offering my own predictions (which would doubtlessly sound much like anyone else’s), I’d like to take a look at two different trends in deliverability that came only half-true in 2010, but that are still worth your time to continue to watch in 2011. The two trends are Domain Reputation and Engagement Metrics.
E-mail deliverability folk are all abuzz this week about the roll-out of major changes to Hotmail that began Tuesday. It’s hard to accurately predict what impact they’ll have on senders, but we can make some early, educated guesses.
The feature that’s receiving the lion’s share of attention is the one Hotmail has dubbed “Sweep”. Sweep helps recipients to move what Hotmail calls “gray mail” – mail that is not spam, but that may no longer be relevant to the recipient – out of the inbox. Like an inbox janitor, sweep declutters the inbox by automatically moving gray mail to the trash or to another folder for later action.
What makes Sweep different from existing user level filtering tools is ease of use. Recipients won’t need to build cumbersome filtering rules to manage gray mail; Hotmail presents a simplified button interface to set and apply sweep preferences.
That’s good news and bad news for senders. The good news is that recipients will have an alternative to reporting permissioned mail as spam. Senders have long bemoaned that lazy recipients all too often use the “This is spam” button as a sort of malformed unsubscribe request from permission-based mail. Sweep will move gray mail out of users’ inboxes without a hit to sender reputation. The bad news is that Sweep remembers user preferences, so if a user sweeps a sender’s mail once, Hotmail is likely to continue to sweep that sender’s mail until the user intervenes.
If the recipient deletes a particular sender’s mail unopened several times, Hotmail will eventually prompt them to unsubscribe with a new feature called (appropriately enough) Prompted Unsubscribe. Again, a mixed bag for senders: it will undoubtedly reduce list size by some amount; however, it removes recipients who are no longer engaged anyhow, which should actually improve open and conversion rates.
One final feature of note from a deliverability standpoint is Time Traveling Filters. Hotmail will retroactively filter unopened mail that had already made it to the inbox if the sender’s reputation later tanks. That means there’s no longer a guarantee that a message delivered to the inbox will actually stay there until the recipient can act on it.
Hotmail’s changes emphasize the growing importance that reputation and engagement will play in the e-mail universe. The take-away for senders: don’t send gray mail. Keep your recipients engaged with relevant, compelling content, so that what gets to the inbox stays in the inbox.