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E-mail Infrastructure Worst Practices - Part 2

Unwanted e-mail

E-Mail Infrastructure Worst Practices

Even the biggest companies occasionally do, um... unskillful things that pretty much ensure that the e-mail they send ends up in a spam filter trash can... As an anti-spam vendor we regularly see companies cut corners and make critical mistakes.

In this post, I cover two more things that you should never, ever do...

1. Sending e-mail using your home broadband Internet connection
2. Contracting out your bulk e-mail campaigns to the wrong partner

Sending E-Mail From Your Home

Seems reasonable. Today, fast and reliable Internet connections (via cable, fibre and phone lines) are available to most people. Your Internet connection may even be faster than what you have at work. And it costs only $40-$80/month. All you need to do is get an e-mail blasting program, add some content and a list of recipients and go... So, what's the problem?

Big Problem. Bulk sending e-mail from home is a bad idea. If you send a lot of e-mail from your home Internet connection, your Internet provider (who monitors your connection) may decide that your PC has been infected with a Spam virus... and shut you down. In their Terms of Service, there is language (usually buried on page 12 or so) that says they can suspend or cancel your service if they suspect you or anyone connected to your network is acting maliciously. Note, I said suspect. They don't actually have to prove that you've done anything wrong... and they won't stop billing you. They may even add a service fee to your bill to cover the cost of detecting, blocking and later unblocking you. And, if you think working with your Internet provider's tech support is a pain now... just wait until they look at your account history and see it filled with records indicating that you are spamming.

But, that's not the end of it. There are servers on the Internet that keep track of IP addresses of spam sources. Sooner or later, someone will report you and if they do... then every spam filter on the planet will reject your e-mail.

At best, delivery rates for your home based mail server will be poor. The reason for this is that your Internet Provider doesn't want you running any kind of server from home. Servers require fixed IP addresses and Internet Providers usually charge more for that. To protect that revenue stream, Internet Providers publish blocks of IP addresses that should not be running servers of any kind (including mail servers). This list will include your dynamic IP address (but usually not your fixed IP address). Anti-spam filters consult these lists when they receive e-mail, and if your Internet Provider says your IP shouldn't be sending e-mail, then spam filters will discard your messages.

Best Practices:

If you don't thoroughly understand each of the above 4 points... then seek the advice of someone who does before you set up a mail server at home.

Contracting out Your Bulk E-mail Campaigns

Seems reasonable. You need more sales so you want to use e-mail to create awareness. You don't know anything about mail servers (and don't want to learn) so you purchase bulk e-mail delivery from a provider you found via a search engine (like Google or Bing). Heck, the vendor will even rent me a one-time use e-mail list and send out my message for less than $100. So what could possibly be the problem?

Big Problem: This is a variation of buying/using e-mail lists. In this case, you don't buy the list, you just rent it. Your vendor will ask you to craft a bulk e-mail message and provide a credit card for billing purposes. They'll even tell you that they are targeting just the geographic /demographic you need. No fuss, no muss and you get instant promotion and recognition - right? Wrong.

What you are most likely doing going is buying access to a spam list. The vendor acquires e-mail addresses using any means possible (many not entirely legal). Because they are in the bulk spamming business, they have to host their servers on networks that are friendly to spammers. Many of these are located in China and India but could also be located in Europe or North America... Because the vendor's business is sending spam, their servers and their providers have long since been black listed (as persistent spam sources).

Despite what the vendor's web site says, delivery rates will be low and message open rates even lower. Even though you are using a 3rd party, your domain name may get black listed as a spam source creating new problems for your regular e-mail delivery.

Best Practices:

There are reputable, web based e-mail marketing vendors. To tell if the e-mail marketing provider is reputable, check their policies. They should insist that:

Don't be tempted by the broad reach of barely legal bulk e-mail delivery companies. They usually disclaim any and all damages that may result from your use of their services and offer no performance guarantees.

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Last modified: 2014-02-20, 14:50

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