Spotlight on: Certified Senders Alliance

The Certified Senders Alliance (CSA)
provides a certified IP list, as well as reputation data and training related to email marketing best practices. It is a service of the industry association eco, in cooperation with the DDV (Partner Association of FEDMA and GDMA). As the CSA describes themselves, “they act as a neutral interface between mailbox providers and senders of commercial emails.”

The CSA touts that participation in their certification program can potentially help prevent or identify deliverability issues across a whole host of mailbox providers. More than 90 ninety email sending platforms and Brands are listed as CSA-certified senders today, and there are 30+ participating mailbox and spam filter providers.

If you’re a US-centric sender, you might wonder why you would bother with this, assuming that it is European- or even German-focused. While that was true in the past, a whole host of global (and US) receivers and senders are currently participating in the CSA certification program. Participating mailbox providers and spam filters with a US-focus include Cisco, Cloudmark, Yahoo/AOL, Comcast, Fastmail and Microsoft.

To better understand what the CSA is, I reached out to the CSA team to ask them to help explain to me (and to you) who they are and what they do. I’ve worked with them together in the past (for example with Sebastian Kluth on various industry webinars) and they’re good people, so I thought it would be fun to share details. Here are my questions and their answers.

How long has the CSA been around? Why was it created?

The CSA will be celebrating its anniversary on those specific days in 2024 when it turns 20 years of age. Back in 2004, a group of mailbox providers gathered within eco. During one of their usual meetings, they were wondering how to continue fighting spam without filtering emails from good senders. Their hope was to define transparent criteria between mailbox providers and good email senders and to create a protected space for legitimate email communication. As mailbox providers realized that those criteria could not be defined only by them, eco therefore approached the DDV to create quality standards which are accepted by receivers on the one hand, but which are realistic and practical for senders on the other hand.

How do mailbox providers know that this is not just a way to let spam into the inbox? What kinds of measures and actions does CSA take to ensure that all mail sent is wanted mail?

The CSA has different sources of information regarding potential violations of CSA criteria. One source is data we receive directly from different mailbox and security providers, which are also operating internationally. This data (e.g. spam trap hits, spam click rate, DKIM errors) is displayed in the Certification Monitor and can be broken down to different levels in order to determine problematic sendings or customers. We’re just getting started with adding more functionalities into the tool, enabling senders to identify trends as well. One more data source is our eco Complaints Office – a department within our association dealing with abuse in the Internet in general. This team receives individual user complaints and investigates accordingly. The CSA always first draws attention to existing problems by showing those problems transparently to certified senders. The next step is an official warning from the eco complaints desk, followed by a potential sanction according to our rules of procedure, if the sender does not solve the issue. This procedure is stated transparently on our website.

What value does CSA certification bring for email senders? Is it a true “whitelist” or “allow list” that will help with inbox delivery, or how does that work?

The CSA certification brings value to certified senders, but which value exactly depends on the specific mailbox provider. Some providers provide data to us as stated above, enabling the sender to monitor and improve their sendings. Also, participating providers grant advantages such as no IP warming, no throttling or better deliverability in principle. Participating providers appreciate the commitment of certified senders and the fact that there is a contract and responsibility for transparency behind. What they grant is trust – but how this is defined depends heavily on the individual provider. In any case, we see more and more providers being open to share data with us – which wasn’t the case in the past.

What other information would you like to share with Spam Resource readers and email senders and receivers who might want to participate?

Many people think that CSA certification is only for dedicated IPs. This is not true. The CSA certifies ESPs as well as Brands (if Brands send their commercial emails via their own Ips), no matter if they send via dedicated or shared Ips. Certified entities need to prove their control over the certified IP with the whois information or a token implementation. Also, the CSA is no longer simply a German or even a European project. We’re growing internationally with the number of international mailbox and security providers we continuously engage to become a partner. Also, the eco Complaints Office is receiving more and more individual complaints internationally.

What should readers know about the upcoming CSA Email Summit, and why should they attend?

We are lucky to have 35 international experts sharing their knowledge during talks, workshops and masterclasses. Our aim for the event is to put email experts of one certain discipline in the shoes of experts of another discipline and thus to create a mutual understanding of how things need to be done in order to improve email. We emphasize that companies cannot press the send button and trust that (potential) recipients really receive (!) and read an email. The email ecosystem needs to collaborate and work towards improving email, in order to keep it safe, secure and trustworthy. Our common interest is to empower email as a communication channel, as it is based on open standards and is independent. Registration for our Summit closes on April 10, and we wish to have everyone on site who wants to connect with the world via email and who would like to celebrate our 20th Anniversary with us 😉.

For more information about the upcoming CSA Email Summit, click here. Thanks to Sebastian, Maike, Julia, and everyone at the CSA for sharing this info, and for being good people in the fight against spam and helping to keep email marketing on a best practices path.
Post a Comment