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28 entries from December 2006

What To Do If You Are Blacklisted

In this article, Habeas' J.F. Sullivan makes an effort to demystify the blocklist:

When you find yourself listed on a blocklist, the first and most important step to take is to visit the blocklist's Web site. Read the policies about listings and removals, which provide good hints about why a blocklisting took place and what changes to make.

Most sites offer a utility for checking whether a specific Internet provider address is included on the blocklist. Take advantage of these utilities. They will confirm if your IP address is listed. They may also lead you to the evidence supporting the listing, or even an automatic removal option if one is available. Sometimes you won't find out about these possibilities until you have entered your IP address into the checking tools.

After checking the site, contact the blocklist administrator. The message should be short, friendly and focused. Demonstrate your interest in cooperating with the blocklist operator and your willingness to make changes. Make the administrator an ally rather than an adversary. The best approach is to simply ask why you have been listed and what you need to do to be removed.

There are generally three ways to get your IP addresses or domains removed.

  1. Stop the activity that got you listed. Blocklists might remove you once the activity stops.
  2. Fill out the self-removal form, if provided. Some blocklists provide a removal form on their Web sites. However, if the abusive activity continues, you will probably be placed on the list again and you won't have a second chance to use the form.
  3. Give it time. Some blocklists have automated expiration policies. Some will even tell you how long the block will remain.

While most blocklist operators will work with you, it's important to remain patient and courteous. These are the four things you should not do:

  1. Do not threaten to file a lawsuit. Discussions halt and a lawsuit will likely fail. Furthermore, the Internet community often rallies around the threatened blocklist and adds you to dozens of additional blocklists.
  2. Do not declare compliancy with CAN-SPAM. Most blocklist administrators consider CAN-SPAM the bare minimum legal requirement and set the bar higher for their blocklists.
  3. Do not assert, "My e-mail messages aren't spam!" The administrator already determined you are distributing spam, and arguing about your message validity is futile.
  4. Do not demand evidence. Evidence files, if available, can be found on the blocklist's Web site. Most lists, however, are volunteer efforts and do not have the time to maintain documentation.


Mark Brownlow recently updated this email blacklists page. You will find:

  • tools you can use to find out if you're on one
  • links to the major blacklists used by ISPs
  • links to various articles explaining how they work and how you get or keep off them.

I can also highly recommend MarketingSherpa's Buyer's Guide to Email Delivery Audit Services in which 9 email audit services are profiled, including samples of real-life result reports and pricing details.

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Why You Should Incorporate Your Emails With Other Forms Of Marketing

According to Paula Chiocchi, email is most effective when integrated with other channels. Campaign integration with targeted television, radio, freestanding inserts, print ads and direct mail leverages real world branding with online branding and direct response.

Whether used as an upfront soft lead in to receiving direct mail or as a follow up to direct mail or other media, email has been proven to create significant lift to these strategies.

email content is a key component to a successful campaign. Each email message can be individually personalized and should be consistent with other campaigns and corporate branding efforts.

The use of rich text, HTML and now streaming video in email increases response rate. Even a TV commercial can be sent to a targeted prospect in email.

Read the full article here.


Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

DMA: New Laws Could Crack Down on Email

A new series of proposed laws could make life much harder on US email marketers, if they are passed.

Several bills are simmering at the state level that could force email marketers to switch to an opt-in model, rather than the current opt-out one, according to Jim Conway, vice-president of government relations for the Direct Marketing Association, speaking at MediaPost's Email Insider Summit on Tuesday, MediaPost reports. Conway added that if these bills are successful, they could easily be the model for other states, and even the U.S. Congress.

Also, the FTC now is taking a closer look at privacy policies. At the Tech-Ade conference last month in Washington, D.C., commissioners indicated that they were concerned by a perceived lack of transparency in privacy policies, Alan Chapell, president of Chapell Associates, said. Chapell added that marketers may need to come up with new, more stringent policies to avoid government regulation.

"Now the commissioners are saying the traditional privacy policies are insufficient. Again, we're risking government regulation. So maybe we need to go above and beyond the traditional privacy policies."


Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

What Is SpamAssassin And How Does It Work?

SpamAssassin is an open-source project of the Apache Software Foundation. In a corporate setting, usually small to midsized businesses and ISP mail servers, it runs each email message through hundreds of tests that analyze headers, text, and HTML coding and checks domains and IP addresses against DNS (define) blocklists and filtering databases.

When a message flunks a test, it scores anywhere from a fraction of a point to multiple points. If a message scores too many points, SpamAssassin rejects it. But the message can also receive negative points (a good thing) that help offset the unwanted positive points. Check out the list of tests to get a basic understanding of what SpamAssassin checks for.

Though it can reject permission-based messages, SpamAssassin has many positives:

  • There's more latitude with content. Using a word such as "free" too often in copy might cost half a point, but the filter won't reject your message outright as some others do.
  • If your email is rejected, the ISP or receiving business may provide this detail in a bounce message; not inform you (the sender) at all; or simply insert the word "SPAM" at the beginning of the subject line when the message is delivered to the recipient. In some cases, the receiving entity will return the message with a detailed report showing exactly which tests it violated and how many points it accumulated. (This email can go back to either your reply-to email address listed in the header or your sender address. Make sure somebody monitors those mailboxes.)
  • SpamAssassin rewards you if you're listed on an individual or corporate whitelist, or with a reputation or certification agency, such as Habeas, Bonded Sender, or ISIPP's Email Senders Accreditation Program. Habeas accreditation can take 4.3 (for single opt-in) to 8 (for confirmed/double opt-in) points off your score, for example.

A couple negatives, besides the rejection potential:

End users, whether individuals or corporations, can set the maximum score as high or low as they want, although a score of 5 or so is most common. They can also decide which tests to apply. The scores vary according to how SpamAssassin is configured, and users can boost or reduce them if they want.

Also, SpamAssassin penalizes messages more heavily for factors you might not control, such as using open relays or blacklisted IP addresses, or using malformed HTML or MIME coding. If you flunk one of those tests, notify your HTML designer or email service provider (ESP), pronto.

Read the full article on ClickZ.

In part two of this column, Kirill Popov and Loren McDonald demonstrate how SpamAssassin works on real copy and how to use it to fine-tune your own email program, both to improve content and increase deliverability. View the examples they give here.

Kirill and Loren provide a couple of strategies to help you use the SpamAssassin tests to tune up your email program the right way:

  • Run your email marketing message through a content checker, whether a free or promotional service, third-party solution, or proprietary application provided in your email service provider's solution or in-house software, to spot and correct problems before you hit "send."
  • See your email as SpamAssassin does. SpamAssassin breaks messages down into components instead of viewing it as all one piece: headers, subject and sender lines, body content, HTML code, pings on blacklists and whitelists, and so forth. You should adopt this manner of viewing email and work to correct problems in each component, not just the components that affect you most, such as subject line or body content.
  • Test your templates. Your primary newsletter or promotional message may not be the only email that gets tangled up in filters. Take all your email templates: company newsletter, sales promotion, order or subscription confirmation, welcome message, complaint response, announcement, and so forth, and run them through the content checker with no body copy or coding beyond what the template requires.
  • Use the checker with caution. Checkers provided as a free or promotional service on a company Web site may not be using the latest SpamAssassin version (3.1.0 in 2005), not configured to include the same tests an ISP corporate or individual mail server might use, or not assess the same point penalties.

Bottom line: A zero or low score is reassuring, but it's just a start. Review the content one more time. Check the IP address used to send your message against a blacklist clearinghouse like Monitor your reply mailbox for any filter or block reports.

Source: ClickZ

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

How To Avoid You Wrongly Get Blocked As A Potential Phisher

Phishing is the effort to steal sensitive identity or financial data through fraudulent email seemingly sent from banks, investment houses, government agencies, e-commerce divisions of major retail brands, or online auction and payment-transfer services. The email redirects users to authentic-looking but bogus sites that collect the data and use it for identity theft and other crimes.

As a sender, you needn't have your company name or brand identity hijacked to be a phishing victim. Now that ISPs are cracking down on fraudulent email just as they have on spammers, your email practices could get you wrongly blocked as a potential phisher.

Also, many email clients are being updated to sniff out phishing attempts. To determine whether an email could be a phishing scam, the client looks for a link in your HTML message where the display text is a URL. If the displayed link is different from the actual URL, the client alerts the user.

So to avoid you are mistakenly flagged as a phisher you should revise how you handle message text, especially if you use tracking technology that encodes the URL.

All email service providers (ESPs) do this as a customer service; many in-house systems do, too. However, ISPS now look for mismatched URLs and will block or filter any they find.

Don't put your domain name in the display text of an HREF email tag, which is what your readers see in the message: <a href=""></a>. Tracking technology could encode it so that it looks like this, creating a mismatch: <a href=""></a>.

Instead, use a descriptive term or describe the action you want readers to take: <a href="">Visit us here</a>. Readers will still see a clickable link, but any encoding for tracking will not create a mismatch.

Read the full article for more tips on how to avoid you wrongly get blocked as a potential phisher.

Source: ClickZ

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

Did .Mac's Support For CSS Completely Disappear?

Apple has introduced a new webmail client for their .Mac customers. .Mac's previous webmail client had amazing support for CSS and standards-based markup. So CampaignMonitor's Mark Wyner decided to test the new webmail client on it's CSS support -- and his first tests lead him to believe that .Mac's support for CSS completely disappeared!

Basically it comes down to this:

The new .Mac takes an approach similar to that of Yahoo, whereby a message ID is applied to a new all-encompassing container DIV and every style is prefixed with the respective ID to create child selectors… (read the original post by Mark Wyner to view some code examples). .Mac adds a gratuitous DIV just inside the new #messageCanvas DIV, consequently rendering all CSS useless…

Continue reading "Did .Mac's Support For CSS Completely Disappear?" »

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MarketingSherpa releases the Email Marketing Benchmark Guide 2007

MarketingSherpa published its fifth annual Email Marketing Benchmark Guide today. The 317-page Guide includes real-life email campaign results from 3,637 surveyed emailers.

The complete guide features 233 new charts and tables, 21 images and eight new eyetracking heatmaps on the topics of:

  • Email open rates, click rates (CTRs), and conversions for 3,637 marketers, including year-over-year email trend data for house lists, rented email lists, and email advertising.
  • New data on email design that works best -- which factors from copy to graphics can improve (or depress) results.
  • How email filters affect opt-in emailers' delivery rates, and if false positive rates are getting better year over year.
  • List growth data - including new stats on co-registration and opt-in form design.
  • Ecommerce marketing and email, including new data on affiliate's compliance with email legislation.
  • Mobile marketing in the US in 2007.

Having bought the 2006 edition, I can definitely recommend this guide!

Click here for more information.

Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!

DMA UK Releases Email Benchmarking Report Q2 2006

Email Service Providers (ESPs) are anticipating an increase in Christmas spending of up to 50%, according to the latest DMA National Email Benchmarking Survey. Over a third of ESPs expect an increase in year-on-year spending of 15 - 25%, almost 20% anticipate an increase of 26 - 50% and 5% of ESPs envisage a rise in Christmas spending of over 50%.

The report reveals that these emails will become increasingly personalised, with all ESPs stating that they are engaged in some kind of message personalisation. An increasing number of ESPs report that they are building entire emails based on an individual's profile. This may be behind the fact that open rates are improving - up to 26% for acquisition and 33% for retention emails. The total click-through rates for retention campaigns have risen to 9% for acquisition and 14% for retention campaigns.

For the first time, the survey also looked at the effect that the 'number of times contacted' can have on the campaign metric rates. Average unique and total click through rates both decreased as the frequency of contact increased, suggesting that the message was having less of an effect on the recipient.

Opt-out rates were also affected. When only contacted once a month, the average opt-out rate was less than 1%, which grew to 3.5% and 2.5% for acquisition and retention (respectively) when contact was weekly. Highlighting the importance of maintaining customer relationships, the results also show that current customers are more likely to respond favourably to communication than non-customers.

The report also reveals an increase in the number of segments in campaigns and in the number of regular communications. Weekly campaigns now account for about a third of all campaigns broadcast in the UK.

Richard Gibson, chair of the DMA Email Marketing Council's Benchmarking Hub, says: "ESPs, and indeed clients, need to find the right balance between maintaining current relationships while not irritating with over-contact. One solution is to let the customer choose. Providing customers with options regarding content and frequency of contact could ensure high click through rates are maintained and less customers are likely to opt out."

The survey also shows that three-quarters of ESPs claim delivery rates of over 91% for their retention work, but less than half claim the same success rates for acquisition mailings. The hard bounce rate has been gradually declining since our survey began and is now 6% for acquisition and 5% for retention campaigns -from highs of almost 10% and 8% respectively.  The average failure rate for messages still carries an acquisition/retention skew but the overall fail rate is reasonably low - 9% for acquisition and 7% for retention.

According to the report, opt out rates are improving, especially in acquisition marketing.  A year ago, 60% of ESPs had average opt out rates of over 1% for acquisition campaigns. Today, that figure is only 8%.  Similarly, the number of ESP's with a retention rate of less than 0.5% was 44% a year ago and today it is 65%. 

Reinforcing ESP confidence in the channel, almost a quarter of ESPs believe that future revenues will come from a totally new budget line in 2007. However, in contrast to the recent DMA Client Email Marketing survey, ESPs believe that clients' main selection criteria are price and customer service. While clients also stated customer service as key to their decision, reporting was also deemed a priority, highlighting an increasing interest from marketers in wanting to understand how customers interact with their email messages.


Need help optimizing your email marketing results? Get in touch!