In this guest post, Russell offers great insight into how to make sure that your email marketing doesn’t annoy your blog subscribers or get you into trouble. Of course, we are not attorneys and this is not legal advice…you know the drill.
So, you’ve started your blog. Excellent.
It can be intimidating to pull the trigger and put your thoughts “out there”.
And, if you have been paying attention to the great bloggers – and I know that you have – you have begun to collect subscribers.
You’re building your email list.
You signed up with a great email service – Aweber, Vertical Response, MailChimp, whatever. And you’ve tried various tricks and plugins, including Popups, and created Valuable Gifts for Newsletter Subscibers to help build your list.
You’ve followed Stanford’s 10 Sure Fire Ways to Get 1,000 Blog Subscribers. That’s important, because it is that connection with your readers that will help you engage them for your call to action.
Now that you have painstakingly built your list, you want to make the most of your efforts. It’s not rocket surgery to put together an email list or a campaign, but there is some effort and time involved.
Your goals are maximal open rate, and maximal conversion rate for whatever your call to action might be.
In your zeal to achieve those goals with your gynormous email list, you might step over the SPAM line without knowing it. (That’s SPAM, the unwanted advertising, not SPAM, the Spatial Production Allocation Model).
You might send out SPAM un-intentionally.
We all know SPAM when we see it.
We’ve all been on the receiving end of those emails – HUGE SCREAMING FONTS!!!, loaded with links and promises to “increase your gentleman’s member”, flashing arrows, and other intrusive annoyances.
That guy clearly crosses the SPAM line.
This post is here to help you avoid being “that guy” (or gal).
Let’s assume that you’re a stand-up kinda guy.
The spam filters don’t know that.
If the SPAM filter detects any hints that you are approaching the line, it pulls the trigger – bang! your email is in the SPAM folder. Or if one of the recipients does not immediately recognize your name, they simply click the delete/junk/spam button. Either one of these actions simply ends your connection.
Lost connection. Lost engagement. Lost influence. Lost call-to-action. Lost customer.
You might be thinking, “So what? So I lose a couple readers on my list? I’ve got a list of twenty thousand readers. Losing a couple won’t make a difference.”
First, let me congratulate you.
That’s an impressive list. I have list envy.
Next, I don’t believe you would say that.
Because folks with that attitude are not able to build a list of twenty thousand (or even a thousand) loyal readers. Because folks with a connected, engaged community don’t think like that.
Not Stanford Smith, or Brian Clark, or Darren Rowse, or Chris Brogan, or Sonia Simone.
And. Not. You.
They are clearly not “that guy.” Neither are you!
However, you may step across the SPAM line un-intentionally.
Without knowing it. Without meaning to do so.
If you do, the FTC can fine you $11,000 for each offense.
Even if I only had 1,000 readers on my list (I wish), that’s a lot of cash. You can also be (successfully) sued. Let’s all avoid that.
Be Clear About What Your Readers Want
Start by thinking about your reader’s goals when they scan their inbox:
- they want to recognize the sender
- they want to recognize senders of content that has value for them
Anything you do that enhances that recognition and perception of value – BEFORE you click the send button – will increase your email open rate.
Those – recognition and perception of value – are YOUR BRAND. We talk more about that on our site, AniccaMedia.com
For now, let’s take some steps to keep your emails out of the SPAM folder.
First, some general rules:
- Avoid these terms in your emails, especially in the subject line:
- “click here”
- “low rates”
- “limited offer,” “act now”
- “increase the size of…”
- There are others, but you get the idea – think smarmy sales, and don’t be “that guy”.
- A couple more don’ts:
- No ActiveX
- No embedded movies
- These simply won’t work in HTML email.
- Avoid these design features:
- Colored fonts, especially Red
- HUGE UPPERCASE SCREAMING
- Many exclamation points !!!!!
- Many links
Now For Some Specifics:
- Use your spell-checker. Spam filters are sensitive to “creative spelling” practices of spammers (“V14gr4”). Your un-intentional typos may trigger the SPAM filter.
- Include minimal links – an email that is mostly links will be filtered out.
- Include the plain-text alternative if possible (this is an option with ALL professional email service providers).
- Use your name or company name in the “From” field. You need readers to recognize your email instantly. If they don’t, guess where it goes … the Junk/SPAM/delete folder.
- Consider including your name or company name, along with the appropriate subject, on the Subject line – again, to improve recognition. Avoid exclamation marks or colors.
Finally, The Legal Necessities
You must do these things per the Federal Trade Commission – not to is illegal.
- Include a physical, brick-and-mortar, snail mail address
- NEVER be deceptive in the Header, From, Subject, or Reply-to fields.
- Include a clear unsubscribe link or button. AVOID the phrase “click here to unsubscribe,” because “click here” can be a red flag for SPAM filters.
- The unsubscribe link must work for 30 days after sending.
- When they click on unsubscribe, you must clear someone from your email list within 10 days.
Finally, and perhaps most-importantly in this age of permission marketing:
You MUST have clear opt-in permission to include people on your email list.
As a physician-entrepreneur, I would LOVE to be able to add the email addresses for all the other docs in my various professional societies (thousands of docs). That is a HUGE no-no. Yes, we are buds, and yes, we share common interests and are part of a community. But they have NOT provided their consent to receive my email newsletters. There was no explicit opt-in.
Here Are a Few More No-no’s to Keep in Mind
Do not include the following people on your email list:
- People with whom you have swapped business cards – whether it was last decade, or last night.
- People for whom you have acquired a business card by ANY means – fishbowl on the bar, whatever.
- People in your general Contacts list – whether Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, whatever.
- People who you believe “opted-in” by purchasing your product 10 years ago.
I am a personal fan of the double-opt-in, even if it loses me a few readers if they ignore the confirmation email. I want to be absolutely certain that my community is, well, engaged. All two of them (thanks, Mom and Dad).
How Recent Does the Opt-In Need to Be?
It is unclear how recent your opt-in should be.
What do you think?
If someone opted in to your list 2 years ago, is that good enough?
How about 8 years ago?
How should we reaffirm older opt-ins? Is that really necessary?
Leave us a comment with your opinion.
I’m not here to plug any email provider in particular.
I am a MailChimp enthusiast. I am not an affiliate.
They kindly provided much of the material on which this post is based.
Among the many free resources on their site, the following 2 eBooks are relevant to this topic:
Also refer to a post on their blog, “Spam Lawsuits – What’s The Worst That Can Happen?”
For a list of terms that are frequently filtered-out by spam filters (great blog-post on email lists, at internetbasedmoms.com):