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Are Yahoo!’s MTA Connectivity Issues Over Yet?

There has been a small buzz growing about Yahoo!’s recent connectivity issues. Because sending to Yahoo! is so important to email marketers, I want to clarify some of the key points. For those of you who are reading this blog for the first time in a while, you may be unaware of any connectivity issues at all. So let me provide a brief recap to get everyone up to speed.

Yahoo! has been experiencing intermittent connectivity issues since January 26th, 2010. Therefore, when you send a message to a Yahoo! account (i.e. people with @yahoo.com, @ymail.com, @rocketmail.com @att.net, @sbcglobal.net email addresses) your message could take longer than normal to reach the inbox. It also means that the problem is sporadic, so connectivity might be fine this morning and difficult tonight. This is commonly referred to as the message being “deferred” by the Yahoo! mail servers.  Besides the small list from above, Yahoo! hosts mail servers for many more organizations worldwide.

Once we were alerted of the issue on January 26th,  we communicated as much information to our clients as possible. Our clients send email to Yahoo!’s servers all the time, so we knew the issue would be important to almost everybody. While we didn’t have much information to share, we still thought it was important to notify everyone immediately despite the potential confusion it might cause.

Internally, we speculated this might cause some confusion among users who rely on us as their Email Service Provider to distribute their campaigns. The biggest challenge with this type of alert is that it often makes it appear it was our fault they were having connectivity issues to Yahoo!. Questions immediately began coming in asking, “When is Gold Lasso going to solve this?”

So to clarify: This in no way was a result of anything any Email Service Providers have done. All ESPs are sharing the industry-wide challenge of delivering email to Yahoo! during their intermittent connectivity issues, and no ESPs are to blame. This is purely an issue on Yahoo!’s side. It’s very unfortunate that they have been struggling for almost two weeks to remedy the situation, and we hope they are able to bring it to a close very soon. The only thing we can do to help is continue to keep the public informed, communicate any updates provided to us by Yahoo!, and educate on who and what is affected.

Here is the background to outline the ongoing issue and then I will chime in my two cents on the situation.

Back on January 26th, Yahoo! began reporting connectivity issues through their YmailAdmin group with this message:

“If you’re seeing some queuing in your outbounds today when sending to Y! users,
we’re currently experiencing low connectivity across our MTAs, which started
this morning. We’re working to get things back to normal.

The SMTP error message being generated by the issue should be:

“420 Resources unavailable temporarily. Please try later <insert Y! MTA
hostname>”

Our apologies for the inconvenience..

This mostly went unnoticed unless you were a member of the YmailAdmin group (or an email administrator watching log files or monitoring their MTA’s).  It was speculated that Goodmail was the cause of the connectivity issues however Goodmail reported that the Yahoo! issues had nothing to do with them.  These rumors may have been because of Yahoo! and Goodmail’s recent public divorce and people were just looking for a scapegoat.  A few hours after it was reported through the ymail group, this message was posted:

Our MTAs’ connectivity levels are stable and back to normal, folks. Thanks for
hanging in there.

Even though it was reported late that night that the issue was resolved, a few hours later (early the next morning on January 27th) the issues began again. This time it took a while (mid evening on the 27th) for Yahoo! to confirm the ongoing issue with the below message:

Sorry for the late update, but as I’m sure most of the senders have noticed,
we’re again experiencing low connectivity on our MTAs, starting very early this
morning.

We’re working hard to restore the connectivity to normal levels, and I’ll post
an update as soon as I have some good news.

These types of messages have continued off and on up until February 5th when they reported the below message. This was the last message since the 5th that they have posted:

Our connectivity levels have been stable since Wednesday noon (PST). That said,
we are still investigating reports of timeouts when trying to open a connection,
as well as dropped connections during the DATA portion of the SMTP transaction.

Updates to follow as developments arise. Thanks.

I feel that Yahoo! did a fair job of keeping the community up to date with their progress. What concerns me is that there has been no update since February 5th regarding timeouts and dropped connections which leads me to believe that they are still experiencing at the least intermittent issues.  Yahoo! has always been one of the toughest ISP’s to deliver to and these recent issues haven’t made that task any easier for marketers. With the amount of yahoo addresses (as well as the many companies using Yahoo!’s MTA’s to host their mail) Yahoo! has a lot to shoulder in terms of users counting on them for sending and delivering mail day in and day out and we wish them the best of luck putting this behind them.

We will continue to update our clients as well as post publicly as we receive information on the issue. Meanwhile, please let a Gold Lasso Representative know if you have any comments, questions or suggestions.

Mazel Tov to Goodmail and Microsoft!!

It looks as though Goodmail has inked a deal with Microsoft that will go in to effect on or around the 17th of February.  This is exciting news not only for the two companies involved but email marketers (who qualify) who have had deliverability issues with Microsoft in the past.  I look forward to hearing more about this as it completely develops.

Thanks @LenShneyder from Pivotal Veracity for reporting it here:

Click here for more information about becoming Goodmail certified.

First Yahoo, Now AOL is having Error Code Issues

AOL is currently experiencing issues which are causing incorrect error codes to be issued.  This is an issue on AOL’s side and they are currently working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.  We will keep you updated as soon as they have a resolution.  Here is what the AOL Postmaster Blog is reporting…

“We are at present issuing a “451 4.3.0 <invaliduser@aol.com>: Temporary lookup failure” which should be read as “User not known”. This is transient and we will post an update when it stops.

This is not replacing the existing two codes:

500, text= 5.1.1 <invaliduser@aol.com>: Recipient address rejected: aol.com

and

550 Mailbox not found

Senders using scripts to remove unknown users automatically should be looking for all three codes for the moment.

AOL AntiSpam”

Guess who is having low connectivity issues again?

Guess who’s back, back again?  Yahoo connectivity issues are back, tell a friend…

It looks as though the connectivity issue has once again reared it’s ugly head for Yahoo.  At least this time the SMTP error message is different (if that helps.)  Our clients can follow this developing story in the Gold Lasso Client Portal.  Good luck to Yahoo on getting this resolved permanently and putting this all behind them.

Below is the message that I received from the Yahoo Postmaster Team…

##########################

At around 6am PST, we again started experiencing low connectivity on our MXes, and we have since been working incessantly to improve the situation. As before, the SMTP error message being generated by the issue will generally be the following:

“420 Resources unavailable temporarily. Please try later <insert Y! MTA hostname”

However, some senders may see our other “421” SMTP error messages as well, as listed here:

http://postmaster.yahoo.com/errors/

Ensuring that email is delivered in a timely manner is of the utmost importance and priority for us, so we appreciate your patience while we work on the issue.

Best regards,

Yahoo! Mail

Message, List, and Campaign Archiving now Available in Gold Lasso’s eLoop

At Gold Lasso, growing anticipation about  the eLoop 5.0 launch has our team  working even harder. In a few  months, we’ll be rolling out an  exciting new version of eLoop with  added and improved features to make  your job easier.

With a focus on helping marketers work more efficiently, we  are diligently developing the right tools and functionality  to create the smartest ESP software out there. But even  though 5.0 is just around the corner, we continue to  introduce some of these new features in our current product.  Our latest addition will make our organized users do  cartwheels down the hall (we witnessed this phenomenon  yesterday in our office from our Client Service reps when we  told them the feature was going live). The Archiving feature  will be available to all users Thursday January 28th.

Message, List, and Campaign Archiving

This feature gives you the ability to query Messages, Lists,  and Campaigns (based on time) and choose which ones to  archive. The easy-to-use tool employs a simple list/checkbox  format. This is a great way to “tidy up” your eLoop account  and improve efficiency by being more organized.

We have also added the ability to archive from the individual sections by highlighting what you want to archive  and clicking the archive icon.

Along with the ability to archive comes the ability to un-archive as well. This will work exactly the same way as  its Archive counterpart.

Reporting will not be affected regardless if you choose to  archive or un-archive lists, campaigns or messages. The  archive feature’s purpose is simply to help users see  information that is recent and relevant, and does not delete  or erase any data from eLoop accounts.

We have also added error handling validation messages which  displays a prompt whenever attempting to schedule a campaign  with previously-archived lists or messages.

The Archive feature can be found under the “Data Management” section of eLoop.

Big News Next Week! Be on the lookout for a big announcement  from Gold Lasso! Be one of the first to hear our  announcements and industry news by  following me on twitter.

Yahoo Mail Servers Experiencing MTA Connectivity Issues Today

This was posted on Yahoo today…

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/ymailadmin/message/17

If you’re seeing some queuing in your outbounds today when sending to Y! users,
we’re currently experiencing low connectivity across our MTAs, which started
this morning. We’re working to get things back to normal.

The SMTP error message being generated by the issue should be:

“420 Resources unavailable temporarily. Please try later <insert Y! MTA
hostname>”

Our apologies for the inconvenience.

Press Release – Gold Lasso Adds Government-to-Citizen Notifications to its List of Capabilities

Gold Lasso launches CapitalSpeak, a special division to service the unique needs of federal, state and local governments.

Washington, D.C. (MarketWire) January 6, 2010 – CapitalSpeak, a new division of Gold Lasso, Inc., a leading provider of on-demand marketing automation and campaign management systems, announced today the release of its eLoop product for the government marketplace. This announcement coincides with the growing demand for formalized public email and mobile communications systems within federal, state and local governments. With automated alert notification capabilities, real-time subscription and response management, CapitalSpeak offers agencies the most robust solution for a wide variety of government-to-citizen communications.

“What makes CapitalSpeak perfect for our government clients is that it allows public affairs, web communications and emergency management professionals to send email campaigns from anywhere at any time, to as many citizens as necessary,” said Elie Ashery, President and CEO of Gold Lasso. “Timely communication these days, whether it’s regarding public safety, job listings or general awareness of services, is essential to build trust in the public eye. “

CapitalSpeak capabilities include database integration with third-party systems and existing web forms, custom newsletter template design and deliverability consulting to ensure important messages are delivered, opened and read.  Aside from executing email campaigns, eLoop also allows clients to analyze and segment lists, synchronize with social media sites, develop landing pages and gather feedback from subscribers via surveys. Designated users can operate from a mobile device eLoop’s One Click Alerts campaigns to send public service announcements (PSAs) or activate a Crisis Communications System.

CapitalSpeak Account Features:

  • Unique IP Address
  • Custom DNS
  • Delivery Monitoring
  • Submission to ISP White Lists
  • Volume Discounts
  • Personal Service and Account Support
  • Web-based access
  • Unlimited number of users

All CapitalSpeak products and services are available via the GSA Advantage Schedule under Gold Lasso, Inc. contract number GS-35F0794M.

Previously only available to private businesses and institutions, eLoop users include Oral Roberts University, George Mason University, Purdue University and the University of Denver.

About CapitalSpeak
CapitalSpeak is a service of Gold Lasso, a leading SaaS provider of email marketing, response management and marketing automation solutions. CapitalSpeak is designed for Government-to-Citizen communications where federal, state and local governments can easily provide their citizens with timely and relevant information.  CapitalSpeak’s systems help the government communications professional efficiently deliver the right message to the right person at the right time using the right medium.  CaptialSpeak also provides the necessary response management tools to engage citizens for feedback and to manage, channel and respond to feedback accordingly.

About Gold Lasso
Gold Lasso, Inc., located in Gaithersburg, MD, is one of the fastest growing email service provider, specializing in solving the online marketing challenges of middle and enterprise marketplaces. Gold Lasso provides on-demand e-mail marketing technology and services, including eLoop, its modular solution that enables clients to collect and manage data, streamline outbound messaging and access reporting features. For more information, visit the Gold Lasso Web site at http://www.goldlasso.com or call 301-990-9857.

Cox Communications – Blocking URL’s Within Message Body??

I was helping a client troubleshoot a deliverability issue with Cox Communication the other day and found something very odd.  The issue was that all messages being sent to @cox.net recipients was never reaching the inbox.  The messages were not being bounced back so there was no bounce error to reference back to and of course without that Tech Support is less opt to help troubleshoot.  The messages do not appear to be blocked for domain or IP reasons, and it doesn’t seem to be content related, but it does appear to have something to do with the message itself.  Here is the scenario and what we tried with the results:

* Simple text message no links – delivered to @cox.net mailbox

* Simple text message with a hyperlinked word (i.e. Click here) – delivered to @cox.net mailbox

* Simple text message with a hyperlink written out in the message body (i.e. http://www.mydomain.com/link.php) – not delivered to @cox.net mailbox

* Simple message with average size image and no links – delivered to @cox.net mailbox

* Simple message with average size image with a hyperlinked word (i.e. Click here) – delivered to @cox.net mailbox

* Simple message with average size image with a hyperlink written out in the message body (i.e. http://www.mydomain.com/link.php) – not delivered to @cox.net mailbox

**NOTE** – We used the same url for the hyperlink throughout all of our testing.

Once we removed the hyperlink from within the message body and replaced it with hyperlinked text, all messages from the client’s IP/domain were delivered.  Has anyone else had or seen this issue before?  This is the first time that I have seen this technique by anyone to block messages.  This technique of blocking would make it difficult for anyone trying to pass a hyperlinked url in their message for a copy and paste reason or for text messages.

I have fired off an email to the postmaster at Cox and will post back the response one I receive it.  If you have any experience with this, please let me know by commenting back or by sending me a message.

SpamAssassin Bug

If you are a frequent user of the “Check for  Spam” button within the editor, you may have seen a new flag causing your SPAM score to go up drastically. The test name is called “FH_DATE_PAST_20XX” (wiki.apache.org/spamassassin/Rules/FH_DATE_PAST_20XX) and comes with a 3.4 point SPAM score. The details for the test states “The date is grossly in the future.” This high score is due to a bug in the SpamAssassin tool that we use to score messages.

Although we have fixed the bug on our side, the bigger picture shows that SpamAssassin is the most powerful Open Source filtering application and is widely used throughout the world. This means that as of January 1st, 2010, any mail servers that have not been updated may score your legit messages as SPAM upon receiving it.

If you have any questions regarding this bug, please contact your Gold Lasso Customer Service Representative.

Quick Unorthodox Fix to the Spacer.gif Debacle

Since Microsoft decided to set Email Marketing back a few years by using Word’s rendering engine , I see a fitting simple yet unorthodox kick in the hiney to them is in order.

If you have ever worked your tail off to optimize your email message only to test it in Outlook 2007 (which for a split second before the preview kicks in gives you a nice false sense of hope) and watch it fall apart then here is a quick and simple solution that will work almost 100% of the time when spacer.gif’s are involved.

Get ready for this solution because if you blink, you may miss it.  Rename your spacer.gif to spcer2.gif (or another file that doesn’t exist.)  I know that it’s completely unorthodox but it works.  I even tested it using Spam Assassin and it doesn’t change anything by having a few images that point to a preverbal black hole in Cyberspace.  If the message has a colored background, you may see a slim white line at the bottom of your message that may need to be tweaked a little bit, however if the background is white you will never notice it.