The last email deliverability blog I wrote was about how communicating to everyone in your lists needs to be done strategically, and that email may not be the best path. One of the seasons where senders feel pressure to expand their email audience is fast approaching.
Sometimes that pressure focuses on legal arguments.
To re-iterate from last time: Making sure that what you are sending and to whom is legal, is something I cannot advise on. Most often, when having a conversation on email deliverability, and specifically when I’m giving advice on who to send to, I get the response: ” but it’s legal”.
Please leave the legal conversation for the lawyers. For me – and this may seem harsh – I don’t care. The legal argument is just that – an argument. And it misses the point and moves the whole focus away from what the conversation should really be about.
Email deliverability: Wanted vs. unwanted
The focus of the conversation should be on: do the recipients of the emails you’re sending want to receive those emails?
Consent and setting expectations are both key to having a successful, revenue-generating email program. As we come up to the busy holiday period, it’s easy to let the pressures that come with it change this key part of the message. But there are no exceptions because of timing.
Mailbox providers have a job to do: to make sure that the emails being sent to recipients are wanted. They measure whether or not an email is wanted through many different indicators. Some of those include:
when recipients mark a message as spam
sending to an email address that’s being used to identify senders collecting email addresses without consent or continued consent (a.k.a ‘spam trap’)
sending to recipients that no longer exist at that mailbox provider
Once you reach one or more of those thresholds, mailbox providers (such as Gmail and Yahoo) can see clearly that you’re sending emails that their users – the owners of the email addresses you’re sending to – do not want.
Re-focus on email deliverability
If your biggest argument for sending an email is, “oh, but it’s legal”, then you need to re-focus. Because you run the risk of alienating people who actually do want to hear from you. These are the contacts that drive revenue or any other intended outcome of your email program.
Build a robust sending plan
Building back your reputation is hard; it’s better to build your sending plan for the busy upcoming holidays. Here are some email deliverability tips:
Use past years’ data to understand how your recipients interact with your emails. Look at the demographics of your recipient base and what they want to know.
Continue to respect recipients that have shown they are not interested. Consider carefully before sending to inactive contacts who may still be opted in. Whatever value you might get from sending a campaign like that is not worth the risk to your email deliverability. Find the data point where revenue drops. At what age of inactivity does the lack of revenue make sending to that data set irrelevant? Remember, the answer to this question will be different for each sender.
If there is consent and data to show a larger audience wants to hear about your Black Friday deals, then plan any volume increases accordingly – slowly build to the volumes where you need to be.
Who should I be sending to?
Want more advice on email deliverability during the busy festive period? Get in touch with your account manager to set up a consultation.
Last time I counted, there were upwards of 35 components to a single Google Business Profile (GBP). Hotel panels, in and of themselves, are enough to make one squeal, but even on a more “typical” GPB, it’s easy to overlook some low-lying features. Often, you may simply ignore them until life makes you engage.
A few weeks ago, a local SEO came to me with a curious real-life anecdote, in which a client was pressuring the agency to have all their staff hit the “like” button on all of the brand’s positive Google reviews. Presumably, the client felt this would help their business in some manner. More on the nitty-gritty of this scenario later, but at first, it made me face that I’d set this whole GBP feature to one side of my brain as not terribly important.
Fast forward a bit, and I’ve now spent a couple of days looking more closely at the review like button, its uses, abuses, and industry opinions about it. I’ve done a very small study, conducted a poll, and spoken to three different Google reps. Now, I’m ready to share what I’ve learned with you.
Wait, what is the “like” button?
Crash course: Rolled out in 2016, this simple function allows anyone logged into a Google account to thumbs-up any review they like. There is no opposite thumbs-down function. From the same account, you can only thumb up a single review once. Hitting the button twice simply reverses the “liking” action. Google doesn’t prevent anyone from hitting the button, including owners of the business being reviewed.
At a glance, do Google review likes influence anything?
My teammate, Kameron Jenkins, and I plugged 20 totally random local businesses into a spreadsheet, with 60 total reviews being highlighted on the front interface of the GBP. Google highlights just three reviews on the GBP and I wanted to know two things:
How many businesses out of twenty had a liked review anywhere in their corpus
Did the presence of likes appear to be impacting which reviews Google was highlighting on the front of the GBP?
The study was very small, and should certainly be expanded on, but here’s what I saw:
60 percent of the brands had earned at least one like somewhere in their review corpus.
15 percent of the time, Google highlighted only reviews with zero likes, even when a business had liked reviews elsewhere in its corpus. But, 85 percent of the time, if a business had some likes, at least one liked review was making it to the front of the GBP.
At a glance, I’d say it looks like a brand’s liked reviews may have an advantage when it comes to which sentiment Google highlights. This can be either a positive or negative scenario, depending on whether the reviews that get thumbed up on your listing are your positive or negative reviews.
And that leads us to…
Google’s guidelines for the use of the review likes function
But don’t get too excited, because it turns out, no such guidelines exist. Though it’s been three years since Google debuted this potentially-influential feature, I’ve confirmed with them that nothing has actually been published about what you should and shouldn’t do with this capability. If that seems like an open invitation to spam, I hear you!
So, since there were no official rules, I had to hunt for the next best thing. I was thinking about that SEO agency with the client wanting to pay them to thumb up reviews when I decided to take a Twitter poll. I asked my followers:
Unsurprisingly, given the lack of guidelines, 15 percent of 111 respondents had no idea whether it would be fishy to employ staff or markers to thumb up brand reviews. The dominant 53 percent felt it would be totally fine, but a staunch 32 percent called it spam. The latter group added additional thoughts like these:
I want to thank Tess Voecks, Gyi Tsakalakis, and everyone else for taking the poll. And I think the disagreement in it is especially interesting when we look at what happens next.
After polling the industry, I contacted three forms of Google support: phone, chat, and Twitter. If you found it curious that SEOs might disagree about whether or not paying for review likes is spam, I’m sorry to tell you that Google’s own staff doesn’t have brand-wide consensus on this either. In three parts:
1. The Google phone rep was initially unfamiliar with what the like button is. I explained it to her. First, I asked if it was okay for the business owner to hit the like button on the brand’s reviews, she confirmed that it’s fine to do that. This didn’t surprise me. But, when I asked the question about paying people to take such actions, she replied (I paraphrase):
“If a review is being liked by people apart from the owner, it’s not considered as spam.”
“What if the business owner is paying people, like staff or marketers, to like their reviews,” I asked.
“No, it’s not considered spam.”
“Not even then?”
“No,” she said.
2. Next, here’s a screenshot of my chat with a Google rep:
The final response actually amused me (i.e. yeah, go ahead and do that if you want to, but I wouldn’t do it if I were you).
3. Finally, I spoke with Google’s Twitter support, which I always find helpful:
To sum up, we had one Google rep tell is it would be fine and dandy to pay people to thumb up reviews (uh-oh!), but the other two warned against doing this. We’ll go with majority rule here and try to cobble together our own guidelines, in the absence of public ones.
My guidelines for use of the review likes function
Going forward with what we’ve learned, here’s what I would recommend:
As a business owner, if you receive a review you appreciate, definitely go ahead and thumb it up. It may have some influence on what makes it to the highly-visible “front” of your Google Business Profile, and, even if not, it’s a way of saying “thank you” to the customer when you’re also writing your owner response. So, a nice review comes in, respond with thanks and hit the like button. End of story.
Don’t tell anyone in your employ to thumb up your brand’s reviews. That means staff, marketers, and dependents to whom you pay allowance. Two-thirds of Google reps agree this would be spam, and 32 percent of respondents to my poll got it right about this. Buying likes is almost as sad a strategy as buying reviews. You could get caught and damage the very reputation you are hoping to build. It’s just not worth the risk.
While we’re on the subject, avoid the temptation to thumbs-up your competitors’ negative reviews in hopes of getting them to surface on GBPs. Let’s just not go there. I didn’t ask Google specifically about this, but can’t you just see some unscrupulous party deciding this is clever?
If you suspect someone is artificially inflating review likes on positive or negative reviews, the Twitter Google rep suggests flagging the review. So, this is a step you can take, though my confidence in Google taking action on such measures is not high. But, you could try.
How big of a priority should review likes be for local brands?
In the grand scheme of things, I’d put this low on the scale of local search marketing initiatives. As I mentioned, I’d given only a passing glance at this function over the past few years until I was confronted with the fact that people were trying to spam their way to purchased glory with it.
If reputation is a major focus for your brand (and it should be!) I’d invest more resources into creating excellent in-store experiences, review acquisition and management, and sentiment analysis than I would in worrying too much about those little thumbs. But, if you have some time to spare on a deep rep dive, it could be interesting to see if you can analyze why some types of your brand’s reviews get likes and if there’s anything you can do to build on that. I can also see showing positive reviewers that you reward their nice feedback with likes, if for no other reason than a sign of engagement.
What’s your take? Do you know anything about review likes that I should know? Please, share in the comments, and you know what I’ll do if you share a good tip? I’ll thumb up your reply!
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In case you haven’t heard, comedian, actor, producer, and all-round jolly good bloke Romesh Ranganathan will be our celebrity host at this year’s dotties awards, where he’ll be handing out awards to the winners, and hopefully treating us to some of his deadpan comedic delivery.
In anticipation of his appearance at the dotties, and for those of you who may not be too familiar with his work, I’ve got 10 things that you should know about Romesh Ranganathan.
2 x 10 + 1 = Romesh done
Romesh made his comedic debut in 2010, whilst still working his job as a mathematics teacher in his hometown of Crawley, West Sussex. He joins the list of comedians who used to be teachers, which includes Billy Crystal, Greg Davies, and, uh, Roy Hodgson.
His jokes are stinkers
His debut live show, Irrational Live, dominated the country in 2016 with a string of sold-out shows, one of which The Guardian described as having ‘irresistible gags with stink-bomb impact’. It was later released as a concert film, becoming a bestseller in the process.
You’ve probably seen him on a panel show
The last four years have seen Romesh establish himself as a regular or guest on several panel shows, including Mock the Week, 8 out of 10 Cats, Would I Lie to You?, The Last Leg, Have I Got News for You, and QI.
He’s on the telly a lot
Alongside his stage and panel show performances, Romesh has also starred in a number of other TV programs. These include:
Asian Provocateur – The first series, on BBC Three, saw Romesh travel to Sri Lanka to learn about his parents’ country of origin and its culture, meeting family members along the way. The second series, Mum’s American Dream, saw Romesh and his mother, Shanthi, travel to the US to meet more family members.
Just Another Immigrant – This American docuseries premiered on Showtime in June 2018. It follows Romesh, along with his wife and three children, his mother, and his uncle, as they immigrate to the US. As the series progresses, Romesh and family attempt to rebuild their life from scratch, and Romesh attempts to sell out a 6,000-seater venue in just three months.
Judge Romesh – Falling somewhere between Judge Judy, Judge Rinder, and The Jeremy Kyle Show, Judge Romesh sees him settling disputes in a fictional civil court. The first series finished its run at the beginning of September and was screened on Dave.
And he’s got even more on the way
I wonder whether Romesh finds time to sleep, because his new TV series, The Misadventures of Romesh, sees him travelling way, way out of his comfort zone and away from the world of complimentary breakfast buffets to some of the most unlikely places on earth for a holiday.
A man of many talents
Romesh has also performed as a freestyle rap artist under the name of Ranga, and he once managed to reach the finals of the UK freestyle competition.
You can find a video of Romesh battling another comedian on YouTube, but there’s a bit too much foul language for me to embed it on this blog, so here’s a clip of him freestyling on BBC Asian Network instead:
Part of the VGang
Romesh is vegan, having been vegetarian up until 2015. He wrote an article for the Guardian last year about how you can survive Christmas as a vegan. Take a look at the article here.
Born on January 31st, Romesh is an Aquarian comedian, just like Hannibal Buress, Chris Rock, and me.
He’s got his own memoir
Next month sees the release of Romesh’s first book, Memoirs of a Distinctly Average Human Being. Being a distinctly average human being myself, I am very much looking forward to reading this and seeing how our lives compare.
Hip-hop saved his life
Romesh also has his own hip-hop podcast. Named after the Lupe Fiasco song of the same name, Hip-hop Saved My Life has featured guests such as Chali 2Na, Loyle Carner, DJ Yoda, Scroobius Pip, and his mum.
He also got a chance to meet Lupe Fiasco in an episode of Just Another Immigrant:
Now that you’re more closely acquainted with Romesh, perhaps you’ll want to submit an entry to the dotties? If you’re a dotmailer user, then take a look at the categories, and find out how to enter here.
Having left teaching two years ago to join dotmailer as a trainer, I jumped at the chance to go to Kenya when I was asked to support a Charity school out there. Mahali Pa Watoto – which translates to a place for the children – is part of The Seedsowing Network which my family and I have supported for many years. It was started by a family who moved out to Nairobi to start a school. The aim of the Seedsowing Network is to provide destitute children with comfort, protection, a foundation of Christian principles, and a basic education in reading, writing and arithmetic.
I not only visited the school, but I was also able to get involved in teaching lessons, organizing playground games, and helping to serve lunch. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience to get to know the teachers and children.
The children adored school and were so excited to learn, a stark contrast to some of the schools I taught at in England. It was interesting to hear how the charity works so closely with the community to find out the needs of the children and what would and wouldn’t work in their culture. For example, they have spare shoes for the children, but they will only give to a child if there is real, clear need, such as completely broken shoes, otherwise the shoes might go home and be sold and leaving the child to return the next day in their old, worn-down pair.
One afternoon we went on a home visit to see the slums where some of the school children live. Two parents and three children lived in a one room which was a 3’2” corrugated tin shack with no bathroom or kitchen.
I can safely say this broke my heart.
Seeing first-hand the poverty these children and their families live in is something that will haunt me forever. You can watch celebrities on Comic Relief visiting slums and bringing awareness to inhumane living conditions but, when you see it with your own eyes it’s so much worse than how it looks on TV.
After the home visit we all were asking what we could do. We had a feeling inside saying ‘I can’t un-see this. I can’t walk away from this. I can’t let this happen, there must be something I can do’. Our connection from Seedsowing gave us a brilliant chat after about how to cope with what we had seen, how to move forward and different ways we can support. It made me realise even more what a fantastic school and safe place for the children they have managed to create.
They take children from the poorest of the poor and give them an education, life skills, hope and a future. I have so much respect and admiration for what the team out there are doing, I’m already itching to return!
Some of the group we were with supported another project set up by AMREF at a child protection and development centre. They delivered singing and drama workshops to over 50 children. These children also live in slums where the ‘houses’ are one room corrugated tin squares or they live on the streets and have dropped out of school. They were pretty much all on drugs and a high percentage of the boys also were injecting heroin.
We observed some of their work and saw how they built the trust and relationships these vulnerable children. AMREF uses a rights-based Child Protection approach that focuses on strengthening prevention, response and coordination to ensure protection for children from violence, abuse and exploitation. They work with street children for a year in their development centre to try and reintegrate them back into society and the schooling system.
After a week of volunteering, we did have some time for some R&R at a safari park. It was an incredible way to end the trip, being totally at one with nature. Seeing animals in their natural habitats and learning from our guide about the park and how it has changed was fascinating.
Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to fit a monkey in my suitcase. Maybe next time…
Despite all the quirky new ways to promote your brand, email continues to be the most effective and influential.
What makes email so powerful today?
Email is a fast and direct way to reach your customers, wherever they are and on whatever device they’re on. You can adapt email campaigns easily to suit your target market’s needs. It’s super cost-effective and – most importantly – it can be highly personalized and targeted (e.g. through web behavior, order history and preferences). What’s more, campaigns with a cool design and relevant message will not only influence online activity but offline behavior as well, such as driving customer purchases in store.
The channel’s also highly measurable – you can see instant results through real-time tracking of opens, clicks and ROI. This insight allows you to analyze performance and – in understanding what works and what doesn’t – optimize your strategy.
There are many statistics that indicate how much businesses and customers value email:
75% of companies agree that email offers ‘excellent’ to ‘good’ ROI. (Econsultancy, 2016)
Email use worldwide will top 3 billion users by 2020 (The Radicati Group, 2016)
These simple tactics will make sure you stand out to recipients – over and above your competitors – in a crowded inbox.
1. Avoid the ‘dead zone’ of subject lines
Keep it short, keep it snappy, and keep it relevant. Long, uninspiring subject lines will likely disengage readers and prevent them from opening. Check out our cheatsheet which features some great subject line examples.
2. Always personalize your emails
Why? The key objective of an email is to build a relationship with subscribers. There’s an abundance of data to leverage: their name, their preferences, their actions. Perhaps send them an offer which relates to their buying history or web browsing behavior. Brands that value customers’ needs will always prevail.
3. Make sure your emails are optimized across all devices
The look-and-feel of your email is so important and it needs to be consistent when it’s opened on a mobile, tablet or on different email clients (e.g. Outlook, Apple Mail etc.). Make sure your template is mobile-optimized and designed by experts. First impressions count, and email is certainly no exception.
4. Be targeted and avoid batch-and-blast
Too much information at once can overload the recipient and strip engagement away from your product/service offering and organization…. disaster! Analyze your email opens, pinpoint your send time optimization and then maintain consistency in your sending. B2Bs for instance might find it more effective to send emails during weekday mornings, whereas B2C brands may see better results by emailing on a Thursday evening or on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
5. Leverage rich customer insight to drive automation
A consistently engaged customer is the dream! And how do you convert your subscribers into engaged brand advocates? The answer is data-driven automation. There are so many clever things you can do with email these days. You can understand what your customers like, dislike; what they want and need. What’s more, the technology is there for you to understand their behavior too.
Your key takeaway?
It’s impossible to please everyone, but as a serious marketer you can be clever. I would love to say that a sexy-looking campaign is all you need, but the devil’s in the data. It’s not about one element but rather the bigger picture. Implementing just a few of the above suggestions will help you on your way to sending out the right emails, to the right people, at the right time.
While some were intrigued by new tools and improved content structures, others seemed reluctant to join the bandwagon. After all, Magento 2 was a significant departure from the original version. Many weren’t prepared for such a big leap, which is why there are so many ecommerce websites still powered by an older version of this platform.
From today’s perspective, it’s safe to say that Magento 2 managed to push the entire ecommerce industry forward. This is one of the reasons why we wanted to engage the community of Magento experts and learn their opinions on this platform. If you continue reading, you will learn what top ecommerce experts have to say about Magento 2 when we asked them to tell us what they loved about Magento 2.
“More powerful than you think”
Many individuals believe that Magento 2 is overly complicated – at least until they try the platform themselves. Other ecommerce platforms are doing an excellent job of marketing their user-friendly features. As a result, inexperienced online store owners become overwhelmed once they decide to try one of those platforms. Magento seems to be doing the opposite. It appears overly complicated at first, especially since it involves working with highly-trained professionals, however anyone can master Magento 2 with a little bit of effort.
Here is what Ryan Street, a trainer at Magento Commerce, says:
Magento is a robust and complex platform. Many times, I receive questions about ‘Can Magento do this?’ More often than not, I am able to tell clients that Magento has their requested feature right out of the box. This usually comes as quite a surprise to many of them. Magento 2 is more powerful than you think.
“Magento has no competitors in the market”
Only a couple of years ago, there were a few powerful ecommerce platforms. However, the competition grew quickly and now there are currently more than a dozen heavily-marketed platforms battling over each and every online store owner. However, we often forget that Magento is one of the oldest platforms in the market.
The most significant limitation to ecommerce platforms is their flexibility. We believe that Magento is an example of freedom in design and development to other platforms. The truth is that you have unparalleled freedom with Magento 2 as you can design an online store of your own custom design and implement features found nowhere else.
Take a look at this quote from Miguel Balparda who is a senior Magento developer:
In my opinion, Magento has no competitors in the market. Shopify, for example, is a fine platform but it’s not as flexible as Magento. Other platforms are also easy to use, but the flexibility of Magento can’t be compared with any other platform at the moment.
“A Magento 2 website can grow with you”
When choosing between different ecommerce platforms, scalability is one of the most critical factors. This is easy to understand since every online store owner wants to know that their website can easily grow, but you might be surprised to know that scalability is one of the biggest strengths of Magento 2. The newest version of this platform brings dramatically improved performance while reducing server load. At any moment, online store owners can work within their website’s backend without affecting the performance. Powerful design features make this process as effortless as it can be.
Rebecca Brocton, a Magento 2 developer and project manager, recently spoke on this matter:
If you are serious about ecommerce, growing your business, and having a scalable website that can grow with you, then the first choice has always been Magento.
“Issues can be identified and fixed quickly”
Support is of the utmost importance when it comes to any ecommerce platform. Unlike traditional websites, technical difficulties can greatly impact any online store. Every second an online shop displays an error or becomes inaccessible means losing a potential customer, but this can be avoided by having a reliable support team or a dedicated community of users.
As you surely know, Magento 2 is drastically different from the original version. This change didn’t happen overnight. Instead, many developers all around the world have had prepared for this step. Today, there are armies of highly-skilled develops that can help you resolve technical issues in no time.
This is what Sean Breeden, a certified Magento developer, says:
So much effort has gone into the development of Magento 2 that I do recommend it for store owners. Magento 2 has a much larger community than Magento 1 in the beginning, which means that many of the problems that are encountered will be identified and fixed quickly.
“Great built-in functionalities of Magento 2”
Even though other ecommerce platforms can be a fantastic solution for small online stores, Magento is the only platform with incredibly capable functionalities that are built into the system. Different platforms offer premium-priced extensions to make up for this but Magento 2 brings it all at once, right out of the box.
Eugene Zubkov is a senior Magento develop with years of experience under his belt. Here is how he feels about built-in functionalities of Magento 2:
One of the most significant advantages of Magento are numerous helpful built-in functionalities of the platform. After installing the system, we get a fully-functional store with multi-currency, localization, a lot of store views, marketing, and reports.
“New improvements and new functionalities every few months”
Security and implementation of advanced features are what concerns every online store owner. Upgrading to Magento 2 is a complex process that takes meticulous planning and execution. However, this is also a vital and rewarding process. One of the most important reasons to make this leap is the constant and rapid development of this platform. After upgrading to Magento 2, you can be sure that you have access to the latest security patches and newly introduced features. Luckily, upgrading to a new incremental update within Magento 2 is as easy as it gets.
Check out what Nestor Gonzales, a developer with 12+ years of experience, says about applying updates within Magento 2:
The main selling point of Magento 2 is that it’s easy to upgrade because the upgrades are extremely simple with the new releases every quarter. It’s going to be like a new store with improvements and new functionalities every few months.
“Sheer amount of customization possibilities”
Online shoppers don’t care about the technology that is powering ecommerce websites. Instead, they are focused on visual design and user-oriented features. Magento 2 is diverse as it gets when it comes to visual design as this platform thrives on customization.
You will hardly find two Magento 2-powered online stores that look and work the same way – even if they use the same template. With a bit of effort, inexperienced online store owners can experiment with different layouts without sacrificing functionality and performance. The truth is that Magento 2 can be used to create an optimized website for just about any purpose and business model.
Josh Cameron, who is a Magento developer and consultant, recently stated:
Personally, I think the sheer amount of customization possibilities is a huge factor. Businesses can fine-tune Magento to fit their business model, instead of the other way around.
There isn’t a better way to learn about an ecommerce platform than to see what experts have to say. You can find thousands of Magento 2 experts in every corner of the world, which is the ultimate proof of this platform’s capabilities. Make sure to use their knowledge and to engage with the vibrant community of Magento developers and users.
Uwe Weinkauf is the CEO of MW2 Consulting, experts in Enterprise Application Development, eCommerce, IT Outsourcing, and IT Operations that delivers valuable solutions for global business needs.
Purchased lists: as email marketers, we all know we shouldn’t use them. But when you’re under pressure to get results, it can sometimes seem like a quick solution. You might have heard that a competitor got incredible results from buying X list, or perhaps your boss has used them before and wants to see a beefed-up database to maximise holiday revenue.
The truth is this: it makes no logical sense for marketers to take an interest in purchased lists. Aside from the legal implications on the horizon, there can be no benefit to stunting your highest performing channel with data that doesn’t convert.
Not convinced? Here’s 6 reasons to avoid bought data now and forever:
Bought data is cold
Recipients who’ve chosen to receive your marketing emails have shown an active and recent interest in your brand; they’re warm and ready for your team to work on them. Bought data’s a different story. The prospects are unengaged, and there’s often no way of telling how old it is; it’s cold data. Unengaged contacts take longer to warm and even longer to convert, putting greater pressure on your team while incurring greater cost to your business. There’s very little chance of achieving the ROI that you’re after.
Bought data is a drain on your resources
The costs associated with cold, bought data are manifold. Get charged per contact by your ESP? That’s money down the drain for every unengaged contact you’ve acquired. And the more cluttered your list gets, the less efficient you’ll find your strategy becomes. On a pay-per-email contract? The same applies. Every cold email address is a detriment to your ROI.
Purchasing lists cripples your email marketing
So you’ve invested your hard-earned budget into a top email marketing platform, you’ve taken the time to train up your team, and your emails are looking better than ever. You’re ready to hit send on a huge campaign and watch the returns rack up. But you bought your email list for this campaign and – unknown to you or the seller – some of those emails are spam traps.
A spam trap is a fraud management tool used by the big ISPs to catch out malicious senders and marketers with poor data hygiene and acquisition practices. Bought data lists are peppered with traps. How do they get there? Check out this comprehensive guide from Laura Atkins for Word to the Wise.
The spam trap has no way of telling whether you’re a bad guy or an unsuspecting marketer, so you’ll be treated the same way as a spammer. Your sender reputation will start to deteriorate with every send and some of your best customers’ mail servers will block your emails from reaching them, causing those relationships to depreciate. You’re single-handedly shooting your ROI in the metaphorical foot ☹
Bought data skews your reporting
If your contact list is riddled with cold or false data, it’s impossible to get an accurate measure of your email marketing’s performance; every campaign report you collect will be distorted by the non-opens, bounces and poor engagement rates associated with these addresses. This means that one of the most important features you’ve gained access to by investing in an ESP won’t work properly.
Purchased lists are a legal minefield
There’s no two ways about this point. Sending to bought data means you’re contacting people who haven’t opted in to receive your messages. In many jurisdictions, this is illegal practice – not to mention a poor introduction to your brand. And no one wants to be on the wrong side of the law when the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force on 25th May 2018. Check out this blog post from dotmailer’s Chief Privacy Officer, James Koons, for a deeper dive into the legal implications of using purchased lists.
You could impair your marketing stack
The majority of ESPs are unable to provide a service to businesses that use purchased lists, in order to protect their customers – and themselves – from poor deliverability scores. A marketing team looking to graduate to a more empowering and scalable automation solution will struggle to get the best fit for their business, purely because top providers are unable to accommodate their bought data. And at the other end of the scale, an ESP without a robust anti-spam policy isn’t a clever investment of your time or resource.
At dotmailer, our Terms & Conditions prohibit the use of purchased lists, because we know that’s how you’ll get the best out of your strategy. And because we’re only interested in empowering marketers (and not punishing them), we work hard to ensure that you always have access to the most cutting-edge list growth and nurture tactics, along with the latest in sending best practice. Check out this whitepaper on list acquisition, or download our comprehensive guide to Deliverability.
In Part 1 we covered raising awareness, data audits and privacy notices. While in Part 2 we covered how GDPR deals with individuals’ rights including subject access requests and legal basis. In the last instalment, we reviewed consent, marketing to children and data breaches. The last three things to think about are data protection impact assessments, data protection officers and international considerations.
10. Data Protection Impact Assessments
It has always been best practice to take a privacy-by-design approach when developing your data capture and processing strategies, as well as a key part of any technology implementation. Privacy impact assessments are fundamental to this approach by giving marketers a useful tool to consider properly the privacy risks that their data processing entails. All the GDPR does here is make privacy by design an express legal requirement and makes PIAs (renamed in the regulations as Data Protection Impact Assessment or DPIA) a requirement under certain circumstances where the data processing is likely to result in high risk to the data subjects such as:
where new technology is being deployed
where a processing activity is likely to significantly impact individuals
where there is large-scale processing on special categories of data
For most marketers, it will be the first two circumstances that will be most likely to trigger a DPIA but it is important to know the special categories of data if appropriate in the future.
In many if not most situations, the DPIA will indicate that the processing of the data is not high risk or if it is high risk, you will be able to address those risks. If you cannot mitigate the risk, you should contact the ICO for guidance on whether processing the data will comply with GDPR.
If you haven’t already, you should start to asses if any DPIAs are warranted within your organisation, who will lead them and who else needs to be involved. There is great guidance published by both the UK ICO and the Article 29 Working Party on DPIAs and privacy by design.
11. Data Protection Officers
US President Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk that read “the buck stops here.” It was his assurance that he was ultimately responsible for how the government operated under his administration. Historically when it comes to data, the buck has not stopped anywhere due to the way that the collection and processing of data has grown organically within businesses and other organisations. I was speaking with one head of CRM recently who told me of the over 80 marketing databases that they currently have. It is going to come down to this CRM manager to get all of that data into a single place.
Every organisation should designate someone to “take the data buck” – to be ultimately responsible for data privacy and compliance. You should also have a think about where this role of Data Protection Officer (DPO) sits within the organisation and overall governance structures so that the person in this role has the freedom to act, should the need arise. In many instances, the GDPR has overcome this by specifying situations where a DPO is required such as:
organisations that carry out large scale, regular and systematic monitoring of individuals
organisations that carry out large scale processing of special categories of data
The first thing to remember here is that Brexit will have little to no impact on GDPR. The government has confirmed on multiple occasions including as recently as the Queen’s Speech on 21st of June 2017, that GDPR will be the data protection law in the UK going forward. Moreover, the UK will still be an EU member when the law goes into effect on the 25th of May 2018.
If you operate in multiple EU member states, then you should determine which would be your lead data regulator. This is not meant to be a way to be under the auspices of the most favourable regulator. Your lead regulator should be the state where your central administration in the EU is based or the location where decisions about your data processing are taken. You can do this by mapping out where you take your data processing decisions and the country with the preponderance of those decisions is the one you should choose. If on the other hand you are not engaged in any cross border data processing, then your decision here is quite straightforward. Once again, the Article 29 Working Party has produced some guidance that will help you make the correct decision.
As I said at the beginning of part 1, data recently released by the DMA indicates that marketers are feeling less prepared for GDPR than they did in February. Marketers are also feeling less knowledgeable about GDPR in general and their four big concerns are:
Implementing a compliant system
I hope that this blog series has gone a little way to making you feel more prepared or at least has given you some things to think about and some things to start discussing internally. Over the coming weeks and months, dotmailer will be publishing useful guidance from recognised sources geared towards email marketers. Our approach is to keep our readers up to speed based on facts directly from this reputable guidance or vetted by the UK or other data regulators around Europe. In addition, our teams will be ready to help you implement the advice you receive from your professional advisors within the dotmailer environment.
In Part 1 we covered raising awareness, data audits and privacy notices. While in Part 2 we covered how GDPR deals with individuals’ rights including subject access requests and legal basis. In this week’s installment, we will be reviewing consent, marketing to children and data breaches.
Under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, email marketing is consent-based. GDPR however, more fully defines how to get consent with the following stipulations:
Must be freely given – giving people genuine choice and control over how you use their data and “unbundling” consent from other terms and conditions; in other words, consent cannot be a precondition for a service unless it necessary to deliver the service.
Specific – clearly explain exactly what people are consenting to in a way they can easily understand (i.e. not with a load of legal mumbo jumbo) and in a way that does not disrupt the user experience.
Informed – clearly identify yourself as the data controller, identify each processing operation you will be performing, collect separate consent for each unless this would be “unduly disruptive or confusing”, describe the reason behind each data processing operation, and notify people of their right to withdraw consent at any time.
Unambiguous – it must be clear that the person has consented and what they have consented to with an affirmative action (i.e. no pre-checked boxes). Therefore, silence would not be a valid form of consent.
In the last instalment, we talked about deciding on the legal basis you will use to process your marketing data. Consent is not your only option. That said, it is always a good idea to know the source of all of your data, how that data flows through your various systems and what consent you have for the processing of that data. The ICO has published detailed guidance on consent and has produced a consent checklist to help you review your current practices.
For the first time, the GDPR specifically calls out the rights of children and offers special protection for their personal data in the digital world. If you offer what the GDPR calls “information society services” to children and you rely on consent to process their data, you may have to get the permission of the parent or guardian before processing that child’s data. The GDPR set the age at which a child can consent for themselves at 16 but the UK may lower this to 13. One interesting thing to note is that the parent or guardian’s consent expires when the child reaches the age at which they can give consent, so you will have to refresh their consent at that milestone.
9. Data Breaches
The GDPR makes it the responsibility of all organisations to issue notifications for certain types of data breaches. You will have to notify the ICO if the breach is likely to impinge on the rights and freedoms of individuals such as financial loss, loss of confidentiality or significant economic or social harm. If this risk is high you may also have to notify the individual directly. Now is the time to think about your policies and procedures for identifying and managing data breaches.
So far, we have given you a lot to think about and we hope you have gotten started. Check back next soon for our last instalment where we will look at privacy by design, data protection officers and international considerations.
In Part 1, we covered raising awareness, data audits and privacy notices.
4. Individuals’ Rights
Just ‘getting ready’ for GDPR is not going to be good enough because you may also have to prove to the regulator that you are ready for GDPR. One critical proof point will be the decisions you make in getting ready for GDPR, as well as what you will do going forward after its implementation. Get in the habit now of documenting all of your decisions and the deliberations that went into them (more on this under the Protection by Design section). You will also have clearly defined and documented policies and procedures to comply with GDPR. These cannot be the kind of documents that are written and then live in a cupboard just in case something goes wrong, but rather they need to be distributed to staff in a useful format with comparable training so that the processes become habit within your organisation.
One area that is very well suited to this is protecting individuals’ rights. Most of the rights under GDPR are not that different than under the DPA, but now is a good time to ensure that you have your documentation in order. It is also a good time to ensure that your procedures will be compliant around things like correcting data and subject access requests.
5. Subject Access Requests
While we are on the topic of Subject Access requests, these are changing under GDPR. First, the down side; you will no longer be able to charge for these and you will have to reply within 30 rather than 40 days. You will also have to provide some metadata along with the data subject’s own data, such as your data retention periods and many of the other things covered under the notices provision.
The good news is that you can charge for or refuse excessive requests (too frequent) and you can ask the data subject to specify the data they are looking for if you process large amounts of data. You will also be able to provide the data electronically in many cases.
6. Legal Basis
Under the GDPR, the legal basis for processing data is all-important because individuals’ rights can change depending on the legal basis you determine for processing the data. It will be important for businesses to balance the requirements of consent and the legitimate interests that the GDPR provides for. The other legal basis that many email marketers will rely on is processing the data with the subject’s consent.
That puts us half way through the twelve things you should be thinking about to prepare for GDPR. Check back soon for the next two installments.
Editor’s note: The materials and information above is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. You should seek your own advice specific to your business’ requirements.