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Email Delivery: It's More Complicated than You Might Think


Recently I used Priority Mail with Delivery Confirmation to send an important document to a client who lives less than 25 miles away. A week later, my client called to tell me that he was still waiting for the document and two weeks later the only thing we’d been able to find out is that the envelope was checked in at a local sort facility the day after I mailed it.

That doesn’t happen with email, right? Unfortunately, it does. Just Google “email deliverability” and you’ll see that it’s an important consideration for websites like Genlighten that depend on email messages being received in a timely way.

So how do we improve our chances of Genlighten mail successfully reaching your inbox? And how do we know when it doesn’t? All email generated by our site is sent through a company called SendGrid. It allows us to keep a close eye on what happens to our emails—all 62,000 of them and counting.

Fortunately, nearly all of our site-generated email reaches its destination with no problem. But, if an email goes undelivered, it usually falls into one of three categories—bounces, blocks, and spam reports.

Messages will bounce if an email address isn’t valid. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of a typo. We just fix those, if they’re obvious. Sometimes it’s because the address is no longer in use. If that’s the case, there’s not much we can do if we don’t have an alternate way to contact you. If you’re a provider and we can’t reach you, we’ll put your account on vacation, hoping that you’ll visit the site, discover the problem, and contact us for help in fixing it. We don’t want lack of communication to disappoint potential clients.

Blocks happen when an email provider isn’t accepting messages from the IP address that we use to send email. Why would that be? Well, we’re a small company and we share an IP address with others sending email through SendGrid. If another user does something that looks spammy then email from everyone using the IP can get blocked.

If we’re blocked from sending you site messages, we’ll send a quick note using gmail (which should have no problem getting through) to work out a solution together.

Spam Reports
We don’t spam you. Every message generated by the site is related to a transaction—a new project request or a message from another site user, for example. But, occasionally, someone will mark one of our messages as spam. It’s like telling SendGrid, “DO NOT send me any more Genlighten messages” and that doesn’t work because if you’re using the site, we need to be able to contact you.

It also has another consequence that you might not realize. We have email reputation to uphold and that helps our email deliverability! Currently (2:44 pm on Wednesday, October 10, 2012) Genlighten’s reputation score is 99.78%. Spam complaints affect that in a negative way. So, please be kind. If you don’t want to hear from us, just reply to the message, let us know, and we’ll do our best not to bother you again.

In case you’re curious (we would be), our September stats are below. SendGrid is helping us do a good job making sure that our mail gets delivered to you.

Bounces – 2
Blocks – 1
Spam Reports – None

How can you help us keep our email deliverability rate high? Simple. Keep your email address on the site current, work with us if your email provider blocks our emails, and let us know directly if you’d rather not hear from us anymore.

Genlighten Co-founder

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