Personal Whitelisting: Optimal Deliverability on the Cheap!

Posted by bkloss | Email Deliverabilty | Monday 21 January 2008 3:20 am

Achieving top notch Deliverability for email marketing requires a multi-front strategy. Many of the components are costly and time consuming while leaving you with an unclear picture of your overall Deliverability. Even if you decide to go with a top notch third-party sender that “advertises” near perfect rates to the in-box, personal experience will vary.

Personal whitelisting is a low-hassle, cost effective technique that offers all but a guarantee that your messaging will reach subscribers.

First off, let’s make the distinction between personal whitelisting and commercial whitelisting. Commercial white listing is provided by a service such as Habeas, Sender Score and Goodmail. There are specific benefits to such services including; more lenient spam filters, no server “throttling”, auto hyper-linking, and auto image rendering. After an evaluation of your sending practices (authentication, bounce rate, spam complaints, server setup, etc.) they will add you to their whitelist for a fee. The price varies by sending volume but you can expect to pay a startup fee of around $100 then pay several hundred to several thousand per year for inclusion. You are also required to pay a penalty per spam complaint (usually 10-20 bucks). Sound pricey?

Think about this- each service has relationships with DIFFERENT ISPs. Habeas is used by AOL, Earthlink and Google while Return Path is used by Hotmail, MSN and Roadrunner. Get the pitcture? You may need to obtain several certifications to ensure that the benefits are consistent across all ISPs and corporate domains. That translates into costs that may be out of reach for a small and medium size email marketers.

Personal whitelisting is a low/no cost alternative that guarentees message delivery to clients who have added you.

Personal whitelisting differs from expensive comercial services in that your clients add you to their whitelist. Each email service, either web-based or client side allows its users to designate accepted senders. If done correctly, senders on a personal whitelist will never be subjected to a subscribers spam filter or their providers blacklist. In fact, you and even the country you live in could be blacklisted by a service provider and your mail would still get through. The benefits don’t stop there. When some of your subscribers whitelisted you, it will help the deliverability of mail going to other subscribers using the same client. This occurs because clients use personal whitelists in part, to determine your overall sender reputation.

Personal whitelisting is often overlooked because it requires action from your subscribers. At best, many marketers will include a small message at the bottom an email footer requesting you to whitelist. Look folks- it’s already too late if you include a call to action to whitelist in an email. What about the people that never got your mail in the first place!

Personal whitelisting is most effective when you ask subscribers at the point that they sign up to your list.This is best accomplished by directing subscribers to a thank-you page when they sign-up to your email list. On that page, provide specific instructions on how to whitelist you as a sender. Chris Lang has provided a GREAT whitelist instructions generator at his blog. This script takes all the leg work out of creating a page with your custom newsletter name and sending address. On the thank-you page, I like to say something like “Thanks for signing up. To make sure that you receive the newsletter, please whitelist XXXX in your email address book with the instructions provided below. ”

If you hold tele-seminars and webinars with your subscribers these are also excelent opportunities to ask your audience to whitelist you. You’d be surprised how your deliverability will soar.

I’d love to hear if your deliverability improved on a list after implementing this practice. Feel free to shout out in comments.

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