Maximizing Deliverability

Keep Clear of the Spamtraps This Holiday Season

There has been quite a bit of buzz recently about SpamCop listings. Starting in mid October, senders began reporting an increase in their appearances on SpamCop’s list. This was caused by SpamCop introducing new spamtrap feeds, re-conditioning some older feeds and retiring others. Many of these spamtraps use long-time retired domains.  SpamCop also uses honeypots or "pure" spamtraps - email addresses that were never used for email.  The timing of this change and the resulting increase in SpamCop listings could make things interesting for senders as we enter the most critical time of year for most marketers.

SpamCop spamtraps do not interact with your emails.  While the domains that SpamCop uses have been retired for at least 18 months, some companies retire addresses after six months and recycle those addresses into spamtraps.  Those email addresses should have bounced for at least six months before that.  Some list sources are not as hygienic as others, so be aware of your inbound streams and monitor for high complaints.  High complaints mean a higher chance of spamtraps present on the list.

What does this mean for marketers?  First of all, stay calm!  This change will primarily impact B2B marketers, as it is mostly B2B domains that use SpamCop for filtering and blocking.  The major B2C ISPs have developed their own filtering and reputation systems.  But even if you are a B2C mailer, this change highlights the need to monitor your email engagement and act accordingly by adjusting your marketing strategy to focus on your most engaged customers.  For marketers who monitor their engagement closely and send mail only to those who are their most active recipients, this shouldn’t make much of a difference.  Assuming that you are already engaging in solid list acquisition and list management best-practices, the next best bet to avoid falling into a spamtrap is to mail only those recipients who recently subscribed to your list or engaged with your emails within the past six months.  

Again, the holiday season adds a bit of a wrinkle, since many marketers will reach out again to unengaged users to gain their holiday business.  Traditionally this is the prime time of the year to try to re-engage customers who haven’t opened, clicked or purchased in the past year.   Smart planning is key to implementing a re-engagement campaign that won’t land you in a spamtrap.   Most importantly, you need to spread any re-engagement campaign out over many days or weeks – not doing so is an easy way to possibly get you blocked at the worst time of the year.   In addition, you will want to build into your campaign the prompt removal any bounces, and consider removing non- responses after a certain period of time, such as six months.

Changes within the industry, whether they come from the ISPs, blacklist providers, filtering vendors or others, occur regularly in this ever-changing market.   They certainly keep us on our toes, but always bring us back to the same principle – only send email to those who have indicated that they want to receive it!

Posted by: Sean Wirt at 4:15 PM
Categories: spam, spamtraps, spamcop

Windows Live Mail Re-Invents Itself

As one of the largest webmail providers in the world, Microsoft has apparently decided that they will not sit back and watch others innovate. Instead, they have decided to re-invent themselves with the new Windows Live Hotmail.

I have spent a lot of time talking with users of Hotmail and other email clients, and based on those conversations, it looks like the new features they are introducing should be interesting for both users and marketers alike.

At the recent Email Insider Summit, it was discussed that there are three types of email users, and I believe understanding these types of users helped Microsoft build their new features.

  1. Piler—These are people that let their inbox grow and grow while only opening certain emails. They may have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of emails in their inbox that have never been opened
  2. Filer—These people keep most of their emails but make sure to put it in a certain file for future reference. There are less emails in the physical inbox, but all of the messages are easily accessible for the user when they need them.
  3. Dumper—Think of the Piler, but every so often (say weekly) they simply delete all of their email that they feel are not important enough to respond to or keep.

So why is understanding these three types of email end-users important with regards to the Re-Invention of Windows Live Hotmail? One of the major changes that will potentially affect marketers is the new Sweep function. This function will allow the users to keep their inbox clean while filing or deleting messages from certain mailers or types of messages such as social networking messages.

According to the Microsoft blog, after a lot of research, they decided to focus on 4 key areas to help their end users:

  1. Take back your inbox. We help you quickly get to the important messages and get rid of the mail you don’t want.
  2. Get more done with the mail you receive. Do more without leaving your inbox, so that you don’t have to open a bunch of browser windows just to get simple things done.
  3. Share over email. Stop hassling with attachment size limits – whether you’re sending hundreds of large photos or massive documents. View, edit, and share Microsoft Office documents even if you or the people you’re sharing with don’t have Office installed on their computers – PC or Mac.
  4. Connect from your phone. Sync your email, calendar, and contacts on your mobile devices – whether you’re using a smart phone like the forthcoming Windows Phone 7, or the iPhone, or a phone that just has a simple browser.

Another important item for marketers to understand is the new Windows Live Hotmail is also integrated with the Office Web Apps, which means you can edit documents directly from your inbox. There is also the new SkyDrive which allows you to store documents in a cloud so there is less concern around file size. I am still unsure how this will work with marketing emails, but it is something that we will need to keep our eye on.

You can find out more about the entire new feature set on the Windows Live Blog.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 8:03 AM
Categories: Email, Microsoft, Spam, Windows Live Hotmail

Spamhaus Debuts New Blacklist to Combat "Snowshoe Spam"

Spamhaus has unveiled a new blacklist to combat a equally new spammer technique that uses static IP addresses and send in low volumes to avoid spam filters. This technique is called "snowshoe spam" because it's akin to spreading the load of sending across a large area.

If you're interested in using the new Spamhaus CSS (Composite Snow-Shoe) list to help detect snowshoe spam, you can find out more on their website:

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 5:42 PM
Categories: Spam, blacklist, filtering, snow-shoe spam, spamhaus

GMail now displaying images in messages from your contacts

Repost from GMail Blog:

GMail now displaying images in messages from your contacts
Monday, July 20, 2009 5:58 PM
Posted by David de Kloet, Software Engineer

When an email references external images, Gmail usually doesn't display them automatically. Instead we show placeholders and present you with the option to "Display images below" or "Always display images from" that sender.

We do this to help protect your privacy from spammers, who can use images and links to verify that your email address is real.

But often the messages you get with images are from friends or family and there's no reason to worry about your privacy — you just want to see the photo of your newborn niece or the invitation design they're sending you. So, in these cases, we've decided to start displaying images by default. Now, whenever someone you've emailed at least twice sends you a message containing images, you'll see them right away. Note that we picked this threshold of two messages to start with, but we may tweak it if it doesn't seem right going forward. And we only display images by default for authenticated messages (using SPF or DKIM). Gmail and other big mail providers usually authenticate their mail, but other services might not, so it's possible you'll get an email from one of your contacts where images aren't displayed by default.

If you prefer to go back to the way things were, you can choose not to display images from certain senders or from anyone. To disable images from an individual sender, click "Don't display from now on" under the "Show details" link of an email from them with images. To disable images from everybody, select "Ask before displaying external content" under "External content" on the general Settings tab.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 9:17 AM
Categories: deliverabilty, delivery, gmail, rendering, spam, spammers

Highlights of proposed Canadian spam legislation

Republishing of important article

Highlights of proposed Canadian spam legislation
By Karen J. Bannan
BtoB Magazine
July 2, 2009


The Canadian House of Commons in April introduced a bill to create the Electronic Commerce Protection Act (ECPA) (ECPA)—Canada’s version of the U.S. CAN-SPAM legislation, with some significant differences. The bill seeks not only to cut down on spam but also addresses phishing, spyware and unsolicited text messages. It also lays out penalties for spamming, allowing businesses and consumers to take civil action of up to $1 million (Canadian) against individuals and $10 million against companies or groups that violate ECPA.

But what exactly does this mean for marketers that send e-mail to Canada? Matthew Vernhout, director of delivery and ISP relations at e-mail marketing company ThinData Inc., explained the most significant highlights of the bill.

1) In or out. One of the main differences between CAN-SPAM and the Canadian bill is consent. CAN-SPAM focuses on opting out; marketers can send e-mail to anyone as long as they have not opted out and their e-mail address was not harvested. The Canadian legislation will require marketers to have explicit or implied consent, said Vernhout, who recently discussed the bill before the Canadian government’s Standing Committee. “In Canada for 10 years we’ve had our privacy law that advocates consent-based communications,” he said. Companies can e-mail people when there is a business relationship or nonbusiness relationship. So, for example, marketers will be able to e-mail a customer who purchased something from them even if they didn’t officially opt in, but only for a period of 18 months. This is why he suggested companies start adding fields to their databases today that will log when names are added to a list—the specific date—as well as what kind of relationship a marketer actually has with those contacts.

2) Update in time. Today, CAN-SPAM requires companies to remove someone who has opted out within 10 business days. The Canadian regulation will require opt-outs to be handled within 10 calendar days. “This might be an issue for companies that use ‘multiple affiliates,’ ” Vernhout said. Making sure all opt-outs happen in what could be as little as a single business week may take some getting used to.

3) Show your face. CAN-SPAM requires U.S. marketers to provide a “from” address, a postal address and a Web-based opt-out. Under the Canadian rules, marketers will need to disclose the identity of the person sending the e-mail—and if it’s being sent on behalf of a company, both companies involved must disclose their information, including company name and contact information, including a physical address. An opt-out link is not required, although unsubscribe procedures must be listed in messaging.

4) Share and share alike. The Canadian government is promising to “share information and evidence with their counterparts in other countries who enforce similar laws internationally,” according to a press release. This means the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner would be able to share evidence with, for example, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to ensure people in Canada who are spamming those in the U.S. could still be prosecuted.

5) A central spam center. Under the legislation, the Canadian government will also create a “Spam Reporting Centre,” which would act as a clearinghouse for all spam reports. The unit would disseminate evidence of spamming to “governing bodies.” “I don’t think it’s any different than what the FTC is doing [in the U.S.]. It’s building a history so they can look back and say, ‘Are we seeing a trend,’ and from there compiling the evidence against people so, when they go to court, they can bring a big document and slam it down,” Vernhout said.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 10:06 PM
Categories: Canada, legislation, spam

Court Orders Spammers to Give Up $3.7 Million

Republishing of article:

Case Against International Spam Operation is First Using US SAFE WEB Act

Press Release
Federal Trade Commission
July 2, 2009


A U.S. district court has ordered key players in an international spam ring to give up $3.7 million that they made by sending out illegal e-mail messages pitching bogus hoodia weight-loss products and a “human growth hormone” pill they claimed reversed the aging process.

In a Federal Trade Commission law enforcement action, the court found that the five defendants, located in Canada and St. Kitts, violated the FTC Act and the CAN-SPAM Act by participating in the spam operation. The court order bars the defendants from violating the CAN-SPAM Act and from making false or unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of any food, drug, or dietary supplement.

The FTC charged that the operation used spammers to drive traffic to Web sites selling an extract of the hoodia gordonii plant it claimed would cause significant weight loss, and a “natural human growth hormone enhancer” it claimed would reverse the aging process. The FTC alleged that these claims were false or unsubstantiated, and charged the defendants with deceptive advertising in violation of federal law. It also alleged that the spammers sent e-mail that contained false “from” addresses and deceptive subject lines, and that they failed to provide a required opt-out link or physical postal address.

The case, filed by the FTC in October 2007, marked the first time the Commission invoked the US SAFE WEB Act, a federal law designed to protect consumers from cross-border fraud and deception. The Act enhances the agency’s ability to exchange information with foreign counterparts and helps protect consumers from cross-border spam and spyware distribution, as well as Internet fraud and deception. The FTC’s complaint charged eight defendants – Spear Systems, Inc., three other corporate defendants, and four individuals.

The Commission settled with three defendants in the case – Spear Systems, Inc. (a U.S. company) and two individuals, one in the United States and one in Australia – in May 2008. The agency was unable to reach settlements with the remaining five defendants, who are the subject of the court order announced today: Xavier Ratelle and Abaragidan Gnanendran, of Quebec, Canada; and corporate defendants 9151-1154 Quebec, Inc., 9064-9252 Quebec, Inc., and HBE, Inc. The final orders were entered by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 10:00 PM
Categories: CAN-SPAM, FTC, lawsuit, spam

Liberal Shift May Assure Net Neutrality


Liberal shift may assure Net neutrality

By Michael Geist
Toronto Star
Jun 22, 2009


Last Thursday began as an ordinary, rainy spring day in Ottawa. Canadian politicians, having just avoided an unwanted election, were only two days away from an extended summer break.

Yet by the end of the day, a trio of events unfolded that could help shape the Internet in Canada for years to come.

The first took place mid-morning, with the introduction of new lawful access legislation.

The bills would dramatically change the Internet in Canada, requiring Internet service providers to install new surveillance capabilities, force them to disclose subscriber information such as name, address and email address without a court order, as well as grant police broad new powers to obtain Internet transmission data.

The introduction of the legislation by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan – accompanied by more than a dozen law enforcement representatives –generated an immediate wave of criticism.

Internet service providers expressed concern about the cost of the program, while privacy groups lamented the government's about-face on the issue of court oversight since Stockwell Day, the previous public safety minister, had pledged not to introduce mandated disclosure of subscriber information without it.

Given the experience with misuse of surveillance powers in other countries, the bill will likely continue to attract attention as Canadians ask whether the government has struck the right balance between providing law enforcement with the necessary investigative powers, ensuring robust oversight, and preserving online privacy.

Hours later, the scene shifted to question period, where Liberal Industry critic Marc Garneau surprised Internet watchers by emphasizing the importance of an open Internet and declaring that the Liberal party now firmly supports net neutrality. The party has adopted a position opposing the management of Internet traffic that infringes privacy and targets specific websites, users and legitimate business applications.

The move represents an unexpected shift in policy direction just weeks before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is scheduled to conduct hearings on network management practices. For months, the NDP has stood virtually alone among the major Canadian political parties in its support for web neutrality.

With the Liberals onside, the door is open for a bipartisan effort this fall to enshrine net neutrality principles into law.

Immediately after Question Period, the standing committee on industry held its final hearing before the break on the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, Canada's new anti-spam bill. Some business groups have sought to water down the legislative proposal, implausibly arguing that Canadian privacy law is sufficient to address persistent spamming activities and that the ECPA's tough penalties could dissuade talented business leaders from taking on corporate directorship positions for fear of potential liability.

Representatives from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Competition Bureau and CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein firmly put those fears to rest. Assistant Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham rejected the view that current privacy laws are up to the task of countering Canadian spam and welcomed the clarity of the anti-spam bill.

Von Finckenstein was similarly supportive of the ECPA, expressing optimism about its potential to address long-standing spam concerns.

These issues – lawful access, net neutrality and the ECPA – will be back on the parliamentary agenda in the fall. But on a single day all three moved to the fore with big implications for the Internet in Canada.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 7:40 AM
Categories: ECPA, Electronic Commerce Protection Act, NDP, canada, email marketing, legislation, spam

SORBS Blacklist shutting down

As of July 20, 2009, the SORBS blacklist will no longer be available.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 8:47 AM
Categories: SORBS, Spam, blacklist, email marketing

Canada looking at tougher SPAM laws

Yahoo issues fixed

According to Yahoo's postmaster group, the items that were causing issues with regards to false-positives and Spamhaus listings has been resolved.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 9:31 AM
Categories: Spamhaus, Yahoo, block, deliverability, flase-positive