Five spam tactics that do more harm than good

marketer hiding behind laptop with text: 5 spam tactics that do more harm than good

Bulk email senders are faced with a series of 2024 deadlines to stay in good graces with Google and Yahoo. This has led to a flurry of activity, and many spam tactics are being considered. Some of them are helpful, some are not. Some may actually cause harm to your brand.

We’ve previously shared some checklists of positive action items. This post will dig into the tactics that might cause more harm than good, and what marketing ops should do instead . 

Bulk spam compliance tactics to avoid

  • Tactic #1: Deploying separate domains for bulk outbound
  • Tactic #2: Deploying subdomains for each email platform
  • Tactic #3: Purging Gmail and Yahoo users and excluding them on forms
  • Tactic #4: Zero click unsubscribe
  • Tactic #5: Sending fewer emails

Spam tactic #1 to avoid: Deploying separate domains for bulk outbound 

Organizations with aggressive B2B growth goals often send a high number of outbound emails from their sales and SDR teams. This can cause all sorts of problems, including:

  • Low quality emails that land in the inbox can damage brand perception
  • Sending duplicate emails to the same corp email server can lead to senders on your entire domain getting blocked or relegated to spam at key customer accounts
  • Ultimately, sending a high number of emails that end up in spam folders can get you relegated to spam exclusion lists

So some companies, with the support of aggressive consultants and vendors, have taken the approach of using one or more separate domains for sending bulk outbound emails. By default, a new domain lack the strength and reputation required for your emails to land in an inbox.

This requires “warming” of a new domain, which is the process of creating a domain that is accepted as a legitimate sender by email platforms. 

Why this won’t work

There are two primary reasons why using separate domains can cause more problems than it can solve. 

You’re avoiding the core problem: Low quality emails

High quality emails help build your brand. Low quality emails harm your brand. Even if you avoid the technical penalties for your core domain, you’ll still be sending emails that your prospects and customers don’t want to read. And likely they’ll be less visible to your brand and comms professionals whose job it is to protect the brand and promote the brand voice.

Separate domains may not end up protecting your core domain

Google has stated that they are monitoring the bulk sender status at the organization level, not at the domain level. So while your core domain may end up having better numbers for Domain Reputation and Spam Rate, Google may reserve the right to measure your compliance across all of your domains. 

What to do instead

Create an internal working group to help align email platform owners

This is one place that silos won’t help you. If you work together across platforms such as marketing automation, sales engagement, applicant tracking, and support, you have a better chance to support the brand and implement best practices. 

Help internal teams understand the risk of bulk outbound

There is no acceptable amount of damage to the brand that you have to accept as an organization to achieve your revenue targets. That is ultimately a self-defeating approach. Ensure your CMO can communicate the risks to the brand, and offer alternatives.

Uplift targeting and messaging so you can set reasonable limits for outbound emails

Sales and SDR teams send emails because they are under pressure to get results. Marketing operations and demand generation teams may be able to help with targeting and messaging, which can increase response rates and reduce the number of emails that need to be sent in order to hit revenue targets.

Spam tactic #2 to Avoid: Deploying subdomains for each of your bulk email senders

Some companies create separate subdomains for each major email platform. This allows each subdomain to be provided with its own DKIM and SPF record, if your domain provider allows it (though DMARC is typically still enabled at the root domain level with sp (Subdomain Policy) tags). 

Separate subdomains are a similar approach to separate domains, above. They may reduce the need for warming the domain, and they allow the sender to be associated with the root domain for brand awareness purposes.

Why this won’t work:

As with separate domains, Google has said that its policies apply to the organization, not the domain. So separate subdomains may not save you from noncompliance. In addition, keep in mind that spam exclusion lists are typically at the root domain level, which means you’re likely to get your entire domain blocked if one of your subdomains is excluded.

What to do instead:

Create an internal working group to help align email platform owners

This is just as true for subdomains as it is for separate domains. Ensure all your organization’s senders are aligned on best practices. For example, that they have proper encryption, DKIM, SPF, etc., in their email setup. That they are including unsubscribe links in their emails. And that opt-in, opt-out, and unsubscribe preferences are respected across platforms based on the intent of the user.

Monitor your daily spam rate

You may have specific systems that send low quality emails in bulk on a schedule. Monitoring your daily spam rate can help you identify those peaks and put together a plan to fix the problem

Spam tactic #3 to Avoid: Purging Gmail and Yahoo users and excluding them on forms

Gmail, and to a lesser extent, Yahoo, are the primary drivers of the new spam policies. And the policies apply specifically to personal inboxes on those platforms. So the simple step that some marketing operations teams are taking is simply to stop interacting with users on Gmail and Yahoo email addresses. Simple and elegant, right?

Why this won’t work

Marketing automation is not the only sender

You likely have multiple systems that must send to personal email addresses. This can include (but is not limited to) 

  • Payroll and HR systems
  • Applicant tracking and other recruiting systems
  • Product transactional emails (e.g. two-factor authentication, password reset)
  • Ticketing and customer support

Any one of these systems could trigger bulk sender status.

Even B2B marketing may have high-value personal emails in their database

If software developers are one of your personas, they are often going to interact with your tools, APIs, and marketing materials with a personal or temporary email address. For example, they might be building something as a side hustle. Or they are developing for Chrome or Android, and are logged in with their Gmail credentials. Organizations with an API or a product-led go-to-market strategy will need to be accepting of developers’ personal email addresses.

Organizations with thought leadership content, community, or learning-based content will also need to be accepting of personal email addresses. Often, these are your most engaged users. A corporate email address can be fleeting. But a personal email address is more likely to stay with an individual throughout their career. So they may sign up for your newsletter subscription, or your certification course when they are in the process of changing their career path, or looking for a new role.

What to do instead

Embrace personal email addresses in your database

A corporate email address is not an ideal primary field for identifying a person. Consider a unique ID that allows you to track a person across multiple email addresses. A CDP can also help here. 

Use your preference center to segment your nurture content

People using their personal email address may be specifically interested in particular content based on their journey. For example, developers may just want product and technical content. Career switchers may just want your thought leadership and educational content. Make sure your preference center is easy to access and understand, and that it honors user choices.

Spam tactic #4 to Avoid: Zero-click unsubscribe

Google has set a Jun 1, 2024 deadline for all bulk senders to comply with one-click unsubscribe. While that may seem like it’s forever from now, bear in mind that if you already send commercial emails to Canada, this is already a part of CASL, and you already need to have a compliant unsubscribe method in place.

There has been a bit of confusion about what one-click unsubscribe means, leading marketing ops to attempt to create zero-click unsubscribe. Let’s talk about the difference. 

Zero-click Unsubscribe: Unsubscribe the user from a link in an email, without having to click on anything on the web page that loads

One-click Unsubscribe: Unsubscribe the user with a single click on the web page. They may first need to click a link in the email in order to arrive at the web page

Why zero-click won’t work

Unsubscribing without confirmation may lead to both false positives and false negatives. The false positives: A user may accidentally click on unsubscribe in an email, when they intended some other action. Or they may simply be curious of seeing the unsubscribe process, or change their mind after clicking the initial link. Even more concerning, about 5% of companies use security protocols that scan and click every link in an email looking for phishing attacks. This could cause mass unsubscribes from those accounts.

False negatives: The user may click the link in the email, but the web page may not load properly, or the user may close it before it completes loading all scripts and a confirmation message. This would result in the user assuming they unsubscribed, without the related systems capturing their intent properly.

What to do instead

  1. Give the user a simple, single unsubscribe page, preloaded with their email address, and a single button to execute, followed by a confirmation message or page. 
  2. Optionally, you can give them an additional link to a Preference Center to manage the different types of communication they may receive. However, an Unsubscribe link should not take them directly to the Preference Center if it requires them to make more granular choices. Keep it simple.

Spam tactic #5 to Avoid: Sending fewer emails

It seems intuitively obvious that sending fewer emails is the right choice to make in order to deal with bulk spam status and spam rate. 

Why this won’t work

Some of the emails you’re sending may be necessary. Or they may be out of your control. But lowering the total number of messages may leave you more susceptible to days when you exceed the recommended spam rate of .03%.  Small sample sizes aren’t always your friend.

What to do instead

In the simple calculation for spam rate, you can impact both the numerator and the denominator. Ultimately, for your brand, you want to send more high quality messages. Because reducing both the numerator and the denominator doesn’t lower the rate at which your messages are marked as abuse.

The product emails that Stack Moxie sends through Inflection have the highest open rate, clickthrough rate, and lowest unsubscribe rate of any email category we send.  That decreases the impact of a lone spam report. 

Here is more detail on the recommendations by the team at on how to prioritize high-quality emails, like  identifying engaged audiences and making sure you are sending them high-quality emails that they want to read and interact with. 

So that’s the list

By avoiding these five harmful tactics, you can protect a critical communication channel, build your organization’s brand, and increase internal alignment between all the teams who communicate externally. With the right approach, 2024 can be the year that email helps you differentiate your brand with your most important audiences.