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50 Per Cent More Marketing Emails Considered Spam By ISPs

Marketers’ continued poor practices result in their emails being increasingly blocked and consigned to spam folders

Email marketers’ lack of best practice forced a near 50 per cent jump in emails not being delivered to the inboxes of UK customers of major Internet Services Providers (ISPs) over 2010. The growing pressure on ISPs to protect their customers from malicious email such as spam, phishing and spoofing emails means marketers’ emails carrying technical, reputation and content characteristics of spam are not being delivered to consumers’ inboxes, either going missing completely or diverted into spam folders.

The findings come from Return Path’s bi-annual European Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, which measures the inbox placement rates of the largest ISPs across Europe. Return Path, the global leader in email certification and reputation monitoring, collected data on the success of more than 465,000 email marketing campaigns and 19 million messages across Europe between July and December 2010, to gain the most comprehensive picture of inbox placement rates.

Marketers’ disregard for ISPs’ plight

Return Path’s data shows a dramatic increase in the amount of requested marketing emails such as social media updates, email newsletters, promotions and vouchers for subscribers’ favourite shops and services being blocked or marked as spam, thus not reaching consumers who want to receive the emails. During the period of the report an average of 14.9 per cent of emails marketers sent to customers of ten of the most popular ISPs in the UK did not reach targeted inboxes, up from 10.5 per cent in December 2009.

BT Internet’s customers are now the most likely ISP customers in the UK to be disappointed by email marketers. More than a quarter of the marketing emails BT Internet had to manage (25.6 per cent) were identified as carrying characteristics of spam by the ISP. Marketers’ lax best practice is also seeing them fall into the spam traps and filters of other big players like Yahoo!, Orange and Virgin Media. One fifth of marketing emails sent to each of these ISPs went into spam folders or went missing altogether meaning hundreds of millions of emails that customers once requested are not reaching them.

Richard Gibson, Channel Relationship Manager at Return Path, said: “ISPs bear the cost and burden of finding the minute amount of email messages that are not spam and delivering them to consumers’ inboxes. Their networks are overwhelmed with trillions of messages every year that are spam, phishing and spoofing messages. ISPs are stuck in a no-win situation between spammers’ attacks and their users’ expectations. They are constantly strengthening their defences against the ever-growing sea of criminal email and as a result marketers’ continued lack of effective email best practice is giving their emails the characteristics of spam, which results in their emails being blocked.”

UK email delivery rates decrease

The UK saw a decline of almost 5 per cent in emails reaching the inbox during 2010, falling from almost nine in ten emails being successfully delivered to inboxes at the start of the year (89.9 per cent), to the current rate of 85.2 per cent. During the period of the report more than one in seven email marketing messages requested by UK consumers did not reach their inboxes. One in 12 of those emails (8.6 per cent) went missing completely and 6.2 per cent went straight to spam folders.

Gibson said: “Marketers must start taking responsibility for building and maintaining their reputation with ISPs. Many UK marketers continue to mistakenly rely on the “÷bounce rate’ metric, assuming that if a sent email doesn’t bounce then it has been delivered to a consumer’s inbox. This practice gives a false sense of success of their email marketing campaigns by not taking into account emails that go straight to spam folders or go missing entirely.

“Responsible marketers must begin using the right tools, as well as following industry best practice, to ensure their email communication does not appear as spam to ISPs. Brands must use tools that give them visibility into which filtering criteria is keeping them out of the inbox, where and when customers view emails and the impact of mobile on their campaign effectiveness, making sure their emails are appropriate to every mobile device and internet browser. This is the only way marketers can understand how they are perceived amidst the flood of spam flowing into ISPs and recognise the changes they need to make to get their messages successfully delivered to the inboxes of people who want to receive them.”

About Return Path:

Return Path works to make email work better by scoring and certifying email senders from around the world. We help marketers, publishers and other large-volume email senders increase their response rates by providing the world’s leading inbox deliverability solution.  We help mailbox providers and email administrators at ISPs and enterprises block unwelcome and malicious email by providing near real-time IP reputation scores and other data-driven tools. Taken as a whole, these tools and services improve the consumer experience of email by protecting them from spam, phishing and other abuse. Return Path offers free access to Sender Score, the email reputation measure compiled through our cooperative data network of ISPs and other email receivers, at our reputation portal Information about Return Path can be found at