Hotmail Launches Another Major Upgrade: What You Need to Know

Posted by Tom Sather on

Hotmail recently pushed another major update to help their users deal with the high amount of email they signed up for, called graymail, that will be slowly rolled out through the end of the year. While these tools will a major time saver for most Hotmail users, it could spell deliverability problems for your own email program. Here is a breakdown of the changes and what you should start thinking about now.

One-click Unsubscribe
The unsubscribe feature is not entirely new. Hotmail has had a safe unsubscribe link in the user interface for some time now, but how they handle these requests are changing and not complying could result in your email being sent to the spam folder. This feature has relied on the list-unsubscribe header to work properly. Marketers can use either an unsubscribe URL or a MAILTO link in the header depending on their preference. If a subscriber clicks on the unsubscribe link in the Hotmail interface now, and either the list-unsubscribe header isn’t present or doesn’t work, email from that sender will be permanently delivered to the spam folder. It’s imperative that every sender has the list-unsubscribe header present now.

Schedule Cleanup
Hotmail users can now decide how long they want messages from a particular sender, or all senders, in their inbox before they are deleted permanently or moved to a specified folder. Some marketers report subscriber responses for weeks, and even months after an email is sent. This potentially could affect the long tail of your response rate. To prepare for this change, look at how long your Hotmail subscribers are opening your emails after you email them and use this as a benchmark to see how the changes may affect you in the future. Additionally, give your subscribers a choice to the frequency of emails they want to receive. On the bright side, this could also prove to be beneficial for marketers as subscribers may not mark old, unwanted email as spam which can adversely drive up spam complaints.

Flagged Emails
Hotmail will start placing emails flagged as important to the top of the inbox. This will probably have the least impact to marketers out of all the recent changes. However, marketers could test their messaging by asking or reminding subscribers to flag an important email so it remains at top, front and center.

Custom Categories
Hotmail has categories now, but they are limited to social, photos, office docs, and shipping updates. Hotmail users can now create their own categories and select which senders should be classified with their new criteria. For example, one could create a category called “shopping” and select all retail emails be classified as shopping for a quick glance of all retail emails.

Folders
With its last major update, Hotmail launched Sweep which “swept” the inbox of a particular sender and would move it to a specified folder. Now Hotmail is allowing nested folders and to create new folders inline. Again, there may not be a major impact to most senders, but the ease of use could make it easier for subscribers to banish your emails with one click.

What do you foresee these Hotmail changes on your email program? Share them in the comments below!


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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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