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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monitor, Fix Problems & Then Do It Again!

Last time, we said that your sender reputation was the single biggest factor in getting your emails to the inbox. And, we said that achieving and maintaining a good sender reputation was an iterative process, as illustrated below.
This time, let's talk about how to go about monitoring your reputation and fixing the problems.

Monitoring Your Sender Reputation
Monitoring is the only way to know for sure, if your email is making it to the inbox. It will also help you determine what happens once it is delivered: Did the receiver open it and scroll through the message or was it left unopened in the junk folder or was it simply deleted, without being opened?

Most importantly, monitoring will help you identify the problems that exist, which are hurting your sender reputation! Once they have been identified, you can then set about fixing the problems.

By far, the most effective way to accomplish this step is with a monitoring service, which creates 'seed' email accounts. Seed accounts have good addresses, which means that if you send email to them and it doesn't reach the inbox, it is likely because of your sender reputation with that ISP.

Fixing the Problems & Reducing the Complaints
When a sender's reputation has been damaged, it can be repaired, by fixing the things that caused the reputation drop. Of course, part of this process is analyzing the complaints and doing things to reduce the complaint rate.

Here are some example 'fixes' for problems that can hurt your reputation:
  • Too many complaints - This one is multi-pronged, with several potential remedies. First of all, you should register for ISP feedback and then act on it by immediately removing a member who complains. If the complaints are mostly from new subscribers, then you need to do a better job of making it clear what they should expect. Also, avoid a long delay before the first message is sent to a new subscriber. If most complaints are coming from one source, such as a purchased list, you might consider not using any addresses from that source, without first reconfirming permission from each member.
  • Too many complaints, part 2 - Some complaints are related to your content ' a receiver decides they are not interested, or they don't like the message or the format, or perhaps they feel the emails come too frequently. Once you determine the cause of the complaints via monitoring, you can then take appropriate action. Always follow best practices for subscribing, to keep complaints as low as possible.
  • Too many 'unknown user' addresses - Have registrants enter their email address twice, to avoid typos. Send a welcome email and immediately remove all addresses that bounce. For longer term members, you should still remove them from the list after 2 such 'hard' bounces. This also reduces the chances that your email will get caught in a spam trap.
  • Too many 'soft' bounces - A common reason for a soft bounce is 'mailbox full'. It is recommended that list members be removed after 7-10 soft bounces.
  • Unsubscribed members - Promptly remove any list members who unsubscribe. And, make it easy for someone to unsubscribe. These things will help reduce your complaint rate. Even receivers who don't complain can hurt your reputation, by increasing the number of emails that don't get opened.
  • Too much volume - Too much volume can get you incorrectly labeled as a spammer. One way around this is to 'shape' the traffic that is generated, by not sending it all at once, but in measured amounts.
  • Authentication and Infrastructure problems - Once identified, these problems simply need to be corrected.

Monitoring Continuously
It is extremely important to continue to monitor and fix the problems uncovered. Otherwise, your reputation can be brought down. As an example, let's suppose that you are promoting a special spring sale and you temporarily increase your mailings and see a corresponding increase in sales. Unfortunately, more than a few subscribers saw the increase as too much email and hit the 'This is spam' button, instead of unsubscribing. When your complaint rate goes up, your reputation goes down! Without continuous monitoring, your reputation could be seriously hurt, before you even notice the longer-term loss in sales.

PS...To learn more about how can take care of details like this for you ... or to sign up for your FREE email evaluation, visit our website at

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