How to Ensure That the Email You Send Actually Gets Delivered?

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Dear The Internet Patrol,

We run several small and medium sized mailing lists. For each of them, we have the permission of every single person on the mailing list to send them our email. In some cases they have actually paid to be on the mailing list.

Despite this, many times we find that the email we send to our users is not getting through. Sometimes it is because their email provider is using one of those so-called blacklists. More often it is because of a poorly configured spam filter. Once in a while it is even because some misguided end-user reported our mail as spam, even though they asked for it (and we could prove it).

I realize that spam is a big problem, and that administrators need to protect their servers, but what can we do to help make sure that our mail gets delivered?


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Over Filtered

Dear Over,

You raise a very important point, as increasingly more baby is being thrown out with the spammy bathwater.

The issue of “false positives” – good, wanted email being cast aside because it looks too much like spam, comes from a “tainted” IP address, or was simply erroneously reported as spam (and more than one ISP is guilty of making this way too easy for their users) is the bane of the commercial emailer’s existence. Even the purest of mailers now finds that the email they send experiences delivery failures of 5 – 10 – even 20% or more, the lion’s share due to overzealous or even moronic spam-filtering or reporting.

We personally knows of a company which lost their domain because their ISP decided that their registrar’s domain renewal notice was spam, and dropped it on the floor. We also knows a well-respected online publisher which experienced a 10% delivery failure of one issue of their completely double-opted-in publication because in one of the articles a reviewer had used the name of a well-known anti-impotency product by Pfizer – once (and, ironically, in the context of a PDA’s spam-filtering capabilties).

But knowing that you are in good company doesn’t really help you in your quest to increase your deliverability. So here are some things which you can do to help ensure that most, if not all, of the email you send actually gets delivered. You can also contact eDeliverability (see below) to help you deal directly with individual sites or filters which may be blocking you.

1. Make sure that your email doesn’t look like spam. This may sound obvious, but it’s much less so than you may think. What may look like a great newsletter or marketing offer to you may look very much like spam to that big old spam filter waiting at the other end of the line. Things like USING ALL CAPS, or certain marketing catch-phrases (like, oh, “Make Money Fast” or even “Here is the information you requested”) are guaranteed to get you filtered.

2. Make sure that you have the highest possible level of permission for your mailing lists. Whenever possible, use confirmed (double) opt-in, as while this may not always keep your mail from being reported or blocked as spam, it almost always allows you to quickly exculpate yourself.

3. Install one of the more popular spam filters, such as SpamAssassin, on your outgoing mail server, and see whether your mail gets through (this is also a great way to make sure that nobody actually sends spam from your servers).
[Warning: only do this if you know what you are doing and how to ensure that it doesn’t actually interfere with the flow of day-to-day email traffic coming from your server.]

4. Don’t try to game the spam filters. You won’t win. Getting cutsey with how u speel wurds, or substituting numb3r5 for l3tt3r5 is guaranteed to get your mail blocked by, not past, the spam filters.

5. Develop a relationship with the larger ISPs or other places to which you send the majority of your email. AOL has a great system by which you can establish a feedback loop, meaning that they will let you know when their users report your email as ‘spam’. They also have a way by which you can get your email whitelisted.

For problems with a particular site or spam filter, such as if a certain ISP or enterprise server is blocking you, or a particular spam filter always flags your email as spam, try SuretyMail. This is a service which contacts the blocking site or system on your behalf, and works to get your mail delivered.
Note: SuretyMail is offered by our parent company, ISIPP.

Hopefully this brief overview will help you to ensure that your email gets delivered, and not mistaken for spam. After all, it isn’t spam, right?

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4 thoughts on “How to Ensure That the Email You Send Actually Gets Delivered?

  1. Hi Aunty!

    I couldn’t more agree with your synopsis of recommendations to help increase deliverability. In many cases, filter users simply are not educated on how to correctly whitelist specific Senders, or publications.

    We offer a FREE Whitelist Instruction Guide generator, which publishers can offer, to educate their readers on how to correctly whitelist using the top 20 spam filtering solutions out there.

    It will generate a free customized HTML template which email publishers can “wrap” their brand around, allowing them to offer specific whitelisting instructions for their individual email publications.

    The URL for the tool is:

  2. Michael, you are absolutely right, and you caught Aunty with her apron off! As you may know from reading Aunty’s other blogs, Aunty is always very careful to disclose any business relationship with anything about which she posts, and this oversight has already been corrected.

    Kissy kissy,


  3. Rumour has it that eDeliverability’s Virtual HelpDesk may be associated with Aunty, perhaps as a niece or nephew (in the business sense, of course). Though of course Aunty can say whatever she darn well pleases, I hope that she will mention when she has a business relationship with a company she points people to. In fact, in my opinion, that would be an even better reason to use such a company, for I think Aunty suffers no fools, but either way, its nice to know.

    Thanks, Michael

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