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The Dirty Life of Spam: How Not to Get Caught Up in It

Spam: it is such a dirty word! It conjures up images of back-alley solicitors trying to steal your money, your passwords and put viruses onto your devices. No one likes spam – not the readers and certainly not the marketers. Spam has caused so much trouble in the email marketing world that it’s hard to ensure you get your emails to the right people and not get them to the wrong people.

What is spam?

Spam is defined generally as unsolicited email, although more specifically, it is defined as something sent through email advertising thorough a mailing list. Not only is the email unwanted, it eats up network bandwith and it can have an impact on the solicited emails that you want coming to your inbox.

Spam filters

Because people get so worked up about receiving spam, so much has been done to try to stop it. Spam blockers were one solution and although they aren’t perfect, they do stop quite a bit of spam from entering the average person’s email inbox. Both Gmail and Outlook have instituted inboxes that segregate emails into groups that include primary, social and promotions. Email readers could then choose to ignore the promotions tab in their inboxes if they don’t want to receive these. As well, spam filters are still in place for those emails that are known to be junk.

The problem with spam filters for the email marketer is that their genuinely wanted email may go to the spam folder or at best, to the promotions folder, where it can easily be ignored. A very recent report found that one in five commercial emails failed to reach their intended target s the result of spam filters and blocking.

George Bilbrey, president of Return Path, says “Email filtering is constantly evolving, as mailbox providers apply increasingly sophisticated algorithms to combat spam and deliver the content their users truly value”.

Anti-spam laws

Besides spam filters and segregated inboxes, anti-spam laws make it very tough for marketers to send out emails without the potential for being penalized. In Canada, CASL came into effect in July of 2014 and while it was set up to protect consumers, its impact was far-reaching in the marketing world. Basically, marketers need consent before sending any commercial electronic message. All emails and their businesses need to be fully identified and there must be an easy and functional way for subscribers to unsubscribe at any time. Those who feel that a business hasn’t gotten their consent, or who continue to send emails once they’ve unsubscribed, can send in a complaint to the government and penalties can be assessed.

A very recent poll found that Canadians are a lot more litigious than originally thought and 54% of Canadians would sue over a CASL violation. Taking this email business seriously means that marketers must make a very strong effort to ensure subscribers want to be subscribed and some even ask for consent twice (double opt-in) before sending anything. Those are a lot of steps to take just to send an email and it could also mean the difference between gaining subscribers and losing them because it is too much work. The survey also found that people thought that they still received the same amount of spam since CASL has come into effect and that it is only slightly less irritating than unsolicited phone calls.

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