Monthly Archives: March 2023

Do you know what you don’t know about your email?

As a marketer, I typically know if a prospect opens my email, clicks on a link or buys a product.  All 3rd party email marketing tools provide this information.  But, what happened before the Open?  

Did the email make it to the Inbox?  

Did it get delivered to the Spam or Junk folder?

Does my language, text, grammar or content seem spammy?

Did my email configuration affect my open rates?  

Are my 3rd party senders blacklisted or otherwise hurting me?

Are my prospects complaining about me to their Inbox Providers?

There are many layers protecting inboxes from spam and undesired email. Your business needs a strategy to ensure that your email passes through each layer to reach the recipient.   Your open rates will thank you. 

What can you measure?

Actually, with the right tools, you can get answers to all these questions.  Inbox Providers like Google, Yahoo!, and Office365 wants their inboxes to show relevant email so they provide data via DMARC Reports and Feedback Loops to help legitimate businesses.  Neglecting these key resources is equivalent to driving in traffic without a GPS: you don’t know what traffic incidents or twists and turns are waiting for you.

How does MxToolbox Help?

Inbox Placement

Will your email make the Inbox, Junk folder, Spam folder or fail to get delivered?

Inbox Placement allows you to test prospective campaigns with the most common Inbox Providers – Google, Yahoo! and Office365.com.  We’ll tell you if the email is delivered and to what folder.  We’ll even analyze the contents of your email to give you MxTips(™) to improve your inbox placement.  Some simple tweaks to verbiage or construction can often improve Inbox Placement tremendously.  

DMARC Reporting

Is your email configuration affecting your email delivery?  Are all your emails SPF, DKIM and DMARC compliant?  

To optimize your email delivery, and get your message heard, you need to constantly analyze and manage your email configuration.  Inbox Providers will send out DMARC digests giving you data on your SPF, DKIM and DMARC pass rates.  With this data, you can determine if you have senders missing from your SPF records, DKIM issues, or potential risks from fraud and spoofing.  MxToolbox Delivery Center gives you all the tools you need to take DMARC data and turn it into actionable email delivery insight.

Feedback Loops

Did a recipient complain about receiving your email to their Inbox Provider?  Did the recipient mark it as unsubscribed with the Inbox Provider?  Was the email address invalid or shut down?

Many Inbox Providers offer feedback loops or complaint mechanisms to validated emailers.  Once configured, you can get information on email addresses and campaigns and how recipients view your emails.  Analyze your recipient complaints, remove complainers, unsubscribers, and closed email boxes to massively improve your email delivery. MxToolbox Delivery Center allows you to configure and aggregate complaints across Inbox Providers to get insight into how your campaigns are perceived by recipients.

Adaptive Blacklist Monitoring

Are your 3rd party ESPs blacklisted and harming your email delivery?

Due to the nature of their business, 3rd party emailers will always have a few IP addresses blacklisted and it is probable that some portion of your email will be sent from a blacklisted IP address.  This only becomes an issue when a significant amount of your email from that provider is sent from blacklisted IP addresses.  MxToolbox Delivery Center included Adaptive Blacklist monitoring to detect, via DMARC, the IP addresses being used to send your email and analyze the blacklist status of the IP when the email was sent.  You’ll know if your 3rd party ESP is helping or harming your email delivery.  

Are Blacklists still relevant?

Blacklists were developed as a way to mark IP addresses used to send spam, IP addresses at risk of sending spam due to poor configuration or domains used in spam emails.  Blacklists would be consulted by an inbox owner when making email delivery decisions and should not be used to modify web traffic.  

The Arms Race

Early on spammers could set up an email server on any network and send unsolicited email to whatever email addresses they could scrape off the Internet.  Inbox Providers and other Companies then set up lists of IP addresses that were sending spam and shared them with each other – the first blocklist/blacklists came from these casually developed lists.  Eventually, blacklist providers emerged as a profitable business model and even developed traps to harvest the IP addresses of spammers without impacting actual users.  Blacklists became highly useful to block malicious email from a single email-sending IP address or small network.

Spammers could see the inevitable downturn in their scams and quickly changed IP addresses to resume sending spam.  Blacklists detected the new spam IP address, listed it and Inbox Providers blocked email from it.  This cycle continued.  Some Blacklists started listing entire networks and Internet Service Providers to stop them facilitating spam.  The downside is that legitimate senders can get caught in this cycle, but often have trouble changing IP addresses.  Delisting is available but sometimes time-consuming which delays or degrades regular business operations.  

Legitimate Email Marketing Can Be Blocked

Email marketing became a necessity to get a business growing on the Internet.  Setting up a mail server, maintaining it and keeping it off of a blacklist with any sort of email volume was difficult for smaller businesses.  Large companies could easily afford a big pool of IP addresses and several mail servers to shift load around. Entrepreneurs stepped in and created email marketing/email blasting companies to fill the gap. Email marketing firms took on the risk of blacklisting and the responsibility of moving the load around, as well as getting the IP addresses delisted in a timely manner.  But, which emailers were legitimate and which were spammers?   SPF, Sender Policy Framework, allowed businesses to designate an email marketing company as a legitimate partner.

New Technologies Emerge

Inbox Providers then changed the game, scanning for SPF to ensure legitimate outsourcing.  Most companies will not process an email if it does not pass SPF Authentication or SPF Alignment.  The next step was checking digital signatures using DKIM and tying it all together with DMARC.  This created a big bar to jump for many spammers, but also businesses.  An email needs to pass SPF or DKIM checks to be DMARC compliant and a sender needs to actively manage email configurations to get an email delivered.  A comprehensive email delivery tool like MxToolbox Delivery Center has become a necessity for understanding DMARC reports, managing configurations and maintaining good email delivery.

Spammers are beginning to adapt by hacking legitimate business email accounts or adopting SPF, DKIM and DMARC for their look-alike spam domains.  Unfortunately, small businesses are still lagging behind and their email delivery is suffering. SPF, DKIM and DMARC have become the minimum for good email delivery,  

So, are Blacklists Still Relevant?

Blacklists are less important than they were in the past.  You should think of email security as layers on an onion:

  • Blacklists
  • SPF
  • DKIM
  • DMARC
  • Internal Filters
  • Relevance Filters

If being on a blacklist is affecting your business, your email isn’t even making the first layer of security and you’ve failed to take advantage of all the tools you have available to manage your email deliverability.  Being blacklisted is like a heart attack, it’s a sign that you need to rethink everything, change your email practices and adapt to the new technology landscape.

Ultimately, blacklists may only be useful for on-premise email hosts and will lose some relevance, especially for Inbox Providers like Google, Yahoo! and Office365. Blacklists are brute-force and can eliminate legitimate, relevant email when blocking spam. There are many more layers to jump through before you get to the Inbox that are easier for Inbox Providers to maintain and more effective at blocking undesired email and passing legitimate useful communications.  All businesses need to adopt the current email best practices: 3rd party email senders, setting up SPF, DKIM, DMARC, leveraging DMARC Reporting, etc.  

How can MxToolbox help?

Get started with Inbox Placement!  Your goal is to get to the Inbox, so start there.  We’ll analyze your email configuration and content to give you clear reasons why your campaigns aren’t making it and make recommendations to help you get there. MxToolbox Delivery Center also provides deep insight into DMARC, SPF and DKIM configurations and allows you to obtain feedback on recipient complaints, DMARC reports and emerging email threats.  Get comprehensive insight into your email delivery with Delivery Center.