Live from Deliverability Bootcamp: User Complaints Top ISP Spam Measurements

Apr 19, 2006 6:26 PM  By

Chicago–An unacceptably high number of consumer complaints is often the top metric e-mail inbox providers use to determine whether to block incoming e-mail, according to panelists at the E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition’s Deliverability Bootcamp on Tuesday.

A high complaint rate “is when we know we’re dealing with an e-mail the consumer just doesn’t want,” said AOL postmaster Charles Stiles.

Moreover, consumers are not accidentally hitting the “report spam” button, according to a study AOL did recently. “The vast majority of respondents said that when they hit the ‘report spam’ button, they were mad,” Stiles said.

“It’s remarkable how similar the messages from the [mailbox providers at the conference] have been,” said Miles Libbey, a product manager at Yahoo!, during one of the later panels. “It’s all about user complaints. That, and we’ll work with you,” Libbey said to a room of about 100 attendees, most of whom were e-mail marketers.

No one said how high a complaint rate is too high, however.

Meanwhile, other top reasons e-mail gets blocked, according to George Bilbrey, vice president/general manager of Return Path deliverability services, are:

* Too much is going to unknown users or people who don’t exist;

* The e-mail is going into spam traps, generally e-mail addresses specifically set up to catch spam;

* There is an infrastructure problem, such as the server is not secure;

* There is a problem with “sending permanence,” or the e-mail is coming from an unusual source.

While infrastructure problems are easy to fix, getting off an ISP’s block list after hitting spam traps can be much more difficult, said Bilbrey.

One way marketers can prevent getting all their e-mail blocked as a result of hitting spam traps is to send e-mail to new addresses from “quarantined” IP addresses, or addresses specifically set up for new e-mail for a couple of days. This way, marketers can avoid spam traps polluting the rest of their list and isolate the problem to its source, Bilbrey said.

Often, he added, the problem can be tracked to a sloppy coregistration partner. Coregistration “is not a bad idea,” said Bilbrey. “You just need to go about it with eyes wide open.”