How to Check Your E-mail Deliverability

Jun 16, 2009 11:17 PM  By

Marketers should know what it takes to do a comprehensive deliverability audit. Even an e-mail marketer with satisfactory sending results should take an hour or so a month to make sure all the checks and balances are in place.
If you’re finding your open rates declining and bounce rates increasing, a thorough audit can almost certainly set things right.

Check the delivery report
Delivery reports should be closely monitored for blocks and deferrals. All deliverability problems should be handled promptly by first correcting the mailing practice that caused the problem, and then contacting the ISP. More times than not, the contact method is included in the bounce reason.

Do an open rate-by-domain analysis
Take the time to make sure that the top domains within your mailing list are actually opening your message. For example, if your mailing list is 15% Yahoo.com addresses, but only 3% of your opens are from Yahoo.com members, you may have messages bouncing or going to the bulk folder.

Audit complaints
Spam complaints are the biggest cause of deliverability problems. By closely monitoring complaints reported through feedback loops, sent to the messages’ reply-to address, or sent directly to the abuse mailbox account for the “from addresses” domain, marketers can isolate the source of the complaints, take corrective action, and prevent further delivery problems. Moving the unsubscribe link to the top of the message content and making it noticeable can greatly reduce the complaint rate—as much as 75%.

Test the unsubscribe link
Nothing will generate spam complaints faster than an unsubscribe link that is not functioning properly. A quick test message to a personal account can quickly check to verify that the unsubscribe process is easy and working.

Check the SPF record
Many ISPs—big and small—will use SPF (sender policy framework) records to verify the mail is actually coming from who claims to be sending it. SPF records, included in the senders’ DNS, have become a key tool in preventing ‘from address’ forgery. For more information on SPF, go to http://www.openspf.org/

To test the validity of your SPF record you can use the following site: http://www.kitterman.com/spf/validate.html.

Always verify that the SPF record includes your mailing server’s IP address.
If your DNS record does not include an SPF, you can create one here.

Send to a customized seed list
Send to e-mail accounts created solely for testing. All of the big ISPs offer free e-mail accounts, so open one or two accounts per ISP. Sending to this list of addresses can provide insight into whether the message is going to the inbox, bulk folder, or is being filtered by the ISP. These test accounts are also an excellent way to check message rendering, and to verify that the message’s ‘call to action’ is above the scroll bar fold.

Check your IP address’s SenderScore
This ReturnPath service provides a quick analysis of your mailing server’s IP address. The score uses several factors to rate the IP from 0 to 100 (with 100 being the best). Low scores can lead to deliverability problems. For your IP’s score and score details go to https://www.senderscore.org/.

Periodically reviewing some or all of the seven suggestions above will not only help identify deliverability problems, but will also give e-mail marketers a better understanding of the challenges they face when it comes to getting their messages to their list members.

Louis Chatoff is deliverability manager of StreamSend E-mail Marketing, a provider of e-mail marketing solutions.