Back in October, I posted about some types of problematic email addresses and why they are cause for concern. Today, I will be covering a few more types of addresses that I didn’t get to discuss previous: dead domain addresses and spamtraps.
About Dead Domains:
Email has been around for a long time. In fact, it’s generally accepted that the first email was sent back in 1971, although, it didn’t really become widely used by the general public until the early to mid 90s. Since that time, many email domains have become obsolete. Remember those CDs you used to get in the mail or those prehistoric websites you visited back in the days of dial-up? There’s a good chance several of those domains are no longer in use.
Once a domain shuts down, any email address with that domain becomes invalid and will start bouncing. Within Constant Contact, bounces are easy to manage; however generating too many bounces can affect sending reputation. Moreover, once an address bounces long enough it can become a spamtrap.
Spamtraps (sometimes known as honeypot addresses) are email addresses often utilized by blocklists and security companies/individuals that are used for the sole purpose of catching unsolicited mail. There are several types of spamtraps:
Pristine Spamtraps- These are addresses that are created solely to catch spam. These are never used to sign up for a list or as a personal address. Often they are placed strategically on the Internet in places where people try to scrape or otherwise obtain email addresses. There is no scenario where this type of email address would be on a permission-based list.
Recycled Email Addresses- When an email address or domain has been out of use for a long time, it can be repurposed into a spamtrap. Presence of these on your contact list doesn’t necessarily mean that the list is non-permission based; it could be that it’s an older list in need of an update.
Typos/Misspelt domains- These are a bit trickier because there are times where a typo is an honest mistake, but could also result in accidentally mailing to a spamtrap. Some blocklists have created spamtraps from misspellings of major domains. These may look like “@gnail.com” instead of “@gmail.com”, or “@homail.com” instead of “@hotmail.com”.
Risks of Mailing to These Addresses:
The main reason that these addresses are cause for concern is the consequence that can occur when they are mailed to. Constant Contact runs the risk of having one or more of our sending IPs blocked, affecting delivery for all of our customers. Even more worrisome, it’s possible for the sender’s own domain to experience reputation issues, which could affect it’s ability to send mail even outside Constant Contact.
Due to this, importing any of these types of addresses will result in an Account Review.
How Can I Avoid These Addresses?
Spamtraps and dead domains can be scary because they usually look just like regular email addresses. Additionally, they need to remain undisclosed in order to be useful, so there is no good way to check an existing list for them. As long as you follow Constant Contact’s Terms and Conditions and Anti-Spam Policy, you should be just fine, but here are some best practices to follow:
Avoid purchased lists. These are a violation of our terms and conditions anyways, and are notorious for containing problematic addresses.
Avoid older contact lists. If you have a contact list that has been laying around for years that has not been mailed to then chances are the risks of mailing to it outweigh the reward, regardless of how it was collected.
Keep lists up to date. Be sure to properly manage your bounces to ensure that you are removing invalid email addresses.
Focus on engaged contacts. If contacts aren’t opening your email, they aren’t doing you any good. Be wary of hanging on to disengaged contacts for too long.
Consider using confirmed opt-in. This is a setting that can be turned on within your account and is a great tool for verifying that an email address is valid and that the subscriber truly wants to receive your mail.
For more recommendations, Constant Contact has a knowledge base on Collecting quality email addresses.
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In previous posts, I have discussed List Reviews and Account Reviews, as well as why elevated spam reports will result in Account Reviews. Today, I’m going to go over a few of the problematic email address types that can also result in a Constant Contact account disabling for a review.
In the interest of brevity, I’ll only be discussing a few of the different types of addresses in this post, you can expect a follow-up post in a few weeks that will discuss some others. Today’s topic will be “role”, “transactional”, and “group” addresses
About Role Addresses:
True to their name, role addresses don’t necessarily belong to any one person as a personal email address would, but rather a specific role in the organization. Examples include admin@, jobs@, legal@, support@, among many others.
“So what’s wrong with those?” you may ask. The trouble comes when someone new takes on the role, or in the case of addresses like office@ or customerservice@, the address is owned by multiple people. If someone were to leave a company and take ownership of an address only to see marketing emails coming in, that could result in complaints against the sender. Additionally, if someone signs up with a role address that goes to their whole team, everyone who gets the email may not recognize the sender, resulting in multiple complaints.
Evan works for an e-commerce company and monitors the support@ email address. After he leaves the organization, Mary takes over his duties. Evan had used the support@ to sign up for some emails from an office supplies company they use. Mary, not knowing the company where they get their supplies from, files a complaint with the email sender for what she considers spam.
Jack manages a sales team of 20 people and attends some webinars that offer sales advice. Thinking his team could benefit from them, Jack uses the sales@ email address to sign up for their newsletter. The team, however, doesn’t recognize why they are getting these emails and marks them as spam in their inbox.
Similarly, if someone on that sales@ email address unsubscribes, it would unsubscribe the whole distribution list.
About Transactional Addresses:
Also known as anonymous email addresses, if you’ve ever used a site like Craigslist, you’re probably familiar with these. They are usually a long string of random letters and numbers followed by the domain for the specific website that they were generated from. These addresses are useful for protecting one’s identity during a sale or transaction online, however, they can sometimes end up in someone’s address book or contact list as a result.
By their nature, these are meant to be more temporary email addresses and not used for ongoing marketing emails. If you find these within your list, it’s highly unlikely that anyone actually provided it to you with the intent of signing up for emails.
About Group Addresses:
These are pretty similar to role addresses, however instead of being specific to an organization, they are specific to online groups, Usenet, or online forums. Two of the most common examples are Yahoo Groups and Google Groups.
Much like role addresses, emails sent to group addresses will go to anyone on that distribution list.
What Happens If I Upload These Addresses?
Due to their problematic nature, Constant Contact made the business decision long ago to block sending to these addresses through our system (with the exception of a very small number of role addresses). If a couple accidentally end up in your contact list, no big deal! Just move them to your unsubscribe folder and go about your day.
However, if a large number of these addresses are imported, it could indicate an issue with the collection of the list as a whole, and you may be asked to call in for an Account Review so we can set you (and us) up for success.
We have a Knowledge Base article about Role addresses as well as one detailing how to find and remove them.
As always, the experts on our Account Review team can answer any additional questions you may have.
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In my previous post, I discussed List Reviews and Account Reviews . As a quick refresher, List Reviews come about only due to list size, whereas Account Review are due to a specific issue that Compliance would like to discuss with a customer. One of those issue are elevated spam complaints.
What are spam complaints?
Most major email providers (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc) provide a button that allows a user to report an email as spam to that provider. This is usually at the top of the page and says something to the effect of “Mark as Spam”.
If an email sent through Constant Contact is marked as spam, it is reported back to us and is accounted for in the reporting for the campaign.
Why are spam complaints problematic?
Put simply: The more spam reports that we receive, the harder it is for us to deliver our mail. If mail providers see that Constant Contact mail generates high complaints, then they may decide to do any number of things. This can range from limiting the amount of mail we can deliver to them at any one time or even outright blocking Constant Contact mail altogether. As you can imagine, this has a major impact on everyone who uses our service.
There is a threshold we follow that dictates an “acceptable” amount of spam complaints, and that is just 0.10%. That’s just one complaint per one thousand emails sent!
What can I do to avoid spam complaints?
It all begins with permission. If the contacts on your list take an action to give you explicit permission (such as on a sign up sheet or an online opt in form), then you’ve already taken a big step in avoiding complaints. Other factors such as sending frequency (don’t send too little, but not too much either), proper branding (make sure they know who sent them the email), and sending relevant information also play a part.
Still Have Questions?
We have resources in our Knowledge base to help you understand and reduce spam reports. We also have an Account Review team who can answer any additional questions.
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One responsibility of the Compliance team is performing Account Reviews (ARs) and List Reviews (LRs) with our customers. Although slightly different in nature, they are both conversations we have in order to gain a better understanding of a customer’s contact lists, sending history, and collection methods. These processes help us know what industry best practices we can recommend, as well as allow us to help protect Constant Contact’s sending reputation so that your emails will get to their intended destination.
What is the difference between a List Review and an Account Review?
Though they are similar, there are some key differences between “LRs” and “ARs”. List Reviews are based on list size; we have proprietary numeric values within every account that will automatically trigger an account for a review based on certain factors. This is often done as part of the onboarding process, and allows us to help our customers with best practices for their contact list and resolve any issues before they occur.
Account Reviews are a little different. An AR is triggered due to a specific Compliance related issue on the account. This could be due to a problematic list import, elevated levels of spam complaints, prohibited content, a terms and condition violation, or simply that we need to learn more about your business to support you properly.
Why Do Email Marketing Providers Review Accounts?
Every email campaign sent from a Constant Contact customer goes out from the same large group of IP addresses. While this lets all of our customers benefit from our good sending reputation, it also means that if a specific IP address should be blocked due to sending to bad addresses or having too many spam complaints against it then it can affect all users of Constant Contact.
What information should I have available during a LR or AR?
During the review process, we’ll be asking questions about your list, collection methods, and sending history. Some helpful information to have readily available is:
Collection methods for the various contact lists
The age of the lists (how long has it been since you first began collecting contacts, or, how long has it been since you’ve interacted with these contacts).
Past emailing history
Have you emailed these contacts before?
If so, were you able to track reports such as bounces and unsubscribes?
Were those contacts removed from this list?
What do I get out of it?
Lots! As you probably know, Constant Contact’s sending reputation is a leader in the industry; however what you may not know is that the reputation of your own sending email address, as well as the content of your email, can affect your delivery. During the review process, we’ll recommend best practices that can help optimize your performance. This is also a great opportunity to pick our brains and ask any Compliance or delivery related questions you may have.
There are times where Compliance may be forced to require that action be taken before we can release an account. In that case, the Account Review representative will fully explain the action needed and why we require it.
For one customer's perspective on the review process, you can check this article out.
What should I do if I am under List Review or Account Review?
There should be a banner towards the top of your account. That banner contains the contact information and hours of our Account Review team. Once you have the time, please reach out to them to perform the review. Please note that due to the nature of List Reviews and Account Reviews, sending privileges are disabled until the review is complete.
Be sure to keep any eye out in the coming months. I’ll be discussing common reasons why accounts are flagged for Account Reviews, as well as some best practices to help to avoid them!
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The more we become reliant on the internet for storing data, shopping, banking, etc, the more cybercriminals will seek to exploit it. Through phishing it is possible for your sensitive data to become compromised. Organizations in particular are at great risk because a single employee who is phished could potentially compromise the entire company’s data. In this post, I’ll be discussing what phishing is, how to identify it, and some best practices to keep you secure in the event you come across it.
What Is Phishing?
Put simply, phishing is the practice of passing oneself off as a legitimate organization via email with the purpose of tricking individuals into revealing their personal information (e.g. usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, etc.).
How Can I Identify A Phishing Email?
Unfortunately, this is a hard one to answer, because every phishing attack is different. That said, there are a few things to look out for:
Misspellings, Poor Grammar, or Typos, ESPECIALLY in Links to Websites:
Phishers will often try to get you to visit a website that is disguised to look like a legitimate popular website. Even if a web address looks correct in an email, it could redirect you to a different website, so watch out!
Requests for Sensitive Information:
If an email ever asks you to provide your password, credit card, bank account number, etc. there is a good chance it is a phishing attempt.
The Email’s “From Address” Differs from the Organization’s Domain:
If you get an email from your bank or from a website you visit, then the email address sending that message should match that organization.
The Email is about Something You Don’t Recognize:
I f you receive an email saying that your order has shipped, you won a contest or that you won the lottery, but you never bought anything, entered a contest, nor bought a lottery ticket then it is probably a scam.
The Message Is Threatening
Be especially wary of any email that says things like: “Urgent Action Required”, “Your Account Will Be Closed”, “Final Warning”, etc. Scammers will often try to scare you into giving up information.
It’s Coming from a Government Agency:
This goes hand in hand with the last point, but scammers will try to pose as the government to intimidate you. It’s unlikely that a government agency will try to reach out to you through email.
Suspicious Emails That Match the Seasons:
It’s not uncommon for a scammer to adapt to the time of year or current events. For example, you may see more scams revolving around packages being delivered and online shopping around the holiday season, or fundraising scams looking to capitalize on a recent tragic event.
What Should I Do If I Receive A Phishing Message?
This will depend on what actions you took upon receiving the message:
I Got the Email, But I Didn’t Respond Or Click on Any Links:
Good! Delete the message and/or report it as Spam. If you got the message to your work email address, you may want to let your IT/Security team know, in case anyone else at your company receives a similar message.
I Clicked a Link in the Email, But Didn’t Enter Any Information:
You’re probably ok. Just to be safe, I’d recommend running a virus scan on your computer, and once again, informing your IT/Security team if it was to your work email address or the link was accessed from your work computer.
I Clicked a Link Or Responded And Provided Sensitive Information:
First, immediately update any username or password that you may have provided. If you use the same username or password for multiple websites (which, as a reminder is not a recommended practice) then be sure to update those as well.
Be sure to contact your IT/Security team if it was to your work email or work computer, as well as any organization related to the scam. For example, if you provided bank account information in response to the phishing message, be sure to contact your bank and tell them. You may need to have new credit cards reissued, added security to your account, etc. You will also want to run a virus scan just in case clicking on the link installed any malware.
Continue to be on the look out for fraudulent charges, suspicious account activity, or anything that may seem out of place.
Please keep in mind that these are only general practices, it would be impossible to dig down into each individual type of phishing scam. A good rule of thumb is: if it makes you uncomfortable, don’t click it. If you are unsure, many websites have in-product messaging, so if there is an issue with your account, there is a good chance you can log in directly from the website and read about it there. When in doubt, contact the organization that potential phishing email appears to be from, but always get contact information by typing website’s URL into your search bar and visiting their website directly, NOT through the possible phishing message.
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Most people know by now that in the world of email marketing, permission-based addresses are considered the gold standard; however, it’s not always clear just what exactly counts as “permission”. It gets even more confusing when you realize that there are different types of permission. In this post, I’m going to look at the two different types of permission: Implied and Explicit
Note: Depending on where you live, what you read, or who you speak to, the terms may be slightly different (such as “implicit” instead of “implied” or “express” instead of “explicit”, however, the definitions remain the same).
Implied permission is when someone provides you his or her email address through regular business communication, but without a direct request for ongoing communication. Some examples might include:
Filling out a Contact Us, Request a Quote, or other similar form
Inquiring about a product or service via email
Business card exchange or badge scan at a networking event
Purchasing a product or service (without there being any opt in option)
Registering for an event (without there being any opt in option)
Signing up for a contest or giveaway
Donating to a charity or political campaign
Requiring an email address to access website content, downloads, etc.
Pros Of Implied Permission:
Requires minimal effort
Generates the most amount of contacts while still falling under the “permission based” umbrella
Eliminates the potential for error on the subscriber’s end
Cons of Implied Permission:
Not considered an email marketing “best practice”
Many contacts may feel violated and complain, which can cause spam complaints, negatively affecting your online reputation
Implied permission lists tend to have lower engagement (Opens, Clicks, etc)
Some people who are savvy to the world of email marketing may have fake or junk email addresses that they use to avoid getting mail they didn’t request.
Some countries (such as Canada) have very strict regulations around implied permission contacts and how long you may use them. (For specific information regarding the Canadian Anti-Spam Laws [CASL] click here)
With Explicit Permission, the contact takes a direct action to request to be on an organization’s mailing list. With this method, there is no question as to whether or not they would like to receive your newsletters. Some examples include:
A newsletter subscription box on the website
An uncheck box on an online form or event registration
Paper and pen sign up form at physical location
Pros Of Explicit Permission:
Considered to be a best practice
Permissible with every current email marketing provider and law
Create a more engaged list of contact who are more likely to generate Opens, Clicks, and Forwards
Can be used in conjunction with a double opt in to create an even cleaner list.
Cons Of Explicit Permission:
Requires a bit more work to get off the ground than implied permission and has a slower growth rate
There is the risk of a potentially interested party not taking the action to fill in a sign up box or check an unchecked sign up box.
It has been my experience that many email marketers have a mix of both implied and explicit contacts. Constant Contact strongly encourages you to utilize explicit permission whenever possible. If you do have contacts that have given implied permission, try to mail to them separately from your explicit contacts. That way any Compliance issues that may occur will not affect your contacts that directly opted in. You may also want to consider trying to get explicit permission from your implied contacts.
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Here at Constant Contact, we are an industry leader in email delivery. This is no accident. Our Terms and Conditions are designed to ensure the best possible delivery rate for all of our customers.
That being said, it’s expected (read: absolutely normal) that most email campaigns will have some level of bounces. Knowing the cause and reasons behind these bounces can help you as a marketer to ensure you are mailing to the cleanest, most engaged list that you can. First, I covered Non-Existent and Suspended bounces, then Undeliverable and Blocked bounces; today I will be going over the remaining categories: Mailbox Full, Vacation/Auto-Reply, and Other.
What Is A Mailbox Full Bounce?
When an inbox reaches it’s maximum allowed storage, it will reject the message and bounce it back to Constant Contact as “Mailbox Full.”
If The Recipient Frees Up Space In Their Inbox, Will They Start Getting Mail Again?
Yes; however, I recommend removing these contacts. Here’s why- most ISPs (Internet Service Providers) provide more than enough inbox space for the average user. If someone’s inbox is so full that they can not accept mail, chances are they are not actively checking their mail and therefore are not an engaged contact.
What’s The Deal With The Vacation/Auto-Reply Bounces? When I Set An Auto-Reply, The Mail Waits For Me In My Inbox.
You’re right! This is the exception to the rest of the bounce rules. Messages that show in this category are delivered to the contact, no action on your part is necessary. We include these with the bounces to let you know that you may not see an open/response/click from this customer for a while.
Note: While most of these responses get sent to the actual sender (Constant Contact), some can be sent to the email address you selected as the “from” address for your campaign
What Is The “Other” Bounce Category?
As stated in a previous post, we sort our bounces based on information that the ISPs provide us. If the information they send back isn’t clear, it may get sorted into the “Other” category.
Should I Remove My “Other” Bounces?
That is a tough call. I recommend obtaining a secondary email address for the contact if possible. If the address continually bounces and you are confident that it is a valid contact, then please contact our Support Team to troubleshoot.
Where Can I Find These Bounces?
If you look at the reporting for a specific campaign, click on the number of bounces you have. Then select your choice from the “Display” drop down.
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Here at Constant Contact, we are an industry leader in email delivery. This is no accident. All of our Terms and Conditions are designed to ensure the best possible delivery rate. That being said, it’s expected that most email campaigns will have some level of bounces. Knowing the cause and reasons behind these bounces can help you as a marketer to ensure you are mailing to the cleanest, most engaged list that you can. Last month, I spoke about Non-Existent and Suspended Bounces, in this post I will be detailing Undeliverable and Blocked bounce types.
What Are Undeliverable Bounces?
When Constant Contact sends an email to a recipient, but the receiving server can not be found or connected to, the email will bounce as Undeliverable.
For Example: If someone were to send an email to my address, let's say it's firstname.lastname@example.org m; however, at that time the receiving server, in this case it would be example.com , is not responding. The email will bounce as Undeliverable as a result (usually after multiple automated resend attempts).
Isn’t That The Same As A Non-Existent Bounce?
Not at all!
A Non-Existent bounce occurs when we connect to the receiving server, but they can not find the address we are trying to send to.
With Undeliverable bounces, that initial connection can’t even be made.
What Are Blocked Bounces?
In the never-ending battle against spam, ISPs do what they can to stay ahead of the curb. Most often, this involves the use of email filters or blocklists to keep there subscribers’ inboxes clean. Sometimes those filters and blocklists end up preventing Constant Contact’s mail from getting to the intended recipient, resulting in a Blocked bounce.
Does A Blocked Bounce Mean That Constant Contact Is Blocked?
Not necessarily, While it’s true that Constant Contact (like all ESPs) may occasionally experience blocking issues at a particular domain/filter/blocklist, most often Blocked bounces occur on a smaller scale. These bounces can occur due to content in the email that a spam filter deems problematic, such as an image, email address, or website. Some ISPs even have rules based around how much mail they accept at a time from any one source, or even block email from bulk senders altogether.
Where Can I Find My Undeliverable and Blocked Bounces?
If you look at the reporting for a specific campaign, click on the number of bounces you have. Then select “Undeliverable” or “Blocked” from the “Display” drop down.
What Should I Do With Undeliverable and Blocked Bounces?
In the case of Undeliverable bounces, it’s acceptable to try sending to the addresses again after a few hours, just in case it is a temporary issue. If they continually bounce, then we recommend moving them to unsubscribe.
Blocked bounces sometimes take a bit of work to diagnose. First, check the “Email Delivery” row at https://status.constantcontact.com to see if there are any known issues. If that doesn’t help, then please contact our Support Team to troubleshoot.
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Here at Constant Contact, we are an industry leader in email delivery. This is no accident. All of our Terms and Conditions are designed to ensure the best possible delivery rate. That being said, it’s expected that most email campaigns will have some level of bounces. Knowing the cause and reasons behind these bounces can help you as a marketer ensure you are mailing to the most current, engaged list that you can. Over the next few months, I will be writing about Constant Contact’s various bounce categories to (hopefully) clear up any questions you may have. In this post, I will be focusing on Non-Existent and Suspended Bounces.
What Are Non-Existent Bounces?
When Constant Contact tries to send an email to an address, it can bounce as Non-Existent if the receiving server tells us that the address in question does not exist.
For Example: Say I have the address “email@example.com”, but I create a new email address and shut down this one. A few months later, if someone tries to send an email to my old address, “example.com” is going to send a message back to the sending server indicating that “firstname.lastname@example.org” is no longer in existence.
What does Constant Contact do with email addresses that consistently bounce as Non-Existent? We “suspend” them.
What Are Suspended Bounces?
Put simply, they are email addresses that have continually bounced as Non-Existent.
Put not so simply, they are not true bounces. They are email addresses that have been placed on a global suppression list of addresses Constant Contact does not send to.
Allow me to explain. When an email bounces as Non-Existent, it is placed on a 15 day hold. During this time, no mail will go to the address in question from any Constant Contact account. After that 15 day period, mail will resume going to the address. If the address continues to bounce as Non-Existent, it will be added to Constant Contact’s global suppression list and show as a Suspended bounce within a bounce report.
Why Does Constant Contact Care About Bounces? (And Why Should You?)
Constant Contact is a “shared IP environment”, meaning that we have a number of IP addresses through which all customers send their mail. To ensure email delivery, we need to take measures to help the reputation of these IP addresses, otherwise ISPs and domains may decide to not accept our mail. Continually mailing to email addresses that bounce as non-existent is frowned upon in the industry and could impact Constant Contact’s ability to deliver your mail to the inbox.
You can help by managing your Non-Existent bounces after each campaign.
How Can I See My Non-Existent and Suspended Bounces?
If you look at the reporting for a specific campaign, click on the number of bounces you have. Then select “Non-Existent” or “Suspended” from the “Display” drop down.
What Should I Do If I Think A Non-Existent (or Suspended Bounce) Is Valid?
Here are a couple of reasons why a valid email address could be bouncing as Non-Existent:
There Is A Typo - Lets face it, nobody is perfect, and most people’s handwriting is certainly less than perfect. Typos happen, and often they can lead to bounced email addresses.
Bounce Coding - We classify bounces based on the information given to us by the receiving server. If the message received is too vague, or points to a Non-Existent bounce when it truly is not, then it could be erroneously categorized.
If you come across a Suspended bounce that you think is valid, please contact our Support Team to troubleshoot.
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