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B2B or B2C, the chances are that you are relying on delivering a significant number of emails into web mail. New versions of web mail systems are being released with different methods of filtering and handling messages. 

We’re recommending you conduct an audit of your database, to understand how concerned you should be about web mail. 

I’ve started noticing more companies including messages in their sign up forms advising subscribers of some difficulties they have been facing in getting emails into the inboxes of certain web mail clients.

Look at wiggle.co.uk, the online cycle retailer. Its transaction process includes this message:

AOL and web based email accounts

To prevent wiggle emails from being incorrectly treated as spam or junk email, please add sales@wiggle.co.uk to your contacts or safe email address list.

When applying for a car insurance quote at confused.com, you get this message:

Hotmail User Information

Hotmail is currently detecting our results email as spam.

If you add Car.Team@confused.com for car insurance or, Home.Team@confused.com for home insurance to your safe list our email will be delivered to your inbox. Alternatively please check your JUNK folder for our email.

These messages echo some work we’ve being doing with our clients, reviewing the number of web mail names on their databases. 

Why conduct an audit?

If a significant percentage of your database uses webmail, this poses a potential threat to you, as wiggle and confused.com have found out. 

If contacts are receiving your mail into their junk folder, not only does it potentially cause brand damage but it also means that your email marketing effectiveness for a large proportion of your list may fail. 

Not only that, but as new versions of web mail are released such as Windows Live Hotmail in May, they include new functionality such as:

  • Outlook style rules to help you filter move and manage email. 
  • Message categorisation using red, yellow and white based upon perceived ‘danger level’ of the email.
  • Rigorous image blocking, link disabling and messages not appearing in the preview pane if they are perceived as dangerous.
  • New, updated spam filtering rule sets combining Symantec’s brightmail content filter with Microsoft’s own SmartScreen.

Your first job is to audit how many people it may impact - find out exactly how many people use web mail on your lists.

How to conduct an audit

This analysis is fairly easy to carry out - simply check the domain stems for your records. For smaller databases, this is possible in Excel. Drop me a line at moreinfo@adestra.com for instructions on how to do so.

Don’t forget to also look at who your most recent contacts are too - who you have signed up most recently. If your marketing has taken a new direction, you may be attracting more web mail subscribers than ever before.

If web mail is a considerable amount of your database, then there are a number of things to think about that will give you the optimum chance for getting your emails delivered into the inbox:

  • Your data capture methods: Web mail systems would like their users never to use the ‘mark as unsafe/spam’ buttons in their systems. They recommend using confirmed opt in (also known as double opt in) as the most effective method of capturing contacts with the lowest complaint rates.  If you’re capturing new subscribers that mainly use web mail systems, it may be worth implementing double opt in for your data capture.
  • Add to safe senders: If a recipient adds you to their contact address book or safe sender lists, you bypass the majority of the filters. Asking contacts to add you in every email, in the sign up process and on site is a worthwhile exercise.
  • White listing solutions: it may be worth considering joining authentication schemes such as Return Path’s Sender Score Certified program which provides senders with more guarantees on deliverability into hotmail. Your email partner will be able to provide more information.

I urge all email marketers to conduct a review of their databases sooner rather than later. From a young age we were encouraged to prepare and that prevention is better than cure. Strangely, this mantra applies in the online world too.


Henry Hyder-Smith

Published 16 July, 2007 by Henry Hyder-Smith

Henry Hyder Smith is MD at Adestra and a contributor to Econsultancy. 

23 more posts from this author

Comments (3)


Tami Forman

Great advice. Thanks for mentioning the Sender Score Certified program. It's worth noting that certified email automatically shows images in Windows Live Hotmail, rather than having them suppressed as is now the case for most email. Also senders do not have to go through an email partner to take part in this program, though they certainly can. They can just apply directly through this website: http://www.senderscorecertified.com/

Thanks again for the mention!

Tami Monahan Forman
Director of Customer Marketing
Return Path, Inc.
tami . forman @ returnpath . net

over 9 years ago

Mark Brownlow

Mark Brownlow, Email Marketing Reports

Important advice Henry - thanks for raising the issue. I'd also add that even those who think their list is relatively free of webmail users shoud still pay attention.

Google's webmail service (Gmail), for example, allows users to import email from their other email accounts. And Gmail also provides the infrastructure behind some corporate and educational email systems.

So more people are probably using webmail than we think.

over 9 years ago


Certified Dude

We are using Goodmail.com to make sure we do not end up as trash. Works very well for us so far.  This works as long our audiance is in the US.

about 7 years ago

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