Hotmail gets tough on Graymail

Hotmail has recently been in the news for improving their users’ Inbox experience, enhancing tools and improving their filters. More specifically, Hotmail is trying to combat “Graymail”  or all of the newsletters, offers, social network website emails, and other email communications many sign up for and are no longer relevant to you but keep getting delivered. These are emails that users legitimately receive but no longer want – roughly 75% of email identified as spam by Hotmail customers according to Windows Live Hotmail.

At Experian CheetahMail, this Graymail announcement has left many of our clients asking how this change will affect their messages and more importantly their deliverability/Inbox performance. These enhancements go along with what CheetahMail Deliverability has always advised about mailing to your actives. Basically any mail that is sitting in a users’ Hotmail inbox untouched (not opened or clicked) after a while is considered Graymail. Hotmail is trying to reduce the burden of all sorts of offers, newsletters etc for the user and their own system.

We don’t have much insight into their filter algorithms but we can assume if too many people are allowing the clients emails to sit in their inboxes and end up as graymail, Hotmail’s filter will pick this up and can possibly start sending the emails to bulk. We have often seen a decrease in user engagement as a reason for Hotmail bulking. By mailing to your active and engaged Hotmail users this Graymail issue should become a non-issue. Additionally, consider asking users to add the client to their address book to ensure inbox delivery and avoid spam/junk foldering. Instructions can be found here: http://www.cheetahmail.com/deliverability/reach-the-inbox/

The two main features of Graymail that we DO know are:

One-click Unsubscribe

Hotmail has had an unsubscribe link in the user interface already, but how they handle these requests are changing and not complying could result in your email being sent to the spam folder. If a subscriber clicks on the unsubscribe link in the Hotmail interface now, and either the list-unsubscribe header isn’t present or doesn’t work, email from that sender will be permanently delivered to the spam folder. CheetahMail complies with this unsubscribe request.

Schedule Cleanup

Hotmail users can now decide how long they want messages from a particular sender, or all senders, in their inbox before they are deleted permanently or moved to a specified folder. This could be the best time to reach out to your subscribers and give them a choice to the frequency of emails they want to receive. This cleanup could also prove to be beneficial for senders as subscribers may not mark old, unwanted email as spam which can adversely drive up spam complaints.