Email Performance Management Made Easy
Using Email Intelligence to Drive Performance
SocketLabs’ Director of Customer Solutions, Brian Godiksen, sits down with our Chief Marketing Officer, Lauren Meyer, to take a closer look at StreamScore™, our email deliverability scoring tool that uses intelligence to help simplify the complexities of email delivery at scale.
Total Runtime: 21:38
1:08 – What brought you to SocketLabs over 10 years ago and what are the reasons that you’ve stayed?
2:03 –Who benefits from the technology we are creating?
4:39 – What is SocketLabs’ Streamscore™ and how has it evolved over the years?
6:10 – How is StreamScore different from Validity’s Sender Score?
8:22 – How Does StreamScore work?
13:30 – How is StreamScore revolutionizing email performance management for multi-tenant environments?
15:30 – How is StreamScore helping overcome privacy changes in 2021 and beyond?
17:14 – What does the future of StreamScore look like?
19:19 – Why is hybrid email infrastructure so important to the future of email?
(Keep scrolling for a full transcript of the conversation.)
Hi, everybody and thanks for joining us today. My name is Lauren Meyer, Chief Marketing Officer for SocketLabs. And today I’m sitting down for a conversation with one of my favorite SocketLabs employees, Brian Godiksen. Brian’s title here is Director of Customer Solutions, but he’s been working for SocketLabs for more than 10 years. And he’s touched just about every department from quality assurance to marketing product strategy, sales and solutions engineering, customer success. And I honestly personally see him as our chief email officer because his knowledge about the technical and the strategic sides of email delivery and deliverability are just that deep.
Today, Brian, and I are going to be digging deep into the archives of time to learn about what it’s been like working for SocketLabs all these years. We’ll talk about how email delivery infrastructure continues to evolve within our industry, and hopefully we’ll get into all kinds of other nerdy, email, deliverability kind of things as well. Thanks so much for joining me today. Brian, do you think we should kick things off?
That sounds great! Thanks.
What Brought you to SocketLabs Over 10 Years Ago and What are the Reasons that You’ve Stayed?
Yeah, it’s interesting. I got connected with SocketLabs founder, John Alessi, and his sales pitch to me to becoming our third technical team member here at SocketLabs was just the ability to get to touch on all the things that I have. So, when you’re a company as small as we were at the time I joined, you get to wear a lot of hats and as a somewhat young and an experienced college graduate, it seemed like a really awesome opportunity. And over the last 10 years, I really fell in love with everything about SocketLabs, from the people, the amazing technical leadership and mentorship that I get here on the email side of things, as well as having the experience of having been at the ground of a fast-growing SaaS business has been really exciting.
Who Benefits From the Technology We Are Creating?
So one of the neat things in talking about email is that it’s really a communication standard. And here at SocketLabs, we’re lucky enough to get to work with all different types of senders of email. So, we are not a traditional email marketing organization by any means, and the fact that we’re providing the underlying email infrastructure to organizations, it’s amazing to see how different businesses use email day to day.
Sometimes it’s pretty easy, especially in the email geeks community, which is a little bit marketing focused, to forget just how much real business is conducted over email in terms of just raw communications.
I’ve gotten to work with customers who are implementing the SocketLabs SMTP relay services to send status emails out of a group of windmills off the coast of Ireland.
So, we get to see all aspects of the channel, which is really unique. And that’s what kind of makes our jobs fun is that we have this really wide breadth of use cases for our platform. At the same time, it makes it a challenge because we have to support, from a use-case perspective, all sorts of different types of scenarios that most traditional email, specifically email marketing vendors, just don’t end up getting to deal with.
And can you walk us through maybe one of those scenarios?
Yeah, I mean so one of the really interesting scenarios that we’ve kind of seen happen pretty frequently is trying to understand a little bit more about the answer to that black box question of, “Well, how am I really doing with my email? How is my email performing?”
And usually when you ask someone specifically in the deliverability community and say, “Hey, how am I doing? Do you think based on these general best practices I should be okay.” And the answer is almost always, well, “it depends”. Right? And so that “it depends” answer is something that we’ve been trying to solve. So we’ve been working specifically on part of our product called StreamScore, which tries to kind of take that black box nature away from understanding, “Hey, how is my email performing?”
What is SocketLabs’ Streamscore and How Has it Evolved Over the Years?
So we built this 10 years ago. We initially, it’s actually kind of cool to think about it. We built it off just four metrics originally. We looked at kind of core metrics like spam complaints and hard failures, the kind of pretty standard metrics you’ll see most organizations look at. That was kind of our ‘Version One’ of this. And over time, as we realized the value of what StreamScore brought to our customers, we said, “well, what can we do to like, take this to the next level”, right? Let’s start using this layer of intelligence more for just our internal compliance tools then you know, kind of overall performance analysis both internally and showing our customers this number, let’s do more with it.
And so we looked at these original four metrics and we said, “there’s so much more data out there now, right?” When we originally built StreamScore, Google Postmaster Tools didn’t exist. And now, especially with the API, it was a pretty easy kind of compliment to what we’re doing with StreamScore to say, “Hey, let’s get Google postmaster tool data integrated in the StreamScore. And then we said, “well, while we’re doing that, what other data metrics can we look at?” So here we are today now with StreamScore where we have over a few dozen different metrics contributing to the actual scoring algorithms.
How is StreamScore Different from Validity’s Sender Score
Very cool, yeah, and it’s, it’s funny because from the outside in, before I worked at SocketLabs, I kind of saw this as very much kind of like Return Path (or I guess Validity’s) SenderScore, but this is so much cooler in the sense that it’s using that like that first party delivery and engagement data, as well as those third-party signals, that really kind of help you measure what your email quality is.
Yeah. When you compare it to StreamScore, it’s kind of interesting. I’ll give a Return Path a lot of credit because their stream-score product is kind of unique in that it relies on data that they’re aggregating in a way that isn’t always necessarily directly available, right? And so it’s through data partnerships and data sharing agreements and things like that, and allows them to open it up to kind of anyone with an IP address can look at it, in SenderScore. So that’s really cool, but ultimately we think that in order to properly understand how mail is performing, you need more data than just what’s coming from a few partnerships with some mailbox providers.
So you kind of need to understand the full breadth of what that organization is sending. And so, when you start to look at that full first party data set, there’s so many really cool metrics we’ve kind of been able to tease out and understand, and that’s what makes it so fun. It’s like, “Hey, what can we do with this data now that we have it? What kind of data points are — maybe you would never really see as a sender of email?
Let’s just take one example here, mailbox providers will tend to throttle a sender when their reputation drops, right. And that might not always be visible to a sender, right. They might not understand where that throttle’s occurring, especially if it’s happening in like kind of SMTP protocol communications. And trying to explain to them, “Hey, well, we’re seeing a reduced number of allowed connections to a certain number of mailbox providers” doesn’t really tell the story that’s something meaningful to the marketer of like, “Hey, how am I doing? How do you get one and turn it into the other?” And that’s what we’re trying to solve with StreamScore.
How Does StreamScore Work?
Okay. So can you tell me a little bit more about this StreamScore? Like more specifically, how does it work? I mean, deliverability is such a complicated topic. How are we baking all of this stuff down into one pretty little number that’s digestible?
What, I can’t just give you a number, Lauren, and have you just know what it means?
I mean, you know I love that, yes. But…
I mean, that’s kind of what we’re trying to do. So, realistically StreamScore at its most basic level is a number. It’s a number from zero to 100, and it’s an analysis of how we think your email is performing. And so, the actual number that you get is also then broken down into a few different sub-categories.
The first category is something we call your Audience Score. And that is our analysis of who you’re sending mail to. This is pretty basic data points such as how many invalid addresses are you sending to and what frequency are you sending to addresses that don’t exist? To “what frequency are you sending to addresses with typos in the domain or to domains that are known to be bad or invalid, or to disposable mailboxes?” Or what other aspects of insights can we tease out about who are you sending to that tells us, “well, this could impact how your mail’s going to perform.” And that’s what we try to encompass in Audience Score.
The next tier of StreamScore is what we call our Engagement Score. It’s looking at a handful of metrics about the reaction of recipients to your mail. So, at its core, engagement starts with spam complaints. And so, we’re not only just looking at spam complaints, we’re looking down to the level of like provider-specific complaint rates.
We’re also looking at opens clicks and unsubscribes, if our users choose to track those metrics through our platform. And opens, clicks and unsubscribes along with spam complaints will all feed up into that Engagement Score. And so now we’re looking at, so who are you sending to? How are they reacting? So, your Audience and your Engagement, and then the last piece of the puzzle is, well, what does everyone else think about your mail?
And so that’s what we try to encompass with Reputation Score. Reputation is by far our most complex category of StreamScore. And in the Reputation bucket, we’re looking at a lot of different metrics and factors that are data coming back from mailbox providers. So, our direct integration with Google postmaster tools is something that we’re feeding into the Reputation category, same with Microsoft and the SNDS platform that they make available to senders. And then we’re also looking at all sorts of really interesting data down to that protocol level. Looking at, “Hey, are mailbox providers throttling your SMTP connections”, or “are they issuing SMTP deferral responses?” “Are mailbox providers rejecting your messages, telling us, “Hey, this message looks a little bit like spam”. And we can look at those types of different data points, again, all the way down to the SMTP response code level, to the protocol level and kind of aggregate performance metrics up and standardize them across our platform and kind of benchmark how we think your reputation is kind of overall.
And I know we bake some authentication aspects into that as well, correct? We’re just checking to make sure that people are properly authenticating before the message leaves our house.
Yeah. So the last category, which we’re not including in our actual scoring algorithms, but we’re reporting on the customers as part of StreamScore is authentication. And so, we’re trying to surface now all of the data for customers regarding, “Hey, are you properly authenticating this mail?” And not just kind of with the default authentication that we’ll provide to customers automatically, but are you actually providing true, aligned authentication on your messages. And giving our customers that feedback is really valuable, but where it’s most valuable for our customers is to actually see it on a per-domain level.
How is StreamScore Revolutionizing Email Performance Management for Multi-Tenant Environments?
This was one of my favorite improvements to StreamScore is that we’re now calculating StreamScore, not just at a customer-account level, but actually at individual sending domains. So, for our customers that are multi-tenant providers that have dozens or hundreds or thousands of different domains that they’re processing on behalf of, we can now provide them a StreamScore that’s unique and specific to that domain. So not only do I know my authentication status for that individual domain, now I can see, “Hey, what is the audience look like for that sender? What does the reputation of that individual sender within my account look like? And we’re trying to provide, ultimately some of the tools that, again, we we’ve been relying ourselves on StreamScore internally. We want to empower our customers to make that same level of intelligent decisions using this data to how they manage and handle their own customers.
It’s just so exciting. I think that’s really the truth when you’ve got just all of those different customers, all those different bits and pieces, even if you’re just one company who’s got lots of different mail streams, those are managed by different people, different groups, different teams. It’s a lot of stuff to, to stay on top of. So yeah, I love the the sortable ability of that.
And that’s really important to understand because when we give you a holistic rate and say, “Hey, provider, your StreamScore right now is an 80. You’re doing pretty good”. That might not mean that much to them in some ways, right? Because if they have 20 different customers they might think, well, are they all scoring about an 80? In reality, there’s probably a handful that are performing really, really well that are maybe a hundred. And there might be some that are scoring really, really poorly and to be able to kind of quickly and easily, without having to know a lot about email, differentiate and understand how customers within an application or within a network are performing in terms of their sending behavior. That’s really critical to know. And, and we rely on that ourselves at the account level for doing things like internal compliance. And now we can enable our customers that are service providers to start doing the same thing without having to kind of on their own, take in all of this data that we’re going to feed back to them, maybe in a raw format via our APIs and start to make intelligence of it because that’s what we’re here to do. We’re the email experts.
Yeah. And I think that’s one of the things that’s really exciting about this, is the fact that we are automating it or making this possible for people to automate, because it’s just, when you do have even hundreds of customers, if not thousands…that is not scalable to have a person who’s sitting in compliance and trying to kind of weed through the worst of the worst every day.
So being able to make those, those decisions on behalf of your company is just, it’s, it’s really exciting, so awesome.
Sending email it at scale is hard. Right. We’ve solved that problem and we’re trying to help others do the same thing.
How is StreamScore Helping Overcome Privacy Changes in 2021 and Beyond?
So I guess we can’t really avoid kind of like the elephant in the room in 2021, which has been privacy changes. I think most recently we’ve seen this with Apple’s Mail privacy protection changes. Do you think that the StreamScore is sort of a way to overcome blind spots within your data?
From our point of view, tracking opens and clicks is something that we see as optional. We don’t push our customers to turn on these features today. And that means that our scoring algorithms, at least from our side, have to be accurate, even for customers who don’t even track that data at all. And so that was kind of the bar we set when we were building this out of like, “yeah, we can add engagement and it can be a factor that we take into account when we have that data accessible to us”, but in no way, shape or form is the StreamScore in any way, reliant on accurate specific recipient level data regarding opens.
So something like the apple MPP feature isn’t hugely impactful to us. And I think the general trend towards being more privacy focused as a communication channel in email – I see that as an advantage for us with StreamScore, because a lot of other organizations are either too heavily focused just on those open metrics, or they don’t really understand how to performance score the other data that they have available that other first party data. And that can be really hard to tease out answers to. So having completed that and kind of having a really viable scoring algorithm that works without opens is really powerful for all of our customers.
What Does the Future of StreamScore Look Like?
I remember when, when you were kind of trying to play with the scoring that we had, at least a couple of meetings where we just had literally like 10 email geeks, all sitting in a room, would it be counted? It was like 135 years of experience in the room, all just fighting over how we should be weighting different aspects of StreamScore and how we could use it for compliance and this and that, and, and just all these amazing things. So, yeah, I just can’t wait to see what we do next with this. I mean, it feels like the opportunities are sort of limitless.
Yeah. The direction where we go with it is, is so open. And, and that’s where I love my ability to contribute here at SocketLabs on the product strategy side of things. Mainly because we there’s so many ways we can use StreamScore, right. So we actually just pushed out into production here, our ability to start doing intelligence-based warmups using this StreamScore data.
So new customers coming on to the SocketLabs platform and customers being assigned to dedicated IP addresses can now have this intelligent warm-up process. And historically, warmup has kind of been, to a degree, a solved problem, in that you have to start slow and send a little bit more mail and send some of your good mail at the beginning to start building a really positive reputation. And there’s kind of a script that existed in the email world for ‘how do you warm up an IP address or introduce a new customer to a network’. And what we can do now with StreamScore is take that and apply intelligence to it. So, we don’t have to say, “well, today we send 500 messages and tomorrow we’ll send twice as much. We’ll send a thousand messages tomorrow”. We can actually look and say, “Hey, let’s look at our first 500 messages. How did those perform?” Right? What was the reception like? What was the engagement like? What, what was the failure rates looking like?
We can be aggressive with how quickly we ramp up traffic and how quickly we start sending, because we can look at this and say, “it’s performing really well”. And at the same time, we have the safety net involved of, as soon as we start sending mail, we see any type of data that would tell us it’s not good to continue pushing forward. So, if we see data points that say, “oh, there might be some reputation issues ahead”, we can intelligently pull back. So having this layer of intelligence to the warmup process, I think is really cool. And that’s just like, our first use case of it. Right. I, you know, as a deliverability geek, my my mind just races of like now that we start bringing down this StreamScore data and kind of injecting it into our MTAs at this kind of time-of-delivery, decision-making logic. What else can we do.
The type of problems that we’re trying to look at and solve of like where in the last leg of delivery, can we apply intelligence to make sending more efficient and more effective and, and ultimately drive better outcomes for our customers?
I wish I had this in my past life. This would have been really helpful.
Why is Hybrid Email Infrastructure so Important to the Future of Email
Cool. Okay. So what else can people expect from SocketLabs in the months to come? I know we’re working on a lot of really cool stuff, StreamScore is just one of them.
Yeah, there’s so much, I don’t even really know where to begin. You know, I think one of the, some of the things I’m personally most excited about are kind of providing some more unification to this concept of hybrid email infrastructure. And so we kind of sit in a unique position having an on-premise MTA and having a cloud infrastructure network. And there’s a handful of customers today that take advantage of that. And take advantage of things like a unified API across both our cloud and MTA services. So, a customer can essentially, with just changing where they’re directing their API calls, generate and send a message out of an on-premises server or generate and send a message out of our cloud platform.
When I do have an on-premise MTA I have to manage that, and that is kind of complex. And I have to understand things like, Hey, how is my mail performing? So bringing simple features that we’ve had in and introduce them to the cloud and bringing them down and running them more at say an MTA level or in a way that we could, you know, run for our customers who run in a on-premises situation that opens some really interesting doors to really solving needs in a unique way that literally no one else in the market is really doing.
Wow. Oh my gosh. Yeah. It’s really exciting. And I love just the ability that we’re kind of unlocking some of this stuff that is just like, “yeah, eventually we’ll get to it. Eventually we’ll develop that”. Or “our team has that on the roadmap” and you know that thing’s never going to get to the top of the roadmap. So, we’re just really prioritizing stuff that I think is going to be very helpful for some of our friends in the industry. So yeah, really, really cool stuff.
Alright, well, I think we’ve, we’ve officially made it to the end of yet another episode, my friends. Thanks so much for tuning in and thanks to you, Brian, for taking the time out. I know that you have a million of clients that you should be helping right now. You’re also helping write some blog content. I know you’ve got a really cool Dr. Seussian piece that’s coming out soon. So, I’m really excited for that. Thanks again for joining us.
Yeah. Thanks for having me, Lauren. It was great talking to you today.