DMA & IAB Members

How to Make a Good First Impression

Archive for the ‘Best Practices’ Category

How to Make a Good First Impression

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Since the launch of its new Email Analytics tool, litmus has been collecting various stats around recipients behavior. For the first time since the service started, they have published some really interesting stats.

The main lesson to learn is that making a good first impression on the internet is even harder than most people think.

Indeed, their analysis based on a panel of 4 million opens, reveals that an astonishing 51% of users delete a message within two seconds of opening it. Of course the study is based solely on users who opened the emails. http://litmusapp.com/blog/

The key figures, for me at least, are as follows:

1.      On average, 51.1% of readers spend less than 2 seconds looking at an email

2.      In the best email campaigns, 77% of people fully read the message

Why do users spend so little time reading an email?

The answer is pretty easy and obvious. In most cases they get some many emails that they don’t have much time to devote to each and every one of them. Indeed more and more people are connected to the internet and at the same time more and more companies transition from the offline to the online world. As a result, the amount of emails received by a single user rises every day. On top of that, notifications from social networks such as facebook or twitter actively contribute to increase the number of emails in our boxes.

In such a fast pace and active society, the volume of emails has surged dramatically and in parallel the time available to read them decreases every day.

The question now Is to understand what makes the difference between a bad campaign or a campaign deleted within two seconds and a good campaign that users would read?

In other words, how to engage you subscribers?

Here are, I think, the 10 keys to success for your messages. Some of them might appear as obvious to you but in many cases they are disregarded by marketers:

1.       Insure that your email addresses have opted in: obvious but often disregarded. An opt in user is someone interested in your emails and is more likely to read them from start to finish. Intela’s advice would be to obtain the highest level of permission possible for your business model. Double opt in users are far more likely to read your emails than single opt in users.

2.       Know your audience: a subscriber is not just an email address but a person with interests and passions. The best way to engage a user is to make him tell you what he/she is interested in so that you can adapt the content of your emails.

The best ways to do this are:

· Sending a welcome message to your subscribers summarizing the information regarding their subscription.

· Inserting a preference center in the welcome email allowing users to tell you more about them from the get go.

· This preference center needs to be user friendlyreminding from time to time your audience that they can update their preferences in the preference center (and provide them a link).

· Set expectations from the start and mainly on frequency. Of course, the preference center allows the users to change the frequency but providing them with this information cause users t expect your email on specific days and even look in their spam folder in case they don’t find it in their mailbox.

· Analyzing the links that subscribers will click on. In the absence of a preference center, it provides valuable information as to what users are interested in. based on this data, you can adapt the following messages. For example, I have seen example in the past of companies sending emails to a non qualified databases (no social demographic data) advertising several  products in the same email. A thorough analysis of the clicks behavior allowed them to determine the age range, gender of the subscribers (amongst others) without any data provided by the latter.

3.       Use the same from domain as the website where the users subscribed to: Intela suggests you to have your brand name in the from address. One of the main reasons for spam complaints or even deleting the email, is the fact that users don’t know the sender or don’t recognize the sender and these are two different things. Not knowing the sender could potentially mean that the latter never obtained permission to send emails whereas not recognizing the sender could mean that he uses a different domain than the one users are familiar with. A lot of marketers have and still make this mistake and it is important to keep this in mind. For example sending communications from a co-brand could perform really bad as users are not aware of the connection between the brands.

4.       Mind the frequency of your emails. Again, set expectations in terms of frequency and honor them. Keep a close eye on your open and click rates for users not using the preference center to determine whether the frequency should be updated.

5.       Mind the Cadence:  cadence is a measure of engagement and is different from frequency which is a measure of volume. Cadence tells you when your subscribers are more likely to open your messages because they are ready and looking to buy products. For example if certain group of your audience are responsive twice a year or at the end of each quarter, only send them your offers at that moment. Their interest in these period is far higher.

6.       Determine what time of the day is optimum for your users? This can be determined on a per user basis based on a click/opens analysis. Indeed, some users could be more tempted to open their emails in the evenings whereas others would do so at lunch time. How does this information help? Well, by sending an email around the time when users usually open their mail, you will be placed at the top of the list in the inbox. Users don’t have an unlimited time to dedicated to their emails and they will open in priority the latest emails (on top of the list) and then browse the others quickly. If your email is on the 2nd page, it could very well be disregarded, or deleted with a group of other messages. Especially if your users are at work, the amount of time they are willing to dedicated to each individual message will decrease to values as low as 2 seconds (or less)

7.       Work on your subject lines: subject lines don’t guarantee that the user will read your email from start to finish of course, but it is the mandatory first step to generate interest and intrigue users to the point where they will be  eager to read the content of your email. Ideally you should perform split testing on subject lines to find the most appealing subject line for your customer base. Subject line analysis can go beyond simple split tests and can allow you to find the “profile” of each user but this is another subject.

8.       Keep the message simple and easy to read and understand. Make sure that the incentives are highlighted and clearly visible to the user in the body of the email as well as call to actions. Call to actions must be visible and more importantly easy to use (require a very simple action on the user’s part). This highlights the benefits of being in your program which are accessible with limited efforts.

9.       Make sure your users add you to their address book. “What’s the difference?” one would be tempted to ask: emails from know contacts are delivered to the inbox with links and images activated in most cases and this means that your emails will be far more appealing to a user browsing the content, to determine if he is going to read or not, than a message with just text. More than a deliverability measure, address book addition is also a esthetic measure allowing you to engage your audience and generate interest. Intela advises you to provide your users with a tutorial explain them how to add your address or domain on different email clients and webmails to insure that efforts deployed in creative design are not going unnoticed by your audience.

10.   Don’t take anything for granted and keep analyzing and testing all these elements to improve your programmes and keep you audience happy.

By: Martin Ebongue, European Email Deliverability Manager

Comparative Analysis of Litmus and ReturnPath

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

As a user, it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference between several different solutions and understand what feature could be most useful for you as a business. Indeed, there are several solutions available out there, and depending on your business needs, some solutions might be more fitting than others.

Intela has been looking into two solutions: Litmus and Return Path, and has decided to share its impressions to help others make a decision on which solution would best suit them. This comparison is purely descriptive and totally unbiased. The aim is to describe the functionalities of each product and not to promote one over the other.

There are, of course, similarities between the products but both different functionalities that make them unique and more or less useful for your business:

1. Email Tests

Both products include an email test that previews the content of your company email on different webmails and email clients. In this particular area, some differences are noticeable:

a. The number of screenshots and views available:

Litmus provides users with 34 different views divided as follows:

  • Eight business clients: including Lotus, Outlook 2003, 2007 and even 2010 beta
  • Twenty-six consumer clients: including all popular webmail and mobiles such as Blackberry, iPhone, Nokia Symbian and Windows Mobile 6.5
  • Provides a very interesting feature allowing marketers to preview their emails in webmails on different browsers (Internet Explorer and Firefox)

Return Path provides users with 28 different views:

  • Four business clients: including Lotus, Outlook 2003, 2007, Express and XP
  • 24 consumer clients: including all popular webmail and mobiles such as Blackberry, iPhone, Nokia Symbian and Windows Mobile 5, 6 and 6.5
  • Provides the ability to view the email with images on or off, horizontal panel, vertical panel for specific webmails and email clients. This feature takes the total amount of views to 52.
  • It’s possible to drill down by region (nine European views and 13 American) and only viewing mobile terminals

b. How to submit emails for testing:

Litmus provides two options validating the content:

  • Litmus generates a custom email address for every test a company would send so that they are easily recognizable. The code is different for every single email which makes it very hard to forge and protects Litmus clients.
  • Litmus provides a feature allowing clients to upload their creative directly into the system without sending an email for more convenience.
  • Once the test has been done, it is possible to send a different version of the same creative, for A/B split tests for example, to have all the tests available on the same page. This feature is very useful for comparison purposes and one could compare the Litmus test to folders where it is possible to add several messages.

Return Path provides one option for submitting a message:

  • An email address is generated for each return path client based on the account name abbreviation. The address is always the same for every test.
  • However, they don’t provide the option to upload the creative. They provide different email addresses based on the language of the creative so that emails will go through the proper spam filters and dictionaries. The languages available are English US, English UK, Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. This feature is useful for companies deploying emails in languages other than English.

c. Platform’s quickness:

In terms of quickness, both platforms are comparable and it takes around 5 to 10 minutes to see the results generated and for all the screenshots to appear.

d. Spam filter tests:

Litmus provides:

  • Analysis on 12 different spam filters and has a well balanced mix between B2B and B2C filters including the main B2C ISPs such as Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL.
  • A report on the overall performance of the email is provided to the user. This gives them an idea of why the email failed some of the filters overall and not filter by filter to help users fixing all issues at once and not only for a specific filter.
  • The spam score is displayed for every filter tested as well as background information on the filter itself.

Return Path provides:

  • Analysis on nine different spam filters but seem to be more B2B oriented as the filters tested are mainly used by corporate (more aggressive than B2C filters). Spam filters used at Yahoo, Hotmail or AOL, for example, are missing.
  • Each filter will provide reasons for failure in the form of spam assassin test names and weight. The user can then interpret the tests to fine tune their emails.
  • The spam score is displayed for every filter tested as well as background information on the filter itself.

2. Additional Features

Both products obviously have unique features that are not to be found on the other platform and here is a description of these features:

Litmus:

Litmus provides marketers with a very useful tool in the basic pack allowing them to test their website or landing page in addition to their emails. This feature allows clients to be more diversified and to be successful in other areas than just emails. Users are able to test the quality of their website which is one of the main tools if not the main tool for communicating and expanding the users’ database, as well as the landing pages for the links contained in the emails. Thanks to this feature Litmus is more than just an email tool.

Pages are tested on:

  • The seven most popular browsers including a preview of IE9
  • Fourteen edge case browsers
  • It is very simple to use and only requires a copy and paste of the url one wants to test
  • Checks the HTML code for errors and generates a full report on errors and how to fix them
  • Checks CSS inside the page

Return Path:

Even though Return Path is email focused and doesn’t provide the website tools, there are a certain number of interesting functionalities bringing added value to the product. Here are some examples:

  • Exporting the preview reports in PDF format; this feature is particularly useful for presentations or reports submitted to other teams or management.
  • Content assessment of the email including the integrity of the links contained within the email, the reputation of the links inside the emails (i.e. have these links been found in spammy emails?), HTML code errors inside the email, spelling errors based on the language dictionary of your choice (language selected when submitting the email) and spam words based on the spam assassin database.
  • The full message source and headers are available for troubleshooting purposes.
  • Return Path also provides a dashboard where clients can compare their results to the rest of Return Path clients and have an indicator of their actual performance.

Dashboard:

Content assessment:

Pricing

As far as Litmus is concerned, prices are publically available on the website with a series of four very affordable packages going: from $49 a month for one user and unlimited previews to $399 for an unlimited number of users, previews and list analytics (please refer to this article for more details on analytics {link}. For more details visit: http://litmusapp.com/pricing.

Return Path prices are unfortunately not publically available and cannot be found on their website. They seem to be calculated based on the business needs that would be discussed by phone or email with the Return Path team.

For more details visit: http://www.returnpath.net/downloads/resources/campaignPreview_072008.pdf

By: Martin Ebongue, European Email Delivery Manager

How Recent Changes at Gmail Affect Marketers

Friday, May 14th, 2010

There are important changes occurring at Gmail that will affect all senders trying to reach their subscribers at that domain.

Google finally won a law suit in the UK allowing them to use the brand Gmail there. Previously, because of trademark disputes, Google was unable to use the brand Gmail in England. As a result, all Gmail users in the UK had googlemail.com addresses instead of the well known Gmail.com used in all other countries since 2007.

·        How do these changes impact marketers?

From now on, every new subscriber in the UK will be granted a Gmail.com instead of the previously used googlemail.com. All possessors of googlemail.com addresses will have the option to upgrade their account in order to obtain a Gmail.com address.

The tricky part for marketers is that since the subscribers are not forced to migrate their account, it is impossible to say who will change their address to a Gmail.com address. Additionally, users will be able to revert the changes from Gmail.com to googlemail.com if they are not happy with the changes.

·        How do marketers keep track of their subscribers?

My recommendation to all marketers is to do the following:

1.      Design a non-promotional email destined for googlemail.com users

2.      Provide them with an explanation of the recent changes at Gmail justifying your email

3.      Ask them to confirm their email address
4.      In the event they are switching to Gmail.com, ask them for the permission to update your database and send them their emails to their new address

Google has not provided an ETA or deadline for the migration so one should assume that users will be able to change their address at anytime for an indefinite period of time. Intela strongly encourages all marketers to do the above steps in order not to lose subscribers and revenue due to a database which has not been updated.

By: Martin Ebongue, European Email Delivery Manager

Shopping Cart Importance

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

Do you monitor abandoned shopping carts?

Abandoned shopping carts are disregarded by several email marketers even though they are an obvious sign of interest from the user. By disregarding abandoned shopping carts, these marketers miss out on huge business opportunities and hence fail to maximize their ROI (Return on Investment).

Data mining, web analytics combined with an effective email strategy, can turn these potential customers into real customers and generate huge revenue for your company.

The main challenges for implementing such tools are, of course, the availability of the company resources and the effective integration between the different platforms used by the company.

Some companies are not willing or simply unable to make such investments for shopping carts and often don’t realize its relevance or importance.

Why abandoned shopping carts are that important?

Approximately 87% of consumers abandon their carts when surfing the internet and 75% of them declare that they will come back later to complete the purchase. You surely understand now why monitoring the shopping cart can boost your sales and ROI.

Even though users declare that they will resume the purchase later, they could easily forget and never finalizing the transaction. This is why it is important for marketers to gently remind these users about their shopping cart in order to trigger the purchase and help them finalize their transaction.

There are very simple methods to stimulate users using emails and all of them obey the same principal: communicate very quickly after the user’s connection and cart abandonment (24 to 72 hours):

  1. Sending an email to the user advising them their cart will be kept for the next 7 days and provide them with a link to access it directly
  2. Sending an email to the user offering them a discount code of X% when validating the shopping card abandoned
  3. Sending an email to the user offering them a free additional item when validating the shopping cart abandoned

Open rates on such emails can increase by up to 150% in some cases, click through rates can increase by more than 300% and conversion rates by more than 110% .

Recent studies carried out by silverpop show that cart abandonment emails account for 2.7% of the total volume of email but generate more than 10% of the total email marketing revenue.

Cart abandonment emails represent a very small volume for marketers but can generate an incredibly high ROI. If your company doesn’t currently monitor it, Intela strongly advises you to start implementing it.

By: Martin Ebongue, European Email Delivery Manager

An ISP Decides to Shut Down its Spam Filter for an Hour a Day

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

A north American ISP, called Marshalsea, has recently made a troubling public announcement about its future plans. Arthur Clennam, the company’s Director of Public Relations at Marshalsea, has announced that the ISP is planning to shut down the spam filter for one hour a day.

This might appear as a surprise and rather suicidal for many but there are good reasons for it. Over time, people have forgotten what the actual role of an ISP is and many believe that the role of an ISP is to stop spam. Well think again.

The primary role of the ISP is to DELIVER mail to its users and keep them as happy as possible. Unfortunately for them, they are forced to fight constant attacks on their servers, also known as spam. It is very important to understand that ISPs are victims of spam and that they haven’t chosen to engage in this battle. As a result, they are losing a lot of money and don’t make a single dime out of spam filtering as people would be tempted to believe.

Because the enormous costs associated  with spam filtering (one of the largest costs for ISPS), some small ISPs are forced to design new strategies to reduce the costs: and this is one of them. It is worrying to see that an ISP had to resort to such extreme measures, and hopefully this won’t spread to other providers experiencing the same difficulties with spam filtering costs.

Is this good news for marketers if the trend evolves and spreads to other ISPs?

At first glance, it appears to be excellent news for the marketers community. Spam filters are off and therefore we would have a free lane to the inbox during that time frame! However, after taking a closer look at the implications of these changes, one would realize that this is not such good news after all.

What is so terrible about having a free lane to the inbox one would say? Well, the problem is that the free lane will be for legitimate marketers such as Intela, but also for spammers all around the world. As a result, the users would be submerged and overwhelmed by emails (mostly spam) during that time frame and legitimate emails will end up being drowned in the mass of spam.

Users will be tempted to bulk delete emails without paying attention individual emails or even trying to differentiate legitimate emails from spam and eventually marketers emails will be deleted without being read. In the worst case scenario, users will simply drop their email address out of frustration, caused by spammers, and marketers would lose a subscriber.

Do marketers need spam filters?

As surprising as this might sound, yes! After taking the time to analyze the situation, it appears obvious that spam filters, generally depicted as marketers worst enemies, are actually our ally… to a certain extent.

Spam filters keep the unwanted emails out of the mailboxes allowing users to focus and take actions on legitimate emails. Without spam filters, users inboxes would be flooded with spam and they would have a hard time opening clicking, buying and more importantly contributing to maintaining marketers ROI.

ISPs globally are affected by the long terms effects of the economic crisis and more ISPs could follow Marshalsea’s example to reduce their operation costs. What could appear as good news for marketers at first glance could, in actual fact, have a disastrous effect on ROI and engagement by subscribers. Marketers can only hope that other ISPs won’t decide to move forward with similar measures.

By: Martin Ebongue, European Email Delivery Manager

Yahoo and Goodmail Split

Monday, March 29th, 2010

The separation between Goodmail and Yahoo appeared to be inevitable and was officially announced last week by Goodmail. The premise of this separation became visible about a month before the announcement when Yahoo decided to change the way Goodmail certified emails would be treated.

In the past, emails sent using Goodmail systems were guaranteed to be delivered to the inbox, as they were sent to a special MX record entry with no/very little filtering. Yahoo announced a couple weeks before the separation that this would no longer be the case and that the inbox vs junk delivery from then on would vary.

Before the separation, Goodmail had a strong presence in the US with top ISPs and services: AOL, Comcast, Cox, mail.com, MySpace, Verizon (added in February) and Yahoo.

As the top global ISP (just beating out Hotmail), this is a major loss for Goodmail who is hoping to restore their contract with Yahoo in the near future.

For the time being, the only way for Intela and other marketers to ensure delivery to the inbox at Yahoo is the Sender Score Certified program. However, the last word has yet to be said.

Martin Ebongue, European Email Delivery Manager

Creating a Mobile Version of Commercial Emails

Monday, March 29th, 2010

Since late 2008, we have witnessed a rapid growth in global usage of smartphones. This started with the massive adoption of the iPhone by the general public, which was a turning point from the more business oriented and traditional blackberry used by corporate professionals.

As a result, not only are professionals able to view and render emails on their phones but a much larger audience can as well. Approximately 151.1 million smartphones were sold in 2008 and the growth continued in 2009 with 173.8 million smartphones sold in 2009 altogether.

Intela strongly recommends marketers to take mobile terminals in to account when designing creatives and should make sure to have a mobile version available for possessors of such phones using a “mobile version” link inside their emails.

Habits are changing slowly and even though traditional webmails and mail clients (ie outlook, yahoo, hotmail, gmail etc…) are still vastly used by the general public and professionals alike. The iPhone already ranks as the sixth most popular client, with 4% of the market share, as a study carried out by litmus (litmusapp.com) demonstrates.

Top 10 email clients

Email client

Market share

Outlook
Outlook 2003 and earlier
Outlook 2007
43%
34%
9%
Hotmail 17%
Yahoo! Mail 13%
Gmail 5%
Apple Mail 4%
iPhone 4%
Thunderbird 2.4%
Windows Live Mail (Desktop) 2%
AOL Mail 1.2%
Lotus Notes 0.4%
Others 8%

Carried out by a panel of 250 million recipients, clearly highlights the fast evolution of mobile terminals and the need for marketers to adapt. Additionally, the report shows that traditional webmail such as hotmail and yahoo are losing ground to the benefit of gmail and mobile terminals like apple.

Understanding New Spamhaus Launch

Monday, March 29th, 2010

As stated in one of my previous posts, Spamhaus was planning on launching their domain block list on March 1, 2010. In order to fight against spam more efficiently, Spamhaus decided to add this new feature to their arsenal (already composed of SBL the Spamhaus Block List, XBL the Exploits Block List, PBL the Policy Block List). This list is now available for system administrators all around the globe and will be used as a uri blocklist as well as a RHSBL (right hand side block list). In other words, this will trap everything on the right hand side of the @ sign. Spamhaus officials stated that even though this list is primarily destined to trap URI inside the body of the email, it can also be used for checks at the SMTP level such as: HELO, connecting IP or DNS domain, From & Reply-To domains, Message-ID domain. This list is considered as a “zero false positive list” according to Spamhaus and there are serious implications for marketers.

First of all, it is important to understand the concept of “false positive”. Every spam filter out there is bound to generate false positives and always need tweaking to reduce them to a minimum. A false positive is (in spam filter terms) an email or a characteristic related to an email being trapped as malicious or spammy by mistake. To simplify things, one could describe it as an email which has been trapped by a glitch in the filter when it should have been delivered. By considering this list as a “zero false positive list” Spamhaus certainly implies that the margin for mediation for marketers flagged on that list is next to zero. Indeed, based on their statement, anybody appearing on that list will be there for a good reason: spamming activity. It is important for marketers to keep this in mind and make sure that their domains don’t appear on this list. Maintaining a limited number of well monitored domains is key.

Additionally, list hygiene and a strong opt-in process are essential to eliminate the possibility of emailing spam traps (main source of information for spam filters). Thus far in 2010, we are witnessing a big shift from IP reputation and blacklists to domain based reputation and blacklists. In order to comply to ISPs’ standards and maintain high deliverability and ROI, marketers must adapt.

By:

Martin Ebongue, European Email Delivery Manager

Bulking Issues at Gmail

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Looking back on the month of March, one trend clearly stands out: the overall deliverability at Gmail is in decline!

The most logical and likely explanation is that changes have been performed at Gmail’s end causing this shift in the deliverability. Based on the numbers, I would say that Gmail is performing changes on their filters but haven’t found the right configuration.

For example: the overall deliverability can go from 92% to 79% the very next day without any apparent reason. “What is causing such discrepancies in deliverability?” one would ask. After working long enough in deliverability anyone would tell you that Gmail is not known for discarding emails (silently deleting emails) and that in most cases they will send unwanted emails to the junk folder.

It is precisely in the percentage of “junked” emails that the variations are noticeable, reaching more than 25% on march 22nd. Whether this tendency will persist or not throughout the month of March, it is hard to say. However, important variations in the inbox percentage from one day to the other led me to believe that they are still in the tweaking phase.

What changes have they performed?

As usual, with Gmail it is very hard to know as they do a very good job at protecting that information.

Until the situation stabilizes and more light is shed of what is really happening at Gmail, I would advise all email marketers to make sure that they follow Gmail’s guidelines which can be found here: http://mail.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=81126

By: Martin Ebongue, European Email Delivery Manager

DKIM Authentication Protocol

Monday, January 25th, 2010

What is DKIM?

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) is an authentication protocol developed to address the security problem of spoofing, phishing, forged e-mail messages, and other fraudulent practices for underlying email sending technology. DKIM is an enhanced protocol of DomainKeys with the adoption of certain aspects of Identified Internet Mail. DKIM is the result of combined efforts from Yahoo! and Cisco amongst other supporters.

Why has DKIM become essential?

DKIM authentication technology allows supporting Internet Service Providers (ISP) to confirm the identity of the sender. If the identity of the sender cannot be authenticated, email messages will result in additional anti-spam filtering to determine if messages should be delivered to inbox, bulk or rejected. Without DKIM authentication, senders chances of being filtered or blocked by major ISPs are greatly increased.

As previously mentioned, DKIM authentication is important because it allows ISPs to verify the originating source; preventing phishing scams, domain forgery, and other fraudulent practices. DKIM authentication plays a key role in the emerging reputation and accreditation systems that will drive the future of email. As a legitimate business, authentication is not optional; rather it is essential to securing your brand and online reputation.

DKIM is now the key component of the newly developed domain reputation systems allowing senders like Intela to benefit from the numerous advantages of domain reputation: domain whitelist / enhanced whitelist and more importantly reputation portability from one IP to the other.

How does the DKIM authentication protocol work?

Generally, ISPs utilize two primary methods of authentication: IP and cryptographic:

1. The IP solution ties a responsible sending party domain back to a set of permitted IP addresses, which requires publishing text (TXT) records in the Domain Name System (DNS) record for each of your domains. Essentially, this solution validates the origin of e-mail messages by verifying the IP address of the sender against the alleged owner of the sending domain.

Examples of an IP-based solution are SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and Sender ID which has been adopted by over 10 million domain holders worldwide.

2. Cryptographic authentication signs each message in a way that is difficult to forge and designed to verify the DNS domain of an e-mail sender and the message integrity, proving that the message came from the indicated sending domain and provides senders with a consistent reputation across their domain regardless of what IPs mail is sent from.

Examples of a cryptographic solution are Yahoo! DomainKeys and DKIM.

AOL supports SPF (IP solution) and DKIM (Cryptographic authentication).

Microsoft (Hotmail, MSN, and Exchange) supports Sender ID (IP solution) which provides additional input to their SmartScreen junk email filtering process.

Yahoo! supports DomainKeys (Cryptographic authentication) and DKIM (Cryptographic authentication).

Gmail supports DomainKeys (Cryptographic authentication), DKIM (Cryptographic authentication), and SPF (IP solution).

Presently, there is no single method accepted by all ISPs. However, a consensus seems to grow around DKIM and there are more and more adopters of this protocol.

The majority of smaller ISPs are relying on some or all of these methods to authenticate email senders. In addition, businesses must broadly adopt authentication across all their domains, not just those associated with large volume commercial email.

This means domains used for corporate email, customer support and other services. While most online fraud is associated with high-profile marketing domains, without authentication it is possible for any of your domains to be spoofed — and compromise critical business functions.

DKIM: The ultimate solution to all deliverability problems?

It’s important to note that DKIM and other authentication protocols will not fully resolve deliverability problems. Validating a domain does not reflect positively upon the content or value of the message, only to the identity of the responsible sender.

DKIM and other authentications will make it harder for your domains to be forged and it is critical to your deliverability since most ISPs make authentication a requirement for inclusion on a white list.

However, authentication will not compensate for weak sender email practices pertaining to content, permission standards, bounce handling, complaints, or filter triggers.

By: Martin Ebongue, European Email Delivery Manager