Monday, April 24, 2017

Email Marketing and the Reality About ISP Mediation

Many years ago, part of being a true email deliverability expert was less about what you know and much more about who you know. If you had clients experiencing issues like blocking, bulking, etc. the biggest weapon in your arsenal was the ability to reach out to a contact at an ISP, and have that issue corrected. This type of practice made sense considering that in the past, most blocks were manually put in place and therefore needed to be manually removed.

Oh, how things have changed!

Complex Algorithms 

Let’s start by considering the way things work in this day and age of ISP filtering. Today, major ISPs like Gmail and Hotmail utilize complex algorithms to decide whether or not a sender’s messages are going to be blocked or bulked. While no one truly knows the details of each of these algorithms, we do know that ongoing engagement based metrics now play the biggest role in major ISPs determining how they are going to filter a sender’s messages.

As a result, a sender’s reputation has become much more dynamic, and can change on a daily basis. In other words, it is becoming more and more apparent that a sender’s reputation is only as good as their most recent email marketing campaign. 

Additionally, smaller ISPs also use much more “fluid” methods of filtering messages. Third party spam filtering services that utilize dynamic methods of blocking or bulking are being adopted across many smaller receiving domains. Filters such as Cloudmark are even known to change their perception of a sender mid-campaign.

An Immediate and Lasting Impact

This means that the senders themselves are being held much more accountable for their ability to ensure each and every campaign is targeted & relevant to the subscriber base they are attempting to reach. Failure to do this, even on a single campaign, can have an immediate and lasting impact on one’s overall reputation.

In running Deliverability Support at the Oracle Marketing Cloud, I often receive requests to simply “reach out to an ISP” to fix a specific Deliverability issue a sender may be experiencing. Sure, this can be a part of our path to a resolution if an ISP offers mediation. Certain ISPs like Gmail do not, outside of a basic form that actually tells you not to expect a response from them. The point being, ISP mediation is never THE solution and that has often been a misperception among email marketers. 

What I always try to ensure marketers understand is that ISP mediation is not always helpful. In fact, if it is done without a commitment from a sender to address the overall issue causing the problems in the first place, it could actually hurt that sender in the long run.

Ignoring Advice 

The reason being is that if an ISP receives outreach enough times regarding a specific sender, only to see they are continuously recognized by that ISPs filter, the ISP will then know the client is ignoring best practice advice.

At that point, the ISP will typically halt any mediation moving forward and potentially treat that customer with more scrutiny in the future. In other words, that sender will now essentially be under the “microscope” of that particular ISP, and not in a good way.

A sender that commits to solving the root cause over time via the implementation of strategic best practices should absolutely request ISP mediation to help resolve their issue. After all, the main goal of any ISP is to provide a good customer experience for their users. If they see that a sender is committed to that, then that ISP would be more than happy to ensure that sender’s messages are being delivered to their users.

No More Reaching Out and Touching Someone 

However, a marketer that still believes ISP mediation is somewhat of a “silver bullet” to fix all things deliverability is gravely mistaken. The days of picking up a phone and getting in touch with a postmaster at Yahoo!, Comcast, and AOL are over. These ISPs want to see the sender strategize to ensure that their users are going to be receiving the type of customer experience they signed up for when initially opting in to that sender’s email marketing program.

If that is evident, then ISP mediation is going to be much more effective when utilized to help resolve an issue. In fact, senders with a solid email strategy rooted in best practices are less likely to even need ISP mediation in the first place.  

Modern Marketers must orchestrate and deliver marketing messages that are relevant to individual preferences and behavior. Getting email delivered to the inbox is critical to this process. 

Download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers to find out how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers. 


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