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The Modern Marketing Blog covers the latest in marketing strategy, technology, and innovation.

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

Kevin Senne
Senior Director of Global Deliverability

As some of you have found out in the worst possible way over the past year, 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.

In August, 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.

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