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Best Common Practices are different for marketer and ESP

15.02.2014
There is a gap in how email marketers and mailbox providers (ESP) interpret the meaning and application of BCP (Best Common Practices).
 
Mailbow continuosuly attends on numbers of industry events to stay informed on where the industry is going, and makes sure we are up-do-date on the latest topics, technologies and ideas. The conversations we have with both mailbox providers and email marketers also ensure that we know how the two sides of the industry actually think about email in general. Sometimes it's really difficult and hard to explain things to both sides.
 
Many mailbox providers and filtering companies have taken the time to describe, in detail, what they consider best practices. For example Gmail has it there - https://support.google.com/mail/answer/81126?hl=en
 
Reading through the bulk sender guidelines there were a few, specific sections that really stood out:
 
Subscription
Gmail states, “Each user on your distribution list should opt to receive messages from you in one of the following ways (opt-in):”
 
The key word here is “opt-in” which seems very straightforward. There are certainly different ways to opt-in, but Gmail helps by suggesting:
  • Through an email asking to subscribe to your list
  • By manually checking a box on a web form, or within a piece of software
One would certainly opt-in for ECOA. Address owners have indicated they are changing their addresses and opted in to a service that will give marketers the correct address.  This practice shouldn’t be too much of an issue, right?  Removing any address that isn’t accurate, for example me@gmale.com, is a good idea and we would consider that a best practice.
 
Many anti-spammers consider list appending to be an unacceptable practice since there is no direct permission, but there are no laws that say this is illegal. However, CASL could change that and require some proof of consent.  The simplest way to think of this is, did they come to you and say, “Hey, I want this”?  If not then you might find yourself having serious issues down the road. 
 
Co-registration on the other hand does, in some fashion, ask for permission.  There is a check box stating that you would like to receive email from our partners, right?  The sender’s thinking is: “It’s checked so I guess that is an opt-in.” Except Gmail indicates that it should be “manually” checked, meaning the end user needs to actually take an action to indicate they want email - OPT-IN.  In these co-registration situations the user gave permission, but they don’t know it’s you they gave it to, and this can result in issues which will come back to you as spam votes or a list full of unengaged users.  No worries, Gmail does recommend “that you verify each email address before subscribing them to your list.”  So it’s a best practice to confirm that address.  Don’t assume that all the information you are given is accurate, ask if it is. 
 
Third Party Sender
Gmail doesn’t recommend this, but if you do choose to use a 3rd party sender, then stay involved as much as possible and make sure you are identified correctly so those subscribers know exactly where and how they got your email.  Unfortunately you do have some responsibility to how these 3rd parties are representing you.  Their reputation can hurt yours.
 
Affiliate Marketing Programs
Affiliate marketing is a way to drive people to your site and ultimately to grow your mailing list.  However, these programs have long been associated to spammers and can cause delivery issues if not monitored closely.  It’s the responsibility of the email marketer to monitor the affiliates they use and to remove those that might be causing delivery issues.  Mailbox providers don’t always like this practice, since they see more issues and more negative feedback with these types of list growth.  So be warned if you do walk this path.
 
Delivery
First, there might be a reason that some mailbox providers limit the amount of email allowed into their systems.  Some may not be able to handle a large amount of mail at a given time; others use this as a way to help fight spam coming into their systems.  Don’t misunderstand us. We don’t think that using several IP addresses to get mail out is a always bad thing, and we know that many email marketers do use this technique, but when you’re motivation is to bypass a filter then your mail might be considered snowshoe spam.  I refer to Spamhaus and their definition of Snowshoe spam and they state:
“Like a snowshoe spreads the load of a traveler across a wide area of snow, snowshoe spamming is a technique used by spammers to spread spam output across many IPs and domains, in order to dilute reputation metrics and evade filters.”
 
Mailbox providers watch behavior of senders as well. So while not all mailbox providers will bulk or block a sender using this practice, some might.
 
There are many ways to interpret and apply best practices, and if you look hard enough, you’ll find a justification for your needs. But be cautious! Review your data and question the total impact of your practices. The method you’re using to get into the inbox may be keeping you out. Once your traffic is blocked you have to deal with consequences.
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