Looking for Some Peace of Mind? Get Certification.

There are two questions I get asked all the time when people find out I work for Return Path. First, is what makes Return Path different from the other vendors out there? While there are many things about Return Path I feel make us stand out from the field, including the personal expert advice and support we offer; my favorite difference is our certification program. Which brings me to the second question I get asked a lot in one form or another: How can certification make my life easier?

The answer is that certification offers peace of mind. Certification does this by going far beyond just a sender whitelist. There are many benefits and advantages to the certification program, but rather than explain them to you, I want to show you some of the most impactful ones and how they can help provide that peace of mind.

Getting to the inbox so your emails have the chance to be opened
For many of our clients, they see the direct impact of certification on their inbox placement rate right away. Here are a few quick examples:

One of our clients struggled with getting emails to their subscribers on a regular basis. This happened not just at one or two mailbox providers–but at many of them. After joining the certification program in late September, they saw an immediate (next day) jump from an average inbox rate of 60% to 73%, with a corresponding drop in their spam folder placement. Later, they raised that number even more due to certification, but I’ll share that story in just a bit.


The charts below come from another client. This long-time certification program client ran into trouble over the summer in meeting the program’s eligibility requirements. The red dashes in the graph represent time periods where the client was suspended from certification and did not receive any benefits as a result. The clear areas represent time when they were fully certified again. As you can see for Microsoft below, without certification benefits the client’s inbox rate at Microsoft was between 50%-85% with a lot of variation day to day. Upon receiving full certification benefits again that inbox rate quickly climbed to 100% and remained steady at that level until they were suspended once again.


Yahoo data for the same client shows a similar trend to the Microsoft data. We can see inbox rates between 80%-95%, when not certified with a lot of ups and downs, and a consistent 100%, or nearly so when certified.


As these two clients demonstrate, you can get higher and more consistent inbox placement rates by using the certification program. You will have far fewer worries about how that special campaign, privacy policy update, or any of the many other challenges you face, might impact your email program’s performance.

Insights and data needed to identify and solve many email program issues
Improved performance is really only the beginning of the story though. As part of our certification program, you receive data about your emails directly from many major mailbox providers and filters. This data can help to troubleshoot other issues and challenges your email program might face.

A third client we work with was having trouble with spam traps at Cloudmark. At one point they were hitting nearly 180 traps per month at Cloudmark (a leading 3rd party spam filter) alone. Because they were part of Return Path’s certification we were able to reduce the frequency of those traps to just one or two per day–a level at which they no longer saw their campaigns impacted. How was this possible?


Cloudmark provides data to Return Path as part of our certification program. We reviewed the daily data feed and were able to use this to help them diagnose the problem. Spikes in Cloudmark complaints coincided precisely with list uploads from a particular acquisition source. Once we identified the source of the problem, we were able to stop adding spam traps through that upload while still being able to gain the additional email address from that source. Without the data from certification, the client would have struggled to identify Cloudmark was impacting their email program at all let alone isolate the actual source of the bad email addresses.


This brings us back to the first client we discussed. While they experienced an initial boost to inbox placement upon joining certification, there was still room for additional improvement. Using data now available to them through certification they already tackled a problem they had with high SRD rates at Microsoft. Like Cloudmark, SRD data were able to isolate a problem with an elevated complaint rate at Microsoft on two of their IPs. Using this data, we were able to help our client reduce their complaint rate on those IPs from around 0.35% down to 0.14%–less than half the previous level.


While the data in certification showed us this pattern at Microsoft, we were able to apply the lessons there to other mailbox providers as well. The end result is in the last 15 days this client has had an overall inbox placement rate of about 98%, up from that original pre-certification level of just 60%.


Your email program may not need to increase your inbox rate from 60% to 98%; however, I haven’t met an email marketer who wouldn’t feel better with a little more stability and predictability in their inbox rate. Tools like this help you identify and fix problems and enable you to overcome obstacles that often come up in email programs. That is the peace of mind that the certification program from Return Path can provide…just ask our clients.

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