Amazon SES celebrates 10 years of email sending and deliverability
Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES) turns 10 years old today. Back on January 25th 2011, Amazon Web Services (AWS) had only 15 services. Today, AWS has grown to over 180 services. Jeff Barr launched Amazon SES as part of his web evangelist blog. Much of what he wrote about then is still true today. Even 10 years later, email is an important channel for customer communications. Developers still want to rely on a trusted global partner to deliver email at scale. However, mailbox providers are even more protective of their end users’ security. They actively work to ensure that any perceived, unwanted email doesn’t make it to the inbox.
Inbox providers use several factors to determine the legitimacy of email traffic. Over the last decade, we have worked diligently to measure many of those factors in Amazon SES to help our customers achieve great deliverability. The focus for much of that work has been a combination of investments into reputation, engagement, and trust. I want to outline what we’ve accomplished to improve your email sending over the last 10 years.
Reputation is the measurement mailbox providers use to determine how closely you follow their sending standards. Amazon SES measures perceived reputation through metrics such as bounce rate or complaint rate in the reputation dashboard. The reputation dashboard also shares overall Amazon SES account sending status like “Healthy” or “Under Review.” Some Inbox providers, or ISPs, also provide feedback to help us measure the effectiveness of a specific IP or domain in sending trustworthy traffic.
You can influence reputation in Amazon SES through:
- Setting up dedicated IPs: Set up IPs in Amazon SES for your own specific sending with appropriate warm-up plans. Split IPs out by use case such as separating password resets from marketing messages.
- Customer owned IPs (New in 2020): You can now transition IPs you’ve invested in through your own data center or with another ESP to Amazon SES without interruption.
- Following sending volume best practices: Nothing can flag your IP addresses faster than non-predictable sending patterns. We help you manage this through sending quotas.
- Use our SES email simulator: Test your application sending without messages leaving the sandbox.
Engagement is the rate by which customers are interacting with your content. Amazon SES helps you measure engagement through conversion rates (such as open or click-through) and unsubscribe rates. These are measured in the event publishing click stream. This area is more of an art in our deliverability calculus because success varies by industry and use case.
You can influence engagement in Amazon SES through:
- Customizing content as much as possible, but follow content best practices to avoid setting off content filters. Mailbox providers often utilize behavioral content filtering using AI to determine if your content is relevant based on engagement behavior.
- Use consent and list management (New in 2020) with customized topics and opt-out pages. It’s important to offer recipients a way to select what emails they want to receive from you and give them an option to opt-out. This is a great new feature that we’ve added based on customer feedback.
- Remove emails that are not engaging from your lists. Some customers have a time limit, for example, 60 days, before they are automatically removed from an active email list.
Earning trust on email sending is done through the adherence to proper sending behavior, as measured by both individual ISPs as well as industry watch-groups. Trust is closely related to reputation. We measure trust through messages in the reputation dashboard based on feedback loops, Real-time Blocklists (RBLs), and spam-traps. You can also see the complaint rate associated to your sending in the complaint area of the reputation dashboard. It has statuses like healthy or under review.
You can influence trust in Amazon SES through:
- Appearing as though you are who you say you are, through proper configurations of authentication such as Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) records in DNS.
- Monitoring your feedback loops. An increased problem with complaints could indicate an issue with your email list.
Deliverability is a multi-dimensional part of email sending, beyond just setting up an SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) endpoint, with constant complexities. But, we’re here to help. In addition to these investments in deliverability, we’ve also expanded Amazon SES to 18 regions, including the government cloud. It’s been an exciting time at AWS, and we look forward to supporting all of our customers in the years to come with Amazon SES.