MAAWG Best Practices: Where to Focus Your Attention

Posted by George Bilbrey on

My colleague Neil Swartzman wrote a great post announcing the new MAAWG Sender Communication Best Practices which Return Path wholeheartedly endorses.

As Neil recommends, you and your team should definitely take the time to review the whole document and discuss how you can implement the practices. But we also understand that it can be hard to find the time, so we wanted to give you a quick and dirty rundown of the top six areas to focus on:

  1. Make your unsubscribe process clear, easy and fast. If there is any one thing the average marketer could do to reduce complaints and increase deliverability it would be this. I’m constantly stunned at how difficult it can be a get off the list of a Fortune 500 company. MAAWG also recommends allowing email based and offline unsubscribe request. Basically, if someone asks you to stop sending them email – no matter where or how they ask – it is in your best interest to stop.
  2. Set clear expectations around how quickly you process their unsubscribe request. This is a corolloary to #1, but it’s important enough to call out separately. Ideally you subscriber will not get anymore email after they unsubscribe. But if that isn’t possible you must tell them exactly how much more email they can expect and in what timeframe. It doesn’t guarantee that they won’t complain about subsequent messages, but it helps.
  3. Use the List-Unsubscribe mechanism within the header of each message. Many ISPs are considering adding an unsubscribe button, either instead of or in addition to the “this is spam” button. This mechanism allows that to happen for your messages. Instructions on how to do that can be found here: http://tools.ietf.org/html/rfc2369
  4. Your “from” address should make sense to actual humans. This, by the way, applies to all parts of your “from” – display, domain, and so on. Making sure your “from” is clear increases recognition of the message and helps recipients and ISPs alike identify the good from the bad.
  5. Don’t just keep re-sending your message indefinitely. When ISPs have outages the continual re-sending from marketers makes it even harder for them to get back on line. It’s best to investigate the matter and follow specific re-try protocols when available. But MAAWG recommends, in all cases, discontinuing re-tries after four days to accommodate weekend outages.
  6. Pay attention to the bounce messages. Errors that tell you that “delivery is not authorized” indicate that you’ve violated acceptable use policies. In layman’s terms, they think you are spamming them. Continuing to send email to that domain is going to make matters worse. Investigate the issue to figure out why you are being blocked.

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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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