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Apr 08, 2008
How To

EMAIL UPDATE: Yahoo!’s Message-Blocking Filters: 4 Steps to Get Your Email Delivered

SUMMARY: Through much of February and March, email marketers fretted about Yahoo! sending legitimate messages into waiting queues for hours. And then, the problem reportedly was fixed.

Not so. It’s back. So, we talked to several experts to see what marketers can do immediately to fix this on their end. Here are 4 steps to cope with Yahoo!’s new filtering tweaks.
Deliverability is on the front burner again – despite attendees at MarketingSherpa’s recent Email Summit in Miami telling us that it was not the issue it was a year ago.

Yahoo! is causing all the fretting, as the ISP continues to try to squash spammers by making message-blocking tweaks to its email filters. A quick survey of numerous email service providers shows that the problem is hurting at least half of marketers.

Emails are being sent to junk folders or getting held up in the Yahoo! system queue for as long as three hours as they usually wait for a busy server to ease up. Sometimes, emails end up getting coded as a soft bounce.

“Yahoo! always has had a general issue with just delivering mail on a timely basis,” says Jeff Mills, Director, Sales & Strategy, eROI. “And, something recently happened with their spam filtering, where they are basically reporting a lot more false-positives. All of the ISPs need to be more open, talking with ESPs -- not just Yahoo! We need them to work with us more, rather than leave us in the dark.”

Here are 4 steps to take if you’re getting messages blocked by Yahoo!:

-> Step #1. Evaluate your email system

First, look at your own email system and make sure the problem doesn’t begin and end with your processes. You need to systematically break down what’s happening on your end.

Can you answer these five questions with a quick “Yes.” If not, the culprit may be you and not Yahoo!

#1. Is your team following best practices with each campaign?
#2. Do you have a reputation-management manager in your department?
#3. Are you sending from a dedicated IP address?
#4. Do you have your sender-authentication lined up?
#5. Do you have regular teleconferences with your ESP to discuss deliverability?

“Don’t be afraid to hold the hand of your ESP,” says one deliverability rep. “Yahoo!’s rules can change overnight. The more you communicate with the ESP, the better off you will be.”

-> Step #2. Monitor your email regularly

If you use a full-service ESP, they can help you use their system to do inbox monitoring. Specifically, the program tells you how well your messages are being delivered to Yahoo!, AOL, Gmail, MSN, Comcast, etc.

Typically, this is something your ESP does for you. But it never hurts to audit your service provider. Ask them about inbox monitoring, how to access it regularly and, if possible, actively check it yourself. Or, at least set up a weekly briefing on what the data looks like.

Keeping a daily or regular watch on how your ISP performances look is paramount, says Jake Long, Delivery Manager, Emma Email Marketing. “Monitoring is incredibly important and is something you have to stay on top of. For example, when you get a deferral message, you need to make another pass at delivery for the cases where [the email receiver’s] server is down or too busy.”

-> Step #3. Adjust your timing

Right now, delivery to actual Yahoo! inboxes can take up to three hours longer than usual, Mills says. Part of the problem is that many emailers are sending at the same time – often the favored send time, 10 a.m. Tuesday. That clogs the pipeline.

It’s important to keep this reality in mind. If it’s imperative that your emails arrive in the inboxes at 10 a.m. Tuesday, for instance, you might want to schedule the Yahoo! file a few hours earlier than the rest of the list. This way, even if your message doesn’t land exactly when you want it to in Yahoo! inboxes, you might still be able to beat the mid-morning rush. Test by using a Yahoo! email account of your own. As we’ve seen with recent Sherpa Case Studies, timing can be huge.

“From what we have noticed, [the delivery slowdown] really depends on time of day,” says Ted Roberts, Director, Deliverability & ISP Relations, Silverpop. “If you send early in the morning or during a less-busy time, you will not see those problems.”

-> Step #4. Talk to Yahoo!

OK, you have evaluated your system, monitored your emails, and adjusted your timing for Yahoo! addresses. But your messages are still getting blocked or significantly slowed. Now what? Start pinging the heck out of the ISP’s postmaster team.

There are three different forms you can fill out, depending on your situation. Each is hotlinked in the “Useful links” section:
o Delivery Issues Form
o ISP Issues Form
o Bulk Senders Form

“It’d be great to see what kind of answers the marketers can get,” says Mills. “While my guess is that Yahoo! will say that they do not have any issues, doing what you can to start a dialogue is the way we need to go.”


Useful links related to this article

Past Sherpa article - 13 Deliverability Tips wrap-up from the 2007 AOTA show:
https://www.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.html?ident=2994


Forms for Yahoo!’s Delivery Issues, Bulk Senders and ISP Issues: http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/mail/postmaster/forms_inde
.html


Definitions for various email authentication terms:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-mail_authentication


Yahoo! Postmaster Help section:
http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/mail/postmaster/


Yahoo!’s self-authored “best practices” for sending to them:
http://help.yahoo.com/l/us/yahoo/mail/postmaster/
postmaster-15.html

Yahoo! Mail Blog:
http://ymailupdates.com/


Word To The Wise -- blog that consistently tracks deliverability issues:
http://blog.wordtothewise.com


Return Path’s blog “Email Marketing Water Cooler”:
http://www.returnpath.net/blog/deliverability/


eROI Inc.:
http://eroi.com/


Emma Email Marketing:
http://myemma.com


Silverpop:
http://silverpop.com/


See Also:

Comments about this How To

Apr 08, 2008 - Dan Ehrmann of ClubExpress says:
The article didn't mention the number one issue from Yahoo's standpoint - SPF. Yahoo is a strong proponent of the Sender Policy Framework. Their email best practices say that they look for SPF records for a domain in DNS as a primary determinant of whether an email sender is legitimate. Create SPF records for your domains that send emails and your email delivery issues will go way down. I've found working with Yahoo to be very frustrating in general. If you submit the forms referenced in the article, even if they promise a 48 hour turnaround, you won't hear from them for weeks. (Admittedly, they are a little distracted right now with the Microsoft takeover...) After submitting one of the forms, then waiting for a couple of weeks, then resubmitting and waiting again, we finally heard from someone that we had been put in a "2 week evaluation cycle". Then nothing. We are still having the delay issues, even though we believe we're following best practices and we now have an SPF record.


Apr 08, 2008 - Matt of EmailKarma.net says:
Many of the Yahoo issues have been resolved and its been said that any remaining issues are likely the result of filter adjustments and fringe cases where reputation was already near the edge of rate limiting, or filtering. Using the postmaster help pages is the recommended course of action for senders that continue to experience issues. Yahoo has been very open with their communications to ESPs, posting their the Y! mail blogs and the updated Postmaster pages. ISPs are working to get this type of info out to people, even AOL recently started a postmaster blog. The real key to uninterrupted email delivery is to have a clean, consent based, highly relevant mail stream.


Apr 09, 2008 - Chris Heine of MarketingSherpa says:
Matt, thanks for the comments. As we stated in the story, there seems to be a divide about what different marketers are experiencing. However, you bring up a good point that we also emphasized in the article: ESPs and marketers need to be responsible for their end of things. First and foremost, folks need to mind their own walls. After that, they can try to contact Yahoo! and state their case.


Apr 15, 2008 - Rob Skelton of SearchEngineZ says:
Meanwhile I am seeing more and more junk in my Yahoo inbox. Seems to me that currently the easiest way to bypass Yahoo's filters is include the word Viagra in the subject line.



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