Email Reputation & Testing Web Apps

Recently I was chatting with an associate who was experiencing email delivery issues. Every couple of weeks he would end up on a certain anti-spam vendors blocklist, her sender reputation in general would drop a bit and the bounce rate would jump up. You could almost set you watch by it happening.

It’s not unusual to see the occasional anti-spam vendor doing this in an attempt to sell you services – emailreg.org  (aka Barracuda Networks ‘pay to part spam some of our boxes’) springs to mind. But this was far too pronounced, and with other metrics it was obvious something was seriously amiss.

This associate had been brought up on the mantra ‘test, test and test some more’ – which is generally good advice, unless your web application happens to be firing out live emails – such as receipts or invoices – and you happen to be mashing the keyboard or feeing in email addresses like ‘asdfadsfads@example.com’,’test@test.com’ etc. Similar variations will soon have you heading towards well know spam trap domains -and even avoiding those by luck, the bounce and failure rate shoots up.

What made this particularly acute was that this was transactional mail, and sales were not super high, so those 100 plus tests very quickly pushed the metrics all over the place, knocking the bounce rate up to 80% on one day – along with a blocklisting.

The issue was cleaned up, advice given, and that was that. Or it would have been if it was not for rebills… Her CRM & Cart Software “Limelight” (a Godforsaken flaky platform) was helpfully re-emailing the duff leads every 2 weeks. This surprised us all… The fact it was actually working for once as intended. Limelight lacks any simple, quick and easy email testing or feedback as an application – and the support is very poor and generally argumentative – so it’s not something anyone could recommend for serious work if  you rely on your CRM for professional production work.

But coming back to the focus…. once a morning was spent deleting those, things have started to stabilise and things are looking up.

The moral of this cautionary tale…. when testing ‘stuff’, be very careful what you throw into the email field – it may just come around to bite thy ass.

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STOP TEXTING ME!

List hygiene is super important, and one of the most important steps is to remove recipients who don’t want your email. Plain and simple, it’s commercial suicide to mail people that don’t want to hear from you.

Ask any list admin or postmaster who looks after a list of a decent size, and they’ll tell you that no matter how great and funky your automated unsubscribe mechanism is, you’re always going to get those ‘special’ (as in retarded) individuals who struggle to understand the concept on a simple opt-out link.

These range from the plain abusive and mentally challenged people who fire off abuse and profanity for ‘spamming’ them – without realising that by replying to your mail, they are usually adding you to their contact lists and whitelisting you … (‘Way to go Homer….’), through to a disturbing amount of people who have set up some kind of forwarding so their actual subscribed email address is not where the mail is ending up.

A fairly new kid on the block is the ‘STOP TEXTING ME’ email – commonly seen with domains like these:

  • @tmomail.net
  • @email.uscc.net
  • @mymetropcs.com
  • @tms.suncom.com
  • @ptel.net
  • @txt.att.net
  • @MMS.att.net
  • @vtext.com
  • @mms.mycricket.com
  • @mms.cricketwireless.net
  • @msg.koodomobile.com
  • @qq.com
  • @txt.bell.ca
  • @vmobile.ca
  • @mms.gocbw.com
  • @mms1.live.vodafone.in
  • @smtext.com
  • @cspire1.com
  • @messaging.sprintpcs.com

Basically a message sent to a cellphone number, followed by the correct domain above, will cause a text message to be sent to that phone. These email to sms gateways were once widely abused by spammers, but seemed to vanish into relative obscurity. But they are back with a vengeance – and they seem to be finding use in forwarding, sadly by people who are too stupid to understand how they work.

These very special idiots will keep spending their money texting ‘stop’ to you – without realising that it’s not you texting them, but their own email forwarding. Now, as you don’t know what the actual address is  you sent email to, because the sender of the stop message comes from the gateway email, you don’t have a hope in hell of removing them from your list. And of course, explaining this by emailing back in under 160 characters is not viable. So I wrote this little post to say…

STOP ASKING ME TO STOP TEXTING YOU, AND FIX YOUR FORWARDING SHIT!

Somewhere you’ve set up notifications so that when your email arrives, it forwards to text on your cellphone. Get someone to help you with that, and quit sending me ‘STOP’ emails – because I can’t do jackshit about it!

Should be able to fit that into a URL shortner and text it back….

If you’re one of those people that likes to send abuse to try and unsubscribe, all I can say is “Thanks for the whitelisting bucket mouth!”

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Posted in Opting Out
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