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Outbound spam costing ISP’s a bundle

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Sunday June 13, 2010 )

Nearly ten years ago, spam represented roughly one in six email messages. I still remember the days of getting a single spam message and being totally outraged. Nowadays spam represents in excess of 80% of all email. The overall absolute volume of spam is increasing every 12-18 months and outbound spam is costing ISP’s dearly.

Commtouch recently commissioned Osterman Research to conduct the first ever study on the effects of outbound spam.

Outbound spam comes from a number of sources – compromised computers, malicious users and over-zealous (stupid) marketers.

The survey found two-thirds of email service providers consider dealing with outbound spam to be an important or extremely important issue for them this year. 68% reported spending up to $100,000 in both direct and indirect costs associated with outbound spam, including issues such as help desk calls and unblocking IP addresses. 15% spend in excess of $100,000 annually and 4% report the cost to them of outbound spam exceeds $250,000 per year.

Outbound spam also costs ISP’s clients.

When spammers hijack their services or zombie computers among an ISP’s users start spewing spam; ISPs can wind up on blacklists which then affect outbound mail services for other innocent users; preventing their email from reaching some or all recipients at other ISPs. If this happens often enough, their customers take their business elsewhere.

In tightening up security, the inconvenience to customers can also see them shift elsewhere.

As marketers, understanding the challenges faced by ISPs can help us to understand why our web hosting services tend to treat mailing lists with a degree of suspicion – their business depends on them being vigilant in controlling outbound spam.

That’s why it’s important to maintain a clean list and ensure your subscribers are all double opt-in; meaning they have confirmed their subscription by clicking on a link in a confirmation email. It’s all a part of general strategies to improve email deliverability.

If your newsletter/marketing list subscription process doesn’t include double-opt-in functionality – it’s time to find some email marketing software that does.

In some cases, web hosts and ISP’s have become so paranoid about their services being used for bulk mailouts, they simply do not allow them to occur – in that case, you can only take your business elsewhere or use a third party email marketing service provider for the hosting, management and mailouts to your lists.

Read more of the report: The Growing Problem of Outbound Spam (PDF – free download)


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