Why You Should Thank Your ESP for Blocking You
One thing that fascinates me about the nature of email deliverability is that it's always changing. It requires constant adaptation from all parties involved: the email marketer, the email service provider (ESP), the internet service provider (ISP), and literally any service that works with email deliverability.
"With email delivery, it’s far from just the 'problem senders' who have issues. The email industry is constantly changing. ISPs change their standards and policies, and every email marketer experiences delivery issues."
Steve Henderson, Communicator Corp
A significant challenge many email marketers have is understanding exactly why they are running into deliverability problems when they are following "all of the best practices."
"For the people who understand delivery and know the best practices, the biggest pain point is understanding that deliverability is a moving target. There’s never a list of things that will accomplish great deliverability. For example, 'Here are 4 things, do these and you will make it to the inbox.' If we’re sending email to people that want to receive it, and we're doing it in a smart way, then that’s what’s really going to drive good deliverability."
Brad Gurley, WhatCounts
While there are hundreds of factors that affect whether a message is placed in the inbox, delivery issues are sometimes caused by an ISP's policy change, but are often due to email list quality.
"I would say the majority of issues I find associated with clients’ problems have to do with the list - due to no segmentation, or sending irrelevant email to recipients that weren’t expecting it or haven’t seen an email from them in quite a long time."
"Majority of the time, it’s not an ESP that’s causing the problem, it could be that maybe the client has been sending to an older list, maybe they’ve purchased a list, maybe they’ve changed their sending domain without notifying the ESP and gotten the correct DNS records."
Chris Arrendale, Inbox Pros
If you are experiencing problems and your ESP blocks you from sending email, that is a good thing for your sender reputation. In fact, it's the best thing that can happen to your long-term email marketing goals. A little known fact outside of the deliverability space is that many ESPs put senders experiencing issues on a low-reputation IP. Good ESPs will stop a deployment in the middle and alert a marketer if something doesn't look right. Great ESPs will block the campaign before it goes out, saving your sender reputation and allowing you to fix your email list first.
An IP reputation, or a sender reputation, takes time to build but only a short time to destroy. Sending email that is non-permission based is one of the fastest ways to destroy a reputation. If you run a sales based organization, there is no amount of money that can fix deliverability issues fast. It takes time to rebuild a reputation once it has been damaged. (Just another reason to think twice about purchasing an email list.)
If you are regularly seeing high bounces (above 3-5%) or regular spam complaints, you should look deeper into the cause and check out the health of your email list (for free here) before you send your next campaign.
Remember, the stricter your ESP, the better your overall deliverability. Getting blocked is simply a sign you need to clean your email list, remove inactive subscribers, and send a reconfirm or reengagement campaign.