Bypassing Email Filters Becoming Big Business

Goodmail Systems Inc. is broadening their CertifiedEmail program with deals announced Thursday with Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc.'s Road Runner and Verizon Communications Inc. - joining existing clients Time Warner's AOL and Yahoo. This is a huge expansion and will have some interesting repercussions on email marketing and deliverability.

Goodmail Systems provides businesses, individuals and other organizations the ability to have their emails guaranteed delivered, bypassing spam filters, for a fee. Usually a quarter of a penny per message and about a tenth of that fee for non-profit organizations. According to Goodmail Chief Executive Richard Gingras, half of the fees go to the ISPs.

Spam filters are getting increasingly aggressive at weeding out junk mail and, many times weeding out non-spam messages. For those companies that can afford the fees, a confirmation is sent that the message was received and lost messages can be resent. Recipients of the messages see a blue seal, verifying that the message is legitimate. It could be a big boost for business and non-profits and a huge money maker for ISPs and Goodmail Systems. By participating in verified message sending, the ISPs will undoubetly ratchet up their spam filters - making it harder on email marketers and small businesses, while forcing advertising and marketing budgets to balloon. A verified message will certainly get more attention from recipients. Just having a message show up in an inbox will add to brand recognition and trust, as users get more acustomed to relying on spam filters.

Those companies that have signed on with Goodmail Systems' program, such as email service providers (ESPs) CheetaMail, dotMailer, Acxiom Digital, Respnsys, Silverpop and Lyris are surely smiling today. These companies send out millions of emails for their clients and now their market gets even bigger. Get used to seeing "guaranteed delivery" from ESPs. The question is, at what markup? And what does this mean for email best practices? Gingras claims that big corporations' emails are the ones most commonly mischaracterized as junk. The truth is, small businesses are going to get squeezed. Even when a user opts-in to an email list, spam filters can still flag those messages and send them directly to a junk folder. However, at a quarter of a penny per message, guaranteed delivery is conceivably worth the investment.

For example, if your business has an email list of 100,000 recipients, you could guarantee deliverability of those emails for a fee $250 - without markup. Assume a 10% click-through rate, resulting in 10,000 website visits. Now assume non-guaranteed deliverable email typically results in an 80% deliverability (assuming your email is not spam, lists are clean and messages are properly optimized), resulting in 8,000 website visits. If you were to place a $1 premium on each visit, you've now lost $2,000 in revenue - where guaranteed deliverability, minus the fee, would have increased your revenue by $1,750 - a significant difference.

If you decide not to utilize certified email and the ESPs that support it, find another way to market your business or improve your email best practices.