Blacklisted and Bewildered
The last two weeks or so has been like riding on a roller coaster as I've battled several technical issues with our ISP, am working through a real estate deal that's gone south, had issues with our email marketing, and experienced several "shanks" on the golf course leading to poor scores and lost golf balls. Other than the shanks on the golf course, the only one really in my control was the problem we incurred with our email marketing.
That's what this posting is about, how to avoid ending up marked as a "spammer" by using a best practice many of us neglect, cleaning up your subscriber list on a regular basis.
We've always worked very hard to use best practices in collecting subscribers for our newsletter. All our subscribers have opted in during their checkout process or through other sign ups on our websites. We've used Constant Contact as our provider for nine years, and they reliably ensure that anyone who opts out is added to a do not mail list.
We try not to overuse our privilege of sending emails to subscribers by sending out only a couple newsletter each week to various lists. We provide consistent content that our readers have told us they are interested, including promotions, in a frequency that we clearly present upfront.
We don't send a daily reminder for the weekly deal every day in case you happened to accidentally discard the other 6 other emails reminding you about the weekly deal before the latest one expires and the new one starts tomorrow and we send 6 more daily emails to remind you. (I've grown really tired of that from several of my competitors and other newsletters I subscribe to in case you can't tell). We also have very, very few emails marked as spam by recipients.
Much to my surprise, I received a rather terse email from Constant Contact one weekend evening tell me in thinly veiled terms that I must be a spammer and they were suspending my account until we did a full account review.
I was taken aback since I could not imagine what was leading them to believe that. I called them on Monday morning and after several conversations with various people within their customer support organization and a Regional Coordinator I've known for several years, we finally determined the cause.
It was a bit longer to get to that point than I would have liked, but I understand their process and the reasoning behind it. Hopefully they learned a few things about how to handle the issue on their end that will expedite things a bit for the next person this happens to.
It could be you if you have a lot of subscribers and you don't scrub your lists occasionally, a "best practice" we had not done in a while.
As it turns out, there are organizations out there, like Spamcop, who police email blasts for spam and try to shut the spammers down. I think we would all agree that is good for the industry. One of their methods is to they plant "secret email subscribers", kind of like secret shoppers, out there then to see if those email addresses turn up on lists that they did not opt into. Then, they report violators to email providers like Constant Contact, iContact, etc. When Constant Contact, or other providers, are notified by Spamcop or similar companies, they suspend those accounts containing those "unauthorized" emails to ensure that all their emails are not shut down by the ISPs.
They do that because ISPs like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and others shut down all the emails from those email marketing companies. Rather than risk having no more email delivered, Constant Contact and similar providers just suspend or shut down the suspected accounts until they are reviewed. They may or may not tell what what's really going on, since you may rally be an evil doer.
We have a rather large list that is also a very mature list. Within it, we have several sub-lists we use for targeted campaigns. We had a customer rewards programs active for several years that had its own list. We suspended the program a couple years back, but just recently revived it. We had just begun occasionally including those "old" subscribers in a new campaign to get our customers into our new rewards program. As it turns out, apparently Spamcop or one of the other watchdogs purchased an old email name or more that happened to be on one of those "old" lists we were using. Not sure why they purchase old addresses, but apparently they do. Next thing you know, we're convicted and suspended spammers.
Actually, I'm exaggerating for humor. We were very much able to resolve the problem without much pain once we talked to the right people within Constant Contact. Once I learned the problem, it was easy to figure out where the old email addresses were coming from.
As a follow up, next week, we'll be doing reconfirmations to older subscribers who are not actively opening their mail. I'm sure we'll lose a fair number of subscribers who won't bother to reconfirm their subscriptions. On the other hand, our open and click through rates will go up and we'll be emailing to people who are still actively interested in what we have to offer. We'll be following through on another other part of "best practices", which is maintaining a list of active subscribers rather than a just a list of subscribers.
I agree that the Spam Police are a really good thing in the world of spammers. It keeps us legit companies on the radar and relevant. I used to use Constant Contact like you do, they are a decent company but service was an issue. They do actually have people to talk to, but too many and hard to find the right one! I am with iContact but not impressed. I just started found a new email company called Gravitymail but have not started using them yet. Do you know anything about them? When I call I get the right person every time but haven't jumped in with both feet yet.
Dale Traxler says:
Have not really researched much in that area for many years other than a superficial search on Google, so I'm afraid I can't help you out much.
Hopefully someone else who reads this will have some feedback on them or recommend another company.
Clint Wilson says:
That does sound like a bad experience and I have heard of many at all the ESPs we integrate with our SyncApps like MailChimp, ExactTarget, Constant Contact, Yesmail, VerticalResponse and others.
I have seen that using your CRM as the system of record with a seamless integration to control your ESP lists/sublists opt-outs keeps spam issues low so you will not have these types of issues.
Gravitymail is pretty good yet the out of the box functionality is a choice one has to judge after a trial. Each company is different.