Jolly Good Websites for Reading Businesses Established October 1999
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Wednesday 10 February 2010

How Keep Off Hotmail's Greylist


Each week in our BNI lunchtime meeting, I am expected to get up and tell other members and visitors a little bit about my work in a sixty second snapshot.

If you want to find out a bit more about our weekly meetings, skip to the bottom of this page.

Here's what I had to say this week:

"My name is Jon Ewing and I am from ltd, a website design and development company from Reading established more than ten years ago.

"You should refer business to me because I offer a reliable, friendly and personal service at the competitive rate of just £35 per hour.

"This week we've been working with a client on data purification.

"In a nutshell this means making sure that you're not sending emails to addresses that have been defunct for years or never existed to begin with. And while you might think this isn't necessary – email being ostensibly free to send – it's becoming more and more important because services like Hotmail and Google Mail and well as ISPs and corporate network administrators are increasingly greylisting (which is to say banning) senders who persistently send email to non-existent addresses. Which means that you might find yourself cut off from all of your Hotmail customers just because you sent a mailout to a handful of out-of-date Hotmail accounts.

"So this week I'd like you refer someone to me who has been building an email database for two years or more but doesn't have a policy to remove old data and avoid greylisting.

"To find out how good your website could be, look into inframes."

Windows Live Hotmail
More on This Subject

1. Read This
To find out what greylisting really means, visit

2. Create an SPF Record
Depending on how much control you've got over your domain's DNS settings, you may be able to create an SPF Record or, if you use Micorosft Exchange, a Sender ID. These help to legitimise your email. How? Well, spammers very often spoof the originating address of their email messages to make it seem like you've got mail from HSBC or eBay or Facebook, for example. But if your mail server checks the SPF record for every email that arrives, you will stand a much better chance of weeding out malicious spam from authentic email. The email's header contains details of the server where it originated and the SPF record will tell your mail server whether that server really does belong to the domain in purports to come from. And if all of that sounds too technical, don't worry. The important thing is that creating an SPF Record or Sender ID will help keep you out of Hotmail's bad books.

3. Join the Junk Mail Reporting Programme
If you have your own mail server, you may be able to join Hotmail's junk mail reporting programme. If you meet Hotmail's criteria, they will begin notifying you whenever an email from you is marked as junk so that you can delete that address from your database. Read more about the junk mail reporting programme here.

4. Remove Hard Boucebacks
It should go without saying that you must have a method for allowing people on your database to unsubscribe themselves. In addition, it's important to have a process for removing email messages that result in a "hard bounce", which is to say the email address does not exist, as opposed to a "soft bounce", which might result from a full mailbox. If your mailing list is small enough, you can do this manually, by checking bounce-backs. To an extent this can be partially-automated by using something like Mail Grab, which strips addresses out of email messages or other files. But if you are getting more bounce-backs than you can manage manually, you'll need software that can check your email as it comes in and unsubscribe the recipients automatically. Precisely what that software is will depend on your other systems (ie. mail server, customer database etc) so give us a ring or send us an email and we can talk about your options.

5. Use a Double-Opt-in Subscription Model
In some cases, you might be sending email to addresses that never existed in the first place, simply because the subscriber made a typo when he or she entered the email address. To get around this - and if you have ever opted into mailing lists yourself, you've doubtless encountered this yourself - there should be two stages to your sign-up process:
(a) the initial sign-up, which generates a single, unique email message and
(b) the click-through from that unique email to activate the subscription
Using this method, you ensure from the beginning that the address is real. And it has the positive side-effect of stopping malicious or mischievous people from signing up other people without their knowledge.

What's BNI?

I am one of half-a-dozen people who have started a new chapter of the BNI business networking group and we're looking for other Reading-based small business professionals to refer business to.

We meet between 12.15pm and 1.45pm on Wednesdays. If you'd like to come along to a lunch, please drop me a line or give me a call and I'll put you in touch with our organiser.

There's absolutely no commitment required – you just pay a tenner, which covers the cost of lunch at the Strada on the Oracle Riverside - and you'll have a chance to meet existing members and other visitors, introduce your business and of course hand out business cards.