We’ve covered the issues that spam presents for email marketing. Today we are going to go over spam’s legitimate cousin – graymail, or bacn ("bland automated community notification", pronounced like "bacon").
When it comes to email, there are many shades of gray. Essentially, graymail is email that people falsely mark as spam. Once upon a time you gave permission to join a company’s mailing list. For whatever reason, you no longer enjoy getting messages from this company and hit the 'spam' button. This is considered graymail, which includes legitimate newsletters, offers, or notifications that you just don’t want anymore.
How is graymail not spam? We will refresh by reminding you the definition of spam which is “unsolicited bulk email”. Unsolicited refers to the fact that the recipient did not grant verifiable permission for the message to be sent.
Graymail differs since it is email messages that subscribers opted-in. Two quick takeaways for email marketers:
- Set Expectations: When building your list, make sure subscribers are clear on what they are agreeing to. They should be well aware of what types of emails they’ll be receiving and how frequently.
- Clear Exit: Each email needs to have an opt-out. Make it easy for recipients to quickly unsubscribe.
Graymail has received significant attention since Hotmail declared war on graymail about two months ago. Hotmail estimates nearly 75% of what current customers identify as spam is actually graymail.
According to Hotmail, “The same message that one person thinks is ‘spam’ could be really important to another person. It’s not black and white.”
Many ESP’s like MailChimp can detect when email goes gray. If too many people mark your message as spam then ESP’s may disable your ability to send new campaigns. It brings up another key takeaway:
- Create Engaging Content: As a marketer, it is important to be well aware of the needs and wants of your customers. Emails need to resonate with your audience.
What do you think about graymail? Is it a serious threat to email marketers?
According to a 2010 study by Return Path, achieving strong inbox placement remains a challenge in the B2B sector with a delivered rate of just 75%.
Delivered/Delivery rate is a common statistic used among marketers and email service providers (ESP). However, the term can be quite deceiving, since it doesn’t tell you what was really delivered to the inbox. Delivery rate refers to the amount of emails sent minus bounces/undeliverables. Delivery rate does not take into account the fact that your email could have likely ended up in a “spam” or “junk” folder.
If users can access the folder, they are still unlikely to see and read your company’s email. Over half of email subscribers are comfortable letting their ISP decide what spam is for them rather than reviewing all of their email and deciding for themselves. (Source: MarketingSherpa. “Email Marketing Benchmark Guide.” 2008.)
In addition to your email being ignored, spam folders make it challenging for marketers to properly determine if their emails reach the inbox or not. This further undermines other statistics like open rate. Open rate is the amount of tracked opened emails divided by the delivery rate. Again, this statistic has a false assumption that all non-bounced emails are being delivered to the inbox. Therefore, open rates skew our perceptions. They make it hard to gauge the effectiveness of email campaigns.
You simply cannot send an email and hope that it reaches the intended person’s inbox. If you are complacent with the prospect of campaigns landing in spam folders then you’re jeopardizing your company’s email reputation.
Email reputation influences your inbox placement rate (IPR), or the likelihood that emails actually reach the inbox.
If your email is lumped into spam then you’re risking email reputation. How do you avoid this? Make sure your mailing list is clean and up-to-date. It is important to remove inactive email addresses from your mailing list. Do not send emails to inactive addresses that hurt deliverability. ISPs note abandoned email addresses that are never logged into. When companies start emailing these inactive addresses then ISPs mark them as spammers.
It is best to be proactive in increasing your email deliverability. Real-time Email Verification Software helps you instantly determine if an email address is valid and deliverable before sending a message. It will notify you of the dangerous inactive email addresses that risk your email reputation. By minimizing the chance of being flagged as a spammer and blacklisted, you will improve inbox placement rate. Email campaigns will be more successful since you’re increasing the odds a message reaches the inbox. Statistics like open rate will be more accurate as well. The end-result is the ability to properly determine ROI on your email marketing campaigns. Cloud-based email verification saves organizations time and resources spent on trying to maintain mailing lists.
Email is a great way to communicate with customers and prospects. However, not managing a database of email addresses for accuracy and eliminating disabled or inactive email addresses from these lists can be disastrous.
Sending emails, whether it's newsletters, account information, or any other standard customer or prospect communication, to invalid or disabled email addresses, if done frequently enough, can land you on spam lists. This means that your important communications to working, legitimate email addresses will land in the spam folder and likely go unread.
How can this happen? People change email address all of the time. They leave companies, or create temporary email addresses for certain purposes, or just simply start getting too much spam so they create a new email address and disable the old one.
If you continue to send email to addresses that are not valid frequently enough, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) that host these email addresses can and will put you on their spammer list under the assumption that you are sending email to random addresses. They will then block all of the email you send in the future to any other email accounts they host. This can severely hamper your marketing and customer communication efforts, so maintaining clean email address databases is very important. Also, once you are on a spammer list, it can be very difficult to get off.
Syntax checking email addresses alone is not enough. It's important to know whether or not the email address can receive emails and not get bounced back. After all, the syntax of a disabled email address will likely be correct. This is where a sophisiticated email address verification process that employs multiple algorithms and online mechanisms is important and useful.
A scan of all email addresses prior to outbound communication (or at least at some regularly scheduled interval) to verify validity, and then removing those email addresses that are no longer receiving email, is now an imperative for an effective communications program.