"Seriously Dude, Where's My Email?"
In a previous article entitled
"Dude, Where's my email?," I gave an overview of all types
of email bounces. Today, in the sequel, I want to cover a few
of the hottest subjects in email marketing today: email
blocking, email filters and false positives. I'll define the
issues and terms, explain what industry experts are doing on
your behalf and tell you what you can do to make sure your
permission-based email gets through.
start with some staggering statistics:
"In 2002, the average consumer received an estimated
2,300 pieces of spam email. By 2007, the number is projected
to grow to 3,600 pieces."
"Spam cost US corporations $8.9 billion in 2002, and
will cost these companies $10 billion in 2003."
Is it any wonder that ISPs and corporations are now doing
everything they can to stem the tide of spam flowing into
their users' email inboxes?
But despite all of the efforts to decrease spam, a foolproof
solution has not yet been created. And, as a result of current
email blocking and filtering techniques (see definitions
below), a lot of legitimate permission-based email is being
blocked as well. In the industry, we call this a
"On average, 15% of legitimate commercial email does not make
it to the intended inbox," according to Assurance Systems'
Fourth Quarter Email Blocking and Filtering Report.
what do "false positives" mean to you?
If you were one of the early admission applicants to
Harvard University eagerly awaiting email notification of
your acceptance or rejection last December, you could have
been among 100 of those applicants who never received word.
All because Harvard emails were inadvertently flagged as
junk mail and blocked by AOL.
And, to quote Trevor Hughes, Executive Director of The
Network Advertising Initiative: "If you're expecting a g^ft
cert^ficate from an online bookstore or a city meeting
notice, you may never see it due to the blacklists and
filters that are currently in place. Or a message to your
accountant may bounce, if someone has put the server that
handles your company's email on its blacklist. A message
from a long lost high school buddy may be filtered if he
uses too many exclamation marks."
Sounds grim, huh? It really isn't. There's light at the end
of the tunnel.
Spam is universally recognized as an industry wide crisis on
the Internet and experts representing all areas of knowledge
are working together like never before to come up with a
what the experts are up to:
The National Advertising Initiative (NAI)
Email Service Provider Coalition is a group
comprised of companies that provide email services to the
full spectrum of the marketplace. The coalition's goal is to
provide solutions to the spam problem and to protect the
appropriate use of email as a business and marketing
To help the email industry to develop better and more
accurate spam filtering techniques, this Yahoo Groups forum
(supported by the NAI) has been established as a place to
report the non-delivery of email that was wanted, but was
Join the group and report your own missing email.
is an industry-wide initiative against spam with
participants representing many communities, including
producers of e-mail client and server technologies, ISPs,
e-mail service providers, legitimate e-mail marketers, and
security vendors. These groups have come together to produce
an anti-spam protocol that interoperates between the many
email-enabled systems that are connected to the Internet.
The Federal Trade Commission has also taken notice
and is hosting a three-day
Forum" April 30 through May 2 to address the
proliferation of unsolicited commercial e-mail and to
explore the technical, legal, and financial issues
associated with it. The FTC is encouraging attendance by
e-mail marketers, anti-spammers, Internet Service Providers,
ISP abuse department personnel, spam filter operators, other
e-mail technology professionals, consumers, consumer groups,
and law enforcement officials.
what can you do to make sure your permission-based email gets
If your email is being blocked at a particular
company or ISP, ask your subscribers to help by contacting
their postmaster and requesting to have your email
If your email is being filtered, check your from
line, subject line and email copy and avoid using key words
that might look like spam to a content-based spam filter:
use of "cl^ck here," $$, and other symbols
- The words
fr^e, guarant^e, sp^m, cr^dit card, s^x, etc.
Note: If these words are essential to your message,
use a variation - fr*e or fr^e - as I did above, to avoid
being incorrectly filtered.
Finally, if some of your email is being blocked, know
that you're not alone. And, if you are using an established
email service provider, like Constant Contact, know that you
are in good hands. Why?
Because a reputable email service provider:
your emails using the proper protocols.
strong permission policies and an active anti-blocking
team working on your behalf.
relationships with ISPs and is whitelisted (see definition
below) to ensure their customers' permission-based email
reports and bounce management and helps you stay on top of
current best practices - like including a failsafe
one-click unsubscribe link in every email.
- Is at the forefront of the
industry, protecting the appropriate use of email as a
business and marketing communications tool through its
involvement in organizations like the ones listed above.
And, if a problem does arise, a good email service
provider gets more attention than you could ever get on your
"Seriously dude," help is here and there's more on the way.
I'll keep you posted.
In the meantime, here is a glossary of terms to add to your
Glossary of Terms
- Email Blocking - Email blocking occurs when
the receiving email server (e.g. Yahoo!, AOL, Hotmail
etc.) prevents an inbound email from reaching the inbox
of the intended recipient. Most of the time the sender
of the email receives a "bounce" message notifying the
sender that their email has been blocked.
- Filters - Filtering" is a technique used to
block email based on the content in the "from:" line,
"subject:" line, or body copy of an email. Filtering
software searches for key words and other indicators
that identify the email as potential spam. This type of
blocking occurs on a per email basis.
- False Positive - A false positive occurs when
a legitimate permission-based email is incorrectly
filtered or blocked as spam.
- Blacklist - It is common for an ISP to a use
a blacklist to determine which emails should be blocked.
Blacklists contain lists of domains or IP addresses of
known and suspected spammers. Unfortunately, these
blacklists also contain many legitimate email service
providers. Just a few spam complaints can land an email
service provider or IP address on a blacklist despite
the fact that the ratio of complaints to volume of email
sent is extremely low.
- Whitelist - A whitelist is the opposite of a
blacklist. Instead of listing IP addresses to block, a
whitelist includes IP addresses that have been approved
to deliver email despite blocking measures. It is common
practice for ISPs to maintain both a blacklist and a
whitelist. When email service providers, like Constant
Contact, say they are "whitelisted" it means that their
IP addresses are on a specific ISP's whitelist and are
confident that emails sent using their service will be
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