Understanding e-Mail Marketing

Why All The Fuss?

Certainly, there are legitimate consumer issues with spam that is otherwise illegal (e.g., fraudulent), but why would that prompt all of these laws, given that it’s covered by existing laws? Enter the business of the Internet. The way the Internet works behind the scenes, the ISP of the e-mail recipient bears all of the cost of receiving a message: the transit of the message, the storage, etc…. Now, clearly, a single e-mail is insignificant. But the San Francisco Chronicle reports estimates that spam accounts for 78% of all e-mail sent. When you consider that over 200 billion e-mails are sent per day those little costs for transiting and storing messages add up; and for corporations, you can tack on the loss of productivity associated with dealing with spam, and helpdesk reports associated with it. All-in-all, Ferris Research estimates that spam costs over $130 billion annually [Ed: while this statistic and source remain widely quoted online, the original research does not appear to be available any longer]. Now, with money like that involved, it’s no surprise that there are both strong lobbying forces in effect, and that the Internet community as a whole as tried to implement technical solutions.

Technical Issues

The most fundamental tool of the Internet community in combating spam is the DNS-based Black List system. DNSBLs collect server names and IP addresses of known or suspected spammers. Mail servers and relays throughout the Internet are then able to query these systems before forwarding an e-mail. If the originating server is found on the list, the e-mail is “blackholed” — i.e., dumped. So, effectively, once you’re on one or more of these lists, you can no longer send e-mail. Pretty much at all. Therefore, as a legitimate business, you should be highly concerned with avoiding getting on one of these lists.

The DNSBLs use a number of mechanisms to determine which servers get put on their lists, but the one that is probably of greatest concern to e-mail marketers using purchased lists is the honeypot. Honeypots are e-mail addresses which are specifically created with the intent of attracting spam. When a message is received by a honeypot, the sender’s server is added to a DNSBL. If you purchase a list, and that list contains a honeypot, then your emails will be blackholed. So, I reiterate, it’s critical that you purchase your lists from reputable sources (and ideally from sources that have verified that all of the emails on their list are valid).


So, there you have it: a primer on e-mail marketing. I think we covered all of the basics:

As always, I hope you found this article informative and at least a little bit enjoyable. If you did, share the love by clicking on one of the social bookmarking links below. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them here, or e-mail me. And if you did enjoy this article, you may want to check out the others in this series:



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