Hotmail Using New Metrics to Influence Inbox Placement

Posted by George Bilbrey on

Hotmail is now using a new level of engagement metrics to measure reputation and make inbox placement decisions. You can read about them in my Email Insider column today, but here are the highlights:

• Hotmail is beginning to consider user behavior when determining individual-level inbox placement.
• The individual-level analysis overrides the global spam filter’s decision meaning that the same email might end up in the junk folder of one user, but the inbox of another.
• Metrics to be included in the mix include: Messages read, then deleted; messages deleted without being read; messages replied to.

We are anticipating that this news will kick up a whole new firestorm of chatter about engagement metrics and what they mean for the future of deliverability. We expect a lot of misinformation will swirl around. That’s why we wrote another post, The Truth About Engagement Metrics.

In terms of this news for Hotmail, here are our recommendations for adjusting to this new reality:

1. Apply for Certification: Hotmail’s individual-level filtering does not impact certified mail. All certified mail goes to the inbox regardless of specific user behavior (the exception to this is if a customer permanently blocks the messages from a sender or if the subscriber unsubscribes).

2. Continue to use Mailbox Monitor: You will hear a lot of nonsense that “seeds don’t work anymore.” This is not true at all. Seed lists measure how you are performing against the global filter. It’s worth noting that if your messages aren’t making it past the global filter you are sunk, regardless of individual behavior.

3. Continue to use Reputation Monitor: Reputation is still king. Complaint rates are a key metric at the individual level, so keeping an eye on them is even more crucial.

4. Clean out your inactive respondents: Return Path’s latest research study found a shocking number of top-brand marketers hammering away at extremely high volumes after a 18 months of complete inactivity. While it’s true that ISPs measure activity and engagement in ways that are very different from how you measure them, your measures can still help you. Enact a “win-back” strategy to get lapsed subscribers to interact with you and then clean out the rest.

5. Stay tuned to this space: We’ll continue reporting on how Hotmail and other ISPs are adjusting their settings and what it means for you. In fact, be on the lookout for a post here on September 7 after the Hotmail team shares more detail with us and the community.


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About George Bilbrey

George Bilbrey is the founder of the industry’s first deliverability service provider, Assurance Systems, which merged with Return Path in 2003. He is a recognized expert on the subjects of email reputation and deliverability and is active in many industry organizations, including the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) and the Online Trust Alliance (OTA). In his role as president of Return Path George is the driving force behind the ongoing innovation of our products and services. Prior to Return Path, George served as Director of Product Management at Worldprints.com and as a partner in the telecommunications group at Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. in economics from Duke University, and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina.

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