Many email marketers use a URL shortening service to track the clicks on their links and bit.ly is one of the most common choices.
Let me surprise you from the very beginning…
Always using a click tracker is a wise decision. But… sometimes such a tool can alter your results very much.
And I’m not referring to click reports that show figures different from the real number of clicks.
When I say that a click tracker can alter your results… I mean it. Some trackers can damage the actual email marketing campaign.
Have you ever heard of blocklists?
A blocklist is a database of website domains found in spam messages that is queried in realtime by Internet mail servers.
Usually such a database can also be queried manually by any Internet user, free of any charge. I just queried the famous Spamhaus database for bit.ly and here’s what I got:
The immediate question that pops up is…
How can a blacklisted domain name affect an email marketer?
Any major email service provider (ESP) installs spam filters. They are software programs that scan incoming mail and based on various criteria identify the spam messages.
One of these criteria is whether a domain name included in the body of the message is found or not in the blocklists used by the ESP that installed the spam filter. Once such blacklisted domain name is found in an email, the spam filter proceeds according to the settings established by the ESP. Possible settings:
a) that email message is tagged as spam and delivered to the intended recipient’s Inbox;
b) that email message is routed to the intended recipient’s spam folder;
c) that email message is rejected and sent back undelivered to the sender.
Very unpleasant for the sender, isn’t it? It’s not only the spammers that have their email messages considered as being spam. No software is perfect. We have to deal with it!
Q & A Session
Anonymous: But I used bit.ly in my emails and I got good results. What are you talking about here?
A: Not all email service providers use the same blocklists. Some blocklists don’t include bit.ly. If you’re lucky, maybe only 5 out 100 email addresses are hosted by ESPs who use Spamhaus. But that’s gambling… You don’t know what your subscribers’ ESPs do and what the settings of their spam filters are.
On the other hand, blocklists are “living” databases. A domain name can be OK today, may be listed tomorrow and may even be delisted the day after tomorrow. Using this very example, if you send your emails today or the day after tomorrow, everything is fine.
Branko Zecevic: Since I’m risking problems with spam complaints, shall I stop using click tracking services in my emails?
A: You’re not risking any spam complaint. Only messages received in the Inbox can be reported as spam. There is another problem… When your message includes a link that has the domain name blacklisted, most of the times the intended recipient doesn’t receive your message in the Inbox.
As for stopping the use of click tracking services in emails… No way. An email marketer who doesn’t track the clicks is a blind marketer.
I’m not saying, “Don’t use this or that service”. Nope. The purpose of this article is to show you the potential problems and to give you some pieces of advice. Here they are…
1. Don’t assume that spam filters block only the real spam. Even if your emails were never reported as being spam, some of your emails may be considered spam due to the wording, the links included or other issues not related to this article.
2. Always use click tracking systems for your emails. But don’t use the ones that have their domain names blacklisted.
3. Before sending any email or before buying an email ad, check whether your marketing message includes links that have domain names blacklisted by major blocklists. If there is such a blacklisted domain name, don’t hesitate… replace it. You don’t have to risk getting poorer results only for the sake of being able to measure them.
4. Nothing is permanent. For example, if a domain name was clean yesterday, don’t assume that today it’s still OK. Check it!
To Your Email Marketing Success!