By: Chris Lewis
Sometimes it's best to go back to basics to understand some of the issues that can hamper your email distribution efforts. One of those basics is just how email is sent through the internet to the destination. You may set up the perfect email and it may never reach your destination because it was blocked from getting there. Most of the "hoops" that need to be jumped through is because of SPAM and open SMTP relays (servers that will allow anyone to send from it). Below is a quick explanation of how the email system works and how your email interacts with sending and receiving SMTP servers. Here is the path an email takes:
1. Your email client sends an email to your SMTP server, say it was sent to email@example.com
2. Your SMTP server grabs the domain name in the email, in this case THEIRDOMAIN.COM
3. Your SMTP server looks up the MX records for THEREDOMAIN.COM from your DNS Server (this is the MXLookup you find in MXToolbox.com website)
4. In the order of priority, your SMTP server attempts to connect to the first destination SMTP server based on the first MX record.
5. If the first destination SMTP is unavailable or busy, your SMTP server will move on to the next destination SMTP server, and so on.
6. Once your SMTP server has connected to a destination SMTP server, before the email is transferred, the full return-path (or FROM) email address to is sent to the destination SMTP server
7. If the destination SMTP is setup correctly, it will take the return-path email address and extract the domain name (in our case ARIALSOFTWARE.COM if we were sending the email)
8. Now the destination SMTP starts authenticating the email by one or more methods. The most common are below:
10. Exceptions - Sometimes these methods will create a SPAM score, and if the score is exceeded then the email is rejected. So it is possible for one of these to fail but the email still makes it through
So, the answers to why an email does not make it is within this flow. The MXToolbox.com website is a big combination of different tests which may confuse the issues. Blacklisting ONLY has to do with the "sending" SMTP server and has nothing to do with a particular domain because you could use the same SMTP server to send out emails for multiple domains…so the IP address is king. If you try to send out emails through your SMTP server that is blacklisted, most of the time the emails will be rejected by the destination SMTP server.
So, to effectively use the MXToolbox.com tool for blacklisting detection, you need to do two things. First, you need to get the SMTP server they are using in Campaign Enterprise or Email Marketing Director. You need to translate that SMTP server setting to an IP address if it is not already one. Then you go to the Blacklisting tab and put that IP address in and then see if your SMTP server is blacklisted.
One last spin on this…if the SMTP server setting they are using is an "internal" IP address, like 10.10.10.1 or 192.168.1.100, then you will have to find out what the "external" IP address of the SMTP server is to see if it is truly blacklisted in the world.
By: Chris Lewis
As it turns out, we could keep going with all kinds of tips for making successful email campaigns, so the final ones I am writing about now and the last of the "prevalent" ones that we see regularly.
Consider Preview Panes - Many of your email recipients may be viewing your email in a preview pane with graphics turned off. You need to consider this happening and frame your emails appropriately. You may want to start your email with some text first and then add the graphics later down the email. If you email is one big graphic, you may be shooting yourself in the foot.
Emails should be as short as possible - An email needs to have targeted information that hopefully can be scanned quickly by the recipient with the most important issues up top. Don't build up your email like a written a book. You need to write the email so that the first thing they see will be the biggest and the best part of the email with the later info just being details.
Consider mobile devices - Many mobile devices only have a view space of 320 wide. So many people are using mobile devices that you may want to consider forming your email so it will look good in both normal computers and mobile devices. This can be a lot to consider, but depending on the audience you are targeting it is something to consider.
Now obviously every time you send out an email campaign it is hard to consider all the tips and strategies you have and still make the email look good in all circumstances. There is definitely a balance, and there are some things that are more important than others. I find that small tweaks to email marketing strategy can change effectiveness many percentage points. Email Marketing is not a "static" event. Just like any marketing effort, create and then evaluate.