Killing Your Brand with Newsletter Spam
One of the non search-related blogs I keep handy in my feed reader is LeahPeah. Somewhat Dooce-like, Leah Peterson writes on an assortment of lifestyle-related topics and does a really good job getting a chuckle out the cynical likes of me. (Okay, another reason why I like her is because she’s the mom of Devon, one of my all-time favorite Bruce Clay people.) Yesterday’s Leah non-SEO blog transcended all genres when she wrote a post appropriately titled Newsletter Spam, an issue that has become increasingly frustrating to many of us as of late.
Leah was surprised to wake up one day to find 30+ newsletters sitting in her inbox that she had no recollection of subscribing to. Even worse, when she tried to systematically unsubscribe from the newsletter hell that she never asked for, she found that all newsletters are not created equal. Some are polite and make it easy for you to leave their team, while others try handcuff you to the bench and leave you without food or water.
"…kudos go to the companies that allow a one step unsubscribe. You click the link, you’re out. The next best are the two click unsubscribe. You click the link, they ask you if you’re sure or to input your email, then you’re out. But BOO and BAH to the companies that make you log in to your account and search for a tiny button somewhere that says ‘newsletters’ or ‘preferences’ that is hidden on the page or 5 clicks into the site. Don’t make me hate you while I try to get off your mailing list. That is when you become SPAM to me instead of just mostly a waste of my time."
I’d like to head over to wherever Leah is at the moment and give her a giant high five, or maybe a hug, because as those following me on Twitter can attest to, I’ve been stuck in my own newsletter spam hell lately. It seems The Knot hasn’t gotten the message that I no longer have a need for their services. In fact, I’ve unsubscribed something like six times over the past year and yet I still get their newsletter each month telling me about how awesome it is to be getting married. Now they’re even sending printed material from their sister site The Nest to my apartment, which is somewhat concerning since I didn’t live at my current apartment when I signed up for the services. What magic hat did my address get pulled out of? Or maybe they just heard I was a former Ask.com fan and assumed I was a married woman and put me on their list?
Either way, I want off. Only they won’t let me get off. And now I hate them.
I used to think that perhaps my frustration with the awful wedding site [Nice anchor text there. --Susan] My mad SEO skillz at work. Huzzah! was just because I am so immersed in Internet marketing and therefore realize that sending me your crap even though I’ve expressed disinterest is not only bad form, but also SPAM. But hearing Leah’s complaints proves otherwise. It’s not just SEOs who are bothered by email spam; everyone is bothered by email spam. When you trick users into signing up for a newsletter or refuse to them out of your clutches despite their protesting, you’re crossing the line and are spamming. What do you think Leah’s brand association with the companies spamming her will be? The next time I get engaged, do you think I’m going to go sign up at The Knot? I’m thinking not. [rimshot?]
Email marketing is a powerful tool for increasing brand awareness, strengthening your relationships with customers, and bringing in new customers, but you have to know how to use it. And part of that knowledge means making sure your emails are as transparent as possible and understanding the CAN-SPAM legislation. All of your email campaigns should be double opt-in. Each email should have an easily accessible link that allows subscribers to leave, and as Leah points out, it’d be nice if that action could be accomplished in one or two clicks. Don’t hold people hostage like The Knot does. And when users do choose to opt-out, make sure that action is processed in a timely manner.
There’s a synergy that exists between email and search marketing. When you trample your customer’s privacy in an email campaign, you’re throwing mud on your search engine marketing campaign at the same time and losing all the positive brand effects you’ve created to this point. It’s not just "polite" to get permission from users before you clutter up their inboxes, it’s a law. Customers don’t like it when you try and take advantage of them. Shocking.