Now and then I find myself daydreaming about football…
Not just being at the game, but playing the game, professionally. A little off topic, right? Well sort of, but stay with me. In my daydream, I am the star running back. The stands are packed, the fans are unhinged, and our team is down by three points. It’s late in the game; the passing game isn’t doing so well, so it’s all up to me. As the running back, it’s my job is to take the hand-off from the quarterback and run in a touchdown. This means counting on my team to block defenders and find the openings to score–which in my daydream, happens a lot. After each touchdown the crowd erupts, my team is elated, and everything is great! And as my misty, water-colored daydream starts to close, the cheers die down, and reality creeps back i
I look around and realize that I’m not a professional football player. I’m an email marketer. The only touchdown I’m trying to score is getting my email campaign into my customer’s inbox and, the only blocks I’m getting are from mailbox providers. Unless you’re a running back, there’s never a good block. So, I’ve put together a list of steps you can follow to avoid having your mail blocked at Outlook.com.
Before we get started, don’t just take my word for it. Outlook.com’s postmaster page does a great job of outlining steps to avoid getting blocked.
Step 1: Check your bounce logs/non-delivery reports (NDRs)
Some mailbox providers including Outlook.com, provide senders with bounce logs. These logs will include an SMTP error code with a block. This includes a specific error code with the NDR (i.e., 421 RP-001, 550 SC-004, etc). NDRs have different translations. For a breakdown of Outlook.com’s SMTP error codes, click here and scroll to the end of the page.
Step 2: Follow Outlook.com’s policies, practices, and guidelines
Step 3: Maintain your sender reputation
Sending history, subscriber complaints, and list quality are important measures Outlook.com and other major mailbox providers look at to decide whether or not an email should be blocked or sent to the junk folder.
Step 4: Subscriber Engagement
Subscriber engagement impacts whether your email reaches Outlook.com inbox’s or junk folders. Microsoft looks at the following areas of engagement to decide whether or not to send email to the inbox or spam:
While you may not have insight into these metrics, you should track opens, clicks, conversions, web activity, etc. on your end. If your subscribers don’t register any activity based on your internal metrics, chances are they aren’t performing for Microsoft either.
Help subscribers stay engaged by setting the proper expectations up front regarding the type and frequency of email the subscriber will receive. Deliver on what you promised with email that is relevant to them and that they can easily recognize is coming from you.
Step 5: Get certified with Return Path
Outlook.com uses Return Path’s certified whitelist. This is one way to avoid being marked as an “unknown sender” by Outlook.com. Having a third-party like Return Path accredit your sending practices means Outlook.com can deliver your email to the inbox with images enabled. Acceptance into the program positively impacts delivery and in most cases results in a lift in delivery.
With all that in mind, you can daydream away—knowing your Outlook subscribers’ email is landing in the inbox. Now, the only blocks you should see are on the field.