User Activation Emails - Some Learning

One month into using Elgg to run a small social network, I found that over 20% of my users were not getting activated. (That is this line on your Admin Stats page --- Number of users : xxx Active / yyy Total) The difference, yyy-xxx, are the users who never activated, mostly because the email provider blocked the Activation Email. 

If you are a new domain, then, by default, the mail providers (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, etc.) view you as a spammer. That's right. If you are new, they presume you are a spammer, and it is totally your problem to demonstrate to them otherwise.

I do not have all the answers on this matter, but here are a few things I've discovered. There is no magic bullet. You gotta work all the angles.

1) Get a Domain Key and an SPF. You can Google these. Basically, these will identify your domain uniquely and prevent spammers from imitating you. Conversely, you are now identified unambiguously, and if you were to start spamming, you be widely & publicly known as such. Thus, the mere fact as getting a Domain Key helps demonstrate that you are not a spammer. Looking it up on Google, and using my cPanel, I was able to set up the Domain Key (an "A RECORD;" a "CNAME RECORD" was not necessary as I have no subdomains.)

2) The simpleusermanagement plugin can be helpful in identifying the unvalidated/not activated users. But realize that just resending the activation emails might not help.

3) The email providers sometimes let my emails through. Sometimes they put them in the users' spam folders. And sometimes, they delete them at the server; they never even hit the users' spam folder. And that really sucks.

4) I modified the language in my Elgg messages to say "check your spam folders." It doesn't hurt to say so, but per the above, it only helps a little.

5) Dedicated servers are better (more identifiable to the email providers) than shared servers. Yes, that costs a lot more money.

6) Yahoo Mail Postmaster has an appeal form (Bulk Mail Sender Form):

7) Hotmail has a similar form, but even more intimidating and technically challenging:

8) You must have a Privacy Policy.

9) You should have an Opt-out policy/form. I do not see such a feature or plugin on Elgg, so most of us are out-of-luck on that one.

This is not easy, nor fun, but if you to activate your users, you have to deal with this stuff.

Good luck. Please post informed feedback on this thread.