Best in Class: ActiveCampaign’s Approach to Deliverability

Best in Class: ActiveCampaign’s Approach to Deliverability

Email deliverability isn’t particularly sexy — but it’s critical to staying connected with your contacts.

Getting emails successfully delivered to inboxes is complex. It’s dependent on the filtering technologies of mailbox providers (like Google or Microsoft) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Comcast, GMX, or Orange.

Mailbox providers and ISPs are the gatekeepers of their subscribers’ mailboxes and they have sophisticated machine learning algorithms that identify malicious behavior and unwanted email. These systems constantly adapt to new market conditions, making it difficult to predict inbox placement.

The good news? ActiveCampaign uses best practices to minimize delayed delivery and spam folder placement. This means you can focus on building the best domain reputation possible without worrying about your messages getting sent.

Email deliverability is so crucial, it’s a key part of one of the three pillars of The ActiveCampaign Customer Success Commitment.

Keep reading to learn how ActiveCampaign:

  1. Controls our infrastructure for a better experience
  2. Is recognized as industry thought leaders
  3. Obsesses over our dedication to small businesses
  4. Offers best-in-class support
  5. Optimizes speed for every campaign
  6. Prepares for your success during the holidays
  7. Creates a diverse team with global expertise

1. We control our infrastructure for a better experience

Managing our MTAs

At ActiveCampaign, we manage our Mail Transfer Agents (MTAs) in-house vs outsourcing to a third-party vendor. Why is that important?

The risk with third-party MTA platforms is:

  • Unexpected downtime
  • Lack of visibility into critical deliverability issues
  • No access to logs that are obscured by layers for legal and reputation reasons

Since we manage our own MTA environment, ActiveCampaign can:

  • Send more emails, faster. We send hundreds of thousands of messages per minute with complete control over the reliability, scalability, and resiliency of our system.
  • Have Full Visibility. We have full visibility into the most granular detail of our architecture and how we can improve it.
  • Innovate. We aren’t bound by the restrictions of a vendor to innovate our mail infrastructure. This means we can offer special features you might not find with other providers, like pre-warmed dedicated IPs.
  • Save money. Managing MTAs in-house costs a fraction of a premium third-party vendor — and we pass the savings on to our customers.

Owning Our IPs

ActiveCampaign owns the vast majority of our sending IPs. Owning our IPs means we have more options on cloud providers we use. Owning our IPs also makes our messages appear more trustworthy to mailbox providers and ISPs, and less likely to be marked as spam.

When you rent IPs from a third party, there is no way to guarantee the IPs haven’t been used by spammers in the past. We have owned our IPs from the beginning, so we know the health and reputation of our IPs are clean and free from a history of spammy behavior.

A cloud-based environment

The majority of ActiveCampaign’s email infrastructure uses the power of Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS grants the ability to scale servers instantly, which means ActiveCampaign can be more agile, cost efficient, and innovative. Our infrastructure is spread across many different AWS availability zones that are physically separated from each other for maximum redundancy. Having our MTAs in our cloud environment also means we can achieve lower latency, higher throughput, and availability at a lower cost.

2. We are recognized as industry thought leaders

Understanding what is important to mailbox providers and ISPs is critical to our success. That understanding has allowed us to become recognized as thought leaders throughout the industry.

  • We are proud M3AAWG members and participate in pivotal committees to help unify the industry at large.
  • We take part in influential forums and mailing lists to stay connected with our peers in the industry.
  • We give our customers up-to-date information on trending issues or patterns in the global email ecosystem. This interconnectedness is key to staying on top of a dynamic industry.
  • We continuously develop new content to educate and empower you to achieve a higher return on investment (ROI) from emails.
  • Members of our team often speak at industry and vendor conferences and write for industry blogs.

du62ruwlv logoActiveCampaign is a proud member of the Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG), where the industry comes together to work against bots, malware, spam, viruses, DoS attacks and other online exploitation.

3. We obsess over our dedication to small businesses

At ActiveCampaign we are Small Business First, dedicated to the success of small and medium businesses(SMBs).

Since the volume of email campaigns from SMBs is often less than that of large enterprise companies, many of our customers rely on our shared IPs to achieve success. We are obsessed with providing a reliable and high-reputation environment all of our customers can use.

“ActiveCampaign is our main email marketing automation and CRM tool – mostly because it covers both tasks so well.” — Aaron Brooks, Venture Harbor

We have developed sophisticated systems to manage our shared IPs and domains to ensure that we offer the best infrastructure to customers on all plan tiers. These processes are automated — so they scale without manual intervention.

Carefully vetting new customers is important to make sure we accept senders that meet compliance standards for:

  • Solid business models
  • Strong industry rates (spam complaint, open, bounce rates)
  • Adherence to legal requirements and our Terms of Service

“Why We Turn Away Millions In Revenue” was written years ago by our Founder and CEO, Jason Vandeboom, and shows how we’ve always been laser-focused on keeping the reputation of our IPs and domains healthy.

4. We offer best-in-class support

Large companies have unique needs, so we have everything you need to succeed as a high volume sender:

5. We optimize speed for every campaign

As ActiveCampaign integrations and features continue to grow more robust, the job of sending a large campaign becomes more complex for our servers to handle.

Our developers constantly invent new backend systems and techniques that can process massive amounts of personalized email messages more quickly. Here are a few ways we do that:

  • We handle large sends in bulk. We spend a great deal of effort to make sure that the largest campaigns are transmitted by bulk to the mailserver (instead of in small batches) to drastically increase speed.
  • We focus on unique campaign needs. We make sure that single, one-off automated emails are treated differently to bypass the more complex systems that a bulk campaign needs.
  • We use our private network. Whenever possible we use our private network to send messages instead of the public internet. That means the typical time it takes for a message to reach our mailsever is decreased by 10x.

Curious about other factors that can influence ActiveCampaign’s sending speed? Learn more with these help articles:

6. We prepare for your success during the holidays

“In recent years ActiveCampaign has had zero downtime during Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, and Black Friday.” — Lori Vaughn, Director of Compliance and Deliverability, ActiveCampaign

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest days of the year for everyone at the ActiveCampaign Deliverability Team. A great deal of time is spent preparing to make sure the experience goes smoothly for you and your recipients.

Historically, we usually see a 150-200% year over year growth in email volume at ActiveCampaign. But recently, we’ve seen an unprecedented 200-250% growth in email traffic due to various factors.

o2xmxer9 ac growthActiveCampaign saw a 236% growth in email traffic between August of 2019 and August 2020.

Scaling up Infrastructure

In past years, one of the most crucial things ActiveCampaign has done for the holidays is to scale up our infrastructure to accommodate the impressive surge in traffic.

This means that we made sure we had enough servers (and that those servers had enough CPU, memory, network bandwidth, and disk space). Running our MTAs in the cloud made this process tremendously easier than having to manually buy servers, manage networking gear, and deal with hardware upgrades and failures.

We usually increased capacity by at least 160%: more recently we completely doubled our email environment. Scaling up our infrastructure means operations will continue to be completely seamless during peak sending times during the holiday season.

Tuning Configurations for Optimal Speed

In the months leading up to the holidays we pay special attention to optimizing our email configurations to be sure that “throughput” (the number of messages queued to a mailbox provider) is optimal for every message you send.

This process is a constant work in progress, since optimal thresholds are a moving target. This means tuning and reassessing our SMTP level connections (like rate limits and throttling) to make sure that we don’t send messages too fast or too slow for any given mailbox provider.

7. Create a diverse team with global expertise

A core principle at ActiveCampaign is creating a diverse workplace that helps us create an even better product.

With decades of experience at Email Services Providers (ESPs), ISPs, hosting companies, brands, and agencies (as well as years of product and service experience at ActiveCampaign), the deliverability team are experts at even the most complex sending issues. This global expertise spans nearly all verticals.

yq0kivh94 ac deliverabilityActiveCampaign’s compliance and deliverability team brings over 50 years of combined experience to make sure deliverability and compliance needs are met across businesses of all sizes.

We are passionate email geeks who stay up to date on:

  • Industry trends
  • New technologies
  • Emerging market conditions
  • Expectations of mailbox providers and ISPs

ActiveCampaign’s growth and expansion means that we are injecting new talent with fresh ideas to our team regularly, which motivates us to innovate and iterate everything, always.

This growth gives our customers best-in-class guidance and education, to make the deliverability of their campaigns — and ultimately their business — more successful.

Learn More: Venture Harbor’s guide to email marketing deliverability.

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