Monday, November 20, 2006

Aweber bellsouth email block

Note - Great News - This whole problem has gone away!!!
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I have my little educational website and one of my marketing tools is an email newsletter that I send out to people who ask for more information. I do this through a highly ethical email service company called Aweber. Recently however, my level of satisfaction has slipped as I find myself caught in an Aweber Bellsouth feud.

Does anybody have any insight into how to solve this problem?

I have an options to "sign up for a free newsletter" on many pages on my website. I get alot of sign-ups daily(over 150). I think about 4% of them are Bellsouth email addresses. After someone called me, I learned in early Nov 2006 that when you put in an email address with a bellsouth address, you got the following: (got to Time4Learning.com and try it yourself)


Notice how users are suddenly transported from my pretty well-designed site to a page which is ...."discordant". I can't prove it but I would expect 95% of the people who get this message think that there is something wrong with my site and just move onto another one.

Since I spend alot of time trying to create good impressions, attract potential new members, and then getting them to join, I am not happy with this situation. Heres where it starts getting weird.

I call up Aweber who has always had great technical support both by chat and telephone. They tell me that "the problem with Bellsouth has been there for two weeks and with a little support, it can be quickly resolved". I am speaking at this point to an Aweber supervisor (sean). He agrees to pursue the matter and get back to me. I specifically want information on:

- how long this problem has been going on?
- Is it only between Aweber and Bellsouth or are they being blocked elsewhere?
- could they fix the typos in the error message (does your dictionary think "occured" is correctly spelt? How about "All messages orginate (sic) from the aweber.com domain under these ips:")?
- would they consider moving the "return to the website" above the fold?
- would they rewrite the letter to be more concise and clear? Update the copyright notice?
- have they done everything that they can to work with Bellsouth to resolve the problem?

_________________
The Aweber message
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An error has occured! Our records indicate that your ISP, BellSouth, is currently blocking email sent to bellsouth.net from us. We have attempted to email you the requested information, but in all likelihood it will not arrive. To ensure that your requested information arrives please contact BellSouth's support department.Click on the support email address for BellSouth below to send them the form letter below.Email: postmaster@bellsouth.net

Network Operation Phone Number: +1 404-499-5224
Please CC: postmaster@aweber.com in any responses.
Dear BellSouth,

My name is smith and I am a customer using BellSouth.
I have just attempted to opt-in for more information on a website
using my email address: Smith135@bellsouth.net
That website uses a service called AWeber.com to manage opt-in
requests like mine. You, BellSouth, have previously blocked
AWeber.com from sending email to BellSouth customers. This
is incorrect and I want to make sure that this issue gets resolved
so that my requested information can be received.
It appears you may be filtering or blocking some of their emails
or servers. Please check your records and lift any blocks on
servers in the aweber.com domain or contact postmaster@aweber.com
for further information.
Sincerely,
Smith
Smith135@bellsouth.net
== Request Information for BellSouth Postmaster ==
Name: eaton
Email: Smith135@bellsouth.net
IP: 65.8.77.182
URL: http://www.time4learning.com/scope-sequence/index.shtml
Date: 11/20/2006 10:06:00 EST
== SMTP Errors Being Seen ==
452 Message rejected
Sorry... Connection denied. Listed in deny list.
exceeded max time without delivery
== AWeber Utilized Netblocks ==
All messages orginate from the aweber.com domain under these ips:
cidr: 207.106.239.64/27
cidr: 207.106.200.0/26

Continue back to the website.
Copyright © 1998-2004 AWeber Systems, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction strictly prohibited."


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Aweber gets back to me - Sean's call back does not go well. He tells me that it's only been a problem for a few weeks and they will not make any changes to the message since he and the President have looked at it and used it for years and it cannot be further refined. I get frustrated.

Refined? The letter has several spelling errors in it. The copyright message suggests that the page has not been looked at.

Bellsouth Speaks To me - It turns out that my inquiries to Bellsouth were answered quickly. I get a call back from the Bellsouth abuse department (Lee). They explain to me (I spoke this morning with a first level person and then Mike F, the Abuse department supervisor) that:

- the Aweber "problem" has been going on for at least a year.
- Aweber has long been asking people to call Bellsouth to complain about the "Block" although Bellsouth insists that they are holding to the standards and will require Aweber to meet them.
- the problem (It's not clear to me whether bellsouth is actually blocking the emails or not) is that Aweber does not comply with the industry-standards for email "rate limiting". (They explained to me that this is about how many emails can be sent per connection). There might also be a problem with "concurrent simultaneous connections".

I asked if I could set up a conference call between Bellsouth and Aweber. Bellsouth laughed. "They know exactly about what they have to do, we're tired of telling them". I asked if they could repeat the problems to me and was told that they need to be compliant with http://www.postmaster.bellsouth.net/best_practice.htm (which is pretty vague).

So presumably the problem stems from two interpretations of some technical standard or norm and both sides are bad mouthing each other and so it sits. Since I got a call back from Bellsouth at a high level but cannot get a call back from the president of Aweber, I'm tending to think that the ball is in Aweber's hands to do something. Also, I'm blaming Aweber since they told me that it was a problem dating back a few weeks with hopes of quick resolution. Which I now believe to be untrue. Its a long-standing problem which appears unlikely to be resolved soon.

Of course, it's possible that the problem only got worse in November in which case, I apologize for jumping to conclusions about untrue.

What to do?
1. Ignore the problem.
It's only 4% of my potential new members who get turned off.
2. Try to work with Aweber and Bellsouth to resolve it. But they are remarkably stubborn.
3. Switch from Aweber. Expected switching cost (programmer to move boxes, move database and decline list etc) ~$5K and lots of hassle.
4. Look for better ideas

Answer - Try to work with them. I prefer this hassle to trying to rebuild all those newsletters and databases. Also, since I pay Bellsouth hundreds of dollars each month and Aweber around $120 monthly, I feel that they should make an effort.... Anybody else want to help?

NEXT Chapter - I got Aweber on the phone again. Sean's answer:
- The abuse department tracks what is going on, but its the postmaster group at bellsouth that decides it.
- The problem is constantly changing rules at bellsouth about Rate Limiting. Its not an email per connection issue (which Bellsouth abuse suggested), it's a total volume of emails question. Bellsouth is somewhat arbitrarily totally limiting the amount of emails that they accept from Aweber.
- The current episode only goes back a few weeks but the intermittent problems with Bellsouth goes back a year at least.
- Sean suggests getting onto any email insiders forum and I'll see that everyone is frustrated with Bellsouth.

uhg....Three updates:
Aweber corrects the typos...
Can a SPF policy solve my Bellsouth-Aweber email block?
Aweber Bellsouth Problem apparently solved!

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