Bonar Calls #BS: The Great Deliverability Myth

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Earlier today a man I have significant amounts of respect for published a white paper “The Great Deliverability Myth”, the main premise of the paper is something that I whole heartedly agree with, however I think Ken Magill has over simplified the situation in the Delivra publication.

Essentially he states that relationships with ISP’s is absolute baloney and that deliverability rests in the hands of the marketer. To a great extent this is true and I have tried to educate my clients and others on these issues for years, however to ignore the technical part of the mix, the technical experience and the relationships that some people have in the industry is at worst pretty close to insulting and at best a naive cop-out.

Ken opens with “Want to know when an email-service-provider representative is spouting a big, fat load of BS? The moment they start touting their company’s superior deliverability”. Agreed in most instances where this would occur, the representative probably knows little about what he or she is talking about.

Laura Atkins has responded on her inimitable blog Word to the Wise ” In Ken’s understated way, he calls baloney on ESPs that claim they have great delivery because they have good relationships with ISPs. He’s right.” on that we are all agreed, and then Laura goes on to explain the value of the professional and personal relationships she has. To kid yourself that Laura would not be able to resolve issues faster than someone without those contacts and the breadth of knowledge she has would be foolish.

Laura says on her blog “I have a very minor quibble with one thing Ken said, though. He says ‘no one has a relationship with Spamhaus volunteer, they’re all anonymous.’ that is not quite true”.  I have a quibble with that, and with various other things Ken has said. For a start to say the Spamhaus volunteers are all anonymous is clearly and patently untrue, I have spent hours on the phone to representatives of Spamhaus, over the years. I have known the individuals I was dealing with by name as well as the SH moniker. It is not hard to track a few of the staff down on Twitter either for example:,… and There are people involved and proud of their involvement at Spamhaus and more than happy to reveal themselves and rightly so.

And to state that all ESP’s are equal and that “ALL ESP’s implement the technological whizbangerry” with the same effect is a nonsense. I have consulted to enough ESP’s who had a horrible mess with their technological setup to know this is patently untrue. There are so many variables, so many options, not least your choice of MTA, you cannot imagine someone running a default postfix install on an ubuntu box will have the same whizardry as someone running over a dozen instances of the PowerMTA platform in a smart well configured environment. Couple this with personal experience, having consulted directly with multiple ESP’s I can assure you that after I tackle the low hanging fruit, the ‘bad apple’ senders, whether by re-education or termination, there are big wins to be had in my tweaking mailstreams, IP configurations, network topology and more.  I have seen a decrease in rejected messages of 60% and more through no other change than ‘technical whizbangerry’ to use Kens words.

Different providers carry out different solutions to greater or lesser effect, the way I manage my mail for my employer is a lot different to the way the guys at my competitors do it. To tell me that any of my peers at any one of the hundreds of ESP’s in the marketplace can do what I do or vice versa would be a complete lie.

Is he honestly thinking that I learned nothing in delivering well in excess of 100 (one hundred) Billion messages over the past two years? My experience counts for nothing?

So far I have only scratched the surface of page 1 of the whitepaper, the following page is another ‘fact’ that I found extremely surprising, and certainly one contrary to my experience “Gmail is notoriously tough on senders” actually in my experience, a well run program is unlikely to have any issues at Gmail.

Going on to say that the three main things receivers look at is Complaints, Bounces and SpamTraps. This is true, but to state that if you run a permission based email program you would not have to concern yourself with complaints is a fallacy, one I wish wasn’t perpetuated. I have had more than enough complex discussions with clients explaining, the fact recipients gave permission to be emailed, does not give you the right to send whatever you want, when you want.

In any case much of what was written is assuming a dedicated IP I imagine, once we talk about what the majority of email marketing messages are sent by, a shared IP pool, the technological wizardry at the ESP makes even more difference.

There is no batphone and reputable ESP’s have said this for years, there is no hotline to Outlook, but there are certainly many of us with personal and professional relationships with the receiving community. That is not to say we are going to help anyone get spam to the inbox. Guess what if our contacts knew that was what we were trying to do (and they would easily be able to recognise this) those personal and professional relationships would dry up very quickly.

What our relationships allow us to do is leverage trust that has been carefully nurtured over time, like Laura I enjoy ‘semi-mythical’ relationships with some contacts at Spamhaus, those relationships are not going to result in my being able to get spam to inbox, or an IP delisted without change, but to say they have no value would be a fallacy.

I still recommend a read at the white paper, as the primary premise still holds true. There is no batphone.. In a follow up post I will advise on how to call #BS on your ESP’s deliverability and the numbers they spout. I will reveal the tough questions to ask … stay posted!

I do not wish to come across as that #BS artist we are all trying not to be; I am not completely unique in my field and there are many others who have skills, knowledge and wizardry that both match, differ, fall short of and superior to mine (yes all at once). I am thinking people like Vladimir ApostolskiAndy Thorpe, Tim Watson, Keith Kouzmanoff, Udeme Ukutt, Jaren Angerbauer, Greg Kraios, Laura & Steve Atkins, Maarten Oelering and others.

In response to feedback from others, I have more on this subject, read my latest post here: “Bonar responds to Mickey Chandler“.

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