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Ken Magill

The Whole Magilla

By Ken Magill

About Ken

If there’s one word that most aptly describes Ken Magill’s coverage of online marketing, it’s fearless. For more than a decade, Magill has built a reputation for calling it like he sees it no matter who may get offended. Some marketers read his column just to make sure they’re not in it. In a trade-publishing market populated mostly by vendor representatives who must watch what they say, Magill stands out as the one guy who says what he thinks. Moreover, he often writes what others are thinking, but are afraid to say. He can even be very funny.

Having been a direct marketer, and having covered online marketing since 1997 for DM News, Direct, Chief Marketer and Multichannel Merchant magazines, Magill offers a unique, informed perspective on the evolution of digital selling. He was also founding editor of trade weekly iMarketing News and Magilla Marketing, a newsletter dedicated to e-mail.

He is currently founding editor of the recently launched trade weekly email newsletter The Magill Report.

 

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Freeform Data Are Not Exactly Free
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What Marketers Can Learn From Maine's Political Email Idiocy

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It finally happened.

Politicians' idiotic email practices had a measurable negative effect.

"Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster has admitted that the state party made numerous clerical errors in counting the state's caucus results—even omitting some votes because emails reporting tallies 'went to spam' in an email account," said the story on Politico.com last week.

We all know what happened, right? Maine's reporting precincts sent email messages reporting the tallies. The messages didn't bounce, resulting in assumptions they were delivered.

Ha ha, especially if you're a Democrat, right? Well, the same thing is happening to you. A significant percentage of the email you think has been delivered probably "went to spam."

According to multiple studies by email security and deliverability firm Return Path over the years, one on five email messages don't get delivered into recipients' inboxes.

Email inbox providers, such as Gmail, Yahoo! and Hotmail, are reportedly increasingly using engagement metrics such as opens and clicks to determine if incoming email is wanted or should be delivered into people's spam folders.

As a result, even if a list is permission-based, if the folks on it are largely unengaged, the messages will begin increasingly landing in their spam folders. Even worse, the ISPs are apparently making these decisions on an individual-inbox basis.

So if the marketer's messages are landing in people's spam folders, the marketer isn't likely to even know it.

Then there's Spamhaus.

Multiple sources in a position to know have reported a significant recent uptick in blacklisting activities by the anti-spam outfit.

An email-service-provider executive who did not want to be named said Spamhaus began to get significantly more active in spring 2011.

"We don't run into them all that often, but we have run into them more in the last six months than we had in the past," said the executive.

Spamhaus maintains a file of IP addresses its volunteers deem to be sources of spam. Many ISPs and email administrators refer to Spamhaus listings as at least part of their spam-filtering formula. As a result, a listing on Spamhaus can cause severe email delivery troubles.

On the upside, at least if a marketer gets dinged by Spamhaus, they'll know it.

And if Spamhaus on the warpath wasn't enough, everyone responsible for filtering spam has reportedly begun scrutinizing marketers more closely.

"Major companies are being scrutinized for list hygiene by major blacklists like Spamhaus," said Tom Sather, senior director of email research for Return Path. "All of these guys [blocklist operators and ISP abuse desk employees] go to conferences such as MAAWG [Mail Anti-Abuse Working Group]. They're talking about what's happening, and what they're seeing are list hygiene issues with major brands."

What does all this mean? It means email list hygiene is becoming more important than ever. It means it's time to stop thinking in terms of pure tonnage in email marketing.

Unlike direct mail, email can't be 99 percent ignored and work—at least not for long.

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