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Delivering email to @AOL.COM members

Deliver email to AOL membersAOL today is over20 million active e-mails in the United States and over 60 million email accounts all over the world. The only companies who can boast more e-mail addresses are Microsoft (Hotmail and MSN) and Yahoo! And while delivering to msn.com, hotmail.com and yahoo.com addresses rarely poses any problems, at least to the legitimate marketers, delivering your message to AOL recipients can be almost next to impossible. AOL has very strict anti-spam policies. In fact, sometimes an AOL user who ordered something from the Internet does not even get a confirmation email.

The same thing happens to many AOL users who try to register or subscribe. There is a great discussion of these problems and their solutions at http://members.aol.com/adamkb/aol/mailfaq/dropped-mail.html. In order to avoid repetitions, I will just highlight the most common problems and their solution as written by AdamKB.


Problem 1 - Illegal Email Addresses: When a person using the Internet configures their email client, they should ensure that they always use valid email addresses. Some people, either accidentally or as a result of familiarity with closed corporate email systems, do not properly configure their email client. For example, in your "From" or "Reply To" fields you may have "John Doe", while it should be "john_doe@mysite.com"

Solution: Have the sender check over their email client's settings and ensure that all the fields contain legal, valid, fully-qualified entries.


Problem 2 - Nonexistent Internet Domains: This is a variation of the first problem. It happens when you make a mistake (for example, john_doe@mysite.net or john_doe@mysite.ocm instead of john_doe@mysite.com) or intentionally change your address to avoid spam (john_doe@mysiteNOSPAM.com)

Solution: Have the sender check over their email client's settings and ensure that all the fields contain actual Internet domains without extraneous information.


Problem 3 - Faulty DNS: As part of the Internet Domain Name System (DNS), every computer on the Internet has a unique four-part number assigned to it (i.e.: 206.230.56.44), which allows it to communicate with other computers on the Internet. Sometimes a computer pretends to be a name that it is not. When AOL receives faulty or confusing DNS, it will delete your message automatically.

Solution: Have the mail server system administrator reconfigure their mail server so that it identifies itself properly. It should not be showing up on a domain/network other than its own.


Problem 4 - Suspicious Relaying: When an Internet user sends a piece of email, they must use a mail (SMTP) server. Most Internet Access Providers (IAPs) offer a SMTP server to their users for sending mail, which must be inserted into the user's email program. If a person has multiple email accounts they may also have access to multiple SMTP servers for sending messages. Under normal circumstances, a user should only use one SMTP server for all their email accounts: the SMTP server belonging to the IAP that they are physically connected to (by analog modem, cable modem, network connection, etc.).

Solution: The sender should always use the SMTP server belonging to the Internet Access Provider they are currently connected to. Relaying through third-party mail servers, regardless of whether or not the sender has a legitimate account there, should be avoided.


Problem 5 - Mailing Lists: Because Internet mailing lists involve sending a single message to a lot of email addresses, they come dangerously close to unsolicited bulk email, a scourge of the Internet. It can be very difficult for a computer to tell what is a valid mailing list, which the recipient might be interested in, and what is unwanted commercial email. If a mailing list server sends too much mail in too short a time to a number of AOL members, AOL will consider it questionable and delete it.

Solution: The mailing list owner should ensure that their subscriber list is current and properly maintained. If this doesn't work, the mailing list server administrator should reconfigure their server to deliver messages to AOL more slowly. If this doesn't work, the administrator (preferably not the list owner, however) can try contacting AOL at <postmaster@aol.com>, and asking that their mailing list server be exempted from AOL's limitations. However, this recourse should only be used if the first two solutions, which are both signs of responsible administration, don't work.

Next week: Atomic Mail Verifier - software for keeping your lists updated
Prev week: Tips for making your bulk email marketing campaign more effective. Part 2.


Related links:

    • America On-Line
    • Bulk mail sender
    • Verify your mailing list

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