by Brett Schenker, Senior Deliverability Manager, Salsa
As the email deliverability czar here at Salsa Labs, I get to see the latest emailing habits of our clients, how they go about growing their lists and what impact those two have on deliverability. Well, I’m here to say, the days of fast and loose email list management are over. Gone are the days of building a list and not paying attention to how the individual is reacting to your emails.
Gone are the days of lists falling off trucks. Gone are the days of list swaps and purchasing lists from questionable sources. If your list isn’t organic, if people aren’t opting into it, you’re in for a world of hurt down the road.
Email service providers (like Google and Yahoo) and spam cops like Spamhaus, Spamcop and Senderbase are looking for how people are reacting to your emails and what you as the sender do with the information you receive back. Continually sending emails when an address is hard bouncing, or they aren’t interacting at all can affect your deliverability. Sending emails and having people mark it as spam or deleting it without looking at it affects you as well. They’re also looking at WHO you’re sending to.
The spam world has a way of finding out if your list isn’t organic called spam traps. A spam trap is an email address that is not used by an individual to sign up. It sits on websites for bots to scrape up. Or, they are email addresses that are no longer used. This is where the list management comes in. If an account becomes dormant, email service providers will hard bounce the account for months, at which point you should be unsubscribing the individual (Salsa has a handy tool to make this automatic). After those months, the email service provider or spam monitoring system will activate the email address as a trap.
Here’s where it affects you. That email address might have been valid when it signed up for your list. If you follow best practices, that email address should have been unsubscribed from your list during the grace period. If not, that’s a sign of poor list management to them and you could be deemed a bulk sender with little regard as to the results or care for the individual. If you start sending to those spam traps out of the blue, service providers and spam filters will know your list isn’t organic.
Spam traps can get on your list by expiring and then turning, but they can also be picked up by purchasing lists or like a virus, being passed around through dirty lists not managed correctly. I’m seeing this more and more, and some organizations have lost the ability to email hundreds of thousands of individuals due to poor habits like these. You have no idea how those lists you’re swapping are managed, or how good those addresses are. It’s best to do an email trade instead, where others send an email on your behalf, and you on theirs. That way you’re assured to reach those who are interested in your organization and are real people!
The days of fast and loose list management and growth are over. While you might get a boost in some donors in the short term, the damage you do in the long term can get your ability to email shut down and domain saddled with a poor reputation. For the few dollars more you earn, is it worth the risk and guarantee eventually you’ll get caught?