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Friends in high places?

If you're looking for something ranty to read today, head over to Slashdot, where Bennett Haselton goes off at length about how his messages got spamblocked by Yahoo and Hotmail due to something related to bad/blacklisted domains in the body of his email messages.

I can understand his frustration. I know it's not always easy or fun to deal with a blacklisting issue. But I did want to call out one piece of pure balogna: That ESPs somehow have backchannel agreements with ISPs or have "friends" at those ISPs who help to get the mail delivered.

In response to "what are you paying for when using an ESP," he writes, "What you're paying for is the fact that [ESPs] have friends in the right places at Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail, so if your mails are getting blocked, they know the people to call to fix the problem."

Sorry, but that's just flat out not true. When you're sending through an ESP and you get blocked at an ISP and you're working with your ESP, the ESP doesn't have a hotline to call, an individual to reach out to, to get you personalized service. That just doesn't scale at all for the ISP or webmail provider. Most of the ISPs have web forms you submit, then eventually, somebody will get back to you. And sometimes that reply comes from a tier 1 support rep who didn't understand your issue. It's a slow and frustrating process. What ESP people really do is try to train their clients to not get blocked in the first time, because prevention has a much greater chance of success versus cure.

So, whatever you do, don't utilize an ESP based on the strength of Bennett's statement, because it's just plain wrong.


Comments policy: Al is always right. Kidding, mostly. Be polite, please and thank you.

  1. The only piece of bologna you found was about ESPs? I think the whole premise of "Hotmail and Yahoo are sharing a secret list of bad domains" to be incredibly preposterous.

    Then again, I've been screaming "STFU BENNETT HASELTON" about various things for, like, a decade.

  2. Well, I purposely didn't address the "Secret blacklist of domains!!!" stuff because it was too hard to make sense of what he meant there, and I don't personally know if there are other DBLs out there that are not public.

  3. Irrespective of if its from an ISP/MSP/ESP standpoint, all I can say is "my goodness"! He's got a lot to learn, and a long way to go.

  4. I disagree actually. I work at an email marketing service provider and while prevention is definitely the best thing we can do to protect the reputation of our IP's and overall deliverability, People really are paying for our ability to monitor and maintain those IPs. We do know the right people to get in touch with and the right forms to use to get our IPs back in good standing quickly. Doing that personally would be quite a task.

  5. Yeah, we all know the right forms and processes, but that's clearly not what Bennett is referring to.

  6. I agree with Al as well. I've had folks over the years get excited because they know I used to be a Y! Postmaster; I repeatedly state things don't work that way as folks put crazy hours + brainwork into policies/procedures/processes - which I strongly respect.

  7. As an employee of an ESP, I think this highlights a challenge for all ESPs in the current landscape. It seems the major ISPs are increasingly moving toward a point where there is no way to effectively find out what might be causing an unusual delivery issue.

    As deliverability professionals, we know the troubleshooting steps, we know the immediate red flags to look for, but sometimes those steps are done and due diligence produces no results. In these cases, it is a great help to an ESP to have the ability to speak with someone at the ISP who can give us an idea what the sender might be doing wrong.

    If the sender is doing something wrong, we want to stop it, or improve upon processes that may be leading to issues. Without the type of guidance ISP contacts typically used to provide, it's a difficult prospect indeed.

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