Ask The E-Mail Diva: Fixing Delivery Problems

Dear E-Mail Diva,

My company has a newsletter that we send to an opt-in audience of 35,000 members. The content is very high quality--information about new independent music, with links to listen to and download free music. We sent out our third installment this past month, and it seems that accounts from Hotmail did not receive the e-mail. I assume this is because we were misidentified as spam.

We've used various online tools to check the content for spam triggers. We're reviewing other back-end systems, such as our IP addresses and public SPF record. If we know that our newsletter is being blocked by a specific service, is there anything we can do to plead our case to that provider? Do you have any words of wisdom to help us get off Hotmail's spam list?

William Houghton, vice president, marketing & independent music programs, MyStrands, Inc.

Dear Bill,

The great thing about being the E-mail Diva is having access to a range of industry experts. For help with this question, I called on JF Sullivan, vice president of marketing & products at reputation/delivery firm Habeas Inc.



I think many of us picture a person at Hotmail that one can call and say, "Look, we need to talk: you blocked my perfectly legitimate, permission-based e-mails." JF quickly disabused me of this notion. "Consider the math. There are four major ISPs and hundreds of thousands of mailers," he said.

You can only imagine what would happen if an ISP got a call every time there was a delivery issue with a firm's e-mail. Large E-mail Service Providers (ESPs) and reputation services may have direct contact, but only because they strive every day to understand the technical challenges from the ISP's perspective. Their "pull" with the ISPs is derived from working together to get legitimate mail delivered, not necessarily your mail.

What can you do? Three important things, according to JF:

1. Read the Hotmail guidelines for senders available at This page covers:

  • Technical issues

  • CAN-SPAM compliance

  • SPF

  • E-mail best practices

    2. Sign up for Hotmail's Junk Mail Reporting Partner Program at This will remove those troublesome recipients from your mailing list.

    3. Monitor the data on your mail activity, complaint rates and filter related information via the Smart Network Data Services at

    These tools will help you determine the source of your problems, so you can fix them and get your mail through next time. If it all seems like too much effort that is unrelated to your core competency, consider hiring an ESP. Do you really want to understand--and stay on top of-- the "how to" for every major ISP?

    Whether or not you work with an ESP, JF suggests you should invest in an independent delivery audit. Those who work with ESPs should not assume that "everything is handled."

    On a final note, Bill, please add your physical address to the bottom of your e-mail so that you are in compliance with CAN-SPAM. Long live indie rock and...

    Good luck!

    The E-mail Diva

    Send your questions or submit your e-mail for critique to Melinda Krueger, the E-mail Diva, at All submissions may be published; please indicate if you would like your name or company name withheld.

  • Next story loading loading..