SEO

How to Avoid Crossing the Black Hat Line in Your Email Marketing

Some of the less ethical SEO email marketers out there are making the fatal error of deciding to “bend the rules” by trying on the ebony Stetson. There are very few worse things that a SEO specialist can do to simultaneously ruin their reputation and their business than engaging in unscrupulous and indecorous online communication activity.

The milder but just as unethical and dangerous schemes which utilize Gray-to-Black Hat tactics such as making unsubscribe links obscure or inactive, sneaking in permission-granting on unrelated forms in 5 point type, or even the seemingly innocent “I have their business card, that means they want my newsletter” ploys are to be avoided just as much as the following suicidal tactics.

Don’t even think of Craigslist

Craigslist is such a tempting target that some email marketers simply can’t resist trying to pluck its low hanging fruit. At your very fingertips are millions of perfectly geographically and topic targeted email accesses… except that they’re not email addresses but Craigslist’s own forwarders. Another tactic is to reply to Craiglist’s alias emails in order to solicit a response which arrives from the individual’s real email address. However, Craigslist’s attorneys are liberally distributing Cease & Desist orders to anyone trying to “scrape” email addresses from their site and they have highly sophisticated ways of identifying the “scrapers” in order to put them out of business.

As long as you can generate a few million phone verified accounts and have your IP match the geographical location of each ad, then you should be just fine. But if you decide that the cost and complexity of accomplishing that prerequisite is too much trouble, and so you’re going to do it directly: Congratulations, you’re busted! Violators report that Craigslist keeps the attorneys coming at you in waves. The same applies to Facebook, eBay, and other major sites: nothing but legal vehemence, pain and suffering waiting there.

Anonymizers lead straight to your door

Applying email harvesters was the hot setup at the dawn of the online era, but that process has gone the way of the brontosaurus. Harvesting addresses for “batch & blast” emails is not only wholly ineffective and will land you in infinite honeypot traps but will also violate all sorts of federal laws. Don’t believe the snake oil salesmen who are trying to convince you that they can adequately “anonymize” your blast to keep your identity private. Anything anyone does on the internet is traceable. If a federal agency becomes sufficiently motivated to find you, they will.

Take offshore off your radar

Certainly that solicitation to send millions of emails from servers in faraway countries such as Ukraine or Russia is a great way to blast! Right? Wrong! There is no server anywhere on the planet that can’t be tracked by the feds. Worse yet, some of these offshore operators will actually blackmail you with threats of turning you over to the authorities unless you pay them off.

VPS: Very Pathetic Stupidity

Using a VPS or dedicated server for excessive emailing is going to land you in hot water. Too many missives originating from the same IP are going to trigger red flags across cyberspace. Professional email service providers spend an inordinate amount of time and effort in assuring ISPs that they are legitimate, ethical senders. Unless you have the resources to engage in a similar program, you’re going to be out of luck.

Black Hat email marketing does not work, is against the law, and will land you in jail. If that isn’t enough of an incentive to steer a clear path of anyone advocating Black Hat tactics, then you might want to consider them as your future cellmates.

 How to Avoid Crossing the Black Hat Line in Your Email Marketing
Hal Licino is a veteran freelance writer, book author and frequent contributor to a blog hosted by Benchmark Email, one of the world’s global email marketing solutions.

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One thought on “How to Avoid Crossing the Black Hat Line in Your Email Marketing

  1. Even if you don’t jump wholeheartedly into an illegal e-mail marketing scheme, say you just dip your toe in the gray hat pool, you can still do some serious damage to your reputation and your clients’ marketing plan. One of the biggest problems with e-mail marketing is consumers start to feel like they are getting spammed by the sender. This prompts them to opt-out of your newsletter and leaves them with a negative impression of your business. You can’t overdo it!