AOL deliverability update

AOL Webmail Update

Yesterday, AOL released a new webmail client for and
users. The interface has a new look and feel, and their system now
handles default image display slightly differently.

Previously, if you were sending to AOL users, and you weren’t on
their enhanced whitelist, when a recipient clicked on your email
message, a message popped up asking if you knew who the message was
from, and confirming whether or not you wanted to display the message.
Now, if you’re not on their enhanced whitelist, the message simply
displays, but images do not display by default.

Just like previously, if a recipient has personally whitelisted you,
by adding your email address to the address book, images will display.

When viewing a message in AOL’s webmail client, there’s now an
information bar across the top of the message. In this bar the
recipient has the option to enable images just for this message, or to
enable image display always for this sender. With one click, a
recipient can easily, permanently choose to ensure images will display
in the mail you send.

This is a change…but not a huge one. This brings AOL’s functionality
more in line with how other webmail providers are handling things. I’m
a frequent Gmail user, and I know that it’s just part of the process
that when I view an email, I have to click on the “view images” (or
“always allow”) link to see the images in an email.

To recap:

  • AOL’s webmail client now will display your message, but not
    display images, unless you’re on the enhanced whitelist, or a
    recipient has added you to their address book.

  • Previously, AOL displayed an “are you sure?” dialog before displaying an email (images and all) from an unknown sender.

  • This change brings AOL’s webmail functionality more in line with that of other webmail providers.

Here are a few tips on how to get the most out of your email messages at AOL, keeping these new changes in mind:

  • Ensure that your emails have a compelling reason to load images.
    Don’t just randomly convert your entire email to an image. But, if you
    make sure that your emails look great and provide useful, extra info
    when images are enabled, you’ll be more likely to entice recipients to
    take that extra step and click on the “show me” link.

  • Ensure that your emails degrade gracefully. Are you testing them
    to see how they look with images off? With alt tags and without? If
    not, you’re missing out. Like in so many other areas, testing is the
    key here.

  • Sending an email that’s 100% images and no text means your
    recipients are less likely to recognize you, and more likely to report
    your mail as spam.

  • Open rates could take a modest hit, as AOL recipients can now view
    your email without loading images. Don’t panic! Make sure you look at
    both open rates and click through rates to determine who your engaged
    users are.

Fast facts about AOL’s Enhanced Whitelist:

  • AOL’s enhanced whitelist kicks in automatically for the cleanest of the clean senders.

  • It’s not something you can apply to be on. It happens
    automatically if your stats are on the good end of the spam complaint
    and bounce rate spectrum.It’s not possible to go to a website, key in
    an IP address, and see if you’re on the enhanced whitelist. The best
    way to tell is to launch an email to your AOL account and see if images
    display automatically.

  • If you want to get there, get clean and stay clean! Reduce bounces
    and spam complaints. Remove old subscribers. Don’t try to remail
    bounces. Move to double opt-in. Make sure consumers know they’re going
    to get mail from you. Remember that compliance alone isn’t good enough.
    You really need to go that extra mile to perfect the end user
    experience for the AOL users on your list.

  • This isn’t email service provider specific. Of course, we have
    your sending IP addresses whitelisted at AOL already. Whether they
    qualify for the enhanced whitelist is based on you and your practices.

For more information on AOL’s enhanced whitelist, click here.