Eye on Deliverability Monitoring

By Jun 01, 2010

Given the vital importance of deliverability to your e-marketing efforts, it’s not surprising there are so many tools to help gauge deliverability rates and troubleshoot potential problems. But being spoilt for choice can make it tough to determine which tools are right for you.

“Every e-mail marketer should be signed up for feedback loops,” says Laura Atkins, owner of Word to the Wise, a deliverability consultancy and services provider. When you subscribe to an ISP’s feedback loop, you receive all complaints the ISP has received about your e-mails. Word to the Wise maintains a list of feedback loops at wiki.wordtothewise.com/ISP_Summary_Information, many of which you can subscribe to free of charge.

Subscribing to and maintaining feedback loops is something that can, and in most cases should, be handled inhouse. Doing so enables you to build a relationship with each ISP directly, says Michelle Eichner, vice president of client services at Pivotal Veracity, a provider of digital marketing solutions.

You can also handle reputation monitoring in-house, using free tools such as Sender Score and SenderBase. These let you know what percentage of your outbound e-mail is being delivered by the ISPs. They aren’t definitive sources — Sender Score, for instance, is a service of Return Path, so it “collects data from Return Path ISP customers but only reflects the sender’s reputation at those ISPs,” Atkins explains. Nonetheless, she recommends that even small organizations visit these sites weekly to track their scores.

Understandably, the free reputation monitoring services don’t go into as much detail as the delivery monitoring services for which you pay a fee. Even they aren’t completely accurate, however, “as engaged recipients can override the ISP filtering decisions by putting the sender in their address book,” she adds.

There are several additional steps you should take that don’t require any outside tools at all. “Monitor delivery logs to identify if any ISP is blocking outright,” Atkins suggests. “This will also show rate limiting, which is often the first sign of a problem at a specific ISP.”

Perhaps easiest of all is creating seed accounts with the ISPs that are most popular with your recipients and then making sure that you receive your company’s e-mails at those inboxes and that they’re rendering properly.

If in the course of your monitoring and tracking you decide that you would like to improve your deliverability rates, you can contract with a consultant or an e-mail services provider, as well as sign up for commercial certification services. “These senders that comply with their standards are given preferential treatment at those ISPs partnered with the certification service,” Atkins explains.

A caveat when shopping for a service provider: “If they say they can guarantee inbox delivery, run!” Eichner says. There are simply too many variables that a service provider doesn’t have control over — including the cleanliness of the sender’s list and the content of the e-mails being sent — that can suppress delivery rates.

Got an e-mail tip to share? Contact Sherry Chiger at sherry.chiger@penton.com