Improving Email Delivery Rates Using White Lists

Executive Summary

  • Learn why blocked email results in decreased open rates
  • Discover how rapid email newsletter growth can lead to blocked email
  • Understand how email white lists reduce blocked email and improve email delivery

I received a call from a publisher who had recently gotten very aggressive about building an email database by offering website visitors a free email newsletter. It seems that the conversion rate for new sign-ups was running seven to eight percent and he’d built a list of more than 300,000 active email subscribers in less than 90 days. That was the good news. That bad news was that his email delivery rates had tanked and he didn’t know it.

Problem: His email open rates had dropped from 65 percent to less than 20 percent and he had not seen this as an indication of an email delivery problem. A little investigation revealed that many of his weekly emails were now on the blocked email list for AOL, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail. When his list was small, under 50,000, his email delivery was good because all three were letting his mail pass. As he got larger, the Big 3 blocked email delivery from his email server, as did a number of smaller ISPs (Internet Service Providers). As a result his email delivery and conversion rates declined.

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Solution: After exploring the alternatives, he decided to move his email broadcasting and list management to an ESP (Email Service Provider) who could send his mail using a combination of email addressing and IP (Internet Protocol) addresses that could all be added to the white lists maintained by the large ISPs. All the large ISPs now have a white list application process that allows them to avoid blocking or junking email from legitimate senders. When our publisher was sending a small volume, his email delivery was good because his volume was small. As his volume increased and none of the ISPs recognized him on their white lists, they all began to block his email.

Result: His email delivery has improved as a result of changing to an ESP. His open rates have recovered to about 48 percent, not as good as they were before, but much better than before he changed to the ESP. He’s also screening his email content and subject lines now to make sure he doesn’t trip other filters for the smaller ISPs who don’t keep white lists, or are too small to be handling more than a few of his emails.

Lesson: When you scale a database email program, you’ll need to be on white lists that weren’t required when you were small, to keep your email delivery rates high.

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