I'm bootstrapping a business software and I've got a serious issue: I don't plan on doing any "mass mailing" nor "email campaign".
I will never ever send one email to someone who didn't ask. My business model doesn't resolve around mass mailing/spam at all: I've got a legit software that people so far do actually like very much :)
However I've got a very serious issue: I've got about a hundred beta-testers and some of them are PM'ing (sending me PM on message boards/forums) or contacting me directly from our software (it's a fat client and there's an option in it to leave your email: if the user does so, then his email is directly send to our Webapp server).
I need to send emails to these people yet some of them get considered as spam and end up in their spam folder.
I'm not alone: I've read horror stories on "Business of Software" about customers buying products and being unable to activate them, then being unable to reach or be reached by email. (for that specific case we're taking precaution: the very payment processing is going to be tied with the app and it shall automatically 'unlock' as to prevent that catastrophic scenario from happening).
Yet my question is: is there anything I can do? Can I contact, say, Google (we use GMail for a lot of things, including email) and tell them "we're not spammer, we won't ever send a single mail to a person who didn't ask?"
How can I make it so my legit emails are not considered spam? Once again: I emphasis that these are emails sent to people who willingly gave us their email address through either private messages or from our software and that are waiting for our emails.
Tristan, you should look at the previous discussions at Serverfault.com -- a site much like this one, but targeted at system administrators.
In short, there is no way for you to say "Hey, I'm not spam! Don't filter me.". If there was, then spammers would abuse this system too (sic).
There is a war going on between spammers and good people, and sometimes innocents get hit. What constitutes a correct answer today may not be entirely correct tomorrow.
Having said that, here is a terse list of what I consider the most important things to do right now:
There is also a fine standard for strong email sender authentication called DomainKeys. It's a good standard, a few large email recipients support it (notably Yahoo! mail), so I'm not down on it at all. But right now it's pretty complicated to set up by yourself and support is not that widespread, so I don't consider it a "must do".
Real, honest statistics about email delivery success rates are hard to come by. Most of what I have seen was commissioned by the email deliverability industry itself, and therefore possibly biased -- and certainly some of it seemed alarmist to me. A fair guess is that if you do the above, then 'more than 98%' of your emails will be delivered successfully.
For peace of mind, you can from time to time check a online resource like MXToolbox's blacklist tester to verify that you're not blacklisted anywhere. This is for each outgoing mail server IP address, so if you use a large provider like Google for outgoing mail, then don't bother -- they already do this for their mail servers.
There is no bulletproof answer to this; the techniques used to identify spam are constantly evolving as the spam evolves so what works today may not work tomorrow.
The key things that often trip people up:
Finally, I'd caution you to avoid have email be the only way of completing a transaction that's important to your business precisely for this reason. Email should be a backup / alert mechanism that ideally drives people back to your site. That way if an email went missing they can always go back to your site to get the information, complete the transaction, whatever.