I started on the Internet when it wasn’t as we know it today. Instead of the rich environment we enjoy, it was a stark and barren place viewed on a a single monochromatic monitor. No ads, no graphics, no massive multi-player online games, no social media, no nothing. Just information. Gopher, not Google, was the main search engine. Websites still existed, but they weren’t all that fancy. In fact when multimedia and animation first started hitting, it was as if owners and developers (if they even existed) lost their collective minds. Some sites were almost unusable because they had so many flashing boxes and pop ups that affronted the eyes.

Do I miss the simplicity of those days? Sometimes. The squeaks and squawks of a modem? Definitely not.

Coming from this background and my experience web developer, I’m not fond email marketing. The tricks that hammer users to sign up for an email list annoy the hell out of me. It not that I just want my information, I’ve patrolled the border between the dark and light side of the Internet far too long. Drive-by script injections, a domain getting banned by an ISP forever, and even a hacker emailing with a warning of a site takedown… The horror stories could write their own novel.

It’s never fun when things go south, which they quickly can with email. Readers and senders can do a lot to protect themselves and make emailing a much more enjoyable chore. Here’s a few tips for both.

The “this is SPAM” button vs the “unsubscribe” link

Besides repetitive and spammy content, the “This is SPAM button” is an email killer.

Yes, I know media has instructed everyone to tap the button instead of the link. Their information of “clicking on the link might add an user to another list” is valid, but a little exaggerated. Random emails from an unknown company or person require the utmost caution. Phishing ones should never be touched or responded to. In fact, if the legitimate company has an email to report such things, do so!

Legitimate ones, from a previously visited and well-known company that don’t appear to be spam need a little respect. Especially if they come from services like Infusionsoft, MailChimp, Active Campaign, and Constant Contact. Use the unsubscribe link with those. It’s much less harmful to the person sending the email.

Mail service providers protect their reputation at all costs. They treat unsubscribe requests as “hey, this person is not interested,” and will question the validity of a list after a certain amount of them. ISPs (or other mail receiving providers) treat the “This is SPAM” button as declaring war on the sender. They will block a sender and sometimes even their IP address or domain name for its overuse.

Senders, make life easier

There are four things that will help make life so much easier for senders when sending out bulk email:

  1. Use a bulk sender like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, etc. – Yes, there might be a fee involved, but it’s so worth it. Their mail is almost always guaranteed to get through if it follows their guidelines because they protect their reputation and IPs so well. When sending from a server, there is a risk its IP address (the numbers that connect it to a network) getting blacklisted (see points 2 and 3 for avoiding that) at any time for any length of time. Blacklisting affects everyone using the same IP.
  2. Follow the CAN-SPAM act when emailing to US-based addresses – The Federal Trade Commission has a great website that explains what it involves. The double opt-in part is especially relevant. Yes, it might be easier to not use it, but it will keep lists cleaner and less-headache free, if done. By making users double-opt in, they are performing two actions, signing up and conforming they are signing up. That way, everyone, including them, knows they want to be on an email list.
  3. NEVER, EVER, (did I say NEVER?) buy a list of email addresses (no matter how cheap the list may be) – They are not worth it. Besides being a violation of the no 3rd party rule of CAN-SPAM, they spell TROUBLE faster than a sonic boom. There is no way of knowing email origin, method of collection, or validity. Always collect email addresses on the sending domain. This doesn’t prohibit using a mail service provider. Follow their instructions on authorizing them to send on the domain’s behalf.
  4. Less is more – People are bombarded with emails, so much so that they set up filters, categories, and other methods to prioritize them. The message is important, don’t let it get lost in the crowd. Make it stand out with quality and professionalism, not how many times it is sent out.

How I’m going to use my email list and blog

For now, not much is going to change.  I have 226 followers (223 of those I imported from Right the Writer) and they will receive a notice of new blog posts. After I finalize my marketing plan, I’ll leave the current followers alone and start a list on MailChimp with a weekly blog summary and whatever other campaigns I want to do. Being mindful not to hammer, of course. When this new list comes online, I’ll offer a preview chapter from the current work in progress or an upcoming release as a gift for sign up.

Hope this has been helpful.  Wednesday is another Meet the Author day!