This month’s SMTP2GO updates include a range of stability and bug fixes. We have also implemented some delivery improvements.
- Adjustments are continually made to our hard/soft bounce classification system, to ensure that it stays as accurate as possible. We have added and classified a significant number of known responses given by recipient mail servers.
- Email quota alerts are now sent to all account types. Previously, only paid accounts would receive notification when they reached 80%, 90% and 100% of their quota. Free accounts now receive the same information.
- Quota alert messages have added information to make them even more useful. Notifications now include the date and time the account email quota will be reset.
- An issue where reports downloaded from the SMTP2GO dashboard in CSV format were corrupted has been resolved.
- A small fix was applied to make bounce and spam lists downloading more efficient.
In other exciting news, the member dashboard is being completely redesigned. The new design will make managing SMTP2GO accounts more streamlined. The new design is currently being developed and tested and should be released to members soon.
Though it may not be a layman’s term, everyone who has an active email account has probably received transactional email at some point. Transactional email refers to an email generated by some action involving the user; it does not necessarily refer to any sort of financial transaction. This could include an action directly on the part of the user, an action targeting the user, or sometimes even a lack of action by the user. Below are a few examples of transactional email instances.
Direct User Action
The most common example of this type of transactional email is the email delivered when a user signs up for an account on a website. In this case, the “transaction” is the act of the user signing up for the site. The welcome email is sent as a result of this transaction.
A sample transactional welcome email.
Actions Targeting Users
These types of transactional emails are sent when the user receives, for example, a comment on a social networking site. An automated email is sent to the user to notify him or her that the comment has been posted. This is not a direct user action; rather, someone else’s action is the trigger. (Note: Gmail will generally place these emails in the “Social” tab of the updated inbox.)
Sample passive user-action transactional emails.
Examples of transactional emails received due to user inaction are the “Come back/We miss you” emails sent as part of email win-back campaigns. The user in this case has subscribed to a mailing list, but has either not responded in some time to any emails sent, or has never responded at all.
Other Examples and Synonyms
As previously stated, transactional email refers to essentially all triggered and automated emails to users who have subscribed to services or mailing lists on a website. Other commonly encountered examples of transactional emails include:
- Password resets
- Support ticket requests
- Email confirmations
- Online purchase receipts
- Weekly activity manifests
Transactional emails can also be referred to as “triggered,” “automated/automatic,” and “real-time.” These all mean essentially the same thing; the different terms are simply used by different companies according to their needs and the services they provide.
SMTP2GO is attending HostingCon 2014 at Miami Beach, Florida.
If you’re also there, and are thinking you might like to partner with an SMTP provider (or just want to say hi!) let us know.
Lukas has flown in from New Zealand, and Rocky has flown in from Texas.
Get in touch by messaging the team via Skype (lukaswilliams).
SMTP2GO’s latest release brings several bug fixes, updates and some useful new features.
- Optional sending rate limits have been introduced and can be set globally for all SMTP users in an account or applied on a per user basis. To apply a limit to all SMTP users in an account, log in to your SMTP2GO dashboard, click “Settings” then “Authentication”. Near the base of the page on the right hand side, there is a toggle labelled “Custom rate limit”. From here, set the limit or volume of messages followed by the time period in which those messages can be sent. For example, you may wish to limit a user to only sending 50 emails per day or 200 per month.
Once this is turned on, you can set the limit and the time period. To apply limits to individual users, log in to your SMTP2GO dashboard, click “Settings” then “Authentication” and edit a user. The last option in the list is labelled “Custom rate limit”.
Turn on the “Custom rate limit” toggle and select the limit or volume of messages followed by the time period in which those messages can be sent.
- If you are subscribed to one of our high volume plans, you can now view your dedicated IP address. It can be found by choosing “Settings” then “Authentication” when logged in to the SMTP2GO dashboard.
In recent weeks, Yahoo and AOL have made changes to their respective DMARC policies, and it is likely that other ISPs will follow suit in the near future. This guide will attempt to answer any questions you may have about the changes, and provide insight on updating your outbound email strategy according to the new policies.
What is a DMARC policy?
DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. DMARC allows the owner of a domain to publish DNS records that indicate to recipient domains what should be done with messages that do not authenticate. In the words of John Levine, an author and consultant who has spent considerable time crafting DMARC standards:
“DMARC lets a domain owner make assertions about mail that has their domain in the address on the
From: line. It lets the owner assert that mail will have a DKIM signature with the same domain, or an envelope return (bounce) address in the same domain that will pass SPF validation. The domain owner can also offer policy advice about what to do with mail that doesn’t have matching DKIM or SPF, ranging from nothing to reject the mail in the SMTP session. The assertions are in the DNS, in a TXT record at _dmarc.domain.”
Yahoo’s updated DMARC record; the “p=reject” segment indicates that the DMARC policy will reject and block messages from improperly authenticated or unauthenticated senders.
The Wikipedia article on DMARC policy also states the following:
“DMARC requires that a message not only pass DKIM or SPF validation, but that it also pass alignment. For SPF, the message must PASS the SPF check, and the domain in the
From: header must match the domain used to validate SPF (must exactly match for strict alignment, or must be a sub-domain for relaxed alignment). For DKIM, the message must be validly signed and the d= domain of the valid signature must align with the domain in the
From: header (must exactly match for strict alignment, or must be a sub-domain for relaxed alignment). Under DMARC a message can fail even if it passes SPF or DKIM, but fails alignment.”
What changes have been made?
Due to recent increases in security issues, AOL and Yahoo have both decided to require strict alignment between the
From: header address and domain authentication. Email spoofing will no longer be permitted, and its use will result in the sender’s emails being blocked.
How will the new DMARC policies affect sending?
The only senders who will be affected by this change are those who use Yahoo or AOL email addresses in their
From: headers and do not send directly through their respective SMTP servers.
Note: Yahoo’s DMARC update affects only @yahoo.com email addresses; @ymail.com and @rocketmail.com addresses are currently unaffected. In addition, many regional Yahoo servers are unaffected (e.g. yahoo.co.jp).
What can be done to resolve the issues?
At this point in time, we strongly recommend that affected clients consider switching to their own domain for outgoing email traffic. Switching to another free email provider such as Gmail or Hotmail will provide a temporary solution to the problem, but it is only a matter of time before other providers follow in the footsteps of Yahoo and AOL. Security breaches are becoming more and more widespread, so it only makes sense that more email providers will take precautions to protect their users. A custom domain will prevent future deliverability issues from cropping up when ISPs change their policies according to security needs.
If you need assistance setting up a new domain or email addresses, please feel free to contact technical support.
When first sending emails out on a brand new dedicated IP address or range of IP addresses, it is important to keep in mind best email practices in order to keep your emails out of your recipients’ spam folders, even if you are simply switching email service providers. A brand new IP address will not have any sort of mailing history, so there is no way for ISPs to tell whether a new stream of email traffic is legitimate, or perhaps due to a mail system being compromised. The following guidelines will provide some insight on bolstering the reputation of your IP address (with some SMTP2GO-specific advice included).
Gradually Increasing Sent Mail Volume
Once you’ve checked your SPF record, and considered setting up a custom DKIM signature, you will need to gradually ramp up the number of emails you send out in order to avoid the risk of being blocked.
SMTP2GO pre-warms up dedicated IP addresses to a certain extent. However, if you suddenly send out 100,000 emails from a brand new SMTP2GO high volume (dedicated IP address) account, some ISPs may assume that your mail system has been compromised, and the emails will be blocked. Most ISPs have fail-safes in place that identify mass mailings from unknown IP addresses as spam.
In order to prevent your emails from being flagged, you will need to gradually increase your outbound traffic so as not to trigger the fail-safes. This is a simpler task if you are just starting a new campaign with a relatively small number of contacts, but rather more daunting if you’ve already established many business relationships and have just switched to SMTP2GO. In either case, the solution is similar; the only major difference lies in the numbers.
To ramp up outbound email traffic at an appropriate rate, make an estimate of the number of emails you plan to send out monthly, and then divide that number by 30. (Example: if you plan to send out 100,000 emails in your first month, divide 100,000 by 30, and send out around 3,000 to 4,000 per day, as a rough guide.) This is a slow process, but a steady stream of outbound emails gives a recipient ISP time to properly test the quality and nature of your email traffic, and build up a secret reputation figure for your IP address. Content and domain reputation is also very important, and this is likely to be built up at the same time as your IP reputation.
Alternatively, if you are already sending out a very large number of emails per month and are simply switching to SMTP2GO, you may not want to wait a full month to be able to send out your desired quantity of emails. In this case, it may be better to spend a month phasing your emails from the old ESP to SMTP2GO (thereby warming up the new IP in the process).
One final point that seems obvious but bears repeating is that your results should be monitored constantly. Any spam complaints from your emails can be seen in your SMTP2GO control panel, so you can find out immediately if your recipients are clicking on the ‘Spam’ button for your email in Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL and others. You can also easily see your bounce rate. A high bounce rate can indicate problems with your mailing list, which can lead to bigger problems in the future.
Also worth noting is the fact that Return Path provides a way to view your exact inbox placement rate with most major ISP’s, however to view those statistics you do need to become Return Path certified (which we can help with), and it does cost several thousands of dollars in most cases. A more DIY approach is to create an email address at the major email providers (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, Outlook/Hotmail) and be sure to always include them in each of your mailings. You can then periodically check them to see if your emails are being placed into the inbox of spam folder in each case.
To get a good overall idea of your current IP address’ reputation, visit SenderScore.org (which is operated by Return Path) and search for your IP address. You’ll see a variety of statistics to accurately measure your current standing. The reading from SenderScore will look something like this:
Warming up your new IP address has a bit of a learning curve, but if you follow the steps provided, you have a much higher chance of successfully getting your messages to the contacts you need to reach.
SMTP2GO’s newest release brings general enhancements and updates to improve the user experience.
- If you joined or upgraded your SMTP2GO account after June 2013 (and are therefore paying via our new payment processor called Fastspring) you now have the ability to purchase blocks of extra emails. You can do this to temporarily increase your email quota instead of upgrading to a higher plan.
- The account reputation percentage calculation has now been adjusted to more accurately reflect account behavior. Bounce and spam rate calculations are now more closely aligned with our recommended bounce and spam rates before the reputation percentage is lowered. This will also help to increase account reputation more quickly after a temporary sending issue has been resolved.
- Adjustments are continually made to our hard/soft bounce classification system, to ensure that it stays as accurate as possible. Simply checking the SMTP response code (e.g. 421, 450, 551, etc.) does not give a reliable indicator of whether a bounce is hard or soft, as a certain percentage of recipient mail servers (including some very big email providers) do not respond with sensible or relevant response codes. The only reliable way (what we do!) to determine if a bounce is hard or soft is to maintain a large database of known responses given by recipient mail servers, which have been properly classified.
- Your local currency is now selected by default when subscribing to a new SMTP2GO plan. US dollars can still be selected as an option.
- The Terms of Service Agreement has been updated to include restrictions on the use of SMTP2GO to handle ‘auto-forwarded’ messages. More information is available here.
We’re continuing to grow, and have been awarded a place in Deloitte’s 2013 Technology Fast 500 list for Asia Pacific for the 2nd consecutive year. Deloitte ranked SMTP2GO the 461st fastest-growing company in Asia Pacific for 2013. Winners for 2013 were selected based on the highest percentage of revenue growth from 2011 to 2013.
We’re aiming for 3 years in a row, so look out for us in 2014!
About Deloitte Technology Fast 500:
The Deloitte Technology Fast 500 is the pre-eminent technology awards program in Asia Pacific with 2013 being its 12th anniversary. Combining technological innovation, entrepreneurship and rapid growth, Fast 500 companies large, small, public, and private are on the cutting edge and are transforming the way we do business. The top 500 companies averaged a revenue growth of 356%, staggering by any measure, though this figure is down from last year’s average growth of 467%.
Emails sent to mail.ru email addresses can occasionally be blocked. Mail.ru provides a solution to this issue by allowing domains to be added to their list of approved senders. Adding these domains requires proof of ownership. This also applies to other domains controlled by mail.ru such as bk.ru and list.ru.
To do this, create a free mail.ru account. It is not advised that existing mail accounts, such as Gmail or Yahoo, are used to log in to this service.
Once the account has been created, go to the mail.ru postmaster page and enter your domain name. Note: the screenshots below may appear different when you view the site.
There will be three options for verifying and proving ownership of the domain. Choose one option and follow the instructions provided.
Very few people know how to properly report spam. This is a quick guide which outlines the best way of dealing with spam, with the aim of getting the underlying spammers shut down.
The most effective way to deal with a spam email is to report it directly to the organization that is responsible for the spam email’s originating IP address. These organizations will usually respond very quickly to such requests (as they care about their own reputations).
You will firstly need to locate the following information:
- The email headers of the spam email.
- The originating IP address of the spam email.
- A responsible email address(es) for that IP address.
To find out the originating IP address of the spam email, view the spam email’s headers. There are many ways to do this, as every email client is different. Here are some examples:
- Gmail – On the right hand side of the email message there is a “Reply” button with a small drop down icon beside it. Click the small icon and choose “Show original”.
- Outlook 2003 - Right-click the email message and select “Options…”
- Outlook 2007 – Right-click the email message and select “Message Options…”
- Outlook 2010 and 2013 - In the message window, select the File tab then click the “Properties” button.
- Live.com, Outlook.com and Hotmail.com – On the right hand side of the email message there is a drop down box labelled “Actions”. Choose “View message source” from the list.
You will find the IP address in the section labelled “Received: from”. Usually there is more than one of these, so select the last one, which is the earliest. This will be the IP address of the actual computer from which the spam email originated.
Go to the DomainTools website: whois.domaintools.com and put in the IP address we found in the previous step. Click “Lookup”.
With all this collected information, compose an email. Address it to the responsible email address from the above step, and request that the spam originating from the IP address be stopped. Paste in a copy of the spam email’s headers to finish the message.
Below is an example:
An alternative to doing this manually is to use the free service provided by SpamCop. This website will analyse the headers and automatically make contact with those responsible for the IP address.
The advantage to the above manual technique is that it is more likely to be effective (because the email is manually written, it is more likely to be taken seriously).