It’s not easy to be a big ISP these days. Consumers expect to be protected from unwanted email and from images that might offend them or link that might be dangerous. Marketers, meanwhile, complain about their permission-based messages that end up in the bulk folder or get mangled beyond comprehension by image suppression.
Microsoft is now offering a way for best-practices email marketers to bypass image suppression and be sure their images show and their links work, automatically. They have decided that users of Sender Score Certified will have images and links enabled by default when sending to Windows Live Hotmail. Because companies accredited by Sender Score Certified meet such high email standards, Microsoft knows that their subscribers will be safe with this decision.
We are obviously excited about this – it offers a huge new benefit to our certified senders and gives even more reason for senders to apply to be certified.
Why are the inclusion of images and links important? Easy – higher response rates. Research consistently shows that email that renders properly – meaning it looks more or less the way the designers intended – perform better than emails that have broken images. In fact, a Jupiter Communications study reported that “compared to text, HTML messages garner roughly double the response rate.” Also, when links are turned off by default it makes it difficult, if not impossible, for recipients to click them and take the actions the marketers intended. Broken images also defeat the branding efforts of marketers since logos and other branding elements tend to be graphical in nature. Of course, suppressed images also disable the ability to track open rates making it difficult to gauge the effectiveness of your email. Finally, broken images and turned off links can make emails feel suspicious, tarnishing the overall consumer perception of the company that sends that email.
Another new benefit of certified mail in Windows Live Hotmail is the inclusion of an unsubscribe button built into the interface. This should discourage spam complaints for legitimate marketers. In addition to being on the Sender Score Certified list, the mailer must provide an X-List-Unsubscribe header that tells Microsoft where the unsubscribe request can be sent. (Go to this page for more details).
We are also excited about what this means for email overall. The intention of Sender Score Certified has always been to make life easier for both receivers and marketers. Basically, create a system where receivers can have confidence that certified email is wanted by subscribers and send it on the inbox without any fuss. Marketers, once certified, can feel confident that their email is getting through to the inbox.
Our research shows, again and again, that consumers really do love email – when it’s valuable and relevant. And they prefer email that looks the way it’s supposed to and that has links that work. By enabling links and images for certified mail, Microsoft is making the program even better for both senders and subscribers.
Of course users of Sender Score Certified have known for some time now that it is about more than just deliverability to Microsoft. Sender Score Certified reduces filtering risks and increases delivery rates at more than 600 million email inboxes. Sender Score Certified is part of the filtering decisions of thousands of corporate domains and leading filtering solutions such as Spam Assassin and Barracuda Networks. ISPs and filtering companies rely on Sender Score Certified to protect more than 40 percent of all email inboxes, including 67 percent of all consumer inboxes, and query the Sender Score Certified whitelist more than 5 billion times per day. Sender Score Certified is the only email whitelist with deep consumer and corporate market coverage, including top universities and Fortune 500 companies.
Oh, and one last thing: image suppression is about way more than Hotmail and there are a number of tactics marketers should employee to ensure their email gets through the way it’s meant to be seen. Sign up now for our webinar Render Me This to learn about image suppression and message integrity.