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Opt-out hall of shame: No means Yes?

I thought the confusing opt-out example from Equifax that I posted a while back was pretty bad.

This one's a close second:


C'mon. If you don't want something, you say "NO."

November 30, 2007 in Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MP3 Spam? Huh?

I like to think I'm on top of email and spam issues, but this one made me do a double take:

The Sound of Spam - article from TechSoup

Apparently, spammers are sending MP3 spam now. They have filenames like "elvis.mp3" but when you open them, you get an audio clip of some pump and dump scam.

I know I'm gonna regret saying this, but this is actually kind of intriguing. Seems like it would be funny to hear a Nigerian spammer's voice. "Hello, I am king blah blah and I send you this mp3 file to request your assistance with large sums of money..."

November 14, 2007 in Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Spam Filters Automatically Unsubscribing People

Spam filters learned that spammers pretty much use the same URLs and domains for their spam.

So they started to store the URLs that spammers use.

Then spammers learned that they can just keep making up new domains really fast.

Then spam filters started to block emails that contained "fresh" new domains with no history behind them.

Then spammers learned to take advantage of "redirecting" services like TinyURL (a great, free service you can use to shorten very complicated URLs into tiny ones).

Then spam filters learned to actually CLICK each and every single URL in every email they receive, in order to follow those redirect links and analyze the reputation of the final destination domain.

The problem with this is if you send a legit email campaign that has a one-click unsubscribe link, spam filters will click those links to check their reputation, which will accidentally unsubscribe some of your members.

It's something we predicted could become a problem back in May 2007 (when we noticed this press release from Barracuda Networks). Now it's November, and we're starting to get confused users and their subscribers writing in to complain about being unsubscribed for no good reason. Analyzing server logs, it looks like Trend Micro is doing the automatic unsubscribing.

What's a marketer to do? The one-click unsubscribe link is a best practice. To prevent list shrinkage, should we start introducing a two-step unsubscribe process? It would prevent these accidental unsubs, but also make it harder for people to get off our lists. I hope it doesn't come down to that. Hopefully, spam filters will consider using "white lists" of URLs they can skip over.

November 12, 2007 in Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

When PR agencies spam

Found this link over at Al Iverson's An editor at Wired is posting email addresses of all the public relations agencies that send him unsolicited press releases via email.

If you run a PR agency, and you send unsolicited emails in bulk, yes---that's spam.

Send them one at a time, then technically it's not spam. But you'll still piss people off:

November 2, 2007 in Emarketing, Business, Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Barracuda Central Lookup Tools

Maybe I've been out of touch for too long, but I just now noticed that BarracudaCentral has made their IP and domain lookup tools available to the public.

Sorry if it's old news, but this is totally new to me, and it's very good news. Before, there was no way to really confirm whether or not we (as an ESP) were being blocked by Barracuda, or if one of our customers just sent some spammy content in their campaign. Barracuda has always kept their doors shut, locked, and boarded up.

Now, if we suspect a problem, we can just look it up (getting a reply from them will still require some work, though. Those guys are busy).

If you have affiliates (or even rogue marketing departments) who send emails with your company's domain name in them, go lookup your domain and IP address now over at Barracuda Central to see if you've been blocked.

September 27, 2007 in Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MailChimp's Live Chat With a King

Today, we had the great honor of live chatting with King Erediawa, of Benin Land. He initiated the live chat on, and spoke with our customer service team. Apparently, the king was looking for an email inbox service. You know, so he could send business proposals to a few bazillion colleagues. When he realized we didn't offer inboxes, he still was kind enough to give us a chance to invest in his opportunity. For this reason alone, you should consider adding LivePerson chat to your website. This is a transcript of our chat with the king...

MailChimp: hello, how can i help you?
King Erediawa: Dont you have inbox to send mail from this site to other recipient?
MailChimp: we are not an inbox service
King Erediawa: ok
King Erediawa: well i just supcrime because i want to propose business to friends
King Erediawa: i dont even know you you will be intrested in the deal
MailChimp: what kind of deal?
King Erediawa: well since you guy do not manage inbox is of no use for me then.
King Erediawa: Partinership in business
MailChimp: what kind of business?

King Erediawa: Well self introduction. I am The King of Benin Land and owner of the following companies: Chairman CEO:(Dipson rubber industry)Chairman CEO: Menatep SBP Bank (A well reputable financial institution with its branches all over the world) SOURCE OF FUNDS:The documents of the above funds in question was handed over to me to be used in payment of an American oil merchant for his last oil dealwith my my company.
King Erediawa: I have an  excess of US$116m usd (One hundred and Sixteen million United States Dollars), which I seek your partnership.You will be rewarded with 20% of the total sum for been a partner in this transaction.Can you be my partner on this transaction?
MailChimp: we may be interested in a partnership, do you have access to monkeys?
King Erediawa: Yes of cos
King Erediawa: Much Access to them
MailChimp: we're interested in families of monkeys
MailChimp: but they must be friendly monkeys
King Erediawa: I have thousans of them Even in suply. Please can you send me mail to my private email address and tell me your intress for ae to proceed?
MailChimp: we've had problems with cheap monkeys and we're looking for high quality mammals.
King Erediawa: I have all king of monkey in my factry Well Trains ok
King Erediawa: Send me mail to my private emil address at:
MailChimp: are they ISO9000 certified?
King Erediawa: yes
King Erediawa: I have anough in my factry, All time
King Erediawa: i have king kong but is still yong
MailChimp: can they be Microsoft Gold Certified?
King Erediawa: i still have other mighty monkeys that can even do whatever i ask them to do
MailChimp: how can you ship the monkeys to us?
King Erediawa: How you do you mean you want to see them through here?
King Erediawa: that why i told you to send us and email then we get back to you without delay
King Erediawa: but if i can ask, What about my inicial proposal, Are intrested in that,
King Erediawa: ?
MailChimp: we had a bad experience with the last King we spoke with, he did not deliver the monkeys as promised
King Erediawa: listern now, you are not the first company or individual i suply, When i give you the charge and you pay, I deliver it to your destination without any delay
King Erediawa: still give you the arrival time and particular that will guarrantee sucessful deliver
MailChimp: that sounds like great customer service
MailChimp: do you have a free trial?
King Erediawa: free trial of what?
MailChimp: of monkeys
MailChimp: if the trial is good we will be requesting 3 pallets of monkeys
King Erediawa: How do you mean, are you not a business personaly, How do think its posoible for me to transact a business for free of chjarg
King Erediawa: i am sory i dont havce free trial
MailChimp: no i am sorry for the misunderstanding my king
MailChimp: i only meant for a small trial
MailChimp: perhaps 3 monkeys
MailChimp: because surely 2 will die in shipping


MailChimp: And we only request small monkeys for the trial period sire.
King Erediawa: you tell me the size you want and i take it down and give you exactly what you want?
MailChimp: Do you offer accessories?
MailChimp: Shoes, hats, and small purses and such?
MailChimp: Such that would fit a small monkey
MailChimp: In usa, such items are difficult to come by
King Erediawa: that is my business and i have everything to sactisfy my customers ok
MailChimp: In your country, the king is allowed to own business too?
King Erediawa: if your company want to do business with me, I have give you my email address, Mail me there and tell me what and what you want and i will be thereby suply you, give you exactly what you want ok?
MailChimp: what is your email address?
King Erediawa:
MailChimp: Is this a secure email?
MailChimp: I did not realize you also own Yahoo.
King Erediawa: very much secure
King Erediawa: have you send the mail?
MailChimp: Did you get it?
MailChimp: It may be in your spam folder
King Erediawa: wait let me check
King Erediawa: ok
MailChimp: I get so much spam from nigeria and such, that most of my email goes in junk folder
King Erediawa: but i have never got it
King Erediawa: you dont get the email address well
MailChimp: Is there another email address I can try?
King Erediawa:
MailChimp: Does royal king highness have his own domain name yet?
King Erediawa: that one is ok
MailChimp: Perhaps from
King Erediawa: keep the email address safe and mail there, i will get it
MailChimp: we have need for much monkey
MailChimp: do you have any other means to reach you?
King Erediawa: i mean as much your company want with gurantee
King Erediawa: i do a clear business
MailChimp: monkey business?
King Erediawa: i mean send me mail i will get back to you on your request
King Erediawa: ok
MailChimp: ok
MailChimp: a thousand thank yous
MailChimp: your highness
King Erediawa: you are welcomz
King Erediawa: if the mail is not going sign up yahoo and mail me from there
King Erediawa: or you give me name i sign up for you now
MailChimp: Roger Waters
MailChimp: but i do not want more email address
MailChimp: I get too much spam
MailChimp: we will send you email
MailChimp: after we fill out monkey requisition papers
King Erediawa: ok wait i will open for you right now
MailChimp: I must go now
MailChimp: monkeys are causing problems in office
MailChimp: this why we need good quality
MailChimp: they will not work hard enough for us
MailChimp: must go punish. Look for my email soon
MailChimp: fare thee well, your highness.

The king was a very pleasant man, and I just wish we had more time to speak with him. Oh well. For some really good conversations, we highly recommend you check out

September 21, 2007 in Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Image spam down, PDF spam up

According to this article over at DMnews:

Image spam is down from a January 2007 high of 52% of all spam, to about 8% (as of July).

But since spammers tend to fill any vacuum they find, PDF spam is now up (along with Excel and ZIP files). They're saying PDF files have long been trusted, business-related file types, so it's much easier to slip past the filters for now.

Sigh. Why don't spammers ruin the reputation of some other file type? Like Powerpoint? Wouldn't it be great if nobody could ever send a .PPT file to you via email ever again?

More on image spam here (and how HTML email designers can mistakenly look like spammers)

August 14, 2007 in Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Avoiding Blacklists

Blacklists used to be an email marketer's worst nightmare. If you made a silly mistake and got blacklisted, good luck convincing the admin to delist you.

Thankfully, things have become more civil and professional (you still don't want to get blacklisted though). Here's an up-to-date assessment of blacklists from Al Iverson.

Iverson speaks the truth:

I would note that if somebody is a B2C sender with an average list composition, then blacklists shouldn’t be your biggest worry. Blocking by the top ISPs (AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo, Juno, Earthlink, etc.) is generally more likely to cause greater issues, or happen more often, than a third-party blacklisting of a sender’s IP address

More worrisome, in my opinion, are the Postinis and Barracudas of the world. Those are increasingly becoming the "gatekeepers" of company email servers, and I don't see much of an effort on their part to work with legit email marketers and ESPs (such as setting up feedback loops, or registering for alerts like SpamCop). In those cases, it's just like Iverson says---you better make sure your ESP is on top of things, and is in contact with those groups.

Speaking of blacklists, Seth Godin just posted this page on Squidoo with a good roundup of articles and resources on how to avoid getting blacklisted. Most of the links are to our good friend Mark Brownlow's blog, but you'll also find a link---waaaaay down at the bottom---for our Inbox Inspector. Yay, we've been Seth'd.

July 18, 2007 in Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

HTML Email Mistake: Image-based unsubscribe link

We've already talked about some of the dangers of image-based HTML email (See: Common HTML email design mistakes).

I'll say it again, though. All-image HTML emails look like spam, so they trigger spam filters. Even worse, most of them display with the images turned off by default, so your recipients don't always see your message (which is why you should always test your campaigns before you send them).

All this time, I've neglected to mention that it's a bad idea to make your unsubscribe link an image. Kinda thought that was common sense.

Well here's an article from Ken Magill at DIRECT magazine about a woman who reported a marketer to the New York attorney general’s office, because her email program never displayed the unsubscribe image:

It even suggests that you might be breaking CAN-SPAM law if you send email marketing with an image as your unsub link.

One tip the provide is to also include the full URL of your unsubscribe link, just in case your clickable hyperlink doesn't work.

MailChimp users: the built-in templates we provide for your campaigns already have a text-based, one-click unsubscribe link embedded. If you want to display the full path for the unsubscribe URL, insert it with this tag: *|UNSUB|*

June 27, 2007 in Email Design, Spam Topics, Tips, Tricks, Best Practices | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Vonage Abuses Refer-a-Friend Program

Wow. I learned about this from Mark Brownlow's blog.

Apparently, Vonage asked customers to refer friends to their service. You've probably done it before. You fill out some tell-a-friend form, and if your friends sign up, you get a little something in return. But you assume that any legit company would never abuse that information, right? If they did, it would be like shooting themselves in the foot, right?

Well, looks like Vonage just shot themselves in the foot.

Check out this story from Andy Sernovitz' Blog. 

And this one from Cnet's Daniel Terdiman. He got an email from Vonage that tried to make it look like it was recently sent from his friend---but his friend has been in the hospital, unconscious, for the last 2 weeks. Ouch.

Sadly, this is not the first time we've seen this sort of thing. We've posted something from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) not too long ago.

If you've got one of those tell-a-friend or refer-a-friend systems in place at your company, now might be a good time to review your privacy policy.

At MailChimp, we occasionally get phone calls from newbie email marketers who want to offer some kind of "tell-a-friend" or "forward-to-friend" tool in their email campaigns. And they ask us if we "track the emails of those friends, so we can add them to our list too."

Um, no---that would be evil. And now, thanks to Vonage, we know what can happen when you do this kind of stuff.

We do offer a forward-to-friend tool, but the only thing it tracks is "total number of times your email was forwarded."

Related: Refer-a-friend best practices

June 25, 2007 in Spam Topics | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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