Successfully Migrating to a New ESP: Pt 2 - FireDrum Email Marketing

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Email Authentication with Migrating ESPs
Before we dive into the deliverability differences of transactional and promotional emails, we must first understand what each are.
When people are shopping online and subscribe to an email list, they are signing up to receive promotional emails. These promotional emails are generally sent to groups of people interested in the same product the company is offering.
Transactional emails, on the other hand, are emails exchanged between one single customer and the company. Transcational emails are usually sent to confirm a purchase or complete a transaction from an online form.

Transactional-Only Email Streams: Do they require a warm up process like our promotional emails?

You don’t need an IP warm up period with transactional email streams. This is for two reasons:

      1. When it comes to sender reputation, transaction-only email typically performs well. Unlike the normal IP, deliverability issues are uncommon.
      2. Compared to promotional streams, you don’t have as much control over transactional email streams. Transactional emails are in response to the action of a customer, and typically have a high engagement rate. Think about your transactional email experience, for example. After you purchase something from Amazon or Etsy, how likely are you to open their order confirmation notice? Will you click on their “track your delivery” emails? More than likely you will.

Because of the differentiation, marketers can expect great deliverability rates on transactional IPs. This process is formally known as an “organic warm-up.” Organic warm-ups create a good reputation for the sender from the start of using the new ESP.
Think about how quickly your sending volume will build with these transactional emails. How strong your reputation would be with the new IPs. Taking this into consideration, maybe you should re-evaluate your migration plan. Instead of switching all of your data over to the new ESP on the first day, convert only a few transactional email programs for the first few weeks.  That will keep your email volume from rising too fast, and protect your sender reputation.

Basics of Email Authentication

Au•then•ti•cate (v): prove or show (something, especially a claim or an artistic work) to be true or genuine. To validate.
This sums up email authentication perfectly. As email marketers, we must establish an authentic profile to protect ourselves from fraud and falsification.  Authenticity safeguards your brand from two types of email treats: phishing and spoofing. Because each ISP has different authentication requirements, make sure to research what your ISP demands.
When switching to a new ESP, users need to know what authentication protocols are in place to correctly configure their account. Your ESP setup guide should explain everything you need to know.
Common email authentication methods:

  • SPF: Sender Policy Framework. Standard method to prevent forged sender addresses. It verifies the sender’s identity by checking if the domain in the “Mail From” box has a published sender record in the Domain Name System (DNS).
  • DKIM: Domain Keys Identified Mail. Validates whether or not the message was sent by an authorized source. DKIM works by encrypted authorization. The sender’s computer must publish a public/private key pair to their DNS records.
  • DMARC: Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. DMARC establishes the way in which the receiving party authenticates received messages. Both the SPF and DKIM methods are optimized in the DMARC process. This standardization process ensures that email senders will have consistent authentication results.
  • TLS: Transport Layer Security. TLS is an encryption process you must follow to securely deliver mail. Without TLS, third parties are able to intercept and alter your messages. This encryption protocol also protects from other mail severs eavesdropping and spoofing. As a standards-based protocol, TLS is designed based on the well-known Secure Socket Layer (SSL). Its effectiveness has caused TLS to grow in popularity as the preferred email securing method. It uses cryptography to authenticate email and provide a means of secure internet communication. TLS can related to using HTTPS secure web pages, as it has similar pros and cons.

The Importance of Feedback Loops

It’s good to be aware of feedback loops (FBL) when setting up a new account. We have found that feedback from email subscribers is a valuable tool in managing sender reputation and email deliverability. Several ISPs provide us with this feedback by using FBLs. They transmit this feedback by using a “path” to return the information received by a recipient. Anytime a subscriber reports a message as spam or junkmail, the ISP records this and sends it back to us via the feedback loop we’ve created. Most of the well-known ISPs offer feedback loops, including:

  • Yahoo
  • Hotmail
  • Comcast
  • Cox
  • AOL
  • Fastmail
  • Terra
  • Synacor
  • ZoHo
  • Roadrunner

No doubt you’ve noticed two obvious absences from the list: Gmail and Apple mail. Both email providers lack the ability to provide feedback for messages reported as spam. Although they are lacking the cherished FBLs, they do have another feature called List-Unsubscribe.
You might have noted Apple Mail’s new banner that rests on top of promotional emails. This feature allows you to quickly unsubscribe from a mailing list. For all individuals that push this unsubscribe button, their contact information will be collected and given to the sender. They also will be automatically unsubscribed from the senders list.  This collection method is commonly referred to “The Poor Man’s Feedback-Loop.”
If you’re interested in engaging in Apple Mail’s or Gmail’s List-Unsubscribe feature, your first must authenticate your email with the SPF/DKIM. After authentication, take advantage of the “mailto” option.  Update the List-Unsubscribe header to automatically send emails to an address of your choice. Note, you can only proceed with this option if you have a good sender reputation.

What You Should Know About Whitelisting

As of now, the only providers that actually keep whitelists are Yahoo and AOL. This is a way for senders to make sure that they’re sticking to best email practices, and are viewed as trustworthy by the ISP. However, being on a whitelist can’t guarantee that your email will be delivered. Whitelists are not free entries into someone’s mailbox, and certainly should not be depended upon. Want to check if you’re still on a whitelist? Unfortunately, there is no way keep tabs. In our opinion, there’s little benefit (if any), to being either email’s whitelist – filtering rules will still apply to all of your email campaigns. To us, being whitelisted is more of an announcement to an ISP. You’re letting them know that you intend to send a high volume of emails from your IP address.

The next article in this series will provide insights,  tips, tricks and secrets on successfully engaging new subscribers. Read → “Email List Tips: Engaging New Subscribers
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