REW 4.2 Anti-Spam Features

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Morgan, R&D and I have been working hard to improve how our code handles sending email - this is to increase the number of emails which make it to the inbox and to reduce the likelihood of being blocked by a major Email Service Provider such as Yahoo or AOL.

Bounces and Feedback Loops

I have signed up for the Feedback Loops of AOL, Yahoo, and Hotmail. Now, whenever one of their users reports an email as SPAM, a copy is sent to us. I have code which will, at that point, read our postmaster mailbox and send this data on to the website that sent the email. This works similarly to how Auto-Bounce Detection from 4.0 works.

You can now search for leads who have bounced, who've reported email as SPAM, or by verification status.

On the search results or other similar views, you can now see the status of their email.

A leads summary page now also displays a flag next to their email address indicating the status.

If you (or the lead) edit the email address of a lead who has bounced, they will be marked as "un-bounced", to handle cases where someone fixes a typo.

You can no longer send an email directly to a lead through the backend if the lead has unsubscribed, bounced, or reported.

After discovering some clients were re-subscribing any lead who unsubscribed, we've also removed the options on the lead edit screen to adjust someones subscription settings. Resubscribing someone who has asked to be unsubscribed is a violation of the CAN-SPAM act. Leads of course can modify their own subscription settings in the dashboard on the front end of the site.

Double Opt-In

Many of the major email providers strongly suggest that people sending marketing email should use double or "confirmed" opt-in. From the AOL Best Practices:

It is preferable to have a double/confirmed opt-in process. When users subscribe to your mailing list, send them an email asking them to click to confirm their opt-in. This will reduce the number of people who sign up from fake email addresses.

The Yahoo Best Practices help article says:

Send email only to those that want it. Spammers write to many people who don't want their mail, so our anti-spam filters are designed to identify that behavior. To avoid being perceived as a spammer, use an opt-in method of subscription for your mailing list. Better yet, utilize a confirmed opt-in process where subscribers actively verify their intent to receive your mailings by clicking on a confirmation email before being added to your list.

We will now be requiring double opt-in for any leads with an email address filtered by AOL, Hotmail, or Yahoo. The list of domains that are covered by this code is easily updateable in the event that we need to add additional domains in the future. The current list is aol.com, aol.ca, love.com, ygm.com, games.com, wow.com, hotmail.com, live.com, live.ca, msn.com, msn.ca, outlook.com, yahoo.com, yahoo.ca, ymail.com, and rocketmail.com.

Any lead who signs up with an email from one of these domains will first need to click a link that is emailed to them before they can access the site. This provides strong proof that they have control of the mail account and accept mail from you. We can use this data when resolving disputes with the email providers if we are blocked. Of course the admin can turn this option on for all the leads in the IDX settings if they wish (and I would appreciate them doing so).

Marketing Mail

The code for the various marketing mail tools on the site has been updated to not send mail to anyone who has bounced, who has reported an email as spam, or whose domain requires double opt-in but has not verified. This includes Saved Searches, Campaign / Drip emails, Mass Mail sent from the backend, and if you have the Control Panel module, Auto-Search suggestion emails. These functions have always obeyed the leads' subscription status.

Old Leads

Leads who have not visited the site in over 12 months will now be unsubscribed and sent an email inviting them to resubscribe. This will help keep you from emailing leads who are not engaged. If they are still looking for a property and wish to keep receiving emails from you, they just need to click the link. The email will be sent from the leads assigned agent.

Subject: Confirm Your Account

Hello John,

It appears you have not visited www.example.com in a while. In order for you to remain registered for our property search (so that you can save your searches and listings, get notifications of new properties, etc.), you will need to confirm your account by clicking on this link:

http://www.example.com/subscribe/0c56e100a6f97cc84e83145adb5ebbe8e347fbb7/?d=eyJvbSI6MSwib3MiOjF9

News and Alerts

In the left-hand sidebar of the backend there is now a News section. This lets us easily provide everyone with news about upcoming server maintenance or known service interruptions. Now you can stay informed without having to check the forums or my blog.

Upgrades

In 4.0 we changed how Auto-Searches (part of the Control Panel module) worked. They no longer create a saved search, but simply invite the lead to do so with some suggested criteria. But I have found that customers who upgraded to 4.x kept the old Auto Generated Searches they had from their previous version. These emails are by far the most often reported to the Feed Back Loops. During the transfer of saved searches to 4.2 we will now be setting the frequency that these Auto Searches are sent to "Never".

Shortly after the site live is completed, the CSR rep who is doing your upgrade site live will run a script to send an email to anyone who has not visited in 12 months, whose email domain now requires verification, or whose Auto Search was disabled, inviting them to confirm their account. This way, any of your leads who are engaged will be able to continue to receive their listing updates and drip emails. The email will be sent from the leads assigned agent.

Subject: New Website Launched!

Hello John,

We've recently upgraded our website, www.example.com, to provide additional features for our clients as they manage their property search process. Once you have confirmed your account (see the link below), please go to our home page and click on “My Dashboard”. There you will find your own personal page to manage your searches and favorites and you will continue to receive your property updates. If you have any questions or need any assistance please contact us.

http://www.example.com/subscribe/0c56e100a6f97cc84e83145adb5ebbe8e347fbb7/?eyJ2IjoxLCJvIjoxfQ%3D%3D

These emails will be queued up in the delayed mailer and sent out at approximately 240 per hour. This slow rate should prevent us from getting a server blocked by alerting all these leads.

Goal

The end goal of all these changes is to ensure that the leads who are most engaged on your site are always able to receive your important emails and stay in touch. We have a brand new server for all the 4.2 sites and a fresh IP address. REW 4.2 is the best converting framework we have ever built and we will continue to make improvements in the future as the avant-garde of email marketing moves forward. If you have any questions please ask them in the comments below so everyone can benefit from the answer.

P.S. - The verbiage of the two emails above is still up for discussion. If you have a suggestion on how it could be worded better please comment below!

Comments (27)

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phake

A few questions:

  1. Will the News messages be visable to agents or just the admin? I prefer that my agents not be aware of REW, so it would be nice to have this only be visable to admins.
  2. If someone is unsubscribed after being dormant for a year, and then return after being unsubscribed, will they be able to access the site with the same e-mail address or will they then go back to being subscribed? Will all of their history be saved, or is it deleted?
  3. If an old lead does not click the link in the confirmation e-mail, will they be prompted to confirm again when they return to website? Will they be denied access or just be unsubscribed from e-mails if they don't confirm?

REW Steven

Hello Patrick

1) It will be visable to everyone. Our logo is already in the backend so most agents would be able to find us pretty easy. And we really want to use this tool to let people know about server issues or if their server gets blocked by an email provider. That kind of information is valuable to agents as well as admins.

2) Dormant leads are unsubscribed in the same way as if they had clicked an unsubscribe link in an email. Their login continues to work and all their history is saved. They just don't get saved searches, blast mail, or campaigns any more.

3) Old leads will not be prompted if they return to the website, they will simply be unsubscribed and not recieve future emails.

REW Melissa

I absolutely love the News feature. Kudos to whoever came up with that.

phake

OK,

The server updates are fine, I would just prefer not have them receive marketing messages from REW, such as the REW Summit message in the example given above.

I would prefer to not train my future competitors.

phake

One more question,

Are you aware of any research done on the drop in conversion rates when a double opt-in system is used.

I would be curious to know what the difference typically is. Specifically when combined with forced registration.

I assume it would not drop off that much when people are not forced to register, but when they are forced to register and double opt-in, I can see a lot of people just saying to hell with it, even though they may be open to starting a dialogue if not forced to double opt-in.

REW Steven

I'm not aware of any research done on conversion from visitor to verified lead, but this article from Mailchimp indicates you can get a much higher open rates and click through rates for your emails.

http://blog.mailchimp.com/double-opt-in-vs-single-opt-in-stats/

In my opinion, its better to deliver your message to the inbox of a few people who want it than to the spam box of many who don't.

phake

I can definately see the logic in it, but I'm a little concerned about seeing a large drop off in registrations.

I am also concerned that when the confirmation e-mail is sent to old leads they will not confirm in mass and I will lose a large amount of return traffic.

I've opened a forum thread at http://www.realestatewebmasters.com/forum/threads/62101-Anyone-tested-Double-Op-In-vs.-Single?p=383859#post383859 to ask if other agents have had expierience switching to a double opt-in system with forced registration.

Hopefully I will be able to get some first hand feedback.

How the conversion of past leads to to double opt-in will only be know after a few agents go through the process..

Tim Shepard Destin

Are you also working with cox.net, bellsouth.net, and earthlink.net? Those are all big providers in the Southeast.

Gloria Singer

Hi I'm concerned about taking my Dev 70 website live until this issue about double optin for the leads is addressed as per the forum thread. Can someone from REW please respond to the forum thread or otherwise let us know that all will be cool with our leads? I don't want to fill out the sitelive request until I have some confidence I won't lose good leads.Thanks.

REW Steven

Hello Tim

We haven't had many issues with those providers blocking our servers so we won't be requiring the double opt-in for them. If we do start to have problems we will look into their "Best Practices" and see what we need to do to stay friends with them.

Mark Ciochon

This could be good, I would rather have 100 delivered then 200 not getting delivered and my IP blocked.

Quick question, I down load my leads via the csv dowload. After this list is scrubbed, will the csv download also be scrubbed or ? It would be really nice to have a clean list of address's

REW Steven

Hey Mark

The CSV export includes all leads. But it would only take a few min of custom programming time to either add the columns containing the various opt out flags or to exclude them from the export.

mark ciochon

Steven,

Can you do that .csv update asap please and thanks.

REW Steven

Hello Mark

You will need to contact sales and get an estimate for the custom work. http://www.realestatewebmasters.com/csr/ordering-new-work.php

Eddy Kicker

The email sent when a new site goes live per your post above states, "click on “VIEW MY SAVED SEARCHES AND FAVORITES”. The LEC 2012 does not have that verbiage so is it changed to say click on My Dashboard?

REW Steven

Good point Eddy. I've updated it to say My Dashboard and adjusted the site live process to match.

Keith Dunham

This could be one of the worst features yet. I dont' want my clients unsubscribed due to lack of activity. We have our own mail package yet REW still requires to have email verification. I understand the consequences although if we are not using REW email why should we have to comply with sending the email verification. We have clients and agents complaining. Many have said they will just go with sites that don't require email verification.

REW Steven

Hello Keith

Could you clairify what you mean by "own mail package"? I see your site is still configured to send mail via our servers. We need to protext the reputation of our servers to prevent them from getting blocked by these major mail providers. Having you unable to email people at all becasue AOL blocked your server is worse than these changes.

If however, you have your site customized to send all of its mail via a 3rd pary service like SendMail or Mandrill, then I would be fine with having the verification changes also removed as our IPs are no longer at risk from your mail.

Ryan Ward

There is an important feature missing - I need to be able to manually unsubscribe people. I typically need to do this at least one a week or so since many people manually reply asking to be unsubscribed rather than unsubscribing from a link. We try to make sure we honor all requests as soon as they happen.

I went live last night with 4.2 and I already need to manually unsubscribe someone who is showing as verified. This shgould be added asap - this is not something that should be custom programming either.

Ryan Ward

Steven, when someone registers and unchecks the box to receive new listings, are they unsubscribed from searches automatically?

REW Steven

Hello Ryan, support put in a feature request Feb 1st to R&D to allow agents to unsubscribe people. I've poked them again about the issue.

As an alternative, if you go into their history and expand one of the emails they have been sent, you can click on the Unsubscribe link from there.

The checkbox on the registration form only controls mass mail and drip mail, not saved searches.

Joshua Sloan

I have my sphere of influence under agent "Sloan Realty Group" that I send my monthly e-newsletter to, are they going to get this email too and be unsubscribed?


Many people in my database enjoy getting my monthly e-newsletter but haven't been on the site in 12 month (in fact, I just got a call from a lady this morning to list 5 properties that hasn't been on in 5 years but loves my newsletter and called in)...the email that you send out just says "continue to receive property updates" and nothing about e-newsletters or anything else...is the system automatically going to unsubscribe them from campaigns as well or just searches?

REW Steven

Hey Joshua

Everyone in your lead database will be affected if they match the criteria.

You can contact your programmer and have them adjust the wording of that email to say something about your newsletter.

The system will unsubscribe from drip camaigns, mass mail (newsletters) and saved searches. If they click the link they are sent it will opt them back in to everything.

Dezarai

Does anyone else have a problem with people reistering twice, same name and phone number but different emails? Is there a way that you can combine these two?

Mike

Questions regarding the new "unsubscribe policy" after one year.
One of the ways I enjoy using this CRM product is to use it to reach out to my past clients occasionally almost on a yearly basis. I use this for happy anniversary emails etc. prompting my past clients who are not actively using my website anymore and won't use my website until they are ready to look again to resubscribe is a problem. There was a way around this?

I've also had success using the CRM as a tool to reach out to people who are not ready to really purchase for another year or two. Setting them up on a very light campaign touching them over the course of the next two years is something I would not like to give up. Asking them to resubscribe will likely kick some of these people out being I am using it as an email client that does not necessarily drive them to the website but just stay in contact with them. Is there a way around this?

Thank you

REW Steven

Hello Mike

SendGrid has a really good blog post about how old, unengaged leads can be damaging to your overall email deliverablity http://blog.sendgrid.com/how-old-email-addresses-threaten-your-business/

The problem comes from those old leads you email reporting your mail as spam. The more spam complaints you (and everyone else on your server) get, the more likely it is for your mail to end up in the junk folder or for the IP to get blocked entirly.

If someone clicks through a link in an email it will track them and give them another year. If they don't visit the site in a full year they will get the helpful resubscribe email. We can adjust the wording of that resubscribe email if you wish.

REW Kyle

Ryan,

I have a work-around to unsubscribing leads. Almost all leads who want to be unsubscribed have been sent an email with an unsubscribe link in them already, so if you go to the History tab for the lead and open one of those email, you can click on the unsubscribe link there.

I checked and verified that there is a feature request for this functionality, but I can't make any assurances as to if or when it could be added to the core codebase.

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