Mailbox Providers Have Little Time to Focus on Delivery Issues


I’ve been asked time and time again by email marketers why mailbox providers (MBPs) are so unfair or why they ‘hate’ marketing mail so much.  The truth is they don’t hate marketing mail. They just don’t have time to think about it much. Their #1 responsisbility is to keep their users safe, followed by keeping them happy, and everything else follows that.

In 2012, nearly 70% of all email traffic around the world was spam and phishing. Mailbox providers spend most of their time and energy stopping this from reaching their users’ inboxes, so that email users can trust email and what is delivered to the inbox. This isn’t just great for the end user, it’s also great for the marketer. It means that marketers face less competition in the inbox from real spam, and have a better chance of actually being read by their subscribers. Stopping spam and phishing requires constant vigilance and time from postmasters.

There is one thing, however, that email marketers and mailbox providers have something in common: they both want to keep their customers happy.  Mailbox providers measure this happiness several ways:

1.     How many votes of “this is spam” and “this is not spam” subscribers give to a business’s marketing emails

2.     How many of a business’s emails are deleted without being read

3.     The rate in which subscribers add a sender to their address book or safe senders list

4.     The rate in which emails are being opened and read by subscribers

By measuring their users’ happiness this way, it ensures that if spam does make it past the gamut of spam filters, it can be caught, removed and corrected for the future. If marketers are missing the mark against any of these measures, as well as the common reputation measures mailbox providers look at to filter spam, they will have a harder time convincing anyone that their emails should be delivered to the inbox. Ignoring their users would result in a bad user experience, and over time could result in their users packing up and moving to another email provider. This would be a lose-lose situation for the mailbox provider and the marketer, since they would likely lose that subscriber.

Troubleshooting deliverability issues for individual marketing campaigns can be difficult. Think about a typical day in the life of a postmaster.  They do much more than troubleshoot why some messages aren’t getting to the inbox.  They want to make sure their brand image is one of trust, and they do everything they can to protect that.  Their main focus is making sure their systems are secure and there isn’t any bad stuff getting in – or going out – of their systems.  When things go wrong or email systems become compromised, these individuals spend time researching the root cause and repairing vulnerabilities. Simply adjusting spam filters for certain marketers could ultimately affect other legitimate senders, or worse, let spam and phishing emails through to their users.  There is zero tolerance for failure – one spam breach or one fraud breach is one too many.  Add to that meetings that need to be attended, putting out fires that come up and need to be dealt with immediately, projects that need to be addressed, and the list goes on. It is a challenge for mailbox providers to block all the bad stuff without any collateral damage. This is why mailbox providers rely heavily on user feedback – mostly “this is spam” and “this is not spam” – to inform them when they are doing something wrong.

If you’re a marketer experiencing deliverability issues, you should first look at your own reputation and ensure your reputation measures are below the acceptable limits mailbox providers allow:

1.     “This is spam” complaints are below the mailbox providers’ thresholds – typically between .01% and .1% – and you are enrolled in feedback loop programs and are suppressing your subscribers that complain

2.     You’re sending to zero spam traps

3.     You are mailing from IP addresses with an established sending history

4.      You’re authenticating your sending email domains so your emails aren't mistaken for phish

5.     You are sending from a secure email platform that follows standard requirements and suggestions as mentioned in RFC 5321

6.     The content in your email message is well formed and does not contain any URLs that are blacklisted

If you’re still experiencing issues reaching the inbox, that’s where people like myself and others at Return Path can help, and verify it’s not an issue affecting all email senders, or if it’s unique to you. If it is a legitimate mistake, mailbox providers are generally more than willing to correct, but it's best to leave us to contact them. After all, they want to ensure their users are safe and happy – which means even delivering email their users requested. If you’re still having issues, contact us to find out how Return Path can help.

minute read

Popular stories



BriteVerify email verification ensures that an email address actually exists in real-time


The #1 global data quality tool used by thousands of Salesforce admins


Insights and deliverability guidance from the only all-in-one email marketing solution

GridBuddy Cloud

Transform how you interact with your data through the versatility of grids.

Return Path

World-class deliverability applications to optimize email marketing programs

Trust Assessments

A revolutionary new solution for assessing Salesforce data quality


Validity for Email

Increase inbox placement and maximize subscriber reach with clean and actionable data

Validity for Data Management

Simplify data management with solutions that improve data quality and increase CRM adoption

Validity for Sales Productivity

Give your sales team back hours per day with tools designed to increase productivity and mitigate pipeline risks in real-time