HOW TO: Improve AOL delivery

By | March 2, 2017
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HOW TO: Improve AOL delivery

Email delivery is the No. 1 challenge for many email marketing professionals. Each Internet Service Provider (ISP) has their own rules and regulations for delivery of emails to the addresses they provide to their customers. Fortunately, the postmaster for one of the largest ISPs on the Internet, AOL, provides clear guidelines and comprehensive tools to assist with the delivery of commercial opt-in emails.

AOL whitelisting guidelines
Bulk email marketers who want to send solicited email messages to AOL email addresses can be whitelisted by following these guidelines.

Technical requirements include:

  • RFC compliant emails
  • Valid reverse DNS records
  • Closed relaying to prevent anonymous access
  • Static, non-residential IP address
  • Must not hard code AOL’s mx records into their configuration, but allow AOL to distribute the email as it comes in
  • Must send 100 emails per month to maintain whitelist status.

Email formatting requirements are:

  • Comply with federal CAN-SPAM act
  • Refrain from phishing or deceptive marketing
  • Provide subscriber information to AOL upon request
  • Easy to use opt-out or unsubscribe features included in every email message
  • Company information including phone number and physical address included in each email message.

Bulk email marketers must also fill out a form requesting whitelist status after agreeing to AOL’s terms and conditions.

AOL feedback loop
One of the key features of getting whitelisted is setting up an AOL feedback loop. The feedback loop sends a notice of each complaint generated by a user clicking the spam-reporting tool AOL offers its clients.
The email address is not provided, but increases in spam complaints indicate other problems with bulk email campaigns that should be addressed. It is best to use a dedicated email address for each mail server through which email messages are being delivered.
AOL is currently testing a new abuse report format called ARF or Abuse Reporting Format, with full implementation expected in the near future. When signing up for the feedback loop service, ARF can be requested in lieu of the traditional MIME report.

AOL enhanced whitelisting
The Enhanced Whitelist is available to whitelisted providers with a proven track record of excellence. There is no way to get on the list; it is automatic, and email marketers are eligible after 30 days of exemplary activity. Behavior is evaluated by individual sending IP address, not by domain.
The standards are evaluated using complaint rates relative to other bulk email senders. The criteria are not fully disclosed on AOL’s website. If complaints rise above a certain level, it is possible to be removed from the Enhanced Whitelist until the IP reaches 30 days of compliance. Everything is determined automatically.

CertifiedEmail designation
Since February 2006 AOL inboxes began receiving messages approved by the CertifiedEmail process, a new service offered by AOL and GoodMail Systems to help with delivery of legitimate emails.
Email marketers can sign up through GoodMail Systems for a per message fee to ensure that email messages are delivered to the AOL inbox and not to a bulk or spam folder.
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