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Email marketing is a cost-effective way to send content, share promotions, make recommendations and stay in touch with leads and customers who are interested in what you have to say. Email allows you to cut through the clutter and give people the information they want when they want it. In fact, an eMarketer study found that email is the preferred method of communicating with businesses. 

Further, eMarketer also found that email was cited as the most effective digital marketing channel for customer retention in the United States, and a separate study by BtoB Magazine found that 50% of B2B marketers consider email to be the most effective channel for generating revenue. There’s a big upside to using email strategically.

However, creating great email isn’t the only important step. Once you have crafted an email people want to read, you need a way to send it. If you are using a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress or Joomla, you might be aware of plugins and extensions that will add newsletter functionality to your site, some of which include jNews, Acymailing, RSMail, and SendPress. If you aren’t using a CMS, you might consider utilizing an open source system that uses your website’s PHP mail function.

Warning

Newsletter add-ons such as these are attractive because they allow you to manage your newsletters and subscribers right within your CMS. But beware, using systems that leverage your website’s php mail function can affect your overall email deliverability and your website reputation.

Sending limitations

Your web host might have limitations on the number of emails which can be sent per hour. For example, HostGator limits you to 500 outgoing mail messages per hour per domain.  If your list is large, you could reach that limit quickly and your system might stop sending or the emails will bounce back with an deliverability error. For some hosts, mailing lists larger than 5,000 addresses will require a dedicated server or virtual private server hosting solution. Some newsletter systems have a queue or can use CRON to schedule bulk sends or to throttle mailing (pausing for a set number of seconds after each email is sent),  however, things can go wrong and your outgoing process could be terminated before completion. Additionally, a web host could see emails to large lists as an abuse of service, especially if mailing list rules are not followed.

Conversely, email service providers (such as Mailchimp, Aweber and Constant Contact) are built for bulk sending. Their servers are configured to allow massive numbers of emails to be sent in short periods of time.

Deliverability

There is also a good chance bulk email could be marked as SPAM when sent via your website. Email providers such as Gmail and Yahoo have a number of rules in place to protect users against spam. Not only does Gmail scan email headers, it also scans the content of email looking for “spammy” information and malware. Emails that are sent via a website in a shared hosting environment might have the same IP as emails from other websites on the shared server. The simple fact that the IP does not belong to the sending domain could cause an Internet Service Provider (ISP) to mark an email as spam.

Worse than simply sharing an IP address, you also share the reputation of other websites on a shared hosting plan. Many ISPs use the reputation of the server sending messages to determine whether an email is spam. As such, if a  website on the shared server has been flagged as an abuser, your site could also be penalized.

Email service providers such as Mailchimp work hard to ensure deliverability. They have engineers who constantly improve their email systems to ensure emails are compliant with CAN-SPAM requirements and improve deliverability rates. They also have relationships with ISPs, are approved as bulk mail delivery services, and provide strict guidelines to avoid being labeled as a server that sends spam.

Avoid being blacklisted

According to inmotion hosting, it is estimated that between 80-95% of all email transmitted on the Internet is spam. To help weed through spam messages, there are public blacklists of mail servers that have been relaying spam. Mail servers such as Gmail can then check a message against the public blacklists before relaying messages to users.

Mail IP addresses can easily end up blacklisted, especially when they exist on a shared server where the shear volume of email might raise a red flag.

And, no matter how clean your email list is, eventually someone will report you as a spammer. If enough reports are made, you risk being blacklisted. Not only can this affect your ability to access email, but if you send using your website’s php mail function, your website could be blacklisted as well (resulting in the display of Google’s embarrassing red, blacklist screen. Note that different browsers display different messages but all should be similar).

Email service providers send from their servers so your email is never at risk of being blacklisted, which also protects your website from collateral damage and ensures that the routine email you do send from your domain makes it to the intended destination.

Conclusion

Plugins and solutions that utilize your website’s php mail function for bulk mailing can reduce the likelihood of delivery and can have negative consequences  your website as a whole.  Third-party systems protect your website and work to maintain the highest possible delivery rates. Additionally, they provide integrations for your CMS and website allowing you to display easy subscription and sign up forms for your visitors. These systems also offer robust reporting and analysis tools that are lacking in many of the plugins/extensions. For a comparison of some popular email service providers, please read our blog post, Email Marketing Services Comparison.

What are your thoughts on email service providers? Have any tips for how to avoid being classified as SPAM? Please share with our readers using the comments below.

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