The auditors are coming! The auditors are coming!
This time, they don’t want your tax records. Instead, they’ll scrutinize every nook and cranny of your email policies and procedures to determine whether you’re a reliable emailer or a despicable spammer.
Unlike your average trip to the tax collector, though, this audit can actually do you some good.
In recent years, anti-spam efforts have moved steadily away from domain and content blocking. Reputation management and accreditation by recognized white-hat agencies count more heavily toward getting your email delivered.
Accompanying that movement are third-party auditing and accreditation firms that specialize in assessing your performance as an emailer based on your subscription, delivery, and privacy practices.
TRUSTe, Habeas, and Return Path/Bonded Sender are the best known of these firms. All three use a battery of tests and questionnaires that measure what you say you do as an emailer and how you perform in the email space.
It’s no simple chat over coffee. After you pass a preliminary certification quiz, Habeas scrutinizes your email operations with over 50 questions. TRUSTe uses a 15-page self-assessment.
After you finish the auditing process, you may feel as if you really did go through a tax audit, perhaps a root canal. Yet measuring your reputation and seeking third-party accreditation are steps to consider if you’re serious about boosting your delivery rate and maximizing email return on investment (ROI).
A reputation audit can reveal where you’re vulnerable to blacklisting or blocking because of a program weakness. It could reveal you failed to secure your network against computer worms, Trojan horses, and other malicious invaders, for example.
An accreditation procedure evaluates your email program against its best practices. If you pass, your email messages receive an accreditation, such as a special code, recognized by participating ISPs. The code allows your messages to bypass their filters and go straight to recipients’ inboxes.
Whether you anticipate using the services of one of these companies or not, you should know how your email practices and policies would stack up in an audit.
Try our 22-question mini-audit. It’s based on actual self-assessments. (Caveat: "yes" isn’t always the correct answer. It could mean you’re using methods that violate the accreditation company’s standards.)
E-Mail Address Collection
Subscriber Information Management
How did you do? If you’ve updated your email program to follow industry best practices, you probably came out OK. If you spotted a weakness, you can start working on it now.
In a future column, we’ll outline several of the most common failings these audits turn up and how you can overcome them before the auditors arrive.
As always, keep on deliverin’.
Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.
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As director of ISP relations and delivery, Kirill Popov creates and enforces strict usage and anti-spam policies, maintains ISP and community relations, and oversees all abuse and policy investigations and inquiries for EmailLabs clients. Kirill works with clients on best practices, content, design, and list hygiene to minimize potential delivery issues. He's a registered member of the SpamCon foundation and representsEmailLabs on AIM's Council for Responsible E-Mail.
Loren McDonald is vice president of marketing at e-mail marketing automation company EmailLabs, overseeing corporate marketing activities and client consulting services. He has 20 years experience in marketing, consulting and strategic planning. Earlier, Loren was founder and president of Intevation, an e-marketing services firm specializing in e-mail and SEM. He's held executive marketing positions at companies including USWeb/CKS (marchFIRST), NetStruxr, and Arthur Andersen.
December 12, 2013
1:00pm ET / 10:00am PT