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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.15

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question # 1.15: Is Email Append OK?
The Doc Explains: “SPF”

Q: Dr. Spam-Free, we’re thinking about using an “email append” service to get email addresses for our offline customers. Is it legit?

The Doctor Replies:

Email append is legal and legitimate — however, it’s creepy and may backfire. Be very careful, or skip it altogether.

Here’s how it works:

Let’s say you have a list of customers who receive your catalog in the mail. You want to email them as well. You contact an “Email Append” service that has giant databases which includes postal and email addresses for consumers. You send them your mailing list and they find matching emails. Then they send an email to the consumer saying “Is it ok if we email you in the future?” If the customer agrees, you add a new name to your email list.

Is it legal? Yes, at least in the U.S.

The CAN-SPAM Act DOES let you send an email to someone, if you have a pre-existing business relationship with them. If they are already on your offline list, you’re well covered, especially if they’re a customer.

Is it a good idea? No way!

You may get new emails from 10-20% of your postal list. But you’ll probably permanently burn your relationship with as many formerly happy customers.
Think about it from the customers’ perspective. Imagine a satisfied catalog customer. One day they get an email from you out of the blue. They are wary, saying to themselves, “I know I never gave them my email. In fact, when I bought online, I specifically decided NOT to give them my email.”

You’ve just spooked a valuable customer. Good research shows that as many as 50% of consumers have blackballed a marketer permanently for bad email practices. See http://www.quris.com/who/release102803.html .

I wouldn’t risk my good name and valuable customers just to get a few more email addresses.

The Doc Explains: “SPF”

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is one of the favored new techniques to authenticate email senders — allowing ISPs to filter our spam from forged From addresses.

More info:
http://gaspedal.net/newsletters/pds/pds_1.04.htm

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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.08

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question #1.08: Spam trouble from tell-a-friend forms
The Doc Explains: “Spam Rage”


Q: I’ve been warned by my lawyer and my email hosting company that I could get accused of spamming if I offer a tell-a-friend form on my website. Is it safe?

The Doctor Replies . . .

Keep using your tell-a-friend form. We believe that you’re not at risk of violating CAN-SPAM if your site visitors want to annoy their friends. Tell-a-friend forms are fundamentally person-to-person communications, not commercial messages.

The Doctor thinks that many email service providers are providing overly conservative advice to protect themselves.

Now, the FTC hasn’t yet set final rules for viral marketing — but we think that holding a web site responsible for friends emailing friends is an overly conservative position that will be rejected. If providing a tool that forwards an email can make you the spammer, then the same logic would penalize any ISP or web hosting company.

To cover your ass (medical term), the Doctor recommends these steps:

1. Make sure that any forwarded material is CAN-SPAM compliant. Clearly identify that the email is from your site, include contact addresses, accurate headers, and clear instructions on how the recipient can stop receiving emails. Be sure to remind the recipient that you have not added them to a mailing list.

2. Don’t provide an incentive for referrals. Giving rewards or other payment turns an innocent referral into a commercial transaction — which is clearly a risk under CAN-SPAM.

3. Secure your site and prevent abuse. Make sure your form can’t be hijacked by a spammer (it happens all the time). Limit the number of recipients that the form can send to, and limit the number of times the form can be used from one computer. It is your problem if you open the door to spammers.

Other than that, we think tell-a-friend forms are one of the greatest types of online marketing, and you should use them everywhere.

Here’s ours: http://www.gaspedal.net/n_taf.htm

The Doc Explains: “Spam Rage”

That blinding anger that you feel when you open your inbox and it’s full of porn. The brunt of spam rage is usually felt by legitimate marketers — because frustrated consumers can’t call the real spammers, so they take it out on you.

Here’s how to handle it:
http://www.gaspedal.net/newsletters/pds/pds_1.03.htm

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Paging Dr. Spam-Free #1.04

Paging Dr. Spam-Free!
Answering Your Embarrassing Questions About Spam

Question #1.04: What’s up with verified sender technologies?
The Doc Explains: “Dedicated IP”


Q: Dr. Spam-Free, I’ve heard about new systems that the
ISPs are going to be using to verify the identity of
email senders. Is there something I should do to get on
the approved list?

The Doctor Replies . . .

I’d wait a while. These systems are still in the
experimental stage.

Here’s what’s going on: The ISPs are investigating
various technologies that can verify that the sender of
an email is really who they claim to be (and is sending
from the server that they are supposed to be using).

This would let them wipe out all the spam with fake
identities or From addresses. It would also help them
deliver legitimate marketers’ mail through the spam
filters because they would know that the sender is real.

The leading systems are called Sender Policy Framework,
DomainKeys, Bonded Sender, and Caller ID. They vary in
the technical details, but they all work by transmitting
secure data with the email that identifies the sender
(similar to a web security certificate). If the identity
doesn’t match an approved sender, the emails get deleted.
It’s a much better system than the current content-based
filtering approach, which is fuzzy and prone to errors.

Each of the major ISPs is testing the technologies. It’s
unclear which ones will eventually be adopted or when it
will happen. Presumably, the big guys (MSN, AOL, etc.)
will make a choice and the smaller ISPs will follow.

So … sit tight, and don’t spend too much effort on
participating in any of these programs at this point.

But when a standard emerges, you should jump on board as
soon as possible.

The Doc Explains: “Dedicated IP “

When your email server uses a specific IP address for all
of your outgoing email that is not shared with other
mailers. Ask for it, because if you share an IP address
with someone who gets blocked for spamming, you get
blocked too.

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