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Join Our Research Team at DMA 2014
Oct 06, 2006
How To

How to Keep Your Email Landing Page From Getting Blocked

SUMMARY: Are your email landing pages being filtered? More companies are using content-sensing blocks to keep employees from surfing inappropriate sites. At home, filtering is also gaining ground. This past week, AOL made its children-safe surfing filter available to all online users.

While both types of filters make sense, the problem is that just like email filters keeping out spam, landing page/Web site filters aren’t perfect. Your innocent, legitimate page may be blocked by mistake.

We know. This week, one of MarketingSherpa’s landing pages -- a free signup form for a search marketing teleconference we’re holding shortly -- was blocked as “Tasteless”...
Web Filter Types and Notable Vendors

There are essentially two types of Web filters -- one meant to shield children from unseemly material and the other to keep offices appropriate and productive.

This week, AOL began offering its Parental Controls system for free as it shifts its business model to an ad-supported portal. This gives age-based access options, specific controls on instant messaging and chat, online timers as well as email reports for parents about their children’s Web activities. In these systems, parents can sometimes lock out everything from reputed ecommerce stores to sites with inappropriate content.

Company executives also use filters to oversee employee Internet usage, block availability to pornography, gambling and video games, etc., and set time periods for when access is permitted.

Some of the vendors in the space that filter employee productivity include:
-> 8e6 Technologies; clients include U-Haul International and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; http://www.8e6.com
-> Secure Computing Corp.; clients include American Healthcare Services and Rohm and Haas; http://www.securecomputing.com
-> SurfControl; clients include American First Federal Credit Union and PMD Ltd.; http://www.surfcontrol.com
-> Websense Inc.; clients include McDonald’s and US Army; http://www.websense.com

There are significant differences between what email and Web filters are built to do. Email filters block messages that are deciphered as spam for a whole slew of reasons that anyone with an inbox already knows why.

The nice thing about email is that the rate of opened and unopened messages can be tracked. If your unopened rate is unusually high, at least you have an idea that your campaign is being rerouted to spam files.

The case with Web filters isn’t nearly as concrete. “On the Web site side, you won’t necessarily know when you are being blocked,” says John Marshall, CEO of ClickTracks. “In terms of finding out whether or not you are getting blocked, the only thing you can do is investigate behind the scenes and [cope]. There’s no absolute sure-fire way existing right now that can show that traffic to your site is being filtered.”


How to Avoid False-Positive Situations

Email landing pages and Web sites can end up getting filtered for a number of reasons. Your Web hosting service may have had clients in a pseudo-underground business such as pornography or gambling, marking some of its IP addresses as suspect and triggering the filter.

Due to the fluidity of the Internet world, it’s entirely possible that you can inherit an IP address from a closed pornography business without knowing it.

High-bandwidth features can also get you flagged at workplace computers since most businesses want to make the most of their Internet pipeline. So try to use a low bandwidth link when incorporating multimedia aspects like video product demos or podcasts in your email. If you don’t, recipients might not be able to experience what is likely the best part of your sales pitch.

“In today’s environment with more filters out there, there’s certainly more of a risk with multimedia in terms of email than there used to be a few years ago,” says J.D. Peterson, Products Marketing Manager for Lyris Technologies. “It’s important that emarketers make sure their content altogether checks out -- upfront in the campaign rather than later on.”

Here is an unfortunate “positive-positive” scenario to consider: If your Web site gets hacked, various brands of security software may keep you off-limits for obvious purposes. Keep your Web people and IT pros on speed dial for the sake of damage control.


Coping With Web Filters

The filtering firms have a Web page that allows marketers to check the way filters categorize their Web site. Typically, filter vendors update their databases daily and use people -- not just algorithms -- to review content to make an earnest attempt from impeding legitimate marketers.

If you find that your site has been erroneously flagged, contact the vendor to get the situation remedied. “I’ve seen our team take care of that kind of situation within hours,” says Websense Inc.’s Eric Polyn.

Vendors definitely have a stake in steering clear of best-practice businesses. “No one wants to get the rap that their product is blocking access to legitimate sites,” says Paul Henry, VP Technology and Strategic Accounts at Secure Computing Corp. “That’s even worse than not blocking the bad sites.”

Four more tips:

1. Educate your customer service and “reply to” address monitoring teams so they know who to immediately contact when someone complains that your site has been blocked.
2. Move to a dedicated server at your hosting company if you’re not already on one.
3. Check your current host against blacklisted companies.
4. Get your hosting contract rewritten so you have an out clause in case you’re blacklisted due to a problem on their end.


Useful links related to this article

Creative samples of MarketingSherpa landing page and blocked message
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/cs/blp/study.html


PDF for Websense’s filtering categories:
http://www.Websense.com/docs/Datasheets/en/v5.5/Websens
_URLCategories.pdf


AOL’s Parental Controls microsite:
http://daol.aol.com/safetycenter/parentalcontrols


ClickTracks:
http://www.clicktracks.com


Lyris Technologies
http://www.lyris.com





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