Lyris study concludes email marketing practices responsible for deliverability issues

A new deliverability study provides further evidence to dispel the widely-held myth among marketers that message content is the key reason ISPs filter legitimate email marketing messages into the spam folder. Instead, subscriber feedback, such as spam complaints, is the leading cause of most marketers’ deliverability obstacles.

This is the primary finding of the Lyris EmailAdvisor ISP Deliverability Report Card for Q1 2007, a quarterly research study that monitors deliverability rates for permission-based email marketing. The EmailAdvisor Report Card also reveals that a majority of the largest US-based ISPs have the lowest rates of delivering email to the inbox. The complete PDF report can be downloaded at http://www.lyris.com/resources/reports/deliverability_report_Q12007.pdf

According to the EmailAdvisor Report Card, message content is not a major cause of deliverability challenges for most email marketers. More than 1,705 unique emails were run through the EmailAdvisor content scoring application that includes the content scoring rules subset to the widely adopted Spam Assassin open source project. The average content point score of these 1,705 unique emails was 1.04 – well below the filter’s generally accepted spam identification level of 3.0 or higher.

“The main message of this quarter’s EmailAdvisor Report Card for email marketers is that there are no easy fixes to senders’ deliverability challenge,” said Stefan Pollard, Director of Consulting Services at EmailLabs, which along with J.L. Halsey’s Lyris and Sparklist brands has integrated with the EmailAdvisor deliverability monitoring tool. “Changing a few keywords in the hopes of boosting inbox success rates is no substitute for adhering to email marketing best practices. It’s an oversimplification to place blame primarily on content filters when a campaign has poor returns, when in fact most delivery challenges are due to subscriber feedback.”

According to Pollard, such feedback typically takes the form of complaints by recipients who mark the message as “spam” in their respective email clients and problematic traffic patterns such as bounces and spam trap hits. “That’s why both EmailLabs and Lyris have developed deliverability programs that build on EmailAdvisor and focus on the real issues that affect a sender’s deliverability,” he said.

How does your content rank?
Of the emails subjected to content scoring, two Spam Assassin rules that were frequently triggered generated content filter point scores of significance. According to Pollard, most marketers should find that easy to correct. The first rule cautions against heavy use of images, which can increase spam scores up to a full point and render poorly in email clients with image blocking enabled. The second problem, sending messages with a "From Name" composed of numbers or symbols rather than an actual name, can also increase the likelihood of the message being flagged as spam and ending up in users’ junk/bulk folders.

Inbox delivery still a challenge
Of the 25 ISPs tracked by the EmailAdvisor Report Card, several leading providers rank among the top ten domains with the highest rates of delivery to the junk folder. These include Gmail (3rd with 28 percent), Yahoo! (4th with 19 percent), and Hotmail (6th with 16 percent). Noticeably absent from the top ten ISPs with the worst inbox delivery is AOL, which ranked 14th on the list with a junk delivery rate of only 2.33 percent.

For the study’s top-ten ranked ISPs, gross deliverability was more than 90 percent in all cases, with average deliverability of 83.8 percent across the sample. CompuServe had the highest rate of inbox delivery at 88 percent, with the remainder of the top-ten ranked ISPs achieving delivery rates of more than 81 percent in all cases. Among international ISPs, European ISPs performed the best, followed by Australian, Canadian and finally U.S. domains – although the disparities between regions were all within +/– five percentage points.

“Fighting spam and other types of malicious messaging continues to be a major challenge for ISPs, who err on the side of protecting their customers and users,” said Dave Dabbah, Lyris’ Senior Director of Marketing. “Marketers who adopt authentication protocols such as Domain Keys, SPF and SenderID and who actively manage their sender reputation with deliverability best practices are able to reach the inbox with their campaigns giving them a distinct advantage over other marketers that lack deliverability know-how.”

Deliverability rates can be adversely affected by a number of factors in addition to individual ISP policies and sender content, including the sender’s mailing history, number of complaints the sender receives, data collection practices, use of sender authentication protocols and other reputation factors. “There are a lot of different variables to keep track of when managing deliverability,” Dabbah said. “That’s why Lyris and EmailLabs deliverability consulting packages have developed metrics that give marketers a quantified way to view and understand their deliverability scenarios.” Lyris encourages senders to adhere to email marketing best practices in order to optimise their deliverability rates.

Behind the statistics
For the period beginning January 1, 2007 and ending March 31, 2007, the Lyris EmailAdvisor service monitored the full delivery trajectories of 440,694 production level, permission-based email marketing messages sent from 69 different businesses and non-profit organisations to multiple accounts at 54 ISP domains in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia.

Messages were chosen to represent a cross-section of typical email marketing and newsletter activities. Examples of email message types monitored by the study include publishing, business-to-business, retail, travel, finance, among many others. In all cases, the recipients to whom the emails were sent had made an explicit "opt-in" request to receive the messages at the specified email addresses.

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About EmailAdvisor
EmailAdvisor from Lyris Technologies is a leading deliverability monitoring solution. Features include Inbox Snapshot which shows how emails render in more than 50 email clients; Delivery Monitor which shows what percentage of your emails were delivered to the inbox or junk/bulk folder; Content Analyzer which analyzes your message content against 30 different spam filters; Blacklist Monitor checks to see if your IP addresses are listed on any of 300 blacklists; and ISP Monitor provides real-time information about email delivery delays at more than 30 ISP's. EmailAdvisor is integrated into Lyris ListHosting, EmailLabs and Sparklist or is available as a standalone service. For more information visit http://www.lyris.com/products/emailadvisor/index.html.

About Lyris Technologies
Founded in 1994, Lyris Technologies provides leading-edge email marketing software solutions to more than 5,000 customers worldwide. Our suite of products, led by our flagship product ListManager, offers powerful tools for opt-in email marketing, list management, database segmentation, and deliverability assurance. Lyris offers both hosted and software versions for publishing email campaigns, newsletters, and discussion groups. Our commitment to permission-based marketing, outstanding deliverability rates, and our extremely positive ISP relations make Lyris' solutions among the best-selling email marketing applications on the market today. Headquartered in Emeryville, California, Lyris is a subsidiary of the J.L. Halsey Corporation (OTCBB:JLHY), a leading provider of technology solutions to marketers at mid-size businesses. J.L. Halsey's other brands include ClickTracks, EmailLabs, Hot Banana, and Sparklist.

For more information, please contact:
Kate Alexander
Lyris UK PR
Tel: +44 (0)20 8946 3739
Email: kate@alexanderpr.co.uk

Published on: 12:00AM on 5th June 2007