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Spotting a wholesale supplier scam

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Protect your business

Merchants are legally obligated to obtain a supplier’s agreement if they are reselling goods through any channel. However, often times, the last thing on a merchant’s mind when thinking ahead to driving revenue is the chance of encountering a wholesale supplier scam — but it can, and does, happen. Wholesale supplier scams can occur in many ways, but the most important thing to remember is that your supplier is ripping off you AND your customers. Today we’re going to take a look at a few common types of scams and offer tips on how to spot and avoid them to protect yourself and your business.

Types of supplier scams

In the process of buying wholesale goods, there are a few key opportunities where suppliers can take advantage of your business to boost their own profits.

The dropshipping scam

Today, most wholesale suppliers also offer dropshipping in order to better accommodate the online channel and take advantage of demand outside their traditional stock and carry houses.

However, some suppliers offer to dropship in order to scam buyers — they accept their payment without shipping the orders. Here is how a dropshipping wholesaler scam works:

  1. A customer purchases an item from your website or online marketplace channel.
  2. Your wholesale supplier receives notice of the purchase and does not ship the goods.
  3. Your customer contacts his or her credit card–issuing bank for a refund, which results in a chargeback for your company.
  4. You pay chargeback fees, refund the money and continue to pay your wholesale supplier who is scamming you out of money.

When dropshipping suppliers fail to send out your goods, you not only lose the money you paid to the supplier for the goods but also the fees you paid for failing to ship.

The replica goods scam

In the replica goods scam, you sign a supplier agreement with a company assuming the goods they provide are authentic and legitimate — a commonly seen example is fashion accessories: Louis Vuitton, Prada and Dolce and Gabbana. However, what you actually receive are replicated goods that you then ship to your customers.

There are many websites devoted to educating consumers on differentiating between real and fake high-end global brands. Legitgrails even offers services that inspect and authenticate the products in question for you.

wholesale scammers
Photo: LegitGrails

Once your customers receive their packages, they may identify the replica and contact their issuing bank for a chargeback. A worst-case scenario — your customer may sue you for fraud.

The “pay now, get later” scam

This scam preys on small business owners who are often just starting out or who may just be naïve. The way it works is that you issue a PO with your supplier for a new shipment of goods. However, the company says that you must pay first before they will ship. There may be a variety of “reasons” for this, such as the product being back ordered, and a pre-payment is required to get in line for stock. You pay the invoice, yet you never receive your shipment to refill your own stock.

Of course, one of the challenges with this situation is that it’s not entirely uncommon for real wholesale suppliers to ask for payment early. Many retailers don’t have the option to fight Net-0 payment terms and, in reality, won’t know it’s a scam until it’s too late. Just try to make sure that, at worst, you get a shipment confirmation before you pay an invoice.

Spotting wholesale supplier scams

Now that you understand the different types of scams, it is important to learn how to spot them. Below are red flag signs that will help you avoid falling victim to scam artists.

Communication red flags

Being able to easily communicate with your wholesale distributor is a key part of doing business. You want to be able to quickly reach them if an issue occurs so that your orders can proceed.

For that very reason, suppliers who scam often have poor communication practices. They need to make it difficult for you to contact them so that they can scam you without consequence. Here are a few communication red flags to look out for:

  • The supplier does not have any contact information on their website, making it very easy for them to disappear with your money and leave you with no way of contacting customer service.
  • Similarly, the wholesale supplier may also provide phony contact information, which will also leave you with no method of contact.
  • When you contact the supplier, the person who answers does not state his or her name or the company name, making you feel like you are calling an individual’s private number and not a business, which you probably are.
  • Without notice, you can no longer contact your wholesale supplier. It is as if the company no longer exists or never existed in the first place.
  • You are always dealing with intermediaries rather than the formal points of contact.

Avoid suppliers with poor communication skills, as this is often a clear sign of a scammer.

Business practice red flags

Even the most skilled scammers will show small signs of fraudulent activity when doing business with you. Stay aware of these common ways that scammers deviate from standard business practices:

  • The wholesale supplying company does not require your business ID or tax ID number to conduct business with you. Legitimate wholesale suppliers use the number as a sign that the buyer meets government business standards and is trustworthy, while a scammer doesn’t care.
  • The company denies your request for samples of products or starts acting strange when you ask for one. This is often a sign of a replica goods scam or some other issue involving low-quality goods.
  • Your wholesale supplier offers unbelievably low wholesale prices — so low that it seems as if the supplier probably won’t make any money from your purchase. Instead, they’ll make money by scamming you when you purchase goods.

Watch out for suppliers working around standard business practices to avoid potential scammers.

Verifying your wholesale supplier

Fortunately, there are a few ways you can verify that your wholesale supplier is legitimate. Do your due diligence by investigating their website, communication, and business practices. This will allow you to determine whether they’re legitimate or a scammer.

Check communication

A primary way of checking a supplier is verifying their contact information. Since many scammers make communication difficult, being able to contact a supplier is a sign of credibility.

  1. Identify the supplier’s full business name and contact information on the website. Note whether the information is transparent on their website or if it’s difficult to find.
  2. Call the supplier to see if they answer. If the listed phone number is out of service and you’re unable to contact them, don’t place an order.

Secure and trustworthy suppliers are open with their communication and maintain public records of their existence to foster long-term business.

You can verify the identity of a wholesale supplier on LinkedIn or other social media platforms. You can also look up the company on reputable wholesale websites. Or you can check EDGAR, the SEC’s database of corporate filings at a state level, for company registration info. If the wholesale supplier claims that they’re based in Georgia, there should be a record with the Georgia Secretary of State for that company.

Check business practices

Before you place a significant order, verify that the supplier has solid business practices and won’t scam you in payments or shipping goods. Start with creating a quality control inspection process for every supplier you’re considering.

As an example of quality control, you might immediately delay using dropshipping services from a wholesaler that may be prone to replica goods. Instead, you could start by sending the goods to your own warehouse first and establish some rapport before you decide to use their dropshipping service.

In addition to checking goods, you will also want to inquire about different payment methods for the merchandise. Most scammers prefer Western Union or even Bitcoin, as the payments are untraceable (although Bitcoin has become a more widely accepted payment type recently). However, if the supplier accepts credit cards or, better yet, checks, then it likely has a merchant account from a legitimate payment processor that has already verified the business.

Check business reports

There are plenty of reports for tracking scammers that you can use to check your supplier.

Research the company for wholesale scams on sites such as Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Ripoff Report. The BBB can help verify the legal status of the company and will provide information on any claims of fraud.

wholesale scammers

wholesale scammers

Complaint websites like these will show you complaints made by others on these public forums. Taking these steps will allow you to ensure that the supplier is real and trustworthy or will let you detect a scammer before they can take advantage of your business.

Preventing future fraud

If you are scammed by a supplier, don’t immediately assume you’ve lost. There are several actions you can take to potentially reverse the fraud and prevent the scammer from hurting others in the future.

Reach out to your marketplace

If you used an official marketplace to find your supplier — such as Alibaba or eBay Wholesale Lots — you might be able to reverse the issue. Many of these sites have rules to protect buyers against scams if they report the fraud.

Before reporting the scam, it’s best to familiarize yourself with your marketplace’s official rules.

If you’re using another marketplace, simply search on Google “[your marketplace’s name] fraud policy” to learn about what they define as scamming.

wholesale scammers

wholesale scammers

Once you’ve familiarized yourself with your marketplace’s policies, you can determine whether your issue qualifies as a scam, and you should be protected. If it does, report the scam to your marketplace so they can take action.

To find another marketplace’s reporting process, search in Google “[your marketplace’s name] report fraudulent seller” to learn how you can take action against your supplier.

Reach out to the manufacturer

If your fraudulent supplier is a wholesale distributor rather than the manufacturer, one course of action might be reaching out to the actual manufacturer of your goods. While it’s unlikely that the manufacturer will reimburse you for your losses, contacting them may help prevent the supplier from scamming future buyers.

Why? Manufacturers want to ensure that their distributors are conducting reliable, high-quality business. Otherwise, those distributors are likely to lose customers, be unable to buy more supply and hurt the manufacturer’s business.

With that in mind, manufacturers should be eager to hear about your experience with a fraudulent distributor. Notifying them may start a conversation between the manufacturer and distributor if they are directly linked without other distributors in between. If enough complaints have been filed, it may even prompt the manufacturer to cut off their supply to the distributor.

Report supplier on major forums

To protect other buyers, you can also report fraudulent suppliers on ecommerce forums.

There are a few forums that are specifically dedicated to reporting scammers.

  • Econsumer.gov is for reporting international scamming incidents. There’s a category for ecommerce to report fraudulent wholesale suppliers.
  • Supplier Blacklist is an international, user-generated blacklist of fraudulent suppliers.

You can also try posting on industry-specific forums, but be sure to carefully check their rules. Many forums, especially ones associated with marketplaces, prohibit specific seller complaints as spam.

Sharing your experience on forums most likely won’t lead to reimbursement, but it will protect buyers from being scammed by the same fraudulent suppliers in the future.

Stay watchful to avoid supplier scams

Apply these standards for handling scams, and you’ll be prepared to protect your business against fraudulent suppliers. If something seems suspicious or odd, always investigate it. Checking requires time and effort, but it’s better to ensure the supplier is credible than risk dealing with a scam.

For more information on reporting a wholesale supplier scam, check out Wholesale Forum.



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What is a dedicated IP address and why do you need one?

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A remote work requirement

Whether you’re new to remote work or a seasoned pro looking to up your game, you might be wondering, “What is a dedicated IP address?” or “Do I really need a dedicated IP for remote work?” Both are valid questions — especially now.

Since the shift to remote work, businesses and employees have dealt with increasing security risks and threats. Many telecommuters use VPNs or SSL certificates for a secure remote work experience, but it’s often not enough. Business owners and organizations are also advised to get a dedicated IP address for an added layer of protection.

The question is – is a dedicated IP worth it if you’re working outside of a traditional office space?

Before you decide whether to get a dedicated IP address or not, read on to learn to basics and benefits, including:

What is an IP address?

An internet protocol (IP) address is a unique address assigned to individual computers, servers, domains, or devices over the internet or a local network. Whenever you access a website, your computer communicates to the webserver through the IP address.

IP addresses consist of four sets of numbers, each separated by periods (x.x.x.x), ranging from 0 to 255, which comes out to around 4.2 billion combinations.

The conventional IP address we’re used to is the IPv4 (IP version 4). It was created in the 1980s and used a 32-bit system that didn’t account for how fast the internet would grow. We have long since exhausted those 4.2 billion combinations. Thus, a new internet addressing system called IPv6 was deployed in 1999.

IP addresses and the Domain Name System (DNS)

IP addresses aren’t random. They are produced and assigned by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), part of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

The ICANN is a non-profit organization that maintains internet security. One of its functions is to maintain the domain name system (DNS). You can think of the DNS as a phonebook that matches domain names to IP addresses.

The DNS was born because IP addresses are composed of a string of numbers – making it difficult for users to remember which numbers belonged to which website. Without the DNS, you would have to type in “64.233.187.99” to get to Google and other IP addresses to get to other websites.

How IP addresses work

Your network, devices and the internet use IP addresses to communicate with each other. Let’s look at how IP addresses work when connecting your device to the internet.

Before your device can access the internet, it must connect to a network. That network would likely be your Internet Service Provider (ISP) if you’re at home, while it would be public Wi-Fi if you’re outside your home network.

Internet activity goes through the ISP, which is shared with your device using an IP address. In this case, the ISP assigns an IP address to your device. That assigned IP address, however, is temporary. When you turn your modem or router off, your device gets disconnected from the network. Or, when you travel, your device uses another network to connect to the internet.

That new network you connect to (hotel, coffee shop, or airport Wi-Fi) shares a different IP address. This is but one of many examples of how devices use IP addresses to communicate with each other.

There are several types of IP addresses, which we’ll explore in the next section.

Different types of IP addresses

There are different types of IP addresses, which are further subdivided into different categories.

Consumer IP addresses and website IP addresses are the main types of IP addresses.

Consumer IP address

Consumer IP addresses are assigned to devices connected to the internet. There are two kinds of consumer IP addresses: private and public IP addresses.

These types describe a network’s location: private IP addresses are used inside a network, while public IP addresses are used outside.

Private IP vs. Public IP

Your network router assigns private IP addresses to your devices to communicate with it internally. In contrast, your ISP assigns public IP addresses. The public IP is the primary address associated with your internet network.

Private IP addresses exist because multiple devices connect to a household’s network. Modern homes have computers, smartphones, tablets and even Bluetooth-enabled devices such as speakers, printers or smart TVs connecting to a router at any given time.

Because your router connects to so many devices, it needs a way to identify each item. Thus, it generates private IP addresses that differentiate each device on the internal network.

While each device connected to the network has its own private IP address to communicate with the router, remember that all devices simultaneously access the internet through the router as well. Thus, they all have the same public IP address.

Public IP addresses are further classified into two kinds – static and dynamic. These types describe a network’s permanency.

Dynamic IP vs. Static IP

A dynamic IP address is an IP address that often changes, while a static IP address does not change. ISPs and web hosting companies automatically assign dynamic IP addresses while they manually create static IP addresses.

Dynamic IP addresses are the most common type of IP address. They are only active for a certain amount of time, after which they expire. Once the computer disconnects from the network, it receives a new IP address or requests a new one.

Advantages of dynamic IP addresses include cost savings and security. ISPs buy multiple IP addresses and assign them to users. Automating the movement of IP addresses means there’s no need to get users their original IP addresses. Once a user is disconnected, ISPs can reassign a new IP address and give new users the old one to use.

Additionally, a changing IP makes it harder for criminals to hack into your network.

Individuals and businesses seldom use static IP addresses. Servers hosting large websites or providing email and FTP services use static IP addresses so other devices can easily find them on the web.

Website IP address

The website IP address is the other type of IP address besides the consumer IP.

If consumer IPs are assigned to devices connected to the internet, website IPs are used for web hosting packages. There are two types of website IPs: shared and dedicated.

We’ll be focusing on these two types, specifically dedicated IP addresses.

Dedicated IP address vs. Shared IP address

You can get a dedicated IP address and shared IP address from hosting providers, but the main difference is the number of users assigned to it.

Dedicated IPs are exclusive to a single account, while a shared IP is assigned to multiple users.

Shared IP addresses are often common to shared hosting accounts. This type of web hosting plan hosts multiple websites on the same server, making it possible for these domains to share an IP address.

But, while shared IP addresses are common in shared hosting plans, it is also possible to have a shared IP address without a shared server. For instance, some Managed WordPress hosting plans share IP addresses but not server resources.

Shared IP addresses are often dynamic IPs, while dedicated IP addresses are static. You have sole use over them once they’re assigned to you.

Important: Don’t confuse a dedicated IP address with a dedicated server; you can get a dedicated IP address without signing up for a dedicated hosting plan.

Benefits of a dedicated IP address

There are several benefits to having a single IP address dedicated to your use. It’s fast and secure, and there’s a smaller chance of your IP getting blacklisted.

Let’s explore each benefit in detail:

1. Secure remote access

A dedicated IP address allows employees to connect to company resources securely. It enables you to control access to specific resources and sensitive company assets. You can do this by allowing specific IP addresses and restricting access to servers and gateways you choose.

2. Reduced risk of IP blacklisting

Another benefit of a dedicated IP address is safety and location privacy. Some people prefer it when they can’t be traced.

While sharing an IP address is generally safe, it risks country-specific blocking of your website. Other websites on your server might perform illegal activities such as sending out spam emails, viruses, or malware that could get your websites blocked by search engines.

When you use a dedicated IP address for remote work or otherwise, there is zero chance of your IP getting blocked — unless you do something malicious intentionally.

3. Faster and safer file transfer

A dedicated IP ensures faster site speeds. You don’t have to contend with web traffic because you’re the only one using the IP address.

A dedicated IP also allows you to build a file transfer protocol (FTP) server to share files within an organization. A private FTP server offers better protection and a faster file transfer rate.

4. Improved email deliverability

You will benefit from a dedicated IP address if you send large volumes of emails; anything above 100,000+ per year is considered a large volume.

The main reason?

An IP’s reputation can impact your email delivery rate.

Email services such as Gmail and Yahoo trust emails from dedicated IPs more than those from shared IP addresses. They often double-check emails from shared IP addresses because spam emails are more likely to come from accounts hosted on those IPs.

5. Direct access to your website

Dedicated IP addresses allow you to access your website directly using the IP address since it’s the only domain mapped to that IP. For example, typing in “64.233.187.99” would lead you directly to Google because that is its dedicated IP address.

While it’s not the main advantage of having a dedicated IP, it is a handy perk when domain servers are down.

Dedicated IP address: A must-have for remote workers

Bottom line: Beef up your cybersecurity efforts with a dedicated IP address. It securely connects you to your remote server and improves site speed. That’s a win-win for remote workers and their employees and clients.

Need a dedicated IP address for remote work? Enjoy the benefits of dedicated IP by purchasing a GoDaddy dedicated IP as an add-on, or get one free by signing up for a GoDaddy dedicated hosting plan.



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3 Ways Marketers Can Earn — and Keep — Customer Trust

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A 2021 survey of 1,000 consumers concluded that more than 80% consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions, despite the fact that only 34% trust the brands they use. As trust in institutions diminishes, consumers are increasingly skeptical of where they put their money and receive their information. The author recommends three marketing strategies for brands to maintain and foster trust in their brands: 1) Do not overspin, 2) Avoid half-truths, and 3) Read the room and adjust.

It is no big secret that our world has a trust problem. Amid a global pandemic, economic crisis, and political instability set against a backdrop of deep cultural malaise, people no longer know where (or whom) to turn to for dependable information amid widespread disinformation and propaganda.

Similarly, government leaders, briefly seen as the most trusted institutions at the beginning of the pandemic per the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, squandered that goodwill when they could not halt the virus or restore economic stability. And per the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, trust in U.S. CEOs is at 47%, and credibility has basically hit rock bottom in Japan (18%) and France (22%) as consumers wake up to the indignities and absurdities of unfettered capitalism.

Yes, trust is in short supply, yet it remains a vital currency in sustainable customer relationships. A 2021 survey of 1,000 consumers concluded that more than 80% consider trust a deciding factor in their buying decisions, despite the fact that only 34% trust the brands they use. Consumers, of course, are not a monolith. And as it so happens, age is a key differentiator in understanding the intricacies of the public’s confidence in and perception of the news media, in particular.

Per a Gallup/Knight Foundation survey, older Americans tend to rely on maybe one or two sources for all their information, and they prioritize brand reputation and political slant when evaluating an outlet’s credibility. Conversely, younger adults (18- to 34-year-olds) are more likely to gather information from numerous sources and place more of a premium on how open that outlet is with its facts, research, and processes.

Younger consumers also view national news outlets with more skepticism, with just 29% saying they trust them compared to 41% of adults over 55. A credible media landscape is always critical, but with the line between marketing and media blurring each day, news organizations’ morale fiber can sometimes be linked to that of a brand.

To summarize, ​​older adults are more brand-conscious, while younger adults are more process-conscious. As marketing experts, we can apply these findings to our brand messaging to develop credibility with our intended audiences as they age and evolve. Here is how.

1. Do not overspin.

Though Edelman found that trust in CEOs hit an all-time low in 2021, the same study revealed that businesses are still considered more trustworthy than governments, NGOs, and the news media. With such power comes great responsibility. CEOs and other business leaders must address today’s most pressing challenges and focus on societal engagement with great fervor. According to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer, 53% of respondents believe that business leaders have a duty to fill the information void left by the news media.

This is not the time for corporate platitudes. People are smarter than you think. If you attempt to fool them, they will find out — and the hit to your credibility will outweigh any short-term gains that you made.

Think back to summer 2020, when PR teams across industries jumped to distribute public denouncements of systemic racism. People were quick to call out the performative allyship of companies such as Glossier, whose public anti-racism pledge was at odds with former employees’ recounts of on-the-job discrimination and toxicity. So make sure you back up any announcements with actual steps. For example, Ben & Jerry’s is not one for empty promises, and its statement on racial injustice held a lot more weight because company leaders have a track record of on-the-ground activism.

Keeping your message free of excessive spin goes a long way with the public and protects you from potential PR gaffes down the line.

2. Avoid half-truths.

Pfizer has been in the news a lot this past year — mostly for good reasons. CEO Albert Bourla and his team cleared myriad hurdles to develop an innovative, effective Covid-19 vaccine in record time. But back in 2006, Pfizer was in the news for less-than-glowing reasons after launching a $258 million ad campaign for a cholesterol drug with Robert Jarvik, inventor of the first permanent artificial heart, as the face of it.

The tagline — “Just because I’m a doctor doesn’t mean I don’t worry about my cholesterol” — was catchy, but there was one problem: Jarvik was not licensed to practice medicine and, in fact, had never practiced medicine. The ads drew swift criticism that resulted in a congressional investigation and millions in monetary losses for Pfizer.

In the court of public opinion, omission is akin to lying. If a claim requires omission, then do not use it; and if you do make a mistake, own up to it. In fact, you may find consumers more forgiving if you show any semblance of contrition. Being vulnerable about where you have fallen short in the past suggests honesty, which sits at the foundation of consumer trust, brand affinity, and long-term engagement.

3. Read the room and adjust.

When was the last time you checked the pulse of your customer base? You should be continually evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing efforts by asking yourself these key questions:

  • What is our customer sentiment? Negative? Positive?
  • What are our favorability ratings? Are they rising? Dropping?
  • Is our audience engaging with our content?
  • And did we follow through on our promises?

By regularly checking whether consumers are picking up what you are putting down, you will find that you can more easily meet and even exceed their ever-evolving preferences. For example, Bryanna Evans, the social media manager at home fragrance brand SECC, told Buffer that her team’s social media-powered strategy focuses on in-feed customer engagement. Not only does the social team respond whenever someone leaves a comment, but it also nurtures consumer interest by regularly posting quizzes, contests, and giveaways. As a result, SECC has built an army of loyalists and grown its monthly revenue from $20,000-$30,000 to more than $100,000.

The fight for consumer trust is ongoing — and it will not be going away anytime soon. But savvy marketers can use authentic brand messaging to engender stronger customer relationships that stand the test of time. Implement these three steps to begin building a reputation as a reliable information source that people depend on.

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How to Improve Email Deliverability

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If you’re running a business, you need an email list. And you need to send great emails, obviously. But if those great emails aren’t making it to people’s inboxes, then what’s the point?

If you’ve been putting a lot of hard work into your email marketing but not seeing the results you want, then maybe your email deliverability could use some help. I’m going to share the four key factors that will help make sure more of your emails stay out of spam and land in the inbox.

And if you don’t have an email list yet, this will set you up for success right from the start!

The Four Pillars of Email Deliverability

When it comes to email, it’s all about deliverability. You can have the fanciest automations, the best copy, the best upsells, downsells, follow-ups… But if nobody’s getting those emails in their inbox, then it’s all for nothing.

This is where you’re up against the algorithms of the email giants that control more than 50 percent of the world’s inboxes: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. You’ve got to understand what they’re looking for—and play by their rules.

The good news is that it’s not that difficult to stay on the good side of the algorithms. Anyone can avoid the spam folder as long as they follow a few key guidelines.

There are four main pillars of email deliverability, and they form the acronym RACE:

  • Reputation
  • Authentication
  • Content
  • Engagement

Pat and email deliverability expert Adrian Savage covered these four pillars in depth in SPI episode 498:

Reputation

In business, as in everything, reputation matters. If you’ve got a lousy reputation, no one’s going to want to listen to you.

When it comes to email marketing, you need to focus on what’s known as your sending reputation.

You see, the big mailbox providers are monitoring the emails you’re sending, and most importantly, how people are reacting to them.

The more they see people marking your emails as spam or ignoring or deleting them, the more they’re going to mark down your sending reputation. And they’re more likely to send your emails right to the spam folder.

That’s the simple version, but it means that everything you do with your email marketing has to be focused on preserving and improving your sending reputation.

How to Improve Your Sending Reputation

So what can you do to improve and maintain your reputation with the big email services?

First, use common sense. If you feel like you’re gaming the system, you probably are—and you’re eventually going to get found out.

A (not so) great example is downloading lists of email addresses from the internet.

The only legitimate way to get ahead now with your email list is to send emails only to people who have specifically asked you to contact them.

If you buy a list and start emailing people who haven’t given you permission, you’re much more likely to get spam complaints, which will hurt your sending reputation.

And what’s the only definition of spam that matters in the eyes of the mailbox providers? Whatever the recipient thinks it is.

There are also businesses out there, like Spamhaus and Cloudmark, that operate email addresses called spam traps. If you send an email to a spam trap address, then you may be added to blocklists that tell the world you’re a low-reputation sender.

The only definition of spam that matters? Whatever the recipient thinks it is.

If you do decide to buy a list of addresses for some reason, make sure you really trust the person providing the data—it’s much better to control it yourself.

Next, you’ll want to clean your email list regularly. That way, you’ll avoid hitting what’s called a recycled spam trap.

Here’s how that works.

Suppose 10 years ago you had a Hotmail address that you’d stopped using, and Microsoft canceled your account. For the next few months, if anyone tried to email you, they’d receive an error saying the mailbox didn’t exist. But a few months later, Microsoft might reopen that address and repurpose it to catch senders who weren’t looking after the hygiene of their email list.

Send enough emails to spam trap addresses, and you’ll end up on a blocklist.

So, only send emails to people who have said they want to hear from you, and keep your email list clean so you don’t get caught in recycled spam traps.

Authentication

Authentication is the second crucial piece of improving your email deliverability.

It’s all about telling the world that you’re sending legitimate emails.

You’ve probably received spam from someone spoofing an email address that isn’t theirs. It’s relatively easy to spoof an address you don’t own—what’s not so easy is to authenticate one.

Authentication is what sets you apart from the spammers, and there are two steps you need to take to authenticate your email address.

The good thing is, this is usually a one-time thing you do when you’re setting up your email platform.

The two authentication steps involve a couple of acronyms.

Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM)

The first one is domain keys identified mail, or DKIM. This is how you get your email platform to digitally sign every email that you send.

You’ll need to look at your platform to determine how exactly to configure DKIM, because they all do it slightly differently. If you’re stuck, then find someone who can help you, because it is probably the most important single thing that will make the difference between hitting the spam folder and hitting the inbox.

Here’s guidance on setting up DKIM with some of the most popular email service providers (ESPs):

Sender Policy Framework (SPF)

The second side of authentication is something called sender policy framework, or SPF.

SPF helps identify which mail servers are allowed to send email on behalf of your domain. This communicates which platforms you trust to send emails on your behalf, which can reduce the incidence of email spoofing—people pretending to send mail as you. Like DKIM, it’s a one-time thing, but crucial.

Doing those two things—setting up your SPF and DKIM settings—is going to make a huge difference in deliverability. And don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it.

Here’s guidance on setting up SPF with the popular ESPs:

Content

In the recent past, it was relatively easy to avoid the spam folder by being careful about the content in your emails: don’t use swear words, don’t mention Viagra, and don’t mention “free.”

Today’s spam filters are much more sophisticated, and the big email providers use a ton of artificial intelligence to figure out what’s junk and what’s legit.

In 2005, you might have gotten away with writing “free” as “fr.e–e” in an email, but today that’s a one-way ticket to the spam folder.

Making it to the inbox in 2022 is a lot more about being authentic with your email content. Here, another acronym comes in handy: WILF, which stands for:

  • Words
  • Images
  • Links
  • Frequency

Words

Words are important, obviously. And when it comes to email deliverability, it means writing emails the way you’d have a conversation with someone.

Write like yourself. The more your emails sound like they’ve been coming from you, the more authentic it sounds, the more likely those big sophisticated algorithms are going to recognize it as authentic.

In most cases, shorter is also better. Don’t cut it down at the expense of not getting your message across, but don’t waffle unnecessarily. Because, let’s face it, people’s attention spans are getting shorter.

At the same time, don’t stress too much about content either. There are no hard and fast rules here, and you don’t want to follow a rule at the risk of ruining your message.

You can always send a few test emails and see what happens. Just remember, however, that email has evolved, and no two people have exactly the same email experience anymore. The same email might end up in Spongebob’s inbox and Squidward’s spam folder.

But you can still learn some things by looking at the big picture of what you’re sending over time. If you notice that emails written a certain way are getting delivered more often than others, use that as a data point to guide how to craft your email content going forward.

Images and Links

Here’s where things get even more interesting. To include images or not include images in your emails? And what about links? One? None? Many?

First, remember that there are exceptions to every rule. But in general—and testing bears this out—the more images you’ve got in an email, the more likely it’s headed to the junk folder. And the same goes for the number of links.

One of the quickest ways for an email to be viewed as a promotion by Google is if it has a graphical banner at the top, because that makes it look like a promo. So just cut to the chase with your message.

If you need images in the middle of the email to reinforce or illustrate things, that’s a different story. But only include them if they’re going to actually add value, not just for the sake of it. If you can manage three or fewer images in total, perfect.

Here at SPI, most of our emails are pretty barebones: no (or few images), and just a single link.

It’s the same with links: the more you use, the more your email looks like a promotion. One of the biggest mistakes people make is using a bunch of little social media icons in their email signature. Before you know it, you’ve got five additional images with links in your email, you’re in the promotions tab.

When it comes to links, also be careful about linking to websites you don’t control. You can’t always be certain whether the domain you’re linking to has a good domain reputation or not. It’s much better to only link to content that you’re in control of—like the stuff on your own website.

Frequency

Finally, there’s frequency. The more frequently you send emails to the people who want to receive them, the better you’re going to do. In the good old days, it was sufficient to send an email newsletter out once a month, but these days, mailbox providers are looking for consistency and engagement (which we’ll talk about in a second).

The more frequently you send emails to the people that want to read them, the better it’s going to look for your engagement. If you’re sending out an email three times a week, then you’re a lot more likely to reach more of your audience more quickly than if you’re sending one email a month.

That doesn’t mean you need to send an email every day—if you can, then great, if you’ve got enough to talk about—but the more frequently you can share some really cool value, the more people are going to love you, and more importantly, the more the mailbox providers will love you as well.

Engagement

While authentication is something you set up once and pretty much forget, engagement is something you need to pay attention to on an ongoing basis.

By engagement we’re talking about, are people reading your emails? Are they opening them? Are they clicking the links? Are they actually reading them properly? Or are they just deleting it without reading?

One of the worst ways to hurt your engagement is when you send something out, it lands in the spam folder, and no one rescues it.

When someone signs up to your email list for the first time, that may be the only chance you’ve got to keep your emails out of their spam folder. So direct them to a thank-you page that instructs them to check the spam folder for your first email and move it to their inbox if need be. If they don’t, they may never see another email from you in their inbox again.

That’s the most important thing.

The other is maximizing the number of people engaging by improving your open rates. Here’s where it’s important to clean your email list regularly, so you’re only sending email to the people who are likely to read it.

It can be scary to clean your email list regularly—because it means deleting people from your list—but it’s absolutely a great thing to do for your email engagement, and for the health of your email list.

Why? It will show Google and Microsoft and Yahoo! that what you’re sending is of greater interest to your subscribers. The higher they see your open rate, the more likely they are to increase your domain reputation. The better your reputation, guess what? The next email you send is more likely to land in the inbox. It’s a virtuous cycle.

More Email Marketing Resources

If you’re just getting started building your email list, the best time to start thinking about and implementing these email deliverability best practices is now.

And if you’ve had a list for a while and things have gotten stagnant, the best time to start is… also now.

If you need more support with your email marketing, you’re in the right place! Here are a few more resources to help you build an audience and create more revenue with a robust email marketing practice:

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