Best practice: data and list building Published June 27, 2011 Just because you operate within the law, it doesn’t mean your email campaign will be delivered. Just because legislation’s don’t prohibit certain activity, it doesn’t mean that you are entitled to do it without consequence – the soft opt-in, corporate subscribers and third party opt-in are the big three problems. Soft opt-in is no good Recipients are not fans of the soft opt-in, or at least the way it has been (ab)used over the years. Nor are they fans of being forced into or even sneaked into third party opt-in when they fill out a form – often the third party opt-in is at the bottom of a linked Ts and Cs page from a sign-up form. Recipients’ consequent use of the spam buttons on emails that they had not asked for has caused ISPs, in their strive to increase user experience, or at least lessen bad experience, to request only emails that people ask for to be sent to their users. Things like buying lists which would be full of third party opt-ins and corporate subscribers will get you a lot of complaints, hard bounces and subsequent junking, maybe even blocks and black lists as well as the spam traps that get into lists when addresses are scraped from the internet. Whatever you do, don’t scrape addresses from the web. If someone puts their address on their website and doesn’t ask be added to everyone’s list, don’t add them to your list. For instance, firstname.lastname@example.org will be on a contact page asking to be emailed if someone wants more information, not asking for marketing emails from anyone who finds the address. All B2B spam trap addresses sit on websites on the web, if they are scraped and sold on, entire hosting centres can be blocked. If you don’t have someone asking for your emails, you will always be in danger of getting a spam trap. Ensure you respect and suppress every opt-out request and hard bounce. Make sure you or your ESP has you on the feedback loops for at least AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo and SpamCop. Data best practice tip: only email people who actually want the email, don’t scrape from the web and don’t buy lists. List building The very basic thing here is to have a sign-up form on your website. The best practice is to a have a sign-up form on every page of your web-site, even if it only asks for the email address – nice and easy. Best of best practice is to make the opt-in a double one, where someone submits the form and your form sends them another email straight away with a link in for them to click to confirm the subscription. This way you can be certain that the person who gave you that email address actually owns it. However lots of marketers are too scared of losing people during the process and refuse to do it. This is understandable and for many sites, you rarely get people signing up with other peoples’ addresses. The only times it tends to happen is if the site has forced that person to enter an email address to get to the next page: content like videos, vouchers, quotes etc. If people are suspicious or cannot see why they should give an email address, they will just make one up. These are the forms that should be confirmed before they are marketed to otherwise you will be sending emails to people who haven’t asked for the emails and they will hit the spam button. To meet in the middle somewhere, the best practice is to employ a welcome message. This is a message sent straight away after someone fills out the single opt-in sign-up form. The welcome email capitalises on the momentum of engagement; someone has gone through all of the effort to trust you with their email address, the only way they could be more engaged than that is to give you money! So sending an email straight away and will get some of the highest engagement of any email. The email welcomes the individual to your brand and list, tells them what will happen next, even gives them a sample of what to expect and maybe a cheeky call to action to get them started with the site or even a prize for signing up. List building best practice tip: get sign-up form and do a welcome email. I hope you found this useful. In my next best practice blog I will look at content and how it could affect your deliverability. You can also look out for my email best practice guide which is coming soon.