June 20, 2005
Blog Entry

Three Double Checks Before You Decide to Switch Email Service Providers

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, Publisher

A friend of mine emailed, "Anne, I'm fed up with my current email service provider. I think a lot of my mail is being filtered before it gets to my readers' in-boxes."

He figured switching to a new vendor would be like a silver bullet for delivery. If only he could pick the right one.

I had to be honest with him. Although we do publish Buyer's Guide to Email Vendors, I strongly advise marketers not to assume that switching vendors equals better deliverability.

Why? Because so much of delivery is determined by your own practices as a mailer -- not by your vendor. So, before you consider switching, first make sure you've done everything you should on your end to get the mail through.

Assuming you're already doing the obvious stuff -- only mailing true permission names messages you're darn sure they're interested in at a nonannoying frequency -- here are three more factors to double-check:

#1. Are you currently using a dedicated IP address to send email that no other mailer ever uses? Some vendors charge a bit more for this, some don't. Almost all offer it, and it's your responsibility as the mailer to insist on using this service.

Otherwise you're at the mercy of every other mailer sending from the same IP address. If any of the folks on their list block or blacklist them, your mailings are tarred with the same brush because you appear to be identical.

#2. If you send in HTML, is it coded properly? One industry expert told me off the record that almost never, ever, are email newsletters and alerts coded cleanly.

Much email design is done by Web designers who don't realize email requires super-clean code. Plus, as original email templates are altered and adjusted over the years, the code can get messy. To see if your HTML passes the test, run it through the online validator here: http://validator.w3.org/.

#3. Content filtering is *huge* in the corporate world. Great email service providers can help you get through to major ISPs with volume controls, strict list hygiene, and reputation.

However, many at-work email addresses are being protected by content-based filters that may have much higher false positive rates than big ISPs. Translation: if your copy contains enough junk-mail-looking words, your mailing to folks at work may not get through. To see if your copy passes the test, run it through an online validator here (or ask if your ESP provides a similar checker): http://www.lyris.com/contentchecker/

Still not getting through? Now it's time to pick up the phone and ask your current vendor for help with the problem. If they have no ideas, then (and only then) start shopping.

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