Author: Kevin Senne

My Email Deliverability Is Awful – Now What?

Although we all want to live in a world where every email message goes directly to the inbox, sometimes that isn’t a reality. I speak with many different types of marketers in many different types of situations. A fairly common scenario is when a new person takes a new role and inherits a less than desirable deliverability situation. We occasionally deal with situations where something goes horribly wrong, and you may find yourself in one of those tough spots. Where do you start, and what should the first things that you look to accomplish?

Get Real

The first thing that you have to do is an honest evaluation of the program. What is actually the situation? A common mistake is for someone to look at one of the available scoring systems that are out there, and take that information as truthful. Any score is based on data that may or may not be relevant to your particular program. Gather all of the information that you can, but make sure that the information you are gathering actually makes sense.

What are your inbox placement rates? Is that data sample large enough to be statistically significant? What are the open, click, and bounce rates over the past 6 months? What kinds of numbers do similar senders have for their messages? This realistic POV will help you to have an open mind when making future plans.

The Sign-Up Process

Go back to the beginning, and I mean the very beginning. The collection process is critical to deliverability success. Do you ask for explicit permission for sign-ups? Do you confirm the opt-ins, or are you using an implicit opt-in? If you are using implicit opt-in, that’s going to drag down deliverability. If you send abandon cart email to people who haven’t opted-in to your messages, that’s going to negatively impact deliverability? Are you telling them exactly what “brand” they are signing up for, or are you sending them messages from other brands?

Warm-up/Ramp-Up

A proper warm-up and ramp-up period is crucial for building a good reputation. You should plan for 30-45 days of fluctuation between the Inbox and Spam folders, as ISP’s determine your proper position. Consistently send messages, do not start and stop sending, or greatly vary your cadence. These are practices which can negatively impact and slow down your warm-up. Send to your most engaged senders, start slowly, and ramp-up to full volume based on daily metrics.

Cadence

This one is always a tricky subject, but often a major cause of deliverability issues. You should be thinking quality over quantity. Sending more messages might generate more short term action for you, but it is almost always a recipe for later troubles. When you lose a customer because you emailed them every day, they are probably not coming back from the spam folder. Don’t lose sight of the goal, which is to have a back and forth conversation. (We call that engagement in the business!)

Content

Content does still matter. This is the building block for the relationship that you are trying to build. Sending relevant content builds trust and allows you more freedom down the line to do some more aggressive things. If you are sending content that sparks no interest in your customer base, then it’s probable they won’t be seeing the messages you are really counting on making an impact.

Take a deep breath, keep an open mind and you should be able to pinpoint deliverability problem areas. Don’t forget that deliverability success almost always comes from playing the long game. Build relationships, nurture a conversation with your customers (or potential customers) by providing interesting content at regular intervals.

Modern Marketers must orchestrate and deliver marketing messages that are relevant to individual preferences and behavior. Getting email delivered to the inbox is critical to this process. 

Download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers to find out how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers. 

Why Email Marketers Need To Know What A Pre-Warmed IP Is

Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve spoken with either prospects or new clients about their “email” history. I’ve now heard the idea of a pre-warmed dedicated IP, from multiple senders, on a couple of different platforms. It takes me back every time that I hear it, mostly because it must be presented in such a way that it actually inspires confidence.

I immediately feel bad for the sender, because most of the time they were so misled that they didn’t go through a proper warm-up, damaged their reputation, or just can’t understand why they are having deliverability issues.

We’ve been writing quite a bit about domain reputation lately, because for the vast majority of your email list, domain reputation is going to determine inbox placement. Sophisticated ISP’s moved off of IP reputation as a major factor years ago.

Check Your Calendar

The ESP’s still pushing IP reputation either don’t know any better, don’t have the technology to flesh out what’s really happening, or maybe still think it is 2003. The ISP’s who really look at IP reputation are the small ones built on a very old system of blacklists that don’t much matter to high quality email marketers. 

Let’s get back to the notion of a pre-warmed dedicated IP. I can almost understand an ESP promoting a shared pool environment as “pre-warmed”, although that’s not even true anymore. We see and hear about that used as a carrot for some inexperienced marketers, who don’t yet know the ins and outs of the deliverability process.

Those beginning marketers may read an article about the warm-up process and then they hear about something being pre-warmed. If your ESP is selling a pre-warmed IP address, and then tells you that you don’t have to go through a warm-up, that sounds great. The problem is that it just isn’t true.

Any sender of significant volume must establish their domain reputation. When you go to a new ESP, or domain, or setup internally, you must establish this reputation. This is based on a combination of things. Your email domain has a reputation, but so does the top-level domain to which it rolls up. If you have any links in your email that lead to partner links, their domain (and top-level) reputation is factored in.

The ISP looks at your list make-up, any previous domains used (or currently in use), and the IP address. You have to go through the warm-up with your own domain. Just because someone else has sent email from that IP doesn’t help you as a sender in any way. The truth is that for a dedicated IP, the fact that someone else has just been sending on that IP, can count against you.

Proper Attire

Dedicated IP’s should be unused for at least a year prior. It’s like putting on someone else’s worn, wrinkled, and stained shirt and wearing it to your wedding. You just wouldn’t do it. Don’t do it with an IP.

I understand that the warm-up period is long and difficult. You are starting on a new setup, and presumably you switched because your new ESP has lots of features that will enhance your marketing. I know you can’t wait to use all these new bells and whistles, and the last thing you want to explain to your management team is that it’s going to be 30-45 days before you can plan on ramping up to full volume. It is a necessary evil in today’s climate, and it’s the smart play.

Building that reputation is so important to setting you up for long-term success. Don’t get misled into believing the fairy tale of a pre-warmed IP. You can’t be ready to send, until you yourself send email from your own domain. You have to go through the process, there aren’t any short cuts.

Deliver-Ability

Modern Marketers must orchestrate and deliver marketing messages that are relevant to individual preferences and behavior. Getting email delivered to the inbox is critical to this process. 

Download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers to find out how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers. 

Image source: Flickr

5 Things Email Marketers Can Do Right Now To Improve Their Deliverability

In my role here at Oracle running Global Deliverability, I have many chances to talk to customers and prospects at all points on the deliverability life cycle. I speak with prospects coming from the depths of deliverability despair, who are desperately searching for a coherent strategy to improve inbox placement.

I work with our existing Oracle clients, who are generally looking to go to the next level, or examine a specific event. They are interesting conversations, and the thread that ties all of them together, is the desire to improve. Today, I wanted to try and bring some of the most common issues/resolutions together if you are looking for a jump start to deliverability success.

Here are five things that you can do today to improve your deliverability metrics, and push more mail to the actual inbox.

1. Stop Mailing to 9+ Month Inactives

This one is a quick way to see real results. Look, if someone hasn’t engaged with your email in 9 months, it’s a pretty safe bet they aren’t going to do it now. ISP’s turn some of these addresses into honeypots, and it’s an easy way to see who takes care of their list. Sending to these addresses is a very dangerous proposition, yet many marketers just don’t want to give them up. We understand they can be large numbers of addresses, but all they are doing is dragging down your deliverability.

2. Pay Close Attention to New Subscribers

The first three months of a new subscriber are the most critical. Did you send them a welcome message that explained how to interact with your product or site? Do they understand how to change their subscription without unsubscribing or complaining? Did you manage to get them engaged early? If you don’t see engagement in the first three months, the chances of later engagement is reduced drastically. Be sure and send a welcome message (or a series of them) to educate your customers about your product and how you to plan to communicate with them.

3. Check Out Your Sign-up Process

We talk over and over again about how important explicit permission is for your program. People don’t like to be tricked, and deliverability numbers bear this out. Programs that gather explicit permission as a whole, are more successful. By gathering explicit permission, you can eliminate the confused complaints and the person who banishes you to a junk folder, only to sit there and deflate your deliverability reputation in silent.

4. Stop What’s Not Working

This one seems simple, but you would be surprised at how many times this is overlooked. Senders have a campaign they simply “must” send out, even though the stats are awful. We understand that there may be certain campaigns that are unavoidable, but look carefully at your stats, and stop doing the same thing over and over again. Everyone has a couple of campaigns that perform better than the others, and you can learn from those. Take the good and improve on the bad.

5. Understand Your Partner Reputation

Who you hang out with reflects on who you are. You’ve heard that from childhood, but it still applies today. We’ve already established that domain reputation is important, but it isn’t only your own domain reputation that matters. When you partner with another company in email, ISP’s also look up their reputation and it is a part of your deliverability. Think about the company you keep before you include them in your marketing.

If you follow these five steps, you will see an improvement in your deliverability. What are you waiting for, get moving right now!

But Wait There Is Indeed More

Download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers to learn even more on how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers. 

Image source: publicdomainpictures.net

Talking Domain Reputation And What Email Marketers Need To Know

Reputation is a word that means many different things to many different people in the world of Deliverability. The idea of what reputation is and how you should apply it to your business is a big topic that we will continue to explore.

Today however, I wanted to talk about a specific phenomenon that we are seeing more and more over the past few months. We’re going to talk about domain reputation as it applies to customers who are moving to a new ESP, and how that reputation impacts the warm-up and ramp-up periods.

Just Warming Up

One of the new trends that we’re seeing in Deliverability, involves new clients who are warming-up their new domain reputation. Recently, we have worked with some clients who were having trouble with their warm-up. Mail was bulking at a much higher rate than you would normally see with a sender in the warm-up stages.

What we’ve discovered is there is a correlation between traffic that you are sending from your old ESP, and the speed in which you can reboot with your new ESP partner.

We found that some senders were moving to OMC, because they were planning on getting more sophisticated with their marketing. Unfortunately, they were still using some of the old batch and blast methods on their previous provider during the new warm-up.

Interestingly enough, we saw much lower inboxing at Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo for these senders. They were following all the correct guidance on the new domain/IP, but still experienced tepid results.

With a very few exceptions, we are finding that senders who continue to use these bad practices, have trouble experiencing a quick and clean warm-up. That’s a very interesting finding, and speaks to the sophistication of Google and other sophisticated receivers. The senders are all using a new sub-domain, but it points to what we’ve been preaching for years. ISP’s are able to roll your domain to a parent level, and apply your reputation accordingly.

IP Reputation = The Determining Factor

This goes beyond just the domain. It shows why the idea of IP reputation is just not that important anymore. We like to think of IP reputation as the determining factor, but what this tells me is that ISP’s are way smarter. You can’t snowshoe (use lots of IPs), you can’t get new IPs if you have a bad rep and solve the problem, and getting new domains doesn’t hide you either. It’s all about the practice folks, Google will hunt you down!

The opposite also holds true in our research. Senders who are doing well, and sending to engaged audiences at their old ESP during the warm-up, experienced a shorter total time to normality. They were able to ramp-up quicker, and get back to one system quicker.

One of the first questions all new customers want to know is how quickly they can stop double dipping, and stop paying for two ESP’s. That answer in the new reality of domain reputation is, it turns out much more a part of that that the industry previously believed.

The moral of the story is, that if you burn down your old house, in hopes of squeezing out a few more dollars, you are likely to feel that burning in your new house as well. The warm-up process begins even before you send that first email from your new home.

To find out how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers, download Email Deliverability: Guide For Modern Marketers.

Image source: Pixabay

What’s the Email Deliverability Fix?

One of the most common inquiries that we receive from our customers is some variance of the following: Our email is going to the spam folder at a certain ISP, and we need to have it fixed.

This answer to this question can be a frustrating one for those who aren’t initiated in the world of deliverability.

The real (and to some unfortunate) answer is that there is almost never a “fix” to deliverability issues. This doesn’t mean that you can’t overcome issues in a very positive way, but it’s the reasoning behind the resolution that is important to understand.

Common Conversations

I’d like to walk you through some of the most common conversations we have, and hopefully change your thinking about Deliverability in the process.

The first thing we need to look at is the reality of what constitutes a deliverability issue. It’s important to understand that deliverability is not a universal concept. Each individual ISP looks at a sender in their own specific way. There are certainly some best practices that are good strategies regardless of the ISP, but they are all different in the execution.

That means that you can’t look at one score, bounce rate, spam complaint rate, or any other metric, and have a full understanding. You must dig into each ISP to get an accurate look at your deliverability health. You could have amazing deliverability at every single ISP on the planet, except for Gmail (which could be half your list), and still be in really bad shape.

When you are looking to resolve a problem at Gmail for example, many senders ask us what to do to fix a bulking issue. There are certainly ways to improve inbox placement, but one of the common things that we see is this. We dig into the specifics of your issue, and we help develop a plan to improve.

Notice there is no switch that we can pull, or call that we can make to change/fix things right away. Deliverability is an ongoing challenge. The best sender in the world can be blocked tomorrow, if their metrics change.

Meeting the Needs of Each ISP

The fluid nature of deliverability, means that you must change your sending behavior to meet the needs of each ISP. Gmail is very sensitive to customer engagement for example, so the strategy you deploy to them might be quite different that your Office365 strategy. It also means that you can never stop with the execution of that strategy.

A common story we deal with is a sender has an issue, asks about a resolution, implements new best practices, sees improvement, and then goes right back to their old ways. Not surprisingly, deliverability suffers again, and we are right back to square one.

A good analogy for deliverability success is food. When you have a healthy diet, you are more likely to feel good, and have fewer issues. When you eat a lot of junk food, you can gain weight and see issues. It’s the same concept with deliverability. I think of the customer who implements these temporary changes as a crash diet. You might lose weight in the short term, but if you don’t stick with it, you will gain that weight right back.

Roll With the Changes

It’s all about making those healthy lifestyle (or marketing) changes, and continuing with those changes. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a cupcake, or send an extra message now and then. When you are coming from a healthy place, you can afford to have some fun on occasion!

I hope that next time you think about email deliverability, you take a more systemic look at what is causing those issues, and how you can take a longer term look at what caused the problem in the first place, and how you can make sure those don’t reoccur.  We’re here to help with both the diagnosis, and the things that you can do to get better, and stay better.

Modern Marketers must orchestrate and deliver marketing messages that are relevant to individual preferences and behavior. Getting email delivered to the inbox is critical to this process. Download Email Deliverability: Guide For Modern Marketers to find out how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers. 

With Email Deliverability Comes A Huge Responsibility

I am privileged to manage global deliverability, across all Oracle Marketing Cloud properties. As you might imagine, I have the chance to speak to all kinds of customers, across all different customer life cycle stages.

One of the things that I find most interesting about customers in these different stages, is the way they understand how deliverability actually works, and what they can and can’t do to change it.

The End Comes First

Let’s start with the end-game first.

The reality is that you, as the sender, control and are responsible for your own deliverability. Deliverability in its simplest form boils down to some simple truths. Senders who deliver messages that are relevant to their customers, will see much higher engagement, inbox rates, and fewer complaints. It all seems pretty simple, and that’s because it is in theory.

One of the misnomers that I hear with new clients on occasion, is something like this; “I have better deliverability now than at my old ESP”, or “I had better deliverability on my last ESP”. Both of these statements are, for the most part false. There are things that an ESP needs to have in place from an infrastructure perspective, that are 100% necessary.

You could be moving to or from a setup that may or may not have all of those table stakes elements. There’s a natural reaction to want to look at deliverability numbers and forget the context of those numbers. Understanding that context, will take you much closer to that Utopian Deliverability state we’re all looking to achieve.

When is it okay to compare numbers between two different sending origins? You can do it when the numbers are coming from the same base source. We all know that the warm-up period is critical in establishing your reputation with specific email receivers. During that time, it is important to make sure and put your best foot forward from an engagement standpoint.

Even as you do that, you will still see a significant portion of messages go to the bulk folder as ISPs evaluate your mailings. Comparing these warm-up numbers to another mailer with an established history, just doesn’t add-up. The later-on comparison can also be problematic. Unless you are sending the exact same content to the exact same audience, (and why would you do that from 2 different systems?), it is not an apples-to-apples comparison.

The Deliverability Reality

Here’s the reality of our space today. Unless you made a really bad choice of ESPs, you are probably covered from an infrastructure perspective. That means you are responsible for your own deliverability success.

The expertise and knowledge provided by ESPs is a differentiating factor between us, and can make a big difference in helping you reach your goals. Oracle Marketing Cloud puts a lot of emphasis on the warm-up period, and we offer incredible analytic tools such as our Deliverability Plus solution.

If you are in a place where you see better numbers from one source, think about the root cause instead of the blame game. What about audience and message? Are they the same, or are you doing better/different segmentation or messaging? Can you actually account for the difference in segmentation?

Even people who are in the same segment or demographic behave differently. It’s important to stay focused on the end-game, and not get too caught up in comparisons that don’t prove anything good or bad without a ton of extra analysis.

ESPs don’t have “better” deliverability. They have experts and procedures that you may like and take advantage of, but at the end of the day, you are in charge of your deliverability.

Do you need help taking charge? Download the Email Deliverability Modern Marketing Guide today to gain best practices, ISP landscape, international regulations, and much more.

Email Deliverability Modern Marketing Guide

As the Holidays Approach, It’s a Good Time To Ask: What’s Next in Email Deliverability?

What’s next? That’s a question that is asked often on my favorite television show of all time, The West Wing. The President of the United States, Jed Bartlet who was played by Martin Sheen, often ends conversations by asking “What’s next?” This is a good question to ask in general and I think it’s coming at a very appropriate time for email marketing, and especially and more personally for me on the deliverability side of the house.

As we approach the holiday season once again, I fear that not enough people are asking what’s next in an actionable way. Most marketers haven’t even realized how far deliverability has come. They are still trying to find a single reputation score that magically encompasses everything they need to know about deliverability in a single glance, or they may be a little more advanced and be thinking about engagement as an important deliverability factor.

We’re still talking to those senders who think there is a magic pathway to the inbox, where you don’t have to do any special work beyond signing up for a service. There’s still no shortcut to the inbox, if you were wondering. Inbox placement isn’t for sale, you can’t add it to your domain name system (DNS), and there isn’t anyone who is so connected that they can make a call, and make all your troubles vanish.

Ssshhh… It’s a secret.

There is a little secret that those of us in the know have been aware of for some time. I am excited to see that a lot of you out there also see what’s happening. We’re in one of those transitional periods in deliverability that we see every few years. The surprise is this time, the secret to great inbox placement isn’t some new deliverability concept. Good marketing leads to good inbox placement.

That’s the secret.

I know it isn’t that exciting to say, except for the fact that it actually is very exciting. Good marketers are winning the day, and we see it more and more each day. You want to see the inbox in Gmail? The way to get there is to do some amazing marketing. That’s what puts you in that position, not tricks and shortcuts.

That’s why this is an exciting time for us in the deliverability space. We know how to configure our systems to give you the best opportunity to get to the inbox. We know how to throttle, how to authenticate, which metrics to watch, and what time of day to send. All of that is already in place for you, the missing piece is the connection between you and your customer. Don’t forget that as you plan for the holidays.

Appetite Recognition

It isn’t about how many times you can touch a customer per week, it isn’t about meeting a send quota for the quarter. Smart and successful marketers this holiday season will be the ones who recognize their customer’s appetites for their products. It’s just fine to send some great promotional deals, but it has to be mixed in with content that people want to read.

Next time, I am going to talk about how those same smart marketers are using new tools to not only understand how they are performing, but they are borrowing ideas about what does and does not work. All the information that you need to be successful is there for you today, and as always it isn’t activated by a magic wand. The information is there for you if you want to see it. 

As always, we are here to answer your questions and provide you with the path to those solutions.

You're not alone. We understand how critical (and even daunting) of a task it is to get email into an inbox. With these challenges in mind, we are giving you the opportunity to learn from our experience. Download the Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers to achieve email deliverability that really matters.

 Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers

Email Marketing: What’s Really the Issue With Confirmed Opt-In?

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks in the discussion surrounding confirmed opt-in (COI) and the direction that the industry is headed. I wrote about the inevitability of confirmed opt-in becoming the standard at some point in the future. The discussion began with a rash of Spamhaus listings, which were supposedly generated from a list bomber. We didn’t discuss the merits of how the “list bomber” got the Spamhaus trap addresses, whose anonymity are key to their credibility.

We didn’t talk about how the “list bomber” targeted mainstream marketers who used larger ESP’s. We didn’t talk about just how Spamhaus knew exactly which marketers to list. I bet you didn’t tell Spamhaus if you were hit by this. You can draw your own conclusions from what’s been written, and also what hasn’t been written. It was also interesting timing for this to “randomly” happen just before the holiday period.

So, it’s out there, and one could argue that this was a concerted effort on behalf of someone to drive senders to this practice. The funny thing is that COI isn’t even a radical concept anymore. Think about when you purchase or sign-up for many programs these days. You get a please confirm your email address, confirm your subscription, or confirm your preferences message right away.

Companies do this for the security of their customers. They don’t want to send your information to the wrong person, just because someone made a typo. COI is already a common email practice. You sign up for a Gmail account, and you have to confirm your email address. Nobody sees that email and freaks out, it is standard operating procedure.

Pradeep Mangalapalli, Director of Deliverability Operations, wrote a post last week which highlighted some extensive metrics that we pulled from across the marketing universe (Not just Oracle, we looked at senders regardless of ESP). We found that these campaigns perform at a very high level. Open rates are high, and read rates are also very strong. The spam complaint rate for these types of email is almost zero.

That’s because we understand that for the most part, these messages are now part of the expected back and forth conversation with someone we are doing business with, or interested in receiving information. Affiliate marketers have been confirming permission for years, because they were trying to avoid those previously mentioned complaints.

If you are a marketer who doesn’t want to do COI right now, that’s fine. But I would encourage you to ask yourself (and your team), what are you really afraid of? We’ve established that consumers understand the process now. That wasn’t the case 3 or 4 years ago, but it’s basically mainstream these days. I would propose that the real issue isn’t the actual COI, but a fear that you are going to lose subscribers.

If that is really the case, it is not because of the COI itself, but some other probably more important issues. What does it say if you think 75% of your subscribers won’t click a link in an email whose only purpose is to protect your security?

Maybe they don’t know they were “signing up” for your program. Is the user afraid they are going to be bombarded with email they don’t want? Is it the fact that you aren’t converting 100% of address to your list? Just because you have an email address doesn’t mean it wasn’t faked, made-up, mistyped, or is a valid address at an account they will just never check.

Would you want an ATM card that didn’t have a PIN number, or a credit card where you didn’t have to verify a signature? There’s a reason why you have to activate a credit card you receive in the mail. You activate it so in case it falls in the wrong hands, there’s a step required before that shopping spree. Clicking a link is so much easier.

If you fall in the category of “scared of confirmed opt-in” I would suggest you look a few levels above a simple email. Why would your customers not trust clicking a simple link that protects them and you as a sender from many dangerous elements?

The answer is most likely not the confirmation email, but something else that is probably already costing you money. You can wait until something like CASL comes along and freak out about the “changes” you must make at the last minute, or just fix the leaks today.

Another thing you could do is download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers to find out how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers. 

Why Email Marketers Need To Confront the New Reality of Confirmed Opt-In

As some of you have found out in the worst possible way over the past month, Spamhaus is on a tear. If you aren’t familiar with Spamhaus, I suggest you do a little bit of Googling to find out about them. They are simply the most relevant blacklist in existence today.

About a month ago, Spamhaus began “listing” senders who were using explicit opt-in (a pretty high standard in email marketing) as a method of address collection. There are different flavors of Spamhaus listings, but the one we want to avoid as legit marketers, is the SBL listing. Once added to the listing database, mail providers begin to pick-up this listing and use it to block those IP’s.

An SBL listing is a pretty devastating thing to happen to any email program, and it in effect renders a halt to the email program. Doesn’t make much sense to send email when most of the recipient providers are just going to block it.

Theoretically this rash of listings began with a series of “list bombs” that has grown. A list bomber goes to sign-up forms (it’s not a person, it’s a bot) and enters in email addresses they don’t own. The plan is to sign-up an address to so many places as to render it useless. Well, these list bombers have been targeting websites that don’t confirm email addresses. The address is entered, the email isn’t confirmed, and bam you have a full plate of spam.

We won’t debate any of the specifics here about how so many of these list bombs actually contain spam traps, that’s for another day. We need to discuss how to avoid this gnarly fate so close to the holiday season.

The ONLY way to avoid a Spamhaus listing is to double opt-in/confirmed opt-in all of your email addresses.

I know that nobody actually wants to talk about this, but this is our new reality.

Every day that you don’t implement confirmed opt-in is a day that your email world could come to a screeching halt. If they want to hit you for this, there’s not a great defense. You say you use explicit opt-in, and they say they received email they didn’t sign-up for. There’s no honor among thieves or list bombers.

That’s the bad news.

Let’s discuss all of the good things that are going to happen to you once you move to 100% confirmed opt-in.

  • Engagement improves – You are sending to only those who express real interest
  • Fewer complaints – People who never wanted promotional email in the first place don’t have to report your message as spam
  • Deliverability improves – Fewer complaints, higher engagement, improved open rates, what more can you ask for?
  • Improved reputation – A clean list equals a happy receiver.
  • No more Spamhaus worries…

I understand you may not want to consider this today. You think you are going to lose a lot of addresses (you probably will, but those people weren’t active and may have been hurting your overall inbox placement), leave potential revenue on the table, and generally wreck your program. That’s not true, and unfortunately you very soon may not have any choice at all

For more tips when it comes to improving deliverability, download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers.

Why So Many Email Marketers Are Worried About Spamhaus

The talk this week in Deliverability has centered around a rash of Spamhaus listings. The narrative is that someone set off a massive number of “list bombs” (entering tons of email addresses at sites without CAPTCHA or Confirmations) which targeted websites that didn’t have any confirmation capabilities.

Those addresses were then added to the lists of those sites. The “hacked” senders are now potentially on the radar of Spamhaus, which led to lots and lots of listings, which consequently led to misery for the senders themselves.

We’re in an interesting time right now even with all of the anti-spam talk and regulations that are out there, Spamhaus is interestingly the only real power broker in the blacklisting space. A listing from Spamhaus can basically shut down an email program, because so many ISP’s use the Spamhaus listing as their blacklisting of choice.

No Denying It

Make no mistake about it, getting listed by Spamhaus will ruin your day, and probably cost you some money. A Spamhaus listing is a devastating thing for some marketers, as the listing exposes the weaknesses in their program, and they find out about the ongoing danger.

There is an easy answer to this potential issue. If you use confirmed opt-in, you NEVER have to worry about Spamhaus, or probably any other blacklisting again. That’s right, if you use confirmed opt-in, you are not going to be listed on Spamhaus… ever. For some of you reading this who have never been on this list, you don’t realize how life changing one of these listings can be, you don’t understand the fuss. You won’t feel that way after the listing.

I know (and have heard) all of the arguments of why you can’t do confirmed opt-in. I’d like to go through these individual reasons, and talk about why if they aren’t already invalid, they will be soon.

  1. List Size Matters – The most common reason for not moving to confirmed opt-in. Maybe you sell or rent your list, and the numbers do matter. People want bigger lists because they want to reach more people.
  2. People won’t click a confirm link in another email.
  3. My Terms of Service has all of my permission rules. That’s why someone can sign-up for one newsletter, but I can send them another.
  4. It isn’t against the law.

These are the most common excuses we get when we talk confirmed opt-in. The truth is that, these are all outdated excuses, and they just don’t hold up anymore. Change now, or your strategy may be changed by someone else in a way that you probably won’t be comfortable with.

The Counterpoints
  • List size is an antiquated way of looking at distribution lists. Sending to bad or fake addresses does nothing except hurt your overall deliverability. This means that your good addresses may be impacted. People who didn’t want your email either get it and complain about it, or they just put in a fake email that might be a spam trap. Many companies who pay for inclusion in email lists have started asking for actual engagement data, not just the number of email sent. The real world analogy would be sending physical bulk mail and having half of the mailers ending up in a trash can at the post office.
  • People will click a confirmation email these days. We are all conditioned to do it. Lots of responsible mailers follow-up the sign-up process with a confirmation message. People are willing to click that email for messages they are interested in receiving. Notice that I said interested.
  • If you are one of those TOS mailers, this is a good time to stop that as well. Nobody wants to receive a newsletter or mailings from a brand they didn’t ask for.
  • We’re not lawyers, and we can’t give legal advice, but I can tell you that when mailers tell us they are CAN-SPAM compliant, it’s usually a sign that they are doing the minimum amount possible. Spamhaus could care less about the law, Gmail doesn’t care about the law, and neither do most receivers. They aren’t trying to sue you, just block all of your messages.

It’s time to move to confirmed opt-in. The excuses are just that, excuses. You build a better list, improve your deliverability, can provide partners with real value, and have engaged customers. When you send a mailing, people will receive it. Don’t take the easy route. Forget about Spamhaus now by doing the right thing.

One other right thing you can do is download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers to find out how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers.