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Breaking down AOL’s New Email Verification Policy

The world of email marketing is far from static or stagnant. In fact, it seems like a single day doesn’t pass without some new development shattering what we think we know about connecting with customers via their inboxes. Recently, AOL decided to keep up with this trend by dramatically altering how they handle email verification and spam for incoming messages to its user base. If you plan on promoting your brand and shipping out offers and discounts to your customers via email, you’ll want to stick around and find out exactly what AOL changed, and what you need to do to make sure you don’t end up with a logjam of bounced messages coming back from this ISP.

The Big Changes

In a blog post detailing the move, AOL unveiled the particulars of this email verification change. Basically, emails that claim to originate from the ISP’s servers must undergo a series of checks that ensure these messages actually fit the bill regarding credentials and authenticity. If it turns out that these messages simply use an @aol.com in its address but originate from a different server entirely, then all bets are off once AOL’s system starts sending up the red flags. Messages that fail this check will bounce right back to the sender, making sure that the email never comes close to the intended recipient’s inbox.

AOL’s Logic Behind the Move

So why is AOL completely changing its policies regarding server verification? While some might think it’s a direct shot at the email marketing industry, the truth is that promoted messages are simply a unintended causality in this ISP’s continued efforts to fight back against spammers and their illicit messages. Near the end of April, AOL users became the target of a widespread spam attack, leading to numerous compromised accounts and even more junk messages making their way to new mailboxes. To help stop the problem at its source, the ISP decided to shut down one of the biggest tools in the spammer’s kit: Spoofed messages that edit the outgoing address. Unfortunately, if your brand is also using this technique for legitimate purposes, chances are you’ll need to rethink how you reach out to customers before your messages start showing up in these customers’ inbox again.

A Growing Precedent

Of course, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened for those who dabble in email marketing. Recently, we covered the news and offered some insight on a similar change unveiled by Yahoo. Not surprisingly, the circumstances leading to this action were eerily similar between these two ISPs, so seeing both platforms come to a similar conclusion makes sense. Again, this growing precedent isn’t a knock on email marketing so much as it is the mistakes of a few – think spammers and others trying to pull a quick one on unsuspecting viewers – ruining a good thing for you and the customers who enjoy checking out your latest offer or discounts.

The Future of ISP Interactions

Until service providers can find a way to eliminate spamming and junk emails that hit the inbox stuffed full of viruses and shady links, chances are that these new verification checks are going to become the norm in the email industry. While there’s no guarantees that Gmail, Hotmail, and the other big names out there will definitely follow in AOL’s footsteps, if spammers start to put more pressure on the ISPs that haven’t made the switch, you had better believe it won’t take these platforms long to shut down spoofing and legitimate usage of these domain names alike.

Redefining Your Mailing List Strategy

Before you do anything else, the first change to your strategy is one that needs to happen ASAP if you rely on an @aol.com outgoing address – stop sending messages that are just going to bounce right back to your platform. From here, switching up your domain to one of the other free options out there, like Gmail or Hotmail, can help alleviate your issues in the short-term. However, as you can see, there’s a definite argument that one can make for all of the major email ISPs to eventually follow AOL and Yahoo’s lead on this issue.

To protect your email marketing operations in the long-term and make sure your messages always hit the consumer inbox on time, consider going with a domain name you either own or operate. This way, you’ll never have to worry about internal changes coming from AOL or any of the other big names directly affecting your ability to stay in touch with an audience that’s eagerly awaiting your next email.

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