Political campaign email would get a free pass to your inbox, and not be allowed to be run through spam filters, if new legislation introduced by Republicans in both the U.S. House and Senate is passed. Named the Political BIAS Emails Act of 2022 (BIAS is short for "Bias In Algorithm Sorting"), a/k/a HR 8160 and SB 4409, the new law would require that email receiving systems such as Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and all the others, deliver political campaign email directly to your inbox, and they would be expressly forbidden to run it through their spam filters at all. We also include the full text of the proposed law at the end of this article.
We are often asked how we can be so much lower cost an alternative to Validity, and it's because we do things like giving you email deliverability check information that you can do yourself to improve email deliverability, instead of charging you a bunch to do it for you. Actually today we're going to give you two email deliverability self-help tips. One of these is actually super-easy and seems obvious, yet we regularly get a surprised look from customers when we ask them whether they have done it already.
There's a lot of misunderstanding around domain reputation when it comes to email sending and email deliverability. Domain reputation is a thing, and it does relate to email and email deliverability, and it is important. For example, it is absolutely the case that if example.com starts spamming, inbox providers are going to start putting example.com's email in the junk folder, or maybe even block it altogether. But still, domain reputation is not what a lot of people think that it is.
When a Spamhaus check reveals that you are on a Spamhaus blocklist (sometimes mistakenly called a blacklist), what should you do? The Spamhaus Project maintains a few different blocklists, such as the Spamhaus SBL and the DBL, and for each Spamhaus blocklist removal entails a couple of steps which may differ between the lists, but which are similar and not difficult. Note that most of these blocklists are DNSBLs (DNS-based blocklists), which means that what gets listed on them is IP addresses, specifically IP addresses demonstrated to be the sources of spam. All told, the Spamhaus Project maintains five primary lists, four of which are DNS-based blocklists (the Spamhaus SBL, the Spamhaus XBL, the Spamhaus PBL, and the Spamhaus DBL, plus Spamhaus Zen, which is a compilation of all four of those lists), and one of which, ROKSO, is a text-based, human-readable list of known (indeed notorious) spam operations. We'll explain each of these in turn, then explain how to go about getting removed from them.
What is a spam trap email address? (Or, if you prefer the one word version, what is a spamtrap email address?) Perhaps more importantly, why do they matter? Here we explain spam traps, and how to avoid spam traps. People used to not really believe that spam traps existed, at least not so many of them that an email sender would really need to worry about having a spam trap on their mailing list. But they do exist, they are everywhere, and as an email sender you do have to worry about avoiding them. So let's start by explaining the definition of a spam trap, and where they come from.
Most (but not all) email tester and email list cleaning and validation services are generally frowned on by many (if not most) inbox providers and ISPs, and many consider their use to be a sign that you may be a spammer. The rise of list cleaning (also known as "list hygiene") and email tester services, by which we mean email address validation and verification services, has tracked in tandem with the rise of new ways to detect spamming activities, including adding email addresses to mailing lists without consent. It's this last bit, the "adding email addresses to a mailing list without consent" that is the sticking point, and it is that activity which list hygiene services are, for the most part, intended to facilitate. Which is why they are disdained by the email receiving industries (inbox providers, ISPs, and spam filtering services). There's a reason that they are called "list cleaning" services; and if you are building your mailing list with consent then your list won't be dirty and need cleaning. Note that it's important to distinguish these services that offer just these list "hygiene" services, and those who help you to not only clean up your email list, but also to make sure that you are following best practices.
There is a hidden legal danger in not confirming email addresses, and yes, even in the United States. We talk a lot about email deliverability (because hey, we're the original email deliverability company and consultants). And in that context we always explain how using double opt-in (i.e. confirmed opt-in) helps immensely with deliverability by reducing spam complaints and increasing interaction rates. But now we're going to talk about something that people rarely think about: not confirming someone's email address before you use it or add it to a mailing list can have serious legal consequences for you having nothing to do with CAN-SPAM, GDPR, CASL or any email-specific law. It can also have serious consequences for others, consequences that in turn can come back to you in serious, unexpected, but entirely avoidable, legal ways.
Sending email from a decoy, pass-through email domain which forwards to a primary domain is never a good idea. (Some people call this a 'dummy domain', but that's actually something different.) What they do is set up a decoy domain and send their cold email from it, with links in the cold email which point to their primary domain. They do it this way in an effort to protect the reputation of their primary domain, aren't they so clever? Here's the thing; actually two things: 1. It doesn't work, it will still drag down their primary domain's reputation, and 2. it doesn't work because they are spamming. Calling it "cold email" when what you've done is scraped or purchased an email address and put it on a mailing list without consent is spam, no matter how much you try to polish it up and call it something else.