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E-mail deliverability remains major challenge for marketers

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Eighty-two percent of marketers say e-mail deliverability is a challenge for them, according to a study released last week by EmailLabs, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based e-mail marketing technology provider.

The study found that Internet service providers' and corporations' filtering systems are the main culprit keeping e-mails from reaching the in-box; 48% of respondents said filtering by ISPs hampers message deliverability, and 45% said filtering by corporations is the problem.

Despite those numbers, only 10% of respondents said they will make delivery their top e-mail priority this year. "On the one hand they are saying it's a problem; but on the other hand, it is almost at the bottom of the barrel in where they rank [it as to] doing something about it," said Loren McDonald, VP-marketing at EmailLabs.

The survey revealed that about one-third (32.2%) of e-mail marketers are tracking the percentage of e-mail blocked by ISPs. McDonald said that begs the question "How do the other two-thirds know they have a delivery problem if they are not even tracking it?"

In addition, even if they can determine they have a problem, McDonald said, many marketers don't understand the root causes of deliverability issues, focusing too much on how content filtering can cause e-mail to be blocked.

Marketers should be focusing instead on reputation and monitoring spam complaints, McDonald said. “Those things are much more important,” he said. “That's what you're going to get blocked and filtered on much more than the content."

He said that most ISPs look at a combination of things, including spam complaints and bounce rates, to determine whether e-mail gets delivered. They also may flag a marketer that is mailing to old e-mail addresses, which will increase bounce rates, he said.

"It's really about reputation," McDonald said. "That's where this is all headed. It's the tools for senders and receivers to do a better job of monitoring their reputation."

Companies such as Goodmail Systems, Habeas and Return Path provide those tools and services for reputation scoring and monitoring .

Deliverability is especially tricky on the b-to-b side, McDonald said, because there is not a lot of transparency in terms of how individual corporations filter e-mail messages to ferret out spam. "Most people don't understand it's a plus-and-minus-points system," McDonald said. "In most cases, it's not pass-fail. It's adding up the points."

He said b-to-b marketers should make an effort to understand how filtering works and run tests on e-mail by separating core content from variable content in the e-mail marketing message. By doing so, they can determine whether the core content is causing problems and then modify accordingly, Mc Donald said.

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