We get it. Running a start-up is a high pressure situation. You only have one shot to get things off the ground. That pressure makes start-ups vulnerable. That’s why we were dismayed but not shocked to hear that some well-known startup incubators are pushing email harvesting and email scraping services on their clients when they should be helping them collect email addresses legally. The sad part here is that many startups are naïve to the risks of email harvesting.
What is Email Harvesting?
Email harvesting is the process of extracting email addresses from public sources. Harvesters capture email addresses in many ways including:
- Buying or trading lists;
- Using bots to scrape web pages for addresses; and
- Directory attacks.
Why It’s a Bad Idea
When it comes to email address harvesting, the risks far outweigh the rewards. Here are a few reasons why email harvesting is a bad idea for start-ups, or anybody, for that matter.
1.) IT’S ILLEGAL!! – Are you sending emails to harvested email addresses? If so, you’re a spammer according to the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act. In fact, you could be held legally liable for each harvested address that you deploy to.
2.) You’ll probably hit a Spamtrap – Entities like Project Honey Pot exist for the sole purpose of busting email harvesters. Landing your IP on their blacklist and others like it is a surefire way to ensure that your company gets shut down before it even starts up.
Think hitting a spamtrap isn’t a big deal? It could cost you tens of thousands to millions of dollars in lost revenues and customer relationships. Most startups can’t afford that luxury.
3.) Damaged brand reputation – The goal of any start-up is to make a good first impression and establish credibility. Often email harvesting has the opposite effect. Rather than making a royal entrance, they start off on a level playing field with a Nigerian 419 scammer. Not exactly the way you want to enter the marketplace.
The Safe Alternative to Email Harvesting:
Building an email list and collecting email addresses legally is not an easy venture. For lasting success, you’ve got to do it the right way. This requires effort and a bit of tenacity. Here are some tips:
1.) Ask everywhere!
Collect email addresses at every point of interaction. This includes:
- Every page of your website;
- Your social media profiles.
- Every phone call or in-person interaction; and
- On every order form.
2.) Create a compelling opt-in experience
Explain what value you are offering through email in a clear and concise manner. Remember, people love deals! Craft your offers with care and test often.
3.) Streamline your website opt-in process
- Make it simple for subscribers to register by making your sign-up clear and easy.
- Require a limited amount of info (2-4 fields) at sign up. Capture the rest later on in the nurture process or through your preference center.
- Have helpful error message that guides the user towards the proper input.
- Don’t forget to leave plenty of room to accommodate long email addresses.
4.) Forget email harvesting. Focus on email hygiene
Want to build a healthy list? You need a hygiene strategy for both acquisition and maintenance. Did you know that?
- 2% to 20% of emails are entered incorrectly; and
- 30% of subscribers go dormant every year.
The key here is capturing clean and accurate addresses and ensuring that they stay that way over time. A good email validation service will help you:
- Capture typos and weed our deliverable but toxic addresses like spamtraps.
- Uncover bouncing, un-engaged, and previously good, but now bad emails.