With over 220 million users, Yahoo is the 3rd largest web services provider in the world. It’s especially popular in the USA, Europe, and Latin America. Hence, as an email marketer, you can’t ignore its role in your deliverability. Luckily, you can have excellent Yahoo inboxing rates if you adhere to a set of good sending practices.
Recent changes in the digital advertising landscape
Following its acquisition by Verizon in June 2017, Yahoo is no longer an independent entity. AOL (purchased by Verizon in 2015) and Yahoo are now merged as part of Oath Inc., a new media and tech company. HuffPost, Yahoo Sports, TechCrunch, Engadget, and apps like Alto and Tumblr will also operate under the Oath umbrella.
This gives Verizon vast advertising and search power. Verizon is a telecom conglomerate and Yahoo is a powerful content marketing machine. Mobile advertising shows steady growth as more and more people use mobile devices to do work and access content. As a result, emailers can look forward to new and expanded mobile advertising options.
Also, Oath will offer plenty of ways that advertisers can use to connect with their audience. Verizon has a substantial internet user base and large volumes of data on AOL visitors. This can provide a unique insight into people’s browsing behavior. It can also provide cleaner and more accurate subscriber data, ensuring more effective ad targeting.
What the Yahoo-AOL merger means for email marketers
Basically, Yahoo and AOL infrastructures will gradually merge (filtering, data, reporting, MX management). AOL email traffic will get rerouted to Oath servers. However, Yahoo and AOL user interfaces will remain unchanged. Verizon intends to keep the Yahoo and AOL brands alive and continue to develop them.
The merge of infrastructure will affect email filtering. As AOL domains migrate to Oath, emails will be subject to Yahoo filtering and processing.
Feedback loop reporting will be affected as well. Once AOL mailboxes have migrated to Oath, the FBL reports will come from Yahoo.
The same goes for DMARC reporting. With the migration of AOL domains, DMARC data will be reported by Yahoo.
What you can do to navigate these changes
Of course, standard good emailing practices still apply, regardless of the Verizon deal. That said, Yahoo will increase its focus on content relevancy, targeting, and user engagement. To ensure good Yahoo inboxing rates, you need to pay attention to the following:
- First, find accurate ways to monitor deliverability. Inbox placement is key to email marketing success. It’s pretty straightforward. If you want people to interact with your content, they have to receive it first.
- When providers merge, the best way to track inbox placement is to use 4 crucial metrics. These are your email delivery, acceptance rate, panel data, and seed list testing. Let’s look at what they mean and why you should use them.
Email delivery means your messages have reached the user mailbox
In other words, it means the receiving system has accepted your messages. What it doesn’t say is where they end up – the inbox or the junk folder. So, if you send 100 emails and 80 get accepted, it means that 80% of the emails made it past the first gatekeeper. This is your acceptance rate and is only the starting point.
Your acceptance rate just shows that your systems are technically operational
What it doesn’t show is how your emails are actually faring. What you need is inbox delivery. Of course, people can still access your messages from the junk folder, but the odds aren’t that great. Not too many people will sift through spam to find your marketing emails.
Seed list testing helps emailers get a good view into their inbox placement
This is how seed testing works. You create a list of seed addresses to test-email before deploying your campaign. You can test-email different ISPs and email clients, across various devices. Providers monitor the seed lists using different tools to see where your emails go (inbox, junk or undelivered).
Seed testing gives you insight into the response your emails generate. This gives you the chance to adjust things like content, design, and templates before deployment.
Given the small size of the seed list, it can’t be used as an absolute prediction for your campaign success. It’s more of an extrapolation, but it does provide useful directions.
Personally I don’t put too much weight into seed lists as the ESPs that use customer feedback will use those metrics over seed accounts that have no metrics tied to them at all but again it gives you a starting point. If you have a brand new domain and are adding them to ip’s at a new ESP and then you try to seed test you may see poor metrics. This doesn’t necessarily mean your actual campaign will not be succesful though. Work with your ESP to get better insight on what you can do to improve your inboxing.
For a more comprehensive measurement of campaign performance, you can use panel data
Panel data provides info on email volume, sender response to FBLs, bounces, and inbox delivery across campaigns and senders. It helps you see how you perform relative to others in your industry.
Things Yahoo looks for when determining inbox placement
Yahoo recently experienced two massive data breaches which compromised billions of user accounts. As a result, Yahoo now enforces extremely strict anti-spam policies. This means emailers have their work cut out for them when it comes to passing through the Yahoo filters.
As any other provider, Yahoo focuses on delivering desired messages and filtering out the rest. To protect users against malicious content, the provider uses a set of complex filters.
Spam and spam-like emails don’t reach the inbox. So, even if you are a legitimate sender, your campaigns will be rejected if they resemble spam.
Individual user settings play a major role in deliverability. Let’s say you play by the book and Yahoo allows your emails to go through. Users can still decide to block your content for various reasons. In this case, your emails will go to junk.
It doesn’t matter whether Yahoo thinks your emails are spam or your subscribers label you a spammer. Your sender reputation will suffer either way. If your campaigns keep ending up in the spam folder, it’s prudent to reevaluate your sending practices.
These are some things Yahoo considers to determine your Yahoo inboxing rates
IP and domain reputation
List management practices
Content (spammy elements in email subject and body)
Email authentication protocols (DMARC)
Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) Signatures
Compliance with email marketing laws
Sending volume and frequency
Sender Recipient Relationship
Truth is, there is no guarantee that your emails will reach the inbox every time, regardless of your efforts. But there are actions you can take to minimize delivery failures.
Let’s look at some useful practices you can implement to ensure optimal deliverability of all your campaigns.
Publish reverse DNS (PTR) records for your sending IPs
This is a very important anti-spam measure. The absence of a reverse DNS record for your IP will affect your sender reputation with Yahoo.
Reverse DNS is actually the opposite of the standard (forward) DNS. Standard DNS resolves a domain name into an associated IP address. In contrast, reverse DNS resolves an IP address into a domain name.
What does this mean?
Let’s say a spammer uses an IP address that doesn’t match the domain name that sends the emails. The reverse DNS lookup will try to match the IP to the domain. If no matching IP address is found, the message will be blocked by the server.
Reverse DNS records help trace the origin of the email. This is why some incoming servers won’t accept messages that don’t have a PTR record for the sending IP.
Make sure your emails are DKIM signed
The DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) signature verifies you are who you claim to be. Sending unauthenticated emails is a behavior resembling spammers. DKIM reassures ISPs your messages can be handled and processed safely.
DKIM lets Yahoo know your emails are safe by validating your domain name ID. More specifically, it attaches a new, unique domain name identifier to your message.
Implement SPF (Sender Policy Framework) validation
The SPF authentication protocol validates the email envelope. More specifically, SPF verifies the sending mail server and the sending email address. “Email envelope” refers to several fields used to differentiate and selectively receive messages. These include source, destination, tag, and communicator.
The SPF protocol allows domain owners to publish a list of IPs authorized to send emails on their behalf. So, when you send an email, the receiving server will check your sending IP in the public DNS to make sure it can send emails in your name.
Use DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting & Conformance) authentication
DMARC is an advanced authentication protocol designed to combat email spoofing. It tells ISPs and mailbox providers that your emails are genuine, the real deal. This is done through authentication of legitimate emails against SPF and DKIM standards. DMARC also sends reports, letting domain owners know someone is trying to forge their name.
DMARC blocks all fraudulent activity appearing to originate from legitimate domains. In other words, DMARC’s domain alignment feature prevents forging of the “header-from” address.
To this end, DMARC does the following:
- Matches the “header-from” address with the “envelope-from” domain used during the SPF check.
- Matches the “header-from” domain name with the “d=domain name” in DKIM.
To implement DMARC, senders must have SPF and DKIM in place. Messages that fail to pass either SPF or DKIM authentication, fail DMARC by default.
Senders also need to define a DMARC policy in the organization’s domain name server. The policy instructs them to choose the action for messages that fail authentication. The options are: “do nothing”, “quarantine” and “reject”.
“Do nothing” is a monitoring mode. It helps collect data and identify any significant trends. “Quarantine” means messages go to the spam folder. “Reject” means messages get blocked and users never see them.
Yahoo recently modified its DMARC policy by updating the DMARC record with “p=reject” for Yahoo domains. As a result, Yahoo will bounce all emails sent as Yahoo addresses if they aren’t sent through Yahoo servers.
Sign up for Yahoo’s complaint FBL program
The feedback loop program is a free service you can use to track your complaint rates. Once you enroll, Yahoo will forward you all addresses that report your content as spam. Each time a Yahoo user marks your emails as spam, it will generate a report. Make sure you remove these users from your list at once.
FBLs are a great way to gauge people’s response to your campaigns. The math is simple. Lots of spam complaints indicate poor results from your marketing efforts.
In this case, you’ll need to work on your campaigns and find ways to enhance the user experience to preserve your reputation.
Yahoo and whitelisting
Yahoo doesn’t have a whitelisting program. According to the company, whitelisting tends to imply 100% inbox placement. In reality, this is something nobody can guarantee.
Instead, Yahoo offers a program where emailers can submit their IPs for review. Depending on the review, Yahoo can decide to modify the sender reputation. This may mean better deliverability but still won’t guarantee 100% Yahoo inboxing rates.
User engagement metrics
Engagement metrics tell you whether and how people engage with your brand. User engagement has always been an important factor in Yahoo’s inbox placement process. After the merger, they will probably pay even more attention to engagement-based filtering.
Here are some of the engagement factors Yahoo takes into account
Emails opened and read
Replies and forwards
Emails marked as spam
Time to deletion (how fast a user deletes an email)
Unspamming (Emails marked as “this is not spam”)
Emails deleted before reading
Emails organized in folders
The first four points serve as strong indicators of positive engagement. The more people engage with your emails, the more they’ll arrive in their Yahoo inboxes.
High reply and forward rates indicate your campaigns are both well-received and influential. This increases your chances of Yahoo delivering your future campaigns to people’s inboxes.
Messages marked as spam or deleted before reading indicate poor interest. A high “deleted before reading” rate also suggests poor list acquisition practices. It leads to low sender reputation and your future campaigns will go to the junk.
The TNS (this is not spam) metric shows the number of emails people rescue from the spam folder. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like something to be happy about. After all, you wouldn’t have a high TNS rate without getting spammed in the first place.
However, every legitimate sender still gets labelled as spam by a percentage of people, and it’s often beyond your control. So, you can safely consider high TNS rates a strong positive indicator of brand value and readability.
The “unsubscribe” metric should be viewed relative to high inbox placement and high spam placement. In the first case, a low rate can mean that only a few people wish to stop receiving content. In the latter, it may suggest that only a few people actually see your content.
Maintain excellent Yahoo inboxing rates with Emercury
You should always evaluate the success of your individual campaigns. However, assessing deliverability metrics for all your campaigns as a whole is also vital. By viewing your campaigns from a wider angle and comparing them, you’ll get a real feel for how your program is doing over time.
As an email marketing platform, Emercury is uniquely designed to help you optimize all the aforementioned aspects. From list management to tracking campaign progress and deliverability metrics. Everything you need for excellent email delivery is neatly tucked in one place. Every paid account has a deliverability manager, so none of your questions remain unanswered. Whatever you need, we got you covered.
Try Emercury for free and experience all its core marketing features. No strings attached. (however I would always suggest speaking with us before getting started to make sure you get started on the right foot 😉 )Why not contact us today for a free consultation on how we can help you.
Happy mailing everyone and of course of you like the article please share it with others 😉 !
Michael Batalha helps startups and businesses with making their sites work for them like a sales machine, from building your story to collecting leads to nurturing those leads into customers. He has successfully created numerous startups and sat on the board of the Entrepreneur Organization. His passion is working with entrepreneurs and building businesses. He has graced the pages of Forbes and won Entrepreneur of the year award at the Empact Summit at the United Nations. You can catch him speaking at events throughout the year on email marketing and email reputation.
You should follow him on twitter @mikebatalha for tweets on awesome marketing tips.
You should follow him on twitter @mikebatalha for tweets on awesome marketing tips.