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Once again news is circulating the Internet of having to pay to send email. And email marketers are in an uproar.
So is this the end?
Are the days of being able to send free email newsletters coming to a close?
Let’s review the current situation . . .
A new accreditation service called Goodmail will be working with AOL and Yahoo! to certify email messages. Goodmail CertifiedEmail messages are guaranteed to be delivered and will bypass the spam filters of these ISPs. They’ll be marked with a trust symbol in the inboxes of AOL and Yahoo! customers. Plus in AOL the images and hyperlinks of the emails will automatically be viewable, at the moment most high-volume messages do not have these activated.
Of course in order to send Goodmail CertifiedEmail there will be requirements as well as costs. The non-refundable application fee is $399. (Until 8/1/06 the cost is $199.) Then they’ll be roughly a quarter to a cent per email sending fee depending on volume. Thus it will cost email marketers somewhere between $2.5-$10 per thousand emails sent to guarantee delivery.
Most small business will not be able to afford these fees.
The question becomes will your email have to be Goodmail CertifiedEmail in order to get delivered?
If you look at the history of other email accreditation services, you would summarize that no you do not need to send Goodmail CertifiedEmail.
Several years ago Habeas began an email accreditation service. Habeas uses a unique header and whitelist to help get your email delivered. When Habeas was first started email marketers panicked that it would cause all emailers to have to pay. This never came to pass.
BondedSender has also been around for years. It too has a whitelist for ISPs and penalizes bad behavior. Rather than paying per message fees, you only pay out of a bond if you receive a complaint.
Both service work with the existing whitelists of ISPs like AOL and Yahoo! So using these services helps gets you whitelisted, however, it has not been a necessity to use them. With good mailing practices you can get yourself placed on ISPs whitelists on your own.
Why would Goodmail be any different?
First Goodmail has been engaged by AOL and Yahoo!. Statistics show AOL and Yahoo! email addresses make up approximately 50% of all USA email addresses. Thus Goodmail has on board 2 major players.
Second Goodmail is sharing revenue with the ISPs who utilize their services. Thus AOL, Yahoo! and other ISPs who accept Goodmail CertifiedEmail can increase their revenue by charging senders to deliver email. As most ISPs are businesses, higher revenues are their goal.
The adoption of Goodmail or similar charge-to-deliver email program is therefore likely to spread to Hotmail, Gmail, and other corporations.
As email marketers are business people too, they recognize the incentive for companies to go with the new model of charging senders. It makes the possibility of pay to send email being adopted Internet wide.
Add to this fear, AOL’s announcement at the end of January that they would eliminate their existing Whitelist program. And that all senders who did not use Goodmail would be unable to retain their sending privileges. So even if you follow all the rules, get no complaints and had been whitelisted, AOL would now put your email through all their spam filters and volume filters.
This announcement lead to an outcry from businesses and AOL has since reversed its position – for now.
AOL says in addition to its new CertifiedEmail service they’ll continue to offer their Whitelist, "as long as it continues to serve their members." They intend to make being Whitelisted more restrictive. And they’ll be tightening content and volume filters.
The concern email marketers have with actions like AOLs is that email delivery for all non-paying senders will deteriorate.
What does this mean for small business?
Goodmail CertifiedEmail is priced out of reach for most small businesses. The quarter of a cent to a cent is not the largest problem. After all, while this cost is high getting through to valuable customers may still prove profitable. The real problem is the hidden costs. In order to be accepted by Goodmail you have to meet the following requirements:
* You must have been in business for at least one year
* You must have a business headquarters in the United States or Canada
* You must send your emails from a dedicated IP address, even if sending them through a third-party service provider.
* You must have at least a six-month history of sending mail from your dedicated IP address
* Your sending IP addresses must have a low complaint rate relative to senders in general to Goodmail's ISP partners.
The cost to have your own dedicated IP means you’ll have to have your own mail server typically on your own machine. That machine will need to have a dedicated connection, either with a hosting company or at your place of business. Hosting your own server is not an inexpensive proposition and even hosting your own server with a third party company is costly.
So if you can’t afford to use Goodmail are your email marketing days over?
No, I don’t think so.
Yes, in all likelihood email delivery is going to become more difficult. However, ISPs like Yahoo! and AOL are in business to deliver email to their members. In large part this is what they are used and paid for.
Should AOL make it too difficult and their filters so tight that you can’t get a personal message delivered to Mom, they’ll be in trouble. Similarly if you use AOL and you’ve subscribed to a free publication you regularly don’t receive, you’d complain.
The fact of the matter is, ISPs are going to have to continue to allow non-paying email through to keep their users happy.
If you want your email to be non-paying email that is delivered, you should ensure you follow best emailing practice. Here are 5 points to review:
1) Use double confirmation to acquire your leads / subscribers.
2) Keep your list clean. Eliminate undeliverables and promptly delete unsub requests. (Email hosting providers should do this for you.)
3) Have the same “From” email address. Ask your subscribers to whitelist your “From” address and place it in their address book. A whitelisted address gets you past the filters and into their inboxes.
4) Review your mailings. Does the amount you mail and the subject matter in your messages match your subscribers expectations at sign up. Subscribers report even confirmed email as spam if they get too much of it or it's irrelevant.
5) Check your content. Make sure your messages are filter-friendly. Often URLs or word combinations in the body of your message trigger a spam filter that can get your message trashed. Two free content checking tools you can use are –
The sky is not falling, email marketing is not dead. Keep collecting the contact information of prospects and building your lists. Email will continue to help you make sales.
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