Tools for monitoring deliverability

There are many tools you can use to track your deliverability with ActiveCampaign. Here, we'll discuss the various categories as well as the specific tools we recommend for each. These are third-party tools that you will need to access and manage outside of ActiveCampaign. Some services are free and some are paid.

In this article:

Mailbox provider tools

Some mailbox providers (like Gmail and Hotmail) have tools to track your deliverability. One advantage of using these tools is that data comes directly from the source. This is something you can’t get from any 3rd party.

Approximately 60% of a typical list is Gmail addresses, at least for US-based companies. If you track your deliverability only at Gmail you will have a good handle on your performance at large.

Google Postmaster Tools 

Google Postmaster Tools (GPT) is fantastic because they show you a wealth of data. You'll see a breakdown of IP and Domain reputation over time, authentication results and more. The data from GPT is trustworthy and they will tell you if your domain or IP has a bad, good, or middling reputation. This is helpful if you want to make changes to improve your deliverability, because GPT allows you to see if your domain reputation improves or worsens as you make changes.

Microsoft SNDS (Smart Network Data Services)
SNDS allows you to see the reputation of your IP at Microsoft inboxes (Hotmail, MSN, Outlook, etc). It also shows if your IP is outright blocked at Microsoft.

SNDS is not as useful as GPT because it only lets you track IP reputation. It doesn’t provide much detail either, with only a cursory Green/Yellow/Red indicator. In our experience the IP reputation you see in SNDS can be inaccurate. Green IPs may deliver to the spam folder at Microsoft and vice versa. Moreover, you can only see SNDS traffic if you use a dedicated IP. Since the typical ActiveCampaign customer uses a shared IP you may not find much benefit from SNDS.

Yandex and Mail.ru offer postmaster sites like Google Postmaster Tools. However, these are only relevant if you are sending emails to a lot of Russian addresses.

Seed testing

Seed testing services provide you with a list of seed addresses for each major inbox provider. You can plug these addresses into your list and send to them. The seed testing tool will tell you if they went to the inbox or not.

This is useful because it can reveal where your deliverability may be suffering. It can tell you what a typical bounce report cannot, whether delivered messages went to the inbox or spam folder.

Note that you should use caution with seed addresses. Seed addresses are not real people and can sometimes produce erratic results. For example, Gmail routes messages to recipients' inboxes based on whether they've engaged with your messages. Since seed addresses are not real people so there won't be any engagement. Seed testing won't give you a full picture of how your messages will deliver to real contacts. This is why seed addresses can sometimes create unnecessary alarm. The seeds might all go to the spam folder at Gmail, but if you test a live Gmail address you might find they go to the inbox.

Seed testing is a useful tool especially for benchmarking. Still, it shouldn’t be considered a de facto measure of whether your messages will deliver to the inbox.

Seed testing typically costs a small fee per test. 250ok, GlockApps and SendForensics are reputable seed testing vendors.

IP reputation

You might want to use a 3rd party to perform a more objective check on your IP reputation.

The best way to do this is through SenderScore.org. SenderScore is a free service run by Validity (formerly ReturnPath). They partner with a handful of mid-size mailbox providers to get data on IP address reputation. Since their data comes from real mailbox providers, their insight is useful for the overall health of your IP address. 

Note that SenderScore can sometimes be inaccurate due to low or fluctuating volume on your IP. None of the major mailbox providers (Gmail, Microsoft, Yahoo) participate in SenderScore. It's possible your IP can have a good SenderScore and still have bad deliverability at Gmail. Additionally, IP reputation is only one small factor in your larger deliverability picture. A high or low SenderScore does not guarantee good or bad deliverability.

There may be other tools to check the reputation of your IP, but SenderScore is the most formidable and useful source of information.

Domain reputation

You can use a 3rd party to perform an objective check on your domain reputation. 

Talos Intelligence or Reputation Authority may shed some light on your domain reputation. Neither of these will show the real reputation of your domain with any live mailbox provider. Both of these tools focus on domains with negative reputations due to spam or malware. You might see your domain has a “good” or “neutral” reputation with either service, but this doesn’t mean much. It’s rare for a domain to have a “bad” reputation with either of these tools.

In short, there is no better way to track your domain reputation than Google Postmaster Tools. GPT is accurate, free, and the best way to track your real domain reputation as it affects deliverability.

Content scanning

Mail-tester.com is a free tool that performs an analysis of your message. It includes authentication checks, RFC formatting checks, a SpamAssassin check, and more. It will tell you, at a basic level, if you've made any major mistakes in your content and if it reaches the bare minimum for delivery. It will not indicate if your domain/IP has a positive reputation.

Litmus provides a similar service. You can send Litmus a test message and they will scan it to determine if there are if any obvious problems that will prevent delivery.

Blacklist checks

There is a multitude of tools you can use to check blacklists, but we recommend Mxtoolbox

Mxtoolbox has some functionality that lets you receive alerts when you are blacklisted. This is useful if you don’t want to check manually.

Spam traps

There are some sophisticated tools that will give you an idea of how many spam traps you may be sending to. These tools cost a fee based on your sending volume and list size. They are usually only helpful for high volume senders who may need extra insight on which campaigns and lists are problematic.

250ok provides useful spam trap reporting with a paid subscription.

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