Changes to Hotmail - How It Affects Email Marketing

And What Can You Do About It? - from Net Atlantic

What Has Microsoft Done?

By now, you may have read about Microsoft's recent changes to its Windows Live Hotmail email client. These changes will definitely affect the way you send email campaigns to your Windows Live and Hotmail clients (Below, we’ll offer some suggestions). These changes include:

  • Hotmail has added a 'Trusted Senders' icon to visually identify authenticated email, protecting recipients from phishing scams.
  • The new 'Sweep' feature allows readers in all Windows Live Hotmail clients to 'sweep' away incoming email from senders they’ve never engaged with into the trash as it comes in.
  • 'Time traveling' filters allow Microsoft to retroactively remove emails that make it to the inbox if your reputation is found to be poor and the email has not yet been read.
  • 'One-click' filters allow recipients to sort incoming emails by source type, putting only their known contacts at the top, while emails from other senders fall to the bottom.
  • 'Prompted unsubscribe' asks recipients who never open your emails if they want to unsubscribe. If they do, and you still send to them, your message will not be delivered to them.

What Can You Do About It?

  • Number one, get reacquainted with your email tracking and reporting tools. You will need benchmarks for your campaigns, specifically to Windows Live Hotmail, so you can see how performance changes.
  • Next, and probably most important, start segmenting your Hotmail recipients into their own group, and customizing your email campaigns for them. For instance, you should try to re-engage more often, and ask to join your recipients' contact lists.
  • Monitor your Hotmail subscriber status, such as 'Normal', 'Held', or 'Unsubscribed'. Watch for trends, and keep a careful watch on delivery to Hotmail subscribers.
  • Add a clear unsubscribe link to the top of your emails. Letting uninterested recipients unsubscribe is better than getting their spam complaints instead.
  • Use DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to increase confidence even further.

In short, if you use best practices across all of your email campaigns, you can avoid losing your reputation as a trusted sender. Windows Live Hotmail is making a list and checking it twice. Don't be on it.

For more, read this excellent article by Tom Sathers at ReturnPath.