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Email Deliverability Quarterly: Gmail’s TensorFlow, VMG Supports List-Unsubscribe, and More

Email deliverability is constantly changing, as inbox providers adjust their filtering algorithms, blacklists tweak their listing criteria, and consumers evolve their definition of spam. That’s why even the best email marketing programs suffer deliverability problems sometimes.

To help you avoid trouble, the deliverability practice at Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting (OMCC) shares the latest news and tips for what to watch out for. Here’s what’s going on at key inbox providers and what it means for email marketers:

Gmail Rolls Out TensorFlow AI to Filter More Spam

Google announced that it is using TensorFlow, the open source machine learning framework it developed, to identify and block an additional 100 million spam emails every day. That works out to one extra blocked spam email per 10 users, according to The Verge. Google says that Gmail already blocks 99.9% of spam, so its use of TensorFlow is intended to get at that last fraction of a percent.

What this means for marketers:

“That’s a lot of extra mail that Gmail is blocking, especially when you consider they’re already blocking the more obvious spam,” says Dan Deneweth, head of OMCC’s Deliverability Practice. “At the margins, the definition of spam becomes quite subjective. Some brands will have deliverability problems that didn’t before.”

Who should be especially on guard for problems?

“Anyone migrating to a new platform or spinning up a new IP address or domain may see increased problems,” says Deneweth. “We’ve seen with Gmail that’s it’s been very difficult to warm up IP addresses and domains.”

Brian Sullivan, Strategic Director of OMCC, adds, “This is true even for senders with established IP and domain reputations that add additional new IPs or new sending domains. Be mindful that authentication, domain alignment, and audience make-up on new IPs and domains are optimized during warming up to avoid problems.”

If you haven’t seen the effect of TensorFlow yet, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear, says Clea Moore, Director of Deliverability Strategy at OMCC. “Google tends to roll things out gradually,” she says, “so more brands could start to see an impact.”

Heather Goff, Director of Deliverability Strategy at OMCC, adds that machine learning that leverages neural networks and deep learning takes Gmail’s sophistication to the next level, which should motivate email marketers to take their strategy to the next level.

“The ability to track user engagement at this scale demands that our email marketing is not only evolving, but is also super effective,” she says. “The time is now to maniacally measure key performance indicators on email effectiveness. As I like to say, more testing, better marketing, deeper engagement delivers to the inbox.”

Verizon Media Group Announces Support for List-Unsubscribe

Verizon announced in February that all Verizon Media Group (Yahoo, AOL, Verizon.net) inboxes now support List-Unsubscribe for one-click unsubscribe in their hosted inboxes. List-Unsubscribe headers enable native unsubscribe links in a range of email clients and provide email users with a trusted way to opt-out from a sender’s emails besides reporting those emails as spam.

“We strongly recommend senders to adopt this technology and include those headers as we believe that it will further improve the experience, trust, and satisfaction of our mutual customers,” says VMG Product Director Marcel Becker.

What this means for marketers:

Check with your email service provider to see if they support list-unsubscribe and whether you need to enable it.

All of Oracle’s email marketing platforms—Responsys, Eloqua, and Bronto—support List-Unsubscribe headers. They are added automatically to all outbound messages by default in Bronto, but you need to enable it in Responsys and Eloqua. We highly recommend that you enable it by default, but you can also enable it for individual email campaigns.

“Support of List-Unsubscribe across VMG-hosted inbox domains has been long overdue,” says Sullivan. “Now that all AOL, Yahoo, and Verizon.net users have one-click unsubscribe functionality available to them, spam complaint rates among those subscribers may decrease a little.”

Verizon Media Group Launches Postmaster Site

Since acquiring AOL in 2015 and Yahoo! Mail in 2017, Verizon has been consolidating those organizations and their backend email infrastructure—first as Oath and then in a second rebranding in January, as Verizon Media. The shuttering of the long-standing AOL Postmaster page this month and the launch of a new Verizon Media Postmaster site is further evidence of this transition.

What this means for marketers:

As of the publication of this post, the site was still in beta, but it’s where you’ll be able to find updates and tools going forward.

“The quest to provide better tools and services for the sending community is exceptional, exciting and appreciated because it enables brands to do the right thing and use more data to take action,” says Goff. “The new Verizon Media Postmaster site—and VMG’s outreach  to the sender community in general—is another example of the growing collaboration between inbox providers and senders.”

Return Path Losing Gmail Panel Data

Return Path has notified its customers that Google will cut access to Gmail panel data on March 31. Return Path is developing SmartSeeds, which are seed accounts that will use AI to mimic consumer interactions with emails as a way of creating the necessary scale without having people using those Gmail accounts.

What this means for marketers:

“Given the current increased focus on privacy and the way personal data is collected and protected, this change by Google makes sense,” says Goff, noting the huge impact of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

The two questions with SmartSeeds are:

  1. Will Google be able to detect these AI-controlled accounts and, if so, what will it do?
  2. Will the deliverability data based on these accounts be legitimate?

Regardless of the answers to those questions, Sullivan is a little skeptical about the value of this panel data in the first place. “Marketers see a lot of value in third-party data sources like this,” he says, “but the data represents a small sample of the marketer’s audience and should be considered directional rather than precise. Brands should put more emphasis on first-party data such as their own open, click, and bounce rates when monitoring for deliverability problems.”

                                           

Need help with your email deliverability? Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including a dedicated email deliverability practice within our Strategic Services Group.

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