In my e-mail one day, I received the following message:
“Hello, I am a subscriber to your ezine and received the attached e-mail. Please advise if this is actually from your website. Thank you.”
The attachment was from my mailing list program. It was informing my dear subscriber that since her mail kept bouncing,
“I'm not going to try again; this message has been in the queue too long.”
1. The Problem
Why was my newsletter bouncing? My mailing list program reports receiving this message:
“…The information presently available to AOL indicates this server is transmitting unsolicited e-mail to AOL. Based on AOL's Unsolicited Bulk E-mail policy at http://www.aol.com/info/bulkemail.html AOL cannot accept further e-mail transactions from this server. Please have your ISP/ASP or server admin call AOL at 1-888-212-5537, or visit http://postmaster.info.aol.com for more information.”
Basically, I was being accused of sending unsolicited commercial e-mail. This was a double opt-in subscriber. I don't do spam!
America Online, Inc. (AOL) had blocked my subscriber from receiving the e-zine she requested. About fifteen percent of my subscribers use an AOL e-mail address. Not only am I adversely affected, but my AOL subscribers are not getting their e-mails.
In contacting AOL sales and technical support, I found myself against a brick wall. Although, I was repeatedly offered a free trial to their service, they were unable to help me regain my subscriber.
“Why don't you contact your subscriber and have them whitelist your e-mail address?” How? All I have is her AOL e-mail address and everything I send to her fails. Believe me, I've tried. (You could use another e-mail address, I suppose, to trick AOL, but why should you have to?)
Of course, they absolutely refused to remove the block against me. (If you would like to learn more about AOL, try the search terms “AOL” and “AOL sucks” in a major search engine.)
By the way, it isn't just AOL that is doing this. Some other major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are doing the same thing. As well, some popular e-mail software programs also filter out wanted e-mails.
2. Some Solutions
If your subscribers are not receiving your newsletter, here are some things you can do to alleviate the problem.
1. Warn your subscribers. On your newsletter signup page, explain why they might not receive your e-zine. Explain about e-mail filters; ask them to whitelist your domain, not only to bypass the ISP spam filters but also to allow mail through any e-mail software they may have.
2. Try to avoid using words that trigger spam filters. Personally, I don't like this one; it smacks of violating my right to free speech, freedom of the press, et cetera. (Yes, I know. With rights come responsibilities. However, I am acting responsibly!) As a practical matter, though, it's something you have to consider. (I had my newsletter checked by a popular spam checker and it passed with flying colours.)
3. Send a text e-mail informing your subscribers that the current issue of your newsletter is available online at your website. (It could also be a good move to have an archive of past issues there, too, to boost your content and search engine rankings).
4. Consider using alternative ways of communicating. For example, you might try Really Simple Syndication (RSS).
Oh, by the way, my replies (with read receipt requested) to my dear subscriber's e-mail address appear to never have made it. To her I say:
“If you're out there somewhere, please re-subscribe. You might want to think about using a different e-mail address, though.”