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Outbound Spam Costs ISPs Hundreds of Thousands - and Lost Emails

The majority - 68% - of ISPs say that outbound spam costs them up to $100,000 per year; another 4% say it costs them as much as $250,000, according to a new research study by industry analyst firm Osterman Research and Commtouch.

The survey provides some insight into at least one reason why ISPs are so adamant about stepping up security and deliverability standards for email - and by extension, email marketing. ISPs, according to the survey, have found that unsolicited email can lead to customer loss, operational cost increases, brand damage and even potential lawsuits. The problem is pervasive among providers: almost 40% of respondents have had their IP addresses listed on Real Time Blackhole Lists (RBLs) in the past 12 months alone. RBLs are published lists of the addresses of computers or networks known to be sending out spam and if a service provider is "blacklisted" as a result of outbound spam, its customers' legitimate email can be blocked by other service providers.

Disappearing Emails

Before marketers blame ISPs for their deliverability problems, though, there are several other factors to consider. Twenty percent of email in the United States and Canada is still not making it to the inbox while 3% of email goes to the "junk" or "bulk" folder and another 16% goes missing, according to Return Path's Global Deliverability Benchmark study for the second half of 2009.

Reasons include:

1. Many senders still don't have access to reliable data on their deliverability situation. According to Return Path these senders are instead relying on reports that show a "delivered" metric that tends to be 95% or higher.

2. Senders are leaving a lot of money on table - on average about 20%, Return Path also found. This is because marketers find it easier to concentrate on the money they can make - especially since email is a low cost channel. But such thinking make it easy to disregard or overlook lower deliverability rates, Return Path argues.

3. Senders are still failing to implement best practices around reputation and behavior. Reputation is the driving factor that determines whether or not email makes it to the inbox, Return Path notes. However not all use such tactics as welcome messages or easy opt-out procedures.

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