Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: New York, NY
4) Mail Volume and Sending Habits
If you employ proper practices, it doesn't matter if you are sending out 1,000 or 1,000,000 emails a day. What matters is that you are CONSISTENT. If you send out a daily mailer, try to make sure it is approximately the same size and sent at approximately the same time every day. Obviously, as your site grows your volume should increase day to day; this is not a problem. A problem would be, on Monday you send out 500 emails, on Tuesday you send out 450,000 emails, on Wednesday you send another 250,000 and on Thursday you send 0. If you start mailing daily, be prepared to continue; stopping for multiple days in a row is a major red flag to ISPs. If you send out weekly or monthly newsletters, that is fine, it will just take said ISPs longer to recognize your sending patterns.
Aside from building up a reputation as a consistent sender, different ISPs have different limitations they don't always tell you about. Say your mail system is so strong, you could pound out 10 million emails an hour. If you check your mail log, you may notice a lot of "temporarily deferred" status messages. Yahoo and Hotmail in particular are two of the more stingy when it comes to rate-limiting. You will need to experiment for just what is the right frequency for each individual ISP, but you definitely should not be sending mail out as quick as you can. For example, Yahoo may like receiving only 15 emails from your server per second, while AOL is cool with you sending 200.
Once you have your habits in check, you can move on to the next step.
5) SPF Records / Sender-ID
Not too get too technical, but SPF records are a DNS record that is used by ISPs to determine if the sender is authorized to send mail out for this domain. This prevents source "spoofing" attempts (unless they can hack and modify your DNS record). This should be considered as an extra layer of security and not optional. Though not all ISPs use it, most of the majors do; so that makes it worth your time to implement. Microsoft has a specific version of the record they call "Sender-ID", but their wizard is often buggy so I would just generate it manually. SPF version 2 is also not yet complete, so in generating your record, you may wish to stick with "v=spf1" or specify both a version 1 and version 2 record.
If you need help generating your records, feel free to aks in the thread and I'll point you in the right direction.
6) DomainKeys / DKIM
Unlike Sender-ID, DomainKeys/DKIM are signing methods that you implement at a software level. Whether you use Qmail, Postfix or other, most of the major mailing softwares currently support it. DomainKeys has begun to fade away, to be replaced by DKIM, but there is no harm in signing your mail by both methods. Yahoo and Gmail are two solid examples of domainkeys; if you ever noticed a line in a message you received's header stating "this mail is signed bydomain.com", you have seen DomainKeys/DKIM at work.
As installation and configuration is different for every type of mailserver software, I won't get into the specifics of configuring it, however you will also need to add matching DNS records of type TXT in order for ISPs to verify your certificate against the authorized certificate on the domain. If this sounds a little too technical for you, it may be best to ask your host or hire a Server Admin to set this up for you.
7) Complaint Level
If you are collecting emails in a legitimate way, obeying unsubscribes and sending your members content that actually interests them, you should never have a complaint issue problem. Companies exist who offer monitoring tools, for a cost, if you are interested. Keep things above board and you will never have to worry about this factor.
8) Feedback Loops
Before many ISPs will even consider white-listing you, they will let you on their "Feedback Loop". This will forward you some complaints, from users who mark your mail as junk or spam as well as other remove requests/complaints. Pay attention to every mail they send you, take action when necessary and do it promptly. If you do that, ISPs will be willing to work with you to resolve problems.
9) Whitelist Status
If you have done all of the above and have been sending mail consistently for at least two or three months, you may apply for whitelist status at most of the major ISPs. The application is usually fairly detailed and may require some technical knowledge; be prepared for this. Once you have submitted an application, be patient and do not submit again. Within a few weeks, if you haven't heard anything back, you may try to submit again or contact their support. Once you are granted whitelist status, this does not guarantee that suddenly you will have a 100% Inbox rate; it will greatly, greatly improve your chances though. You may lose your status if you stop following the best practices outlined above.
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