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Spam Is Never Timely Nor Relevant

Laura Atkins

One of the ongoing recommendations to improve deliverability is to send email that is timely and relevant to the recipient. The idea being that if you send mail a recipient wants, they're more likely to interact with it in a way that signals to the mailbox provider that the message is wanted. The baseline for that, at least whenever I've talked about timely and relevant, is that the recipient asked for mail from you in the first place.

Permission is fundamental to a successful email marketing program. But, even now, there is an entire class of marketers that thinks that "cold email" can be part of a successful marketing program. It's not, and they know it. But the allure of spam is strong. The result is an entire marketing ecosystem that exists to facilitate legitimate spam.

This ecosystem includes different tools designed to make spam look relevant and timely. It includes things like:

  • browser plugins that allow senders to harvest information off LinkedIn and blog websites;
  • easy to design custom landing pages hosted at an unrealted-but-kinda-the-same domain;
  • tools to allow you to send the spam out through Gmail or G Suite accounts (Currently Google is the 9th worst spam support ISP in the world according to Spamhaus);

These tools, in very specific and unique circumstances, might make an email relevant to one or two recipients. But they will never make the message broadly relevant.

Over the last few weeks, I've been taking screenshots and recording some of the "timely and relevant" spam I've been getting. This spam is all, clearly, a product of webscraping software of some kind. One example is this message received today from an Eastern European development company.

It is my pleasure to meet Women of Email's profile on LinkedIn.

With this email, I would like to check whether you are looking for a software development partner?

With 300 software experts in Ukraine, MobiDev can help Women of Email to close the software development skills gap — from mobile/web development to innovative technologies implementation (AR, AI, IoT).

By the way, MobiDev team is coming to Dublin next month, so there is a chance to discuss details face to face. Please let me know if it is the right time to move our conversation forward?

Warm regards,
Olena Slotska
Head of Business Development MobiDev

[Screenshot of Email]

For some tiny percentage of the recipients of this mail, it's possibly timely and relevant. The most likely case would be a company making the business decision that they're looking to move into the software development space. All they need to do now is to find a partner. And! Just like that, this email shows up in the right person's mailbox. How likely is this, really?

Or, consider that the company's current developers have just stopped answering the phone. They've decided they need replacement developers. Before they can go looking for replacements, they get this email. All their development problems are solved! A timely and relevant email.

I'm sure there are other situations where this email might be timely and might be relevant. But for the vast majority of us, it's just spam.

Why does this matter? Because the mailbox providers are getting much, much better at correlating the cold email with the company behind it. They're also getting less tolerant of companies that spam for customers and then try and "follow all the best practices" for permission-based email. I am seeing more and more folks struggling with sudden onset delivery problems. I wonder how many of these cases are the result of the mailbox provider connecting the dots on their email programs.

By Laura Atkins, Founding partner of anti-spam consultancy & software firm Word to the Wise
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Related topics: Email, Spam
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