Tag Archives: Email Delivery

Is BIMI Dead?

When Google, Yahoo and Apple announced their email applications would support BIMI, it appeared that BIMI was ready to become an important standard in email marketing. Think about it: Your precious logo directly attached to every email you send, right there in the subject line. You get instant brand recognition and, thanks to the DMARC requirement, trust.

But, BIMI adoption is hitting some serious speed bumps…

What’s going wrong?

BIMI has two major technical issues and one misconception contributing to slow adoption by businesses. Let’s start with the misconception.

BIMI Requires Strict DMARC policies

In order for an email to even be considered for BIMI, the sending domain must have implemented DMARC, must send DMARC compliant email and must configure their DMARC policy to 100% Reject or Quarantine. The major misconception we hear from our customers is: “Strict policies might stop some legitimate email from getting to the recipient”.

There is some truth to this, so, let’s break it down:

  • Email that is not DMARC compliant is inherently assumed to be suspect by the Inbox Provider.
  • Email that is DMARC compliant has a higher trust level.
  • Strict DMARC Policies instruct the Inbox Provider to stop non-compliant email.
  • Inbox Providers may choose to ignore or accept DMARC policies, but most incorporate them into their inbox placement algorithms.

Regardless of your DMARC policy, non-compliant email will be suspect, however, with a stricter policy ALL your compliant email will have a higher trust level. Going to a strict DMARC policy is better for your email delivery. You can fix a temporary compliance issue, earning trust is hard.

MxToolbox Delivery Center was designed to help keep all of your legitimate email DMARC compliant and quickly alert you to areas of non-compliance to keep your email deliverability at the highest level.

Getting a BIMI-Compliant Logo can be Difficult

The BIMI standard requires a square logo that reflects the brand of the domain, formatted in SVG, that meets very specific requirements and often requires “a few manual tweaks”. For most of our clients attempting to adopt BIMI, MxToolbox has found that getting a BIMI-compliant logo to be time-consuming and difficult. Until this process is simpler, companies will struggle to adopt BIMI.

Most BIMI Inbox Providers Require a Certificate

The BIMI Group originally made BIMI completely open on the assumption that achieving DMARC-compliance with strict policies was sufficiently difficult to prevent spoofing. However, spammers and fraudsters are quite savvy and capable of adapting quickly. For example, grab a BIMI logo from a legitimate company like Bank of America, setup a fake domain like BanofAmerica.net with SPF, DKIM, DMARC and BIMI and start spamming. It looks legitimate enough to fool the average spamming target and leverages a known brand’s legitimate logo.

To combat this potential loophole, BIMI Inbox Providers are requiring an evidence document called a Verified Mark Certificate (VMC) issued by a 3rd-party authority like DigiCert or Entrust Datacard. These authorities investigate your domain and issue a credential that certifies your DMARC and BIMI setup and issues a certification specific to your domain. This is similar to having a Secure Certificate for SSL/HTTPS.

The speed bump for BIMI adoption is that there are only two VMC issuers at present and the cost is $1100-$1500 per year, per domain. While this is negligible for big, well-known brands, smaller companies or companies with multiple domains may be priced out of the market further reducing the potential of BIMI.

The MxToolbox Expert Take

BIMI has become a bit of a moving target that makes it difficult to recommend at present. While our team of experts stands by to help you adopt SPF, DKIM, DMARC and BIMI, we no longer see BIMI as being essential or urgent until the standard stabilizes and/or the costs decrease.

Adopting DMARC and getting DMARC to a strict policy is imperative for good email delivery and adopting BIMI. Get started today with MxToolbox Delivery Center

Monitoring Complaints to Improve Email Reputation

As marketers, we all use some sort of marketing list for our email campaigns. These are typically opt-in prospects or existing customers. Sometimes we acquire lists from 3rd parties or put a case study or some other thought leadership behind a registration wall to obtain new marketing contacts. Regardless of where we acquire the email address, it has a certain value to us. But does the correspondence have value to the recipient? If not, it can affect your long-term sending reputation.

CAN SPAM

Before the CAN SPAM Act, end-users were inundated with junk email. This forced Inbox Providers like Google, Yahoo!, Hotmail and others to implement Junk and Spam filters to keep email at least somewhat relevant for their users. With the Act, marketers were now made responsible for policing their lists and removing anyone who opted out or unsubscribed. It’s an imperfect solution for several reasons:

  • Bad actors can completely ignore CAN SPAM.
  • Legitimate marketers can get email addresses from many sources, including the user, so the Inbox Provider cannot block unsolicited email.
  • Legitimate emailers can still “spam” a user with large amounts of irrelevant email unless that email user unsubscribes.
  • Unsubscribe methods may be complicated enough that users find it difficult and give up.

For these and many other reasons Inbox Providers have developed their own mechanisms to fight irrelevant email, spam and junk. These analyses can derail even well configured emailing domains.

Proprietary Junk and Spam Algorithms

Google, Yahoo!, Outlook.com/Office365.com, McAfee, Symantec and many other providers of inboxes or email gateway filtering software have come up with many ways to separate the valuable correspondence from the junk, spam and dangerous:

  • Blacklists – If the sending IP is on a blacklist, it’s probably spam. There are dozens of reasons for blacklisting, which includes being flagged as spam somewhere.
  • SPF Authentication – If the sender’s servers aren’t listed in the SPF record for the sending domain, it might be spam.
  • DMARC – If the sending domain fails, SPF checks or DKIM checks, then it might be spam. Our Delivery Center product started out as a DMARC compliance tool.
  • Attachments – Most inbox providers scan attachments for known malware and discard infected messages.
  • Subject Lines – There are certain subject lines typically used in spam and junk. These are easily filtered out.
  • Content – Content quality is an emerging issue for inbox providers. For example, dollar signs “$” or frequent use of FUD phrases might indicate spam. You can find more information about Content with our Inbox Placement tool.
  • User Feedback – Users provider direct and indirect feedback on relevance of a sender.

User Complaint Metrics Affect Email Delivery

Aggregating User Complaints is a great method for Inbox Providers to understand sending domain relevance across all their inboxes and discover emerging threats to their users. For example, your domain sends a legitimate marketing campaign and the Inbox Provider see the following:

  • ~20% of recipients open the email (based on global average open rates, yours may differ)
  • Some open the email and delete it without really reading it, indicating low engagement.
  • Some delete the email without opening, indicating apathy or disinterest.
  • Some mark it as spam or junk and even why they think it’s junk or spam.
  • Some click on your unsubscribe link, which can be tracked.
  • Some unsubscribe through the provider UI.
  • Some go to disused or invalid email addresses.

Do you know what these numbers are for your domain? Inbox providers are rating the deliverability of emails from your domain taking these new factors into account.

What can Marketing Do?

The good news is that Inbox Providers are willing to share your deliverability information with you! Called Complaints or Feedback Loops, Inbox Providers enable legitimate domains to subscribe to the complaints they receive from their users. Complaint detail can be:

  • The number of complaints received.
  • Email subjects that resulted in Unsubscribes, Spam Complaints or were marked as Junk.
  • Email addresses that bounce or were invalid.
  • Email addresses that unsubscribed at the Inbox Provider level.
  • Email addresses that marked emails as Junk or Spam.

Marketing can then:

  • Review campaigns that have a high complaint volume to improve them and make subsequent campaigns better.
  • Remove bounced and invalid email addresses from email lists. They’re wasting money and hurting your sender reputation.
  • Unsubscribe customers from marketing lists if they complained or unsubscribed. These complaints hurt your domain’s sending reputation and impact how your customers view your brand.

MxToolbox Can Help!

Our Delivery Center suite of email delivery tools now includes Recipient Complaints: aggregation, analysis and actionable insight that integrates with the top Inbox Providers’ feedback and complaint loops. Getting each Complaint/Feedback Loop integration setup can complicated, so MxToolbox Experts have created a simple, step-by-step guide for each integration: Yahoo!, Google, Validity, Mailgun, Microsoft and others. Get Started with Delivery Center and start improving your email reputation!

The Flavors of Successfully Delivered Email

Email delivery is a complicated thing. There are multiple layers of technology protecting an inbox at modern inbox providers like Google, Yahoo! and Outlook.com. For example:

  • Blacklists are used to identify IP addresses that have spammed or otherwise should not be trusted
  • SPF identifies legitimate sending IP addresses for a domain
  • DKIM allows a domain to sign email to ensure the integrity of the email
  • DMARC enables a sending domain to get feedback from Inbox Providers on SPF and DKIM compliance
  • Inbox Providers maintain internal Unsubscribe Lists
  • Inbox Providers maintains internal Spam Lists
  • Inbox Providers run proprietary Spam Content Analyses
  • Inbox Providers monitor engagement with emails from a domain

Email Delivery Standards

Technically Delivered

In the email world, a message is considered successfully delivered when the recipient can access the email. The email could be delivered to any subfolder for example:

  • Junk
  • Spam
  • Quarantine
  • Bulk
  • Promotions
  • Customer configured Filter or Subfolder

While this does not seem optimal to the recipient or sender, the email is accessible, just not in the main Inbox.

Undelivered email is completely inaccessible to the recipient. An email could be undelivered for multiple reasons, depending on how the Inbox Provider’s algorithms work:

  • The sending IP was blacklisted so the system declared the email Spam and rejected it.
  • The Sending IP was not listed in the Sending Domain’s SPF record. This is either a misconfiguration or a sign of a deliberate spoofing attempt.
  • The DKIM signature does not align with the Sender’s signature.
  • The recipient mailbox is full
  • The recipient mailbox does not exists

Marketing Delivery Success

Marketers only see email delivery as getting the email to the recipient’s Inbox. That makes sense as their mission is only accomplished when the email is Opened, Read and relevant links Clicked.

Obviously, there’s a bit of a disconnect between how IT sees delivery and how Marketing sees delivery. Both are correct for their purposes. They are simply not speaking the same language.

MxToolbox Helps you Reach the Inbox!

MxToolbox has long developed tools and services around Mailbox Delivery. Our early Delivery Center service focused on the primary technologies supporting email delivery: Blacklisting, SPF, DKIM and DMARC. Our newest features of Delivery Center change this focus to help the Marketer reach the Inbox.

Complaints

Inbox Providers often have a list of complaints leveraged by their users against Senders. Some even allow access to these complaints, which often include email reported as spam, dead email inboxes, full inboxes and even unsubscribes done only through the Inbox Provider. Delivery Center now includes a feature to integrate and aggregate complaints and make them visible and actionable for you to improve your sending reputation with Inbox Providers. Lowering your complaints goes a long way toward making your email deliverable to the Inbox. Learn more about Complaints.

Inbox Placement

Ultimately, Marketing looks at metrics like Open Rates, Click-through Rates and Purchases to judge an email campaigns strength. However, these indicators lag something more important: Placement in the Inbox. Delivery Center now contains a tools that enables you to test the inbox placement of an email campaign both before sending it to your customers and simultaneously with the bulk emailing. Inbox Placement works across the large Inbox Providers like Google, Yahoo and Outlook.com. Learn more about Inbox Placement.