Who’s your Daddy? It’s not GoDaddy.com

When writing this blog I make it a point to try not to complain or whine about things that I don’t like, like so many articles I read do, I make every attempt to make my articles informative.  But I am going to break my golden rule of complaining and whining today and do it anyway.

My company uses godaddy.com for its hosting and has for the last three years or so, we use them because they are inexpensive, and they don’t have an overage of technical issues, however I have a major issue with them.  Godaddy takes it upon themselves to determine what is spam and what is not and those emails that they determine are spam, they don’t allow to be delivered.  Now you don’t have to tell me that every host and ISP does this, I know this, after all I am the CEO of a company that offers Email Marketing services and I have over 15 years in that particular industry, but Godaddy goes beyond what everyone else does, they don’t just subscribe to the blacklists that everyone else does, they make their own rules.   They block emails based on content and they even block content based on attachments between a company’s internal email communications.

My company is currently in the process of creating a new updated website, and yesterday our programmer emailed me some files for me to approve and none of those emails came through to me based on the content of those files.  Exactly how was information sent internally on content for our website presenting any type of issue for anyone?  My issue is, who is Godaddy to make the decision of which emails I get and which I don’t get?  I pay them for hosting and email, should it not be my decision which emails or content we want blocked?  I wish I could say this was an isolated issue, but unfortunately it is not, this has happened several times in the past, both internally and with clients and vendors as well.

I understand the need to block certain content based on spam scores and reputations of domains and IP’s,  but this is taking things too far don’t you think?  As a company that is paying for a service shouldn’t we be making the decision of what gets through to our inboxes and what does not?  So you don’t think I just needed an audience I could whine to today, consider this, what if you were sending an important proposal to a client and the client never got it and due to this you lost a major contract? That might seem a bit extreme but not impossible, and even if you take it a step down and the email just wasn’t getting to them and you had to send it from your Gmail account instead of from your company email, doesn’t this make you look bad, unprofessional? I think it does.

So my message to Godaddy is quit meddling in our business affairs, we pay you for a service, let us decide what and who we want coming into our inbox.  I’m thinking of filing a complaint with Danica Patrick the Go Daddy Girl, maybe we can discuss this issue over dinner and drinks…..

Opt-in Email Lists, to buy or not to buy

The other morning not long after I had gotten into the office and was sipping my morning coffee and going over my daily “to do” list, which by the way seems to grow longer each day, I got a frantic call from a client who had purchased an opt in list and had just sent out their first blast the day before and said that he needed my help because they had a big problem from the mailing they had just done.  This same client had asked for a quote on a large B2C nationwide list they were interested in purchasing and instead of using my company he had decided to go with a company that sold him several million U.S. B2C emails for just a few hundred dollars.  I advised him against it telling him it was very doubtful that this was a legitimate database. But he insisted it was, they had had explained to him the process that they went through and how every single email not only had double opted in but was also verified to be an active address prior to being sold.  So he went ahead and purchased his magic list as I refer to it and a couple a few days later is calling me;  His “Big” problem was that his hosting company took his site down probably because their IP address had probably been blacklisted by various organizations due to all the complaints they had received. He said he couldn’t get the company that he purchased the list from on the phone and they were not responding to the many emails that he had sent. Imagine my surprise.

So there are two mistakes that this client made, the first is they conducted their own email marketing campaign, something I discussed last week (The Email Marketing Chronicles – The Danger of do it yourself Email Marketing) and he purchased a cheap list which I have also discussed in the not too distant past (The Email Marketing Chronicles – Co-Registration Data) but I felt that it was important to mention this again because believe it or not some people get burned several times before they get the picture and maybe, just maybe I can get through to someone and save them some pain and misery.  I promise you that nobody, NOBODY is selling 5 million quality opt in emails for $199. It’s a scam! I know it comes with IP address, time and data stamp, and it looks very legitimate. It’s a scam! And in case you didn’t hear me; it’s a scam! If you want a quality list go to a legitimate list company and expect to spend more than $199 or hire an email marketing company to send your ad for you.

If it was so easy to do these things yourself, than the pros wouldn’t be in business in the first place. Use sound business common sense and use your head to make your decision not your wallet.

The Email Marketing Chronicles – The danger of “Do it yourself” Email Marketing

You have decided that you are going to try some new marketing, you have already gravitated from traditional marketing to SEO and SEM and even do a little PPC, but you want more, you want to try email marketing, you have been reading how great the response rates are, and it all makes sense, that many advertisements directly into the email box of thousands of people, the response rate should be exceptional.

At first sight it all really seems so simple, you found a legitimate company that has the email data that you are looking for, it is all double opt in and comes with the opt in information.  You are all set, so you take the data, which are about 25,000 records.  You have an email ad created and you are all set to go, you load the 25,000 records into the BCC field, type in a subject and push the button, and being that it’s just after five o’clock you call it a day and go home.

The next morning you come in to the office to find that you have no website and no email, you call your ISP (Internet Hosting Provider) and they tell you that they noticed an unusual amount of email has been sent, and you explain to them that you conducted an email marketing campaign but the data you used was all opt-in email.  They tell you that doesn’t matter that it is against their AUP (Acceptable Use Policy) for commercial emails to be sent out.  They agree to turn your hosting back on but require you to pay a fee of $500 and to agree to never do this again and that next time they will disconnect you permanently.

This may seem a little farfetched to you but this happens every day, and sometimes there is no second chance, sometimes the account is disconnected permanently on the first violation of the AUP depending on the level of tolerance of the particular ISP in question.

Even if this had not happened there are other issues that could have happened such as many ISP’s set the amount of email that can be sent at one time, some are at 100 at a time, others are at 25, and some have a daily limit, and once that limit is hit all outgoing email will be denied until the next day.

There is also the issue of the reputation of your IP address; see (http://www.techterms.com/definition/ipaddress) for definition of an IP and how it works. Sending out a lot of email, even opt in email will generate complaints; people forgot they opted in, email address changed and the person who received the email is no longer the person who opted in, etc.  Also the mail servers that process email from the domains that you are sending to will become suspicious when large amounts of email are coming from the same IP and will most likely block the email, both of these issues then get reported to “Blacklists”. Blacklists known as an RBL (Real Time Blacklists) are services that ISP’s and individual email users report spam, and suspicious activity to, most if not all major ISP’s subscribe to these blacklists and block any domain and IP that is listed on them.  Once you get on a blacklist it means many people will not be able to get to your website or receive your email.  Some of the major Blacklists are “The spamhaus Project” (http://www.spamhaus.org/)  Spamcop (www.spamcop.net) and it is very difficult to get off of one, and this can cause you major issues.  I once had a client that got on the Spamhaus list and it took them months and thousands of dollars in legal fees to finally get off.

The bottom line is you should not be using your server to send email, hire a professional email marketing company to do this.  It might cost you more, but that cost is miniscule compared to the cost of losing your hosting.

The Email Marketing Chronicles – The Can Spam Act

As you may or may not know one of the things that Throttle Media specializes in is Email Marketing, and I personally have years of experience dealing with just about every aspect of Email Marketing that you can think of and I have been involved in campaigns ranging from just a few thousand in a zip code to national campaigns involving several millions.  Email marketing started out fairly simply, you typed in an ad, a subject, you loaded the list of those you were sending your message to, you clicked on the send button and presto your email was on its way.  Well email has gone through a lot of growing pains over the years and has evolved into something that is anything but simple, and while the concept itself seems simple enough, it’s really not.  There are a lot of technical issues that you need to be aware of, certain words, colors, phrases, punctuation, industries that you need to be aware of.  One wrong move and your mail can end up in a server’s trash bin never having made it to its final destination and then there are the legal aspects of sending email.  In short, it is best to use an email marketing professional to handle your company’s email marketing, but even if you do that I think that it’s important that you understand the many facets of email marketing and I have noticed that many people really don’t know enough about this subject, so over the next few weeks I will writing a series called “The Email Marketing Chronicles” which I will post every Thursday.  To start off our series I am going to discuss an issue that many (especially small businesses) don’t seem to understand or at least don’t understand it correctly; The Can Spam Act.

The Can Spam Act was created because people were complaining about spam and several states had passed strong Spam legislation, notably California and Washington State, and because people were very concerned about the amount of pornography that was ending up in not just in their inboxes but their kids inboxes as well. The Can Spam Act stands for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act.  Several different versions were written before the final text of the law was settled on;  in May 2003 House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-LA), House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Congressman Richard Burr (R-NC), vice chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and lead sponsor introduced H.R. 2214, the RID SPAM Act of 2003 and Congressman Gene Green (D-Houston), and Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-Albuquerque), sponsored the Anti-Spam Act of 2003 (H.R. 2515) and eventually after working together and compromising on legislation the Can Spam Act of 2003 was born which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on December 16, 2003 and went into effect on January 1, 2004.

There are many misconceptions about the Can Spam Act for example many think it makes Spam illegal, some think that it requires marketers to have permission of the recipient; none of that is true.  The act does not make spam illegal, as a matter of fact many anti spam advocates felt the law actually did the opposite and made spam legal and in a sense I suppose it did, but like everything it’s not quite that simple. The Act states that you can send an unsolicited commercial email to someone but that you have to adhere to the following rules as stated on the Federal Trade Commission Website (FTC- Can Spam Act):

 

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

While this is a very simple law it has its problems, for marketers it is nearly impossible to follow this law because every ISP in the world has a No Spam Policy in its Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), if you spam they will shut your account down so fast it will make your head spin.  They are not required to allow you to spam, and they don’t and won’t.  The other issue with this law is that the majority of spam comes from outside the United States and there is really no way to enforce it and while many other countries have spam laws it hasn’t slowed down the deluge of spam that is delivered each and every day. I once thought that an opt out system could be created much like the Do Not Call (DNC) in the United States and the Telephone Preferential Service (TPS) in the United Kingdom but it is clear that because email crosses International borders in a nano second that there is no way to control it.

In next week’s edition of the Email Marketing Chronicles I will discuss Co-registration email data, what it is and whether it’s okay to use it.