Let’s cut to the chase. Simply put, mailbox providers (MBPs) are the gatekeepers between your email and your subscribers. Using proprietary algorithms, they filter your email into the appropriate place, be it the proper tab, the spam folder, or the inbox in general.
Marketers who are serious about their email ROI are also serious about their deliverability, and by using email analytics, you can start to figure out how MBPs see and treat your mail. Armed with that advanced data, you can start to think like an MBP for even better success, because if you can anticipate what an MBP will look for within your marketing messages, you can ensure you’re not running afoul of best practices.
To do that, you need to understand who and what are mailbox providers, and what they set out to do (beyond just receiving email, of course).
They’re exactly who you think they are!
They’re companies like Verizon Media, Gmail, etc. who provide inbox hosting services for email subscribers. Without MBPs, there’s no way to reach your customers via email because there simply isn’t any place to which you can direct it. Seeing as MBPs are the key to reaching your recipients, they’re also the most important factor in decisions like folder placement, bounces, and more.
Every MBP strives to provide the best defense against malicious email as possible, providing a superior experience for customers, especially for the most cutting-edge MBPs like Gmail. Spam filtering is a huge part of that. A spam filter is like an immune system. Gmail has superior spam filtering technology, keeping their mailboxes “healthier” than MBPs in which dangerous email more easily sneaks past filters, resulting in a better user experience.
To understand how to land in the inbox, you have to think like an inbox. And without their approval, or at least the approval of their spam filter, you won’t be able to reach any recipients utilizing their service. You have to follow their rules of engagement, explicit and unspoken.
It also allows marketers to identify ways to work within the existing email filtering ecosystem. One of the things making deliverability so challenging is its constant evolution to respond to the newest threats for the users it protects, much like an immune system. You can be fine one minute, the filter then shifts, and you start encountering problems. Due to the inherent bias of spam filters to find spam email, the problem is likely to continue until the sender intervenes and changes their behavior.
Beyond all that, they are the user experience experts when it comes to what users want from email. They have so much more comparative information than senders can ever amass. Insight on spam filtering decisions represents the opportunity to receive distilled feedback from a machine learning system with access to a massive and continuously updated data set. They literally do not have an incentive to behave in any other way than would delight their users.
The great news here is that it’s not too hard to make sure you’re not running afoul of the MBP rules. All the email deliverability best practices we espouse here at 250ok are designed to keep you in the good graces of MBPs. If you don’t know where to start, we’ve got a Deliverability Guide to get you on the path. Once you’re able to confidently infuse best practices and apply the email analytics you can get from a platform like ours, you can turn your sights to an even more fickle beast: compelling your recipients into clicking your email! But that’s a conversation for another day…