Why So Many Email Marketers Are Worried About Spamhaus

The talk this week in Deliverability has centered around a rash of Spamhaus listings. The narrative is that someone set off a massive number of “list bombs” (entering tons of email addresses at sites without CAPTCHA or Confirmations) which targeted websites that didn’t have any confirmation capabilities.

Those addresses were then added to the lists of those sites. The “hacked” senders are now potentially on the radar of Spamhaus, which led to lots and lots of listings, which consequently led to misery for the senders themselves.

We’re in an interesting time right now even with all of the anti-spam talk and regulations that are out there, Spamhaus is interestingly the only real power broker in the blacklisting space. A listing from Spamhaus can basically shut down an email program, because so many ISP’s use the Spamhaus listing as their blacklisting of choice.

No Denying It

Make no mistake about it, getting listed by Spamhaus will ruin your day, and probably cost you some money. A Spamhaus listing is a devastating thing for some marketers, as the listing exposes the weaknesses in their program, and they find out about the ongoing danger.

There is an easy answer to this potential issue. If you use confirmed opt-in, you NEVER have to worry about Spamhaus, or probably any other blacklisting again. That’s right, if you use confirmed opt-in, you are not going to be listed on Spamhaus… ever. For some of you reading this who have never been on this list, you don’t realize how life changing one of these listings can be, you don’t understand the fuss. You won’t feel that way after the listing.

I know (and have heard) all of the arguments of why you can’t do confirmed opt-in. I’d like to go through these individual reasons, and talk about why if they aren’t already invalid, they will be soon.

  1. List Size Matters – The most common reason for not moving to confirmed opt-in. Maybe you sell or rent your list, and the numbers do matter. People want bigger lists because they want to reach more people.
  2. People won’t click a confirm link in another email.
  3. My Terms of Service has all of my permission rules. That’s why someone can sign-up for one newsletter, but I can send them another.
  4. It isn’t against the law.

These are the most common excuses we get when we talk confirmed opt-in. The truth is that, these are all outdated excuses, and they just don’t hold up anymore. Change now, or your strategy may be changed by someone else in a way that you probably won’t be comfortable with.

The Counterpoints

  • List size is an antiquated way of looking at distribution lists. Sending to bad or fake addresses does nothing except hurt your overall deliverability. This means that your good addresses may be impacted. People who didn’t want your email either get it and complain about it, or they just put in a fake email that might be a spam trap. Many companies who pay for inclusion in email lists have started asking for actual engagement data, not just the number of email sent. The real world analogy would be sending physical bulk mail and having half of the mailers ending up in a trash can at the post office.
  • People will click a confirmation email these days. We are all conditioned to do it. Lots of responsible mailers follow-up the sign-up process with a confirmation message. People are willing to click that email for messages they are interested in receiving. Notice that I said interested.
  • If you are one of those TOS mailers, this is a good time to stop that as well. Nobody wants to receive a newsletter or mailings from a brand they didn’t ask for.
  • We’re not lawyers, and we can’t give legal advice, but I can tell you that when mailers tell us they are CAN-SPAM compliant, it’s usually a sign that they are doing the minimum amount possible. Spamhaus could care less about the law, Gmail doesn’t care about the law, and neither do most receivers. They aren’t trying to sue you, just block all of your messages.

It’s time to move to confirmed opt-in. The excuses are just that, excuses. You build a better list, improve your deliverability, can provide partners with real value, and have engaged customers. When you send a mailing, people will receive it. Don’t take the easy route. Forget about Spamhaus now by doing the right thing.

One other right thing you can do is download Email Deliverability: Guide for Modern Marketers to find out how to achieve email deliverability that really delivers.