Avoid Black Hat Email Marketing

stop the black hat email marketingDoes black hat email marketing even exist? Absolutely. Unethical marketing practices aren’t just limited to keyword-stuffing, buying links or purchasing followers. Black hat email marketing is even sketchier that other questionable marketing practices, because it’s completely illegal. Sending unsolicited emails, tricking people into giving your website clicks and refusing to remove opt-outs from your database are prohibited by the Federal Trade Commission. Join us to review some of the darkest practices of black hat email marketing that can destroy a brand:

Don’t Be Naive

While the repercussions of black hat SEO and black hat social media may just lead to having your company Facebook profile shut down or experiencing negative SEO, black hat email marketing can land you in jail. Learn the laws surrounding email marketing, and practice them carefully. If someone hands you their business card or sends an email inquiry off the website, you can’t plug the email address into a segment without their express consent. Even if you’re not trying to practice black hat email marketing, you can’t afford the risk of naive mistakes.

Avoid Craigslist Harvesting

To some practitioners of black hat email marketing, Craigslist can seem like the ideal target. You’re given access to hundreds of fresh, geographically-targeted email addresses each day. Email addresses are typically obscured with filters, known as Craigslist forwarders, which expire after a short period of time. Whether you plug the Craigslist forwarders directly into your email database or try to solicit responses from the real email addresses, it’s black hat email marketing and should be avoided at all costs. Craigslist has a dedicated legal team for the specific purpose of fighting email harvesting.

Don’t Buy Email Lists

The laws regarding email marketing are pretty simple: unless a contact specifically signed up for your newsletter or updates, you shouldn’t be sending them anything. There will always be black hat email marketing companies who are happy to sell you lists of thousands of email addresses, but don’t bite. Your small business will be held liable for practicing black hat email marketing, and you just can’t afford the risk of getting caught.

Don’t Be Tricky

Even if you think it’s really smart to obscure your opt-out links or drive traffic to your company website at any cost, it’s still a form of black hat email marketing. While including a hard-to-find link opt-out link or making subscribers complete a long survey to remove their name could boost your subscribers in the short term, your sender score will probably take a big hit. Losing a subscriber is ultimately far less harmful than having your content sent directly to spam folders.

When it comes to email subject lines and call-to-action buttons in the email, be honest about what you have to offer. Don’t tell contacts they could win a free iPad if they’re just going to be sent to a link about low-cost lawnmowers. Making your opt-in practice transparent is also crucial. While it’s probably technically okay to hide the fact you’ll be sending daily emails in a terms of service agreement, it’s just not smart or ethical. If your subscribers didn’t know they were signing up for communications, it won’t help relationships, web traffic, your sender score or ROI. Transparency is crucial to protecting your company image and avoiding legal troubles.

When it comes to black hat email marketing, you’ve got to stick to the basics. Send relevant content to segments, and remove opt-outs immediately. Don’t buy email addresses and don’t trick people into clicking links. Small businesses should be very scared of buying email addresses or black hat email marketing, because it can lead to years of costly legal troubles and irreversable damage to your brand.