To understand delivery rates and how email list cleaning services can help make a bigger difference in delivery, you first need to know what category of email marketing hat you fall into.

There are three categories of email marketers:

  • White hat
  • Gray hat
  • Black hat

I think it’s important to write about each category so marketers can understand where they fit in and how they can make important changes to their habits in order to be successful in delivery.

Black Hat Email Marketing

This is the most dangerous form of email marketing with all kinds of risks. Black Hat email marketers do not play by any rules and manipulate people, graphics, text, servers and software in order for their message to be delivered. Not only that, black hat marketers rip emails (harvesting or spidering) off of the web and send their advertisements directly to them spam traps or not and without proper unsubscribes.

Most black hat email marketers are not concerned with delivery rates, rather concerned about the volume. Their philosophy is the more you mail, the more money you make. This type of email marketing is dying because of spam fighting technology. Black hat email marketers hide behind masks and hacks in order to get their best results. Consider repenting if you fall into this mess. If one spam fighter finds out who you are, you will be subject to internet trolling and ridicule.

Years ago, black hat spammers would not clean their lists. They didn’t need to. Now, they all have to clean their lists because their traffic has decreased substantially and they have to avoid every pitfall they can. This type of email marketing is a waste of time, frowned upon and can put you in serious legality confrontations. There are too many risks and the costs are substantial. Email List cleaning services do help in the black hat world, but the risks are not worth it.

Gray Hat Email Marketing

Spam fighters and Internet Service Providers frown upon gray hat emailers, but unfortunately, it’s the most common type of email marketing that exists today. Gray hat emailers buy, rent, lease and/or trade email marketing lists. They append the emails with other lists to get optin information (date/time stamps and IP’s) and purchase list cleaning services to validate and verify the emails before they send. Some go through more than one hygiene company at a time just to make sure they remove as many threats as possible.

This type of “gorilla style” marketing is the fastest way to grow a business without doing it the hard way – getting subscribers one by one. Buy a list, scrub it and start emailing. Sounds easy right? Well, it’s not. Gray hat email marketing is setup to fail long term. Just because a company uses a list hygiene company doesn’t mean they have the right to send unsolicited bulk email. During a conversation with Spamhaus a few months ago, I was informed that a client of mine emailed to a spamtrap of theirs. The client told Spamhaus it was ok because they scrubbed through me. No, this is not ok and we severed the business relationship right away. If you purchase, rent, lease or trade any list that was not generated by your own efforts, you are putting your company and mine at risk by sending unsolicited bulk email messages to it.

So what constitutes a correct way to email market? I contacted Spamhaus recently and asked what would be ok to mail to and not ok to mail when it comes to email marketing lists. Their response was, “If people are contacting you directly, there should be no problem mailing them yourself or using an ESP.” So, if you mail to someone who doesn’t know you, you are setting yourself up for confrontation and ultimate failure.

List cleaning services like mine can help with delivery for gray hat but it will never be able to remove all of the threats. Most emailers recognize this and take the risks anyway. A lot of spam fighters are not even using spamtraps anymore rather they are setting their systems to look for clues in domains and IP’s that are requesting passage. You are at the mercy of ISP’s and their firewalls for deliverability so gray listed email marketing will only work with non top level domains and if you are mailing to consumers, you are again setup for long term failure because most of them have top level domain email service providers.

White Hat Email Marketing

You would think that by having your own subscriber base you would never amount to any trouble in deliverability because you are doing everything correctly and by the book. Spam fighters have no issues with email marketers who send advertisements to consumers that requested the information (they contacted you). If your subscribers know who you are and what you are sending, there should be no issues, right? Well, not exactly.

The larger the list gets, the more complications you run into. Sometimes consumers or businesses forget they signed up for a newsletter or an ad network after a few short months. Daily life, projects and stress get in the way and ultimately can lead to complaints on your list. Some hygiene companies actually have a list of complainers (we call them protestors) and by removing them, you can really help with your delivery rate.

Larger lists also come with more bounces. Every day, email service providers monitor your bounce rate. If it goes over a certain threshold, they could move you to a more risky set of IP’s and could really hurt your delivery. Scrubbing out the bounces before you send can truly raise delivery rates and keep your account on white listed IP’s.

The older the list, the more complaints and bounces you will receive as well. Most email marketers rarely let their list sit for more than a month. One of the most common clientele we receive are ones who stopped email marketing for a while and are coming back with an old list. Their ESP put their account on suspension because of the bounces, return paths and complainers.

Return paths can play a roll in deliverability. Summer time, we have all kinds of clients coming to us to remove their return paths (temporarily) in order to not run into complications. Return paths are like a bounce, but instead of the mail server telling the deliverer that the mailbox doesn’t exist, it tells other things like “vacation” or “paternity leave” or “mailbox full”. The ESP can sometimes read these as “bounces” if they do not have their system updated on regular return path signatures. Return paths can harm your deliverability.

Do white listed emailers have to clean their lists? The smart ones do. Bounces, return paths and complainers (complainers can turn into traps) can lower your sending score and affect your placement in the ESP IP rotation. Bounces can also turn into spamtraps. In example, since some spam fighters purchase (or activate) expired domains, you could easily email an “out of business” domain and trigger a false positive trap. These are quickly resolved, but the damage could set you back days if not weeks, so scrubbing parked domains is essential for white hat emailers. And return paths can turn into bounces. In example, a return path could be a “leaving the company” message.

Everyone who sends bulk email must use an email list hygiene company. Removing all threats can increase deliverability and help you get in the inbox. Contact us today for a low monthly-unlimited email list validation/verification quote.