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Terrifying Email Deliverability Study

Posted on 4.22.2008

According to the Lyris ISP Deliverability Report (PDF), nearly one out of every five permission-based email messages sent to U.S.-based ISPs lands in the junk mail folder. That means slightly more than 76 percent of invited email successfully makes it to the inbox. Worried yet? Good.

From Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, 2007, Lyris HQ EmailAdvisor monitored the full delivery trajectories of 436,558 production level, permission-based email marketing messages sent from 69 different businesses and non-profit organizations to multiple accounts at 59 ISP domains in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia. See below for how those ISPs fared. 

“These are messages that have been invited by the recipients, and yet so many of them still aren’t making it to the inbox,” said Blaine Mathieu, SVP of Marketing, Lyris, Inc. “ISPs base much of their delivery decisions on a sender’s reputation – and that reputation is governed primarily by how often that sender’s recipients click the ‘Report as Spam’ button for its messages. Marketers can improve delivery by better managing their relationships with their subscribers – to reduce those spam button clicks.”

Author of the report Stefan Pollard advises marketers to embrace the new, broader definition of spam. “The definition of spam has moved beyond the legal requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act to include any message that is unrecognized, unexpected or unwanted. With the spam button, ISPs have given recipients increased control over what messages they wish to receive and this feedback is used to gauge a sender's reputation and future delivery. This puts the onus on senders to overcome those hurdles with every recipient – to make their messages recognized, expected and wanted. Until they do, invited email will continue to be delivered to the bulk folder,” said Pollard.

Easy Message Content Fixes
Lyris also ran 1,716 unique emails from the sample through a content score application using the Spam Assassin rule set to see how they measure against ISP spam filters. The top three most frequently triggered “red flags” were emails containing images with little to no text, a “from” name that isn’t real and messages that are 60 percent or more HTML. “Several of the triggers stem from poor HTML coding and design, and can be easily corrected to improve inbox delivery,” said Pollard. “Message content doesn’t carry the same weight as sender reputation in determining where a message is delivered, but there’s still value in doing everything you can to tip the scales in your direction.”

How the ISPs fared on deliverability
In the United States, the ISP with the highest inbox delivery rate is, with 93 percent of its delivered messages landing in the inbox. RoadRunner SoCal is a close second at 92 percent, while the rest of the top 10 have inbox delivery rates in the 80s. Hotmail is second from the bottom, with just 57 percent of its delivered messages reaching the inbox.

The U.S. ISPs most likely to relegate invited email to the junk mail folder include XO Concentric (62 percent of its total delivered permission-based messages were sent to the junk mail folder) and SBC Global (23 percent of its messages). MSN Network, Hotmail and Yahoo all hover around 21 percent. AOL is closer to the other end – with just 1.2 percent of its delivered email landing in the junk mail folder. Outside the United States, European ISPs had the highest percentage of junk mail delivery at 19 percent – compared with 14 percent for Canada and 10 percent for Australia.

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