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Octane’s update on Google Postmaster, a critical feedback loop for email marketers

GMAIL opens its blackbox.

Gmail’s spam filter is not perfect. In fact, it is quite likely for a legitimate email to get consigned to the spam folder. However, for every email of yours that lands in the spam box, Google docks a few points from your business reputation scorecard. So to bridge this gap, Google launched a new Tool – Google Postmaster on 9th July, 2015 to refine the performance of your email campaigns and route your messages to the right inbox.

Built for the qualified high-volume sender, this new dashboard provides visibility and insight into key statistics that Gmail previously didn’t offer. For Email Marketers and ESPs alike, it essentially works to combat the problem of daily deliverability and provide critical feedback to help fine tune and improve campaign performance.

To sign up you’ll need your email address, domain name, as well as a CNAME[1] or TXT DNS[2] record to verify the ownership. Once a valid domain is configured on the postmaster tool then the data gets represented in the tool. Each account needs a separate DNS verification record. Until this step is complete, you will not be able to see your traffic analytics. The timeframe of the data is represented from last 7 days to last 120 days which provides an idea on how the email campaign(s) perform over a period of time.

Google PostMaster’s 7 powerful dashboards provide an important set of data for email marketers to analyse. Let’s review each one of these:

(Disclaimer: The graphs represent simulated data, not real results.)

  1. The IP Reputation and Domain Reputation dashboards act as proofs of the strong stand that Google takes against bad emailing practices. Domain and IP reputations are calculated by looking at things sending history, volume and user feedback. It’s important to note that IP reputation will only be shown in aggregate and not by individual IP addresses. These two dashboards provide a crucial insight into whether Gmail’s spam filter will mark your emails from that Domain or IP as Spam or not.

    IP Reputation Dashboard

    Figure 1 Google Postmaster’s IP Reputation Dashboard simulated by Octane Marketing Pvt. Ltd.

    Domain Reputation Dashboard

    Figure 2 Google Postmaster’s Domain Reputation Dashboard simulated by Octane Marketing Pvt. Ltd.
  2. Authentication results (SPF, DKIM) provides the day wise report on whether the authentications SPF[3] and DKIM[4] are being authenticated is or not. This is very useful to know how the SPF and DKIM are getting authenticated on each day and act accordingly to verify if the authentication is failing daily. Its data is represented in 3 graphs: SPF Graph, DKIM Graph and DMARC Graph

    Authenticated Traffic Dashboard

    Figure 3 Google Postmaster Authenticated Traffic Dashboard simulated by Octane Marketing Pvt. Ltd.
  3. Delivery errors provides the percentage of the mails sent through the domain configured which have been rejected or not delivered at Gmail due to the reputation of the mailing. This provides the reason for the blocks, whether the blocks are temporary and the reason for rejection.

    Delivery Errors Dashboard

    Figure 4 Google Postmaster’s Delivery Errors Dashboard simulated by Octane Marketing Pvt. Ltd.
  4. Spam Rate
    The best aspect about Google Postmaster is its artificial intelligence to identify between spam and wanted emails via the user-data received from “Report Spam” and “Not Spam”. Spam filter uses an artificial neural network to detect and block the especially sneaky spam which impersonates emails.

    User Reported Spam Dashboard

    Figure 5 Google Postmaster’s User Reported Spam Dashboard simulated by Octane Marketing Pvt. Ltd.
  5. Encrypted Traffic
    This dashboard provides data only if your email messages are encrypted, and both you along with the receiver use email service providers that support Transport Layer Security. TLS is a protocol that encrypts and delivers mail securely for both inbound and outbound mail traffic. Google emphasises that this essentially helps keep your messages private while they’re moving between email providers. However, if your emails are TLS encrypted but your receiver or sender’s is not, then your messages could be read by eavesdroppers.

    This represents data 2 distinct graphs:
    a) TLS Inbound: Shows percentage of incoming mail (to Gmail), that passed TLS versus all mail received from that domain.
    b) TLS Outbound: Shows percentage of outgoing mail (from Gmail), that was accepted over TLS versus all mail sent to that domain.

    Encrypted Traffic Dashboard

    Figure 6 Google Postmaster’s Encrypted Traffic Dashboard simulated by Octane Marketing Pvt. Ltd.
  6. Spam Feedback Loop
    This helps email marketers identify campaigns in their traffic that get high volume of complaints from Gmail users. The FBL is particularly useful to ESPs like Octane.in to detect abuse of their services. This dashboard represents data in two graphs:

    a) Average FBL Spam Rate Graph: Shows average spam rate across all identifiers flagged by FBL, on a given day (when applicable) over time.
    b) Identifier Volume Graph: Shows the number of unique identifiers flagged by FBL per day (when applicable) over time.

    Spam Feedback Loop Dashboard

    Figure 7 Google Postmaster’s Spam Feedback Loop Dashboard simulated by Octane Marketing Pvt. Ltd.

Each individual dashboard can be analysed separately or as a whole to look for key trends that can be positively or negatively impacting your email sends. From the few months of using this tool, we’ve observed in it a drawback for ESPs that they’ll have to configure their domain using an authentication code that has to be added to the DNS[2] panel, and for this most clients do not add the same as they have their domain used by vendors.

Octane as an ESP have experienced:
• A spam free campaigning, helping to isolate any spam complaints;
• The delivery errors such as SMTP errors have gone down, thus improving the campaigns,
• Any activity which is hampering the domain or IP reputation, can be corrected on the same day

For Email Marketers whose email campaigns have been unsuccessful, Google Postmaster is a pivotal tool that helps to locate key reasons for the same. Additionally it provides Marketers with strategic insight into whether digital investments in email have reaped the expected ROI or not. While analysis of emails is important, it must be complemented by a proper understanding of the best email marketing practices to deepen customer engagement via spam-free email campaigns.

Glossary:

  1. Canonical name (CNAME) is a record in the DNS database that indicates the true host name of a computer associated with its aliases. It is essential when running multiple services from a single IP address.
  2. Domain Name System (DNS) is the way that Internet domain names are located and translated into Internet Protocol addresses. A domain name is a meaningful and easy-to-remember “handle” for an Internet address.
  3. SPF (Sender Policy Framework): A simple email-validation system designed to detect email spoofing by providing a mechanism to allow receiving mail exchangers to check that incoming mail from a domain comes from a host authorized by that domain’s administrators
  4. DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail): An email validation system designed to detect email spoofing by providing a mechanism to allow receiving mail exchangers to check that incoming mail from a domain is authorized by that domain’s administrators and that the email (including attachments) has not been modified during transport.