8 reasons to allow change of address

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Changing personal email address is fairly easy, there are loads of services which let you create a free address. Obviously the big 3 providers are the most popular: Hotmail (inc. Outlook.com, live & msn), Yahoo and Gmail.
When it comes to business addresses, people say you should expect more spam due to the corporate subscriber loop hole and people change jobs fairly frequently, e.g: about 2 years.
Here are a few reasons why your email program should give your subscribers the opportunity to change their email address.

1. Too much spam
The most common reason to change address is because of to much spam to that inbox and the vast majority of the time people will change provider at the same time.

Lots of people migrated from Hotmail to Gmail in the last 10 years. Their Hotmail account was full of junk they could not get rid of and Google was novel and cool.
Most of these people left their Hotmail account open as their “junk” account.

So once they’ve got their new address they have to decide which emails they want to see in their new primary inbox then go and update their details in places like Amazon etc.

2. Hacked
There are all sorts of nasties out there trying to get free money. Some of these try to get into free inboxes to not only spam your contacts but get personal information too.
Hotmail has been a common victim of this for years. Recently Yahoo have had some security problems which caused BT internet to take their entire email service elsewhere.
When an inbox gets hacked it is most common to move providers rather than create an new address in the same space.

3. New job
The average life span of a job is still around 2 years, so when someone moves jobs they might like to take some subscriptions with them to their new job.

4. Increased level of trust
Due to the high value of email addresses, many brands try to get people to provide an email address at every opportunity; sometimes they try too hard and people can feel forced, e.g. financial support sites asking for email in a credit check; or sometimes the site does not reassure people of the security and integrity of their email addresses.
This would then result in the user providing their old junk address or a temporary address.
As time goes by the brand could/should earn the trust it needs to get value from that address and the user may decide to swap in their good address for the junk address they provided at the start.

5. New phone or tablet
Android phones require a Google address for a Google Account. Mac offers, email addresses and Microsoft made outlook.com in order to make Hotmail more like Gmail.
So when someone gets a new phone they may switch their primary email address to the new address they get for the phone or tablet.

6. New cool provider
Someone who is getting bored of their email address could be swayed by a, cool new provider. A great example of the creation and success of Gmail with no marketing. GMX has had some success with little marketing.

7. Interface update
When a provider adds a new feature or give a big revamp people like to check it out…
Outlook.com was a very novel change which woke up a lot of Hotmail users.
Yahoo has woken up some abandoned usernames and revamped their interface quite a few times.
Gmail has recently added tabs.

8. What’s the alternative?
If someone needs to change their address with you but you don’t let them what do they do?
Go through the sign up process with their new address and opt-out with their old one?
Is that too much to ask?
Would you go through all of that?
Or would you just leave it and slowly fade out of that brand?

Which brands you would take with you to your new address? Would any of those ‘vital’ brands not let you change your address?

I expect not, any brand worth your time will give you enough control over your subscription! Does yours?

When you do add this functionally, please do consider a confirmation email to ensure the user owns the address they supply and to add that extra level of trust for the recipient.
It might sound like asking for too much but someone willing to go as far as updating their address with you is very engaged and will happily do it.

Typo Traps

 

stpo_sign

The worst black list to be on has always been one run by Spamhaus.

Up until fairly recently Spamhaus spam traps were only scraped traps. Addresses which never sign up for anything but sit on web-sites waiting for bots to scrape them then spam them. This was primarily B2B addresses.

Then two years ago, just before Christmas, Spamhaus woke up a load of zombie addresses as traps, they have since been known as “Zombie traps”, or “recycled traps”.

These are address that have been dormant for over 10 years and have probably been spammed from all angles for at least 5 of them. It seemed that in January 2011 Spamhuas just flicked a switch and anyone who hit them was black listed. This was primarily consumer addresses.

This Christmas Spamhaus activated a bizarre new type of Spamtrap: “Typo traps”.

These were simply any address at a few spelling variations of common consumer domains, eg: “ynail.com” instead of “ymail.com”.

This was first publicised when popular clothing chain “Gap” appeared on a Spamhaus list.

Even more notably, the listing did not actually cause any blocks, even though it was a dreaded Spamhaus block.

This was because Spamhuas listed their “zero IP” and not any address that would actually send an email.
This is the first time Spamhaus have activated a notification block like this. It may have been due to the ambiguity of the traps and that they were attained less through bad practice than bad luck in a well intentioned collection processes.

It could have been an indication that Spamhaus are trying to coax marketers into less short cuts to a big list, rather than blackmail; or it could be both!

Either way it is another thing we need to examine for when checking the health of lists.

More importantly it is a hole that needs filling in the way addresses are collected!

It is not difficult to get a typo address in a list. Any time someone has to type their email address there is a chance of a typo. In Gap’s situation, the addresses were being collected at the till of their retail outlets. So it was either bad spelling by the customer or till staff or it would have been when the records were typed in by hand, in bulk later on.

In that case the only way to avoid it is to be more careful.

What Gap should have done, is bought a few tablets and got customers to enter their details in a web-form with some validation (and an immediate welcome email of course).

When it comes to web forms, typo addresses are more frequent especially when people do not see value in supplying an email address but the site forces them to in order to get to the goal page. Sites which offer something for nothing are the most guilty, the incentives where the prize in on the next page tend to invite mistakes or even deliberate mis-types and made up addresses.

Site which offer finance like loan applications often force people to enter an email address as part of the credit-check, even though everyone knows and email address is not required for a credit check – these tend to invite made up addresses.

Even the best of sign-up experiences can leave room for typos in the email field.

The easiest way to avoid these is to ask people to type in the email address twice in two text boxes. This is commonly called “fat fingers” based on the concept that typos are most common when fingers are too big to hit one key at a time.

It’s a very simple process, underneath your email field add a second text box for users to retype their address into. Then when they hit “submit” trigger a bit of script to compare the two; if they are not the same, don’t submit the form and ask them to try again.

This of course means that the person enters in the typo again the list will still get the typo trap in.

An additional concept is to store a list of commonly mistyped domains and check against that as well.

If you’d like to build one yourself, here’s a starter list of a few typo domains:

Gogglemail
googlmail
goglemail
Hotmial
Hotmal
Hoitmail
Homail
Hotnail
Hotrmail
Hotmil
Hotmaill
Ntlwolrd
ntlword
ntl.world
ntlwrold
Tiscale
tiscalli
Tiscally
Tiscaly
Btinterent
btinternt
Yaho.
Uahoo
ayhoo
ymial
ymal
ymil
ymaill
ynail
yail
gmial
gmal
gmil
gnail
gmaill
gail

Photo sharing site “Kicksend” have put a cheeky little script package upon Github and called it Mailcheck.

Typo traps do not cause black-listings at the moment, so don’t panic – yet!

One day some typos will so it’s important to fix this sooner rather than later.

My advice for staying off blacklists is: Don’t buy data!

When postmasters subscribe to marketing emails

A fair few lists I’ve had to refuse in the 18 months have had a increasing number of postmaster addresses on.

Now the general consensus is that people who are actual postmasters, as a job, will not subscribe to emails.

Subsequently having them on a email list is unlikely to suggest permission. Also if a postmaster gets an unsolicited email they are likely to use their postmaster powers to block future email from that sender not only to their address but also the network the office network they manage and even an entire ISP.

So part of my list checking process is to look for email to postmaster@ addresses, I then presume that the list is bought and the broker is a dirty scraper or stupid appended trying to mug people off  = parasite.

I then reject the list and possibly even the sender for having pony data and for the audacity of polluting my laptop with it.

However, recently I’ve had to change my tolerance levels of postmaster address from 0% to about 0.001%!

The reason?

Plusnet!plusnet

Yeah, you ‘erd me, Plusnet!

That northern ISP with the mildly funny adverts. Not because they bought loads of data and spammed the nation a couple of years ago, not that but something far more ridiculous!

They force residential users to make a postmaster@<username>.plus.com email address.

These residential users, have no context of what postmaster@ means, they think it’s nice and novel being the postmaster of their own domain.

Subsequently I have to assume that this becomes that family’s main user’s email address, which they then use to do all sorts of things, like apply for loans & credit cards and probably some on-line gambling as well as newsletters and ecommerce.

So now I can’t put a ki-bosh on anything with a postmaster address and I have to actually investigate them.

I am very inconvenienced by this action from Plusnet, being an ISP I would have thought they’d know better, grrr.

So the answer is: no, postmasters don’t sign-up form emails, but sometimes people who shouldn’t have a postmaster address are told to make one by their ISP and they use it like a normal one.

So, dime bars all round…

How did Steve Jobs subscribe to my emails?

For a little while last year I kept getting Spamcop reports triggered by emails to steve@apple.com and stevejobs@apple.com.
Of course there is always the chance that Steve Jobs himself had signed up for updates on used cars in Hampshire, however unlikely that is, a few later occurrences were impossible due to being after October 5th 2011.

As I would usually, I spent the time tracing that email address’s route to the list sent; on one occasion, the used car one, everything had been collected by the same form on their own web-site. It appeared that the way the form was structured made it look like people had to enter in an email address in order to get their used car quote, when in fact it was completely optional. So people who wanted their quote would not see any relevance in supplying their email address and due to being forced to enter it, felt they would get on some sort of spam list, subsequently they just made an email address up.

dr-evil-spamThe same thing occurred for a few Airports who have rolled out free WiFi but force you sign-up for emails in order to use it; according to many lists, the late Steve Jobs got around a lot after his untimely death.

My favourite example is Credit sites, where they need to do a credit check on your to approve you for a loan or something. They all ask you for your mobile number and your email address; They don’t need an email address or mobile number to get your credit rating and see if they can approve you, they ask because they want to force you onto their list so that can make loads of cash flogging your contact details, which would then have 3rd party opt-in for ever.

Essentially, not all list building practices that sound like they will build your list may build the list in a good way. Some strategies have people are forced or sneaked on to lists through mandatory email fields without relevance or hidden Ts and Cs on pages giving something for nothing. This would be because some people think that the number of records is more important than the quality and engagement levels of the list.

Not all people are tricked by this and make up email addresses to get to the next page and not be ‘spammed’… if your lists has addresses like:
asdf@yahoo.com, spam@gmail.com, junk@live.com, nothanks@yahoo.com, no@hotmail.com,
me@privacy.net, thefield@home.com, sdfsdf@sdfsdf.com, 123@123.net, qwerty@com.com:
It means someone has made up an address to quickly get what they want without consequence. You might notice a repeat of “sdf” this is because most people are right handed and use their right hand for the mouse, so the left hits the 3 easiest characters which are ‘s’, ‘d’ & ‘f’. There are many more frequently used patterns of address and these are some of the most common.

ISPs and spam protection software companies know this too and many of the common ones are spam traps. They know that these addresses are not owned by people but get hit a lot and why, they then monitor some of them like spam traps so emailing them can either hurt your reputation or just get you blocked.

Some of the common domains used are owned by spam protection software companies to further help them blacklist IP and domains.

So the moral of the story is: consider how people get on your list, consider the relevance of the emails you send them based on how they got on your list. If you have obvious signs of forced sign-ups re-think that sign-up experience. Also have a look at your existing list and consider cleaning off the forced addresses that will have never opened an email from you.

The Forced Optin

[tweetmeme source=”getintheinbox” only_single=false]A forced opt-in is where a site asks for an email address, forces you to opt-in to emails, in order to get something.

Common B2C implementations are on financial aid sites, where you have to fill out a form in order to get your quote. However the quote is not emailed to you, it simply appears on the next page but you still have to supply an email address and accept the Ts & Cs.

Consumers have since figured this out and when they don’t see a relevance to entering their email address, they expect spam, so they either enter in their junk address or just make one up. Also consumers will often use these forms for a flash check of their credit rating, ie: accept or reject, so they can be opted back in as well.

This means that lists built this way are full of addresses that do not exist or belong to people who have not actually asked for them and many of the rest were not expecting the email and probably do not want it.

Many of these addresses are just people who’ve just hit a load of keys in a row, like: qwerty, asdf etc. others make the point like: nospam@thanks.ta etc. etc.

Of course many of these will bounce when first sent to and as long as your email software suppresses hard bounces you won’t have to worry about hitting them again. If you have a lot of them all in the same ISP, eg: Hotmail; a high number of bounces will not do your reputation and favours.

The ones that are actually delivered tend to find the inboxes armed with rather powerful spam buttons which get used without a second thought.

On the other hand over time instead of wasting their efforts dealing with all of the emails sent to junk addresses, the ISPs hosting them simply black hole it so you’ll never know.

However, the odd one gets turned into a spam trap, whether it’s run by the ISP or a Spam Fighting organisation. As you know, hitting traps harms your reputation or just gets you blocked.

Ideally lists would be built without forcing people to opt-in to emails, instead the list would be full of people who have deliberately signified that they want your emails. However, if you are forced to collect email this way, there are some ways help remove some of the risk:

  • Clean out the obvious junk addresses before you send the email to the list.
  • Send a welcome email that makes the opt-out easy, so people will happily clean themselves off you list for you.
  • Put an unsubscribe link in the top right as well the bottom in at least the first 5 emails you send each address.
    This way if someone opens the email and their mouse drifts towards the spam button, they are likely to pass this unsubscribe link in the top right and there is a chance they’d use that rather than the spam button.

The perceptions of this low level of data collection tends to come from the olden-days of direct mail when it was a numbers game and there were no blacklists. Well that model does not apply to email and ISPs & Spam fighting agencies don’t like it and where they are inclined to, they will target senders who obviously collet data this way and junk it or block it.

If you have the option to make a change to your collection methods:

Alter the collection method to only take an email address when your process actually needs to send them an email.

Change the process or decide to only email people who have deliberately requested emails.

Don’t opt someone in from the initial form but offer them help and benefits to sign-up on the next page.

This will save you a lot of pain, generally poor deliverability and subsequently a low open rate.

The important point here, is that hammering dead and uninterested addresses will harm your ability to get in front of the people who will generate revenue with you.

How to Beat Amazon in Email Marketing

[tweetmeme source=”getintheinbox” only_single=false]In this blog post, I’ll be taking a look at Amazon’s mass Email Marketing system to see how it works and will demonstrate some smart Email Marking solutions for how it could have been done better.

My Experience of Amazon’s Bulk Email Marketing Strategy

I use Amazon more than any high street shop or other online retailer. As a result, I get between two and ten emails a week from various parts of their online empire: some seem to be from a clear Amazon department, and some are focused on a specific product type.

My product purchasing habits revolve mostly around electronic goods and the odd book, but occasionally I get emails containing content in which I have no interest. I wanted to ‘manage my preferences’ and unsubscribe from these mailouts, as all good Email Marketing software should allow the recipient to do.

amazon inbox

Unsubscribes/Opt-outs

The closest thing I could find to get me on the road to unsubscribing was a tiny single-word hyperlink opt-out at the end of the second of 26 lines:

Amazon bumf at the bottom

Managing The opt-outs

I was given the choice to opt-out of all special offers or not – that’s all special offer emails, even though every email is clearly from a different department. I clicked a few different email opt-out links and they all seemed offer the same option:

Amazon optout prefs

Delving a little deeper, it appears that ‘improve your recommendations’ is the option that controls the different departments and their ability to email you. I ticked the ‘don’t use for recommendations’ box on the categories in which I had no interest and finally managed to unsubscribe myself.

Getting to this point was a confusing and needlessly complex process.

Do You Still Want To Copy Amazon’s Email Marketing Strategy?

After that poor user experience, would you still want to email just like Amazon? The answer is most likely still yes, because they make a huge amount of money.

However, if your brand is not as strong as Amazon and the ownership of your market is not as dominant, could you get away with giving your customers that kind of mass Email Marketing experience? Or would people just get bored, de-prioritise you or even unsubscribe completely?

Your Email Marketing System Can Be Better Than Amazon

Take the model that Amazon uses, but give your customers control and keep them informed – good Email Marketing software should always give options for different levels of recipient control. The important bit is not to opt people into frequent emails that they haven’t asked for – it’s just rude!

You should always ask people what they want to be emailed about, only email them with relevant content and give them control over what they receive from you. Good Email Marketing solutions aren’t some arcane art, they’re just common sense.

Want to read more, download a copy of ‘Do you want to email like Amazon or better? or check out our resources section for more guides on email marketing.