Getting your emails through the Hotmail Inbox

On our previous blog post, we discussed the issues a marketeer comes across, when sending his email campaigns to his Gmail subscribers, after the launch of the new tabbed inbox by Google.

Now we thought it might be interesting to see another challenge a marketeer faces: getting his messages into the Hotmail Inbox. What a tough undertaking that truly is!

hotmail icon

What is the problem?

Hotmail uses WLSRD (Windows Live Sender Reputation Data) for quite a long time. It is an important Hotmail reputation metric, which is used to inform the decisions of the Hotmail “Smart Screen” spam filter. This system enables recipients to vote for whether certain emails are junk or not. “Smart Screen” is the mechanism used to take data such as user response (spam complaints etc), and use it to classify emails as junk or not junk.

Return path describes the procedure of how WLSRD works:

The recipient receives an email from the address: preventjunk@live.com with the subject line “Junk e-mail classification.” The message contains the following introductory text:

Thanks for helping us fight junk e-mail. Please look at the e-mail message below and tell us whether or not you think it’s junk e-mail. If you’re reading this message on the Web, it will be removed from your Inbox when you make a selection.

The recipient is then presented with two voting options:

– Not junk e-mail. This is a message I would expect to receive in my inbox.

– Junk e-mail. This is not a message I’d expect to receive. Its junk e-mail and I’d like all similar messages to be blocked from my inbox.

This is a different procedure as you see, from the traditional complaints, where the “junk” response is handed back to the sender, so that he can remove the complainers from the mailing list. WLSRD is “getting in between”, during the sending procedure, to identify spam senders. You don’t know who is indicating that your email campaign is spam, so you’ll keep sending your emails to them, which will end up in their junk folder. And if you are a retailer (B2C lists often have large percentages of hotmail users) you know that the way Microsoft treats your mail can have a large impact on the revenue you make from email.

What can I do?

To begin with, you can do your best to prevent Junk placement from factors that have to do with your own activities and infrastructure. So let’s suppose that you have:

– correct reverse DNS for main IP of the server, and that you have checked DNS records of your domains

– completed your SenderId/SPF records

DomainKeys

– Not been blacklisted

– High IP/Domain Reputation

– A stable volume of emails that you are frequently sending out

You do not have to worry about the latest three, as Moosend infrastructure has got you covered!

So, after you have taken care of your infrastructure, here’s what more you can do, in terms of your relationship with the subscriber:

Carefully set up your subscription process

 Bear in mind that your subscribers should be informed about the emailing procedure and what it involves, the fact that they will receive an activation email to confirm their subscription and other permission practices (like a reminder to check their junk folder for the activation etc). You should also outline, during subscription, the content of the email messages they will start receiving, as well as the frequency of the messages. We advise you also to send a welcome email, right after subscription so as to prevent negative feedback to the WLSRD. You can use this opportunity to provide subscribers with useful and relevant information about your newsletters, highlight the benefits of engaging with your brand through email and include helpful links to your website.

Ask your subscribers to whitelist you as a sender

You can send a targeted email to your Hotmail subscribers and ask them to whitelist you as a sender. You can try sending this useful advice “Please follow this simple procedure, to keep receiving our emails to your Inbox”:

– Check The Junk Folder: If email from our brand is in this folder, click Show content to view the body of the email. Click Mark as safe. We will now be added to your list ofSafe senders.

– Manually Add to Safe List: Click Options in the upper right corner of your Hotmail screen. In the body of the page under Junk e-mail click the link Safe and blocked senders. Click the link Safe senders. Enter our email address. Click Add to list. And that’s about it.

Send targeted & relevant emails

Carefully choose to segment your list, before sending your email newsletters, because if those messages aren’t customized to your subscribers’ interests, they could vote your message as junk, during the WSRD procedure.  If you have collected data (like gender, date of birth etc) as part of the sign-up process, your subscribers may hold the expectation that the email they will receive will make use of that data to target content and offers accordingly. Also, you can make use of our powerful segmentation feature to recognize those that are interested about certain products of offerings you have sent in the past, by tracking them according to a specific URL they have clicked, or the number of times they have opened a specific campaign.

Manage the frequency of your emails

If the frequency of your mailings is too high, subscribers can easily become overwhelmed and annoyed, which leads to either disengagement, or high level of unsubscribes, and finaly negative WLSRD feedback and complaints. On the other hand, if the frequency is too low, that may impact your ability to stand out from the competition and stay on “top of mind”.

Testing should always be in your priority as a marketeer. You should test the impact of the frequency of your mailings, as regards to the volume of unsubscribes, of complaints and of general engagement metrics (not only opens or clicks, but conversions mostly).  You should think as a business the Lifetime Value of your newsletter subscribers, how much does a subscriber count for your business, how much it will cost you if you loose a subscriber, and weigh it against the possible revenue you gain or lose with frequent or less frequent emails.

Another effective practice is to provide subscribers with the option to choose the content and frequency of the messages they receive, either on sign up, or right before they choose to finally unsubscribe.

Take care of your list hygiene

Rather than waiting for inactive subscribers to cause complaint issues, you should frequently remove inactive subscribers. Depending on the industry, an “inactive” subscriber is the one that has not opened or clicked on an email for quite some time – varies from 6 weeks to 6 months. This subscriber is also called as “emotionally unsubscribed”. The frequency of the mailings should be significantly reduced for inactive segments, furthermore, a reactivation campaign can be addressed to them, to even ask if they still wish to continue to receive emails from you. If no engagement occurs, these segments should be removed from your mailing list. And this procedure should be followed once or twice every year, or even more frequently for frequent senders and retailers.

Building an email marketing strategy which addresses the elements mentioned above, not only will reduce negative WLSRD feedback, and improve inbox placement for Hotmail, but it will also have a positive impact on most of the other webmail providers too.
Best of luck!