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Learn the Jargon to Dominate Deliverability

Posted on 1.06.2013

It’s not uncommon for Web businesses professionals to be overwhelmed by jargon used in the industry in which they are participating — not to mention those oft fuzzy phrases related to the complex technologies employed today. Only when the important terms are learned, however, is it possible to make the necessary modifications, market more efficiently, and ultimately begin dominating the competition. Such is the case when it comes to email.

The problem for many professionals responsible for managing customer outreach through email is that, in addition to the marketing specific metrics (open rate, click rate, and read rate — and read length), there are numerous technical definitions that marketers must become familiar with. By mastering the meaning of these important terms and phrases, those responsible for successful email campaigns can, over time, begin to achieve better results including higher response rates, better inbox placement and even an improved sender reputation.

When it comes to deliverability specifically, the email lexicon can be quiet cumbersome. Deliverability, the likelihood that a message will arrive in the inbox of subscribers, remains a mystery to many but Website Magazine’s Glossary of Key Deliverability Terms will prepare you to hit the send button with confidence and put you far ahead of the competition.

Acceptance Rate: The percentage of emails that are accepted by a mail server. Note that this does not mean that messages actually arrived within a recipient’s inbox.

Authentication: Relates to the technical standards through which ISPs and other mail gateway administrators establish the identity of an email sender. There are different types of authentication including DKIM (Domain Keys) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework).

Blacklist: A list of IP addresses believed to be sources of unsolicited messages or spam. If you are concerned whether you have been blacklisted, use the Blacklist Check service provided by MXToolbox at

Bounce: There are two types of “bounces” — hard and soft. A hard bounce is the failed delivery of an e-mail due to a permanent reason like a non-existent address. A soft bounce is the failed delivery of an e-mail due to a temporary issue, like a full mailbox or an unavailable server.

Challenge Response: An automated message triggered by the receipt of an email for the purpose of identifying the sender as a trusted source. The challenge is a message to the sender with instructions on how to validate themselves. If the sender response is valid, the email address is added to the recipient's trusted sender list and the message is passed to the recipient. For a list of email verification services, visit

DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM): An email authentication method that allows an organization to take responsibility for a message in a way that can be validated by a recipient. Email service providers (ESP’s) typically provide a means for marketers to easily adopt DKIM.

False Positive: A significant problem for the email marketing industry, false positives are defined as legitimate permission-based email that is blocked by recipients due to the limitations of current email blocking and filtering techniques. Currently, upwards of 17% of permission-based email is blocked erroneously.

Honey Pot: A planted email address by organizations trying to combat spam that, when a spammer harvests and emails, identifies that sender as a spammer.

IP Warmup: Sending a progressively increasing number of emails out of an IP address in order to build the IP's reputation. Using the warmup period to send messages which have historically generated the highest response are ideal.

Sender Score: Return Path's reputation rating of 0-100 for each and every outgoing mail server IP. Low scores make it nearly impossible to get email messages into the inbox. Check your own score at

SPF (Sender Policy Framework): Another popular method of authentication, SPF is a record within the domain name server that indicates an IP or domain can send email on one's behalf.

Whitelist: Instead of listing IP addresses to block, a whitelist includes IP addresses that have been approved to deliver email to a recipient. To get added to a whitelist, request that users do so manually if necessary.

ISP Feedback: When the ISP forwards complaints of recipients to the organization that sent the email. Keeping track of complaint rates, and regularly pruning your email list to reduce the amount of email sent to uninterested recipients is vital to limit potential problems in the future.

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