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Emailing tips for ensuring delivery of legitimate high-volume campaigns

IT Best Practices Alert By Linda Musthaler, Network World
November 11, 2011 10:28 AM ET
Linda Musthaler
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It's that time of year again when companies, especially on the B2C side, promote their holiday incentives. In fact, the volume of email in the fourth quarter doubles as vendors send out gift coupons, online catalogs and special holiday promotions.

Even during the other 10 months of the year, companies still have a need to communicate with thousands of their constituents. Monthly e-newsletters must get out. Partners and distributors need to be informed of new products and services. There are countless reasons to send out large batches of email messages. And even in the age of social media and RSS feeds, email is still a critical tool for mass communications.

5 best practices to improve your email delivery success rate

Marketers and other business managers look to their IT department for help and some level of assurance that their high-volume email campaigns are reaching their desired mailing list targets. But the problem is that IT often cannot guarantee a high email delivery success rate. We went to email delivery experts SMTP Inc. of Boston to get a few of their best practices for high-volume email delivery -- ones that also abide by CAN-SPAM rules. Any group that sends email to large distribution lists can benefit from these tips.

Start with a sound and healthy IP address

The IP address you will be using for sending should have a good reputation, and it should not be on any ISP blacklists. It should lay claim to a legitimate history of CAN-SPAM compliant sending. It must not have a record of high recipient complaint rates, generated when they press a "This is Spam" button from their email inbox.

There are different ways to keep track of your IP's reputation online. Return Path's Sender Score, for example, is a leading provider of sender reputation reports and free tools. Check out this free service at

Anything that adds credibility to the IP address, such as previously using the same IP address to successfully send 100,000 emails, helps. However, if all of a sudden you send 1 million emails, the same IP address may fail you because its reputation has not been previously established for the higher volume of 1 million.

IP warm-up

"IP warm-up" is a buzz phrase in the email delivery world that says you should have a procedure to ramp up or "warm up" the IPs to a higher level of sending capability -- for example, sending 100,000 to 1 million emails successfully.

This is a difficult task because it is so time-consuming and a positive result depends on a number of factors. The warm-up process is not quick and usually takes anywhere from two to four weeks. There is no carte blanche and unless you have an inventory of previously warmed IP addresses, you must go through a tedious process of sending a gradually increasing volume of emails to each ISP so they can slowly evaluate your legitimacy as a sender.

For example, if your emails to AOL result in a return message of "temp-failed" (deferred) with the error code "421 RLY:NW," most likely you're sending through an IP address that hasn't been properly warmed. Known as a "block," you usually must wait between 24 and 48 hours before you can resume sending in order to allow AOL to analyze previous history on your IP, and if OK, unblock it.

Linda Musthaler is a principal analyst with Essential Solutions Corporation.

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