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The New Hotmail – Clean Sweep for Good Senders

by Andrew O'Halloran, Chief Privacy Officer

This is a short article that I published in Direct Magazine: "The New Hotmail – Clean Sweep for Good Senders".

Hosting over a billion mailboxes, processing over 8 billion messages a day, and serving over 350 million active users monthly, Microsoft's Windows Live Hotmail is a critical business-to-consumer e-mail marketing communication channel. You'd be hard pressed to find a subscriber list that doesn't contain a significant portion of Hotmail or related domain e-mail addresses.

It also would be hard to find any spam or bot operation not actively targeting Hotmail: At least 5.5 billion spam messages are filtered out of Hotmail every day, according to Microsoft.

With its major release of new technology tools, Windows Live Hotmail is getting even better at protecting users from spam and helping users to manage mailbox clutter. Let's take a look at some of the new Hotmail features:

* The Inbox Quick Views feature addresses inbox overload, allowing recipients to focus on their designated "from groups," "unread," "social updates," and "from contacts." If recipients add you to their address-book contact lists, messages you send will move to the front of the line.
* The Sweep feature helps subscribers more easily and quickly manage the gray mail – that is, previously opted-in e-mail streams such as newsletters, social networking updates, and product promotions that users no longer wish to receive. With sweep, users can move all messages from a particular sender to a folder, delete all messages from a particular sender, and block all future messages from a particular sender.

Senders whose mail is "swept" should not suffer any impact to their sender reputation score. In fact, the number of "unsubscribes" and spam complaints should decrease as more recipients use sweep rather than unsubscribing, deleting e-mails or complaining. At first glance this may seem like a good thing for your sender reputation. But, just because your complaint rate is low doesn't mean that your sender reputation and deliverability are good. Engagement and relevancy are critical, too.

Microsoft Windows Live Hotmail supplements "sender raw metrics" with an innovative direct user-feedback system. Real people, aka "panelists," actually vote on the category of your message.

Therefore, if you stop sending targeted and relevant messages, your sender reputation is likely to suffer. So, it really is about quality, not quantity.

If you send different mailstreams—such as marketing promotions and monthly billing statements—to the same recipients, you may want to use different "from addresses" for these mailstreams, as the sweep feature works largely around the "from address." By doing this, you give the ability to your recipients to organize your messages in a way that suits them.

Tell your subscribers how they can effectively use the new sweep feature to organize the e-mails they get from you, even though it means that recipients could remove themselves from one of your lists.

* The time-traveling filters feature enables Hotmail to use "trend detection" of poor metrics to retroactively move your sent messages from a recipient's inbox to the junk folder. Think of this as an incentive to better plan your campaigns. In the past you may have sent out a not-so good campaign and still managed good deliverability. With the new time-traveling filters you will not be so lucky. While it is still important to do pre-send campaign testing, it is even more important to make very sure your intended recipients want to receive your message.

* The prompted unsubscribe feature actively engages recipients who prefer to manage spam and unwanted mail by simply deleting messages without opening them. The feature protects users from false "unsubscribe" links. Hotmail has tried in the past to mitigate this problem by displaying to the recipient a safe unsubscribe mechanism. The requirement here for senders is a good reputation and the inclusion of a list-unsubscribe header. Now is a good time to confirm that your e-mail marketing system supports this functionality.

* The trusted sender icon is for good senders so users can identify legitimate messages from phishing e-mails. While the exact details on this program are not available, it is certain that it will be based on successful e-mail authentication and a good reputation. For a quick overview on e-mail authentication, check out my related article: http://directmag.com/e-mail/news/0423-PR-e-mail-authentication/index.html

Although you will need to hustle to accommodate Hotmail, in the long run the Hotmail changes will work in your favor. The fewer spam messages that find their way into your subscriber's inbox, the more likely the subscriber will see or have the time to interact with your legitimate messages.

Happier subscribers mean better deliverability, and a higher return on investment for your e-mail-marketing list.

Read the original article...

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