Inbox placement problems for Microsoft Office365?

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  • Updated 3 years ago
Beginning late in 2016, some of Emma’s IP addresses began experiencing diminished inbox placement for Microsoft Office365 users with Exchange Online Protection enabled. Exchange Online Protection creates a score called BCL, which has a scale of 1-9. For a normal shared IP used to send marketing messages, it’s expected that you’ll see a BCL of 4-6. A handful of Emma’s IPs are scoring 7 or 8, with 7 being the default threshold for filtering messages, and we believe this is the root of inbox placement issues experienced by our customers.

Before we get into what Emma is doing and expects to do in the near future to resolve this issue, we want to make it clear that the BCL score is completely proprietary to Microsoft. In all other systems not operated by Microsoft (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, et al), inbox placement should be completely normal. There are no widespread inbox placement issues reported by customers, and none of the reporting metrics used by Emma to benchmark email performance indicate any other issues.

Our first action, once we identified this issue with Microsoft, was to ensure that our system is correctly processing bounces, opt outs, and spam complaints routed back to us from Microsoft’s email servers. We identified an error in that program’s logic that caused some requests to be miscategorized as temporary failures, fixed that error, and reprocessed those requests. Next, we opened tickets with Microsoft, asking them to investigate our BCL issues and help us resolve them. This went as far as a direct email chain between our Director of Infrastructure and a senior member of Microsoft’s anti-spam team. Although we did not get a resolution from these requests, we did get some direction for our plans going forward.

So, here’s what we’re doing now:

  1. We have sent test messages from all active IPs to benchmark BCL scores for all of Emma’s IP addresses and are defining processes and gathering actionable information to help lower the high scores (7-8) to that 4-6 range.

  2. We will be continuing to attempt to escalate this issue within Microsoft’s support structure to get a better, more clear understanding of how this issue started and what we can do to remedy it.

  3. We will leverage our partnerships with industry thought leaders, relationships built with other deliverability professionals, and any other source we can find to correctly identify strategies for remediating the current issue and protect Emma from future issues.

There are also a few things that you can do to measure the engagement of your audience and determine whether or not the effects of this Microsoft issue extends beyond your internal tests and into your audience:

  1. Track open rates over time: If open rates are stable or rising over the last 4-6 months, it’s unlikely that your audience is experiencing broad inbox placement issues.

  2. To alleviate testing issues, move test messages from “spam/junk” to your inbox. This should set a rule so that future messages that are similar will also default to the inbox.

  3. Add your sending address to your address book or contacts. This should bypass all Office365 filters and result in delivery to your inbox.

We will remain hard at work to address this issue and will update this post as new information emerges.
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Art Quanstrom, Deliverability and Compliance Lead

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Posted 3 years ago

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