Avoiding Email Blacklists

There are many legitimate reasons for sending bulk email. For example, regular or ad-hoc newsletters to your customers, product, company or sales information that former customers would like to know about, or related partner communications. In ALL cases, however, this communications must be solicited (i.e. "opt-in"), or you will quickly find your email bouncing due to being listed on one or more email blacklists. Unfortunately, customers may also sometimes forget that they opted in to your communications, and report your email as spam! Following are some best practices to avoid this happening to your email communications.

1. Give the Reason - At the top of your email, indicate why your customer is receiving it. For example, "You are receiving this email because you selected the option to receive our monthly newsletter when you purchased a product from us."

2. Give them an Out - Immediately after the reason, give your customer an easy and quick way to opt out of receiving future communications. For example, "If you would no longer like to receive our newsletter, please click on this link to unsubscribe." Yes, you can put the unsubscribe link at the bottom of your email, but keep in mind that people will decide to label an email as spam in less that a second. If it is not easy and quick to find the opt-out link, you increase the probability of being labeled a spammer.

3. Use a Known Email Domain - Sounds obvious, but we know from the emails we receive that it's not. If customers opted-in to your newsletter while purchasing a product from joes-widgets.com, then an email from sams-building-supplies.com is more likely to be reported as spam, since they don't recognize the latter domain as a business they have used in the past.

4. Keep the Trust - Trust is arguably the number one issue in eCommerce. Provide a link to your privacy policy in your email, and if you belong to a trusted organization such as the Better Business Bureau, consider placing the trust seal in the email also.

5. Ensure Value - If your emails contain information that the customer finds of value, you will reduce the risk of getting placed on an email blacklist. If you don't have much value to communicate, don't send the email!

6. Watch the Frequency - Don't send emails too often (in your customer's opinion!). Weekly or even monthly communications may be considered too frequent for some types of communications, while daily may be acceptable for others. Yearly communications sometimes result in customers forgetting they did business with you, and may increase the likelihood of being reported to an email blacklist. Promotional messages should usually be sent less frequently than informative messages (e.g. product sales vs. daily stock market reports).

7. Ask for Feedback - In your emails, ask your customers for feedback on the value of the email content, and any suggestions they have for improvement. If you ask for feedback, however, be sure to reply to it. Ideally, feedback receives a personal reply. At the very least, however, you should have a feedback box with an automated reply. Remember, though, that feedback that appears to be ignored can upset customers which can cause attrition or email blacklisting. Some customers may try to unsubscribe by using the feedback address or link, rather than the unsubscribe link. If you don't want to be on an email blacklist, you MUST monitor and quickly address any complaint messages or requests for removal. Otherwise, your next email is likely to be reported as spam.

8. Allow Personalization - As possible, make it easy for people to change the email address that you use for communications, and select which types of information they wish to receive.

If you don't want to spend a lot of time managing your subscriber lists, there are services which can take care of email list management for you (for a fee), and they also have some nice tools and templates to make regular communications fast and easy.

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