Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Typical Email Server Client Sending Report

This post is an outline of a typical client Sending Report for a Lite Email System using Interspire and a 6IP sending server. This system was being used for retention email campaigns for a binary options company. In the first month there were a number of client sending issues that directly effected email deliverability and lead to complications for the sending server.

Main Server and Sending Server were configured at the start of the month using Interspire Sending Application in the main data server and Power MTA in a 6IP sending server.  

The first stage when an email server with sending app has been configured is to carry out a test send to ensure that everything is configured with correct DKIM, DMARC and SPF so that the system will be ready to send email campaigns. Here is a summary of the results (the IP and send from address have been omitted for obvious reasons)

Summary of Results
SPF Check : neutral
Sender-ID Check : neutral
DKIM Check : neutral
SpamAssassin Check : ham (non-spam)
HELO hostname: [xxxxxxxxx]
Source IP: xxxxxxxxx
mail-from: info@xxxxxxxAnonymous To: mailertest-sender123@isnotspam.com
SPF check details:---------------------------------------------------------- 
Result: neutral
ID(s) verified: smtp.mail=info@xxxxxx
DNS record(s):
xxxxxx. 38397 IN TXT "v=spf1 a mx ptr a:xxxxxx ip4:xxxxxxxx ?all"  

As you can see SPF, DKIM is neutral and the IP checked back as not listed from Spam Assassin. Now the system is correctly configured and ready to be used for retention email campaigns.

1 - First Send Made With Incorrectly Coded Mailer

The client then proceeded to prepare two email campaigns which were sent out to two separate lists. Unfortunately the email campaign was coded incorrectly which caused the email not to be sent.

The above image details the incorrectly coded mailer; while it may appear at first sight  that there is nothing unusual, notice how in the layout everything is aligned to the left side. Also, see the unusual choice of subject line. When you take a look at the source code, the substance of the issue will be made clear:

2 - Second Send Made With Incorrectly Coded Mailer 

Again when examining code the problem is clear :

When looking at the Email Campaign Statistics, the campaign clearly did not get sent out:

When coding language isn’t specified in the html file the system / browser / ISP / ESP cannot read the mail content so it will be unable to complete the send. The arrows show some of the issues in the badly coded mail examples, but if you take the time to look further you will see a whole range of problems with the code, any one of which could prevent the email sending.

Correctly Coded Mailer

A new mailer was then prepared for another campaign :

Detailed in the image below is the clean coded mailer ready for sending - 

However, despite the fact that a suitable mailer was now prepared there were a few more red flags raised with the sending as the stats below show - 

The most noticeable observation at first glance is a problematic subject line. Unnecessary capitalisation, spam words such as "discount" and "EUROS" along with punctuation are highly likely to see an email soft bounce from an esp because of a content issue. And, as we check the bounce statistics for this send (see graphics below) you can see from the number of soft bounces blocked due to content.

However, even with a weak or spammy subject line, the open rate is still worryingly low for a good list of email data. So the second red flag to be raised was whether the email list was up to par. 

Another glance over the bounce statistics shows a number of emails that no longer exist:

Sending email campaigns to email addresses that no longer exist is a massive red flagalways send to email addresses that are verified and active.  One send to an inactive email account can result in negative reputation, the system can manage the bounces but has its limits – repeated sending to inactive email accounts will blacklist the IPs immediately. Furthermore, if you send to an inactive gmail account, gmail will block all of your mailers to any gmail account (same for Hotmail, yahoo, etc).

Below are the contact list domain name stats – one inactive email can bar you from all other emails in that ESP. Notice that gmail email addresses make up 47% of the list, so getting blocked from gmail is a sure way to get a low open rate on a list like this:

To add to this, some of the ESPs often reactivate inactive email accounts to test out whether a user is repeatedly sending to the inactive address. These are known as Spamtraps, as the behaviour of Spammers typically involves blasting repeated emails to large lists without regard for maintaining the list.



In truth the conclusions are obvious when knowing what to look for in the sending application stats:

1 – Send out correctly coded mailers

2 – Research your subject lines (personalization, use ones that generate high open rates, etc) 

3 – Always use active and verified email lists 

Point number 3 is probably the least regarded by even experienced email marketers as it takes a lot of effort. There is a belief in email marketing that it is possible to send out as many emails you want to random contact lists and it will make you money, but in reality this is classic spammer behaviour. Any business intending to make a success of email marketing must nurture their lists and keep them clean and updated. Even if you have the smartest looking mailer and the best opening subject line, if your data is not maintianed, present and opted in for your niche your mailers simply won't arrive in many inboxes. Even with double opted in lists, bulk blasting mailers with affiliate links, will get your blocked striaght off the bat.

Remember that the ESPs are Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc - some of the largest corporations on the planet, with all of the technology, resources and knowledge to identify spam mailing methods. Trying to take them on with a couple of VPS servers, a sending app worth around $250 and a bunch of old spreadhseets of data is not going to get you far. For this reason, you need a solid email marketing strategye and you must adhere to sensible and ethical email practices whenever you market your brand or else you will just be wasting your time.

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