Email Marketers Peer Into Your Inbox

Email marketers can now peer into your inbox to see whether their emails are getting through.

ExactTarget, an Indianopolis-based company that “delivers on-demand email software solutions for permission- based email marketing” to companies like The Home Depot, General Mills, Scotts and Bristol-Myers Squibb is now offering a service that peers into users’ inboxes at their local ISP to check whether their email marketing newsletters are getting through or getting binned as spam. The product: Inbox Detective.

According to ExactTarget, more than 20 percent of legitimate email never gets through spam filters — numbers, as Chris Baggott, co-founder and chief marketing officer of ExactTarget puts it, that “should be unacceptable to a marketer.”

The ExactTarget Inbox Detective, allows marketers “to peer into the Inbox at the top 21 ISPs to get a quick snapshot of their actual delivery rates”. From there marketers can “track what percentage of email is reaching the inbox, which are being redirected to the bulk folder and which are being discarded.” All this can be done “in real-time, so problem areas can be identified and adjustments can be made.”

Another thing the Inbox Detective does is “keep emails away from content filters, which are the most widely used spam prevention technique, and also often erroneously catch legitimate permission email”. This it does by analysing “email content against major spam filters and black lists before sending”, so the marketer can “receive real-time advice on what content changes are needed to maximize email delivery”.

While I can quite understand that there are lots of legitimate email marketing companies out there, and lots of companies trying to run legitimate email newsletters, the Inbox Detective, as described in the ExactTarget press release, raises some troubling questions about the privacy of users’ inboxes at their ISP.

And, if ExactTarget can peer into inboxes of email providers such as Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, MSN, Earthlink, Comcast, AT&T and RoadRunner, who else might be able to?

To Russia With Love, So Long As It’s Not Email

Russia’s image as Spam (And Other Bad Stuff) Central is beginning to hurt.

CNET reports thats customers of high-speed Internet service provider Comcast were unable to email anyone in Russia for four days last week after the company’s spam filter blocked any emails to an address with the Russian suffix ‘ru’.

Although CNET called the block a malfunction, I can’t quite believe that. Russia is one of the main conduits for email spam, since most of its ISPs either turn a blind eye to spammers, or else collect fees for allowing the huge volume of spam to pass through their servers. Could a spam filter automatically exclude every email with a domain suffix? Or could someone have flicked a switch in frustration? And while the story only refers to outgoing email, what happened to email coming from Russia to Comcast customers?

CNET said that “Comcast implemented the filter to thwart spammers who were using the ISP’s servers to send spam with spoofed return addresses ending in .ru, which is the Russian top level domain.”

I could find no reference to the outage on the Comcast website.