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Potential spam related problems with having Newsletter functionality in a CMS I am building.

tannum
tannum asked
on
Hi,

I’m a web designer and I’m developing a small php/mysql CMS for my clients and maybe to market it online as well. I’m designing the UI and functionality and having PHP experts build the scripts behind it.

We’re nearly finished, but I want to also add the ability for clients to be able to create newsletter templates, and Newsletters off these templates in the CMS, and then send out Newsletters as well and build in throttling adjustment etc so as to not upset hosts.

But some research on building your own Newsletters is suggesting it may not be a good idea to have Newsletter functionality at all, because if a client ACCIDENTLY creates a template using some of the tricks spammers use, inadvertantly, then they could get their whole domain name blacklisted after sending out a newsletter.

Link to one article here :

http://www.reachcustomersonline.com/2010/01/23/09.27.00/

But I would really like the Newsletter functionality if I can set it up so as to not cause these problems.

So has anybody had any experience with this and do you think it is possible to integrate Newsletter functionality so it won’t cause any problems safely?

Cheers
Greg
Comment
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Dave BaldwinFixer of Problems
Most Valuable Expert 2014
Commented:
There are a lot of questions here about sending out your own bulk email (newsletters and such).  They frequently are asked After they have had their IP blacklisted for spam.  It's not the newsletter that causes problems but the way people use them.  I always recommend the bulk email services like Constant Contact and iContact and so far I have not added a newsletter capability to any of the websites I've done.  Yes, most of them ask for it and I have found a way out of it so far.  So I recommend that you don't put it in there.  But you may need to if you have to compete with others that do include it.

Author

Commented:
Hi Dave,

So what do people do to get blacklisted in your experience, try to send to many mailouts or is it something they are doing in their newsletter layout itself, stuff like this perhaps :-

http://www.masternewmedia.org/news/2008/05/24/spam_checking_tools_and_tips.htm

Greg
Hi,

I think this is to risky, and also laws are more restrictive now about mailing.
Most of the time customer are no good to create beautiful template ;)

This is better to use web apps service like Mailchimp for mailing and newsletter.
Here is a usefull list of apps:
http://web.appstorm.net/roundups/9-email-marketing-and-newsletter-apps/
Dave BaldwinFixer of Problems
Most Valuable Expert 2014

Commented:
There are things that spanners do that can make your email look more like spam.  And sending out too many too fast can get you blocked also.  But it can be someone complaining too.  Many email services limit the number of emails you can send per day to a very low number.  Yahoo on a paid account would only allow email to 25 different addresses per day.  If you sent to that many, you were blocked until the next day.
I second the idea of using Mailchip instead of self hosting a newsletter component on your CMS.
But at the same time there are established CMS that do have Newsletter capabilities. Joomla with Jnews is an example.

Jnews (formerly Acajoom) is an  add on to joomla and it lets you define how many emails are sent in a batch and the interval between batches. I have had clients using it for years without ever triggering a blacklist.

If your client is careful, they should be able to manage their newsletter as long as their host does not limit how many emails they send.
Once you release your CMS in the wild, you'll have no control and those that will use your script will have to be careful as well.

If I were you, I would download Joomla and install the free version of Jnews (joobi.com). Take a look at how they handled it and read the manual online. It may help you build your own newsletter component in a way that reduces the risk.


Author

Commented:
Thanks conticreative, that was actually very helpfull about the Joomla module.

What actually happens when a person gets blacklisted.

When somebody sends out a batch of newsletters from their CMS from their hosted site, and it gets blacklisted for whatever reason, how does the blacklist know to blacklist their Domain name? and not the host, is it sourced from email headers or something?

Greg
You are welcome. As to what happens when someone is blacklisted, I have to confess I am not expert, but I can give you my experience.
#1 you can get blacklisted by your own host. Some of it would be automatic (if your emails are metered by the hour or by the day (on my host is by the hour) all that happens is that you cannot send emails until the next period. You ca, but they don't go anywhere.

#1 Then you can get blacklisted by the various spam watchdogs. Just google "is my IP blacklisted" and you'll find several services that will return a page listing the server and whether they have blacklisted you or not.
You can always contact them and ask they take you off the blacklist if you were added by mistake, but you have to prove it.

How they do that I am not sure. But I guess if it was common knowledge the spammers would use it against the system.

Remember that you are a programmer: you build tools. How your clients use those tools is a concern but a minimal one. The same tool could be a treasure for one client and a tool of evil for another.

There are many legitimate uses for mass mail. I would be upset if I would not receive a newsletter because it was construed they were spammers. But the tool they and the spammers use is the same. Is how they use it that differs.

Good luck
Dave BaldwinFixer of Problems
Most Valuable Expert 2014

Commented:
You might want to look at http://www.spamhaus.org/ .  They say they have their own reporting network which is probably ISPs and Hosting Companies that sign up for their services.  Interesting info anyway.
Smaphaus is one of the organizations that can blacklist you and they do have some articles on how to behave properly if I recall.

Another organization you may want to check out is Project honeypot http://www.projecthoneypot.org

But most of these organizations are there to help website owners plagued by spam. You are looking for something a bit different. However, if I can repeat what I said before I would check out the free Jnews component for Joomla and see how they do it and maybe you could install some other newsletter components for Joomla to see how they handle it.

By the way, if you have an Apache server (especially if it has Cpanel) Installing Joomla is very easy. Takes me 10 minutes to have a properly configured Joomla site to use for experiments. And that's not a figure of speech. It actually takes me 7:32mm:ss (I timed myself).
Even considering you may not have the set up I do, won;t take you longer than 15 minutes to get up and going.
Then you'd install Jnews from joobi.com and you may want to check out the Joomla JED (extensions.joomla.org) for other similar scripts.
Being open source you'll have access to the code and you could even grab some of it to use in your app (at least the logic if you are not using PHP).

You can also install Joomla on a local server (XAMP on PC or MAMP on MAC). Some time ago I tested a local Joomla site to use as a desktop newsletter engine and it worked fine as long as you have an SMTP server you can access. Even though the site was running locally it connected beautifully with the SMTP server. I also did some customization of the Joomla site and it turned out almost like a desktop app.

Another option you may want to look into is to use Mailchimp but to write an app with its API.
Joomla (again) has a form making application called Joomla Forms that uses the MailChip API to let you create a custom registration form right on your site, without using the cumbersome Mailchip code.

I suppose their API may let you also create an interface that utilizes their mail server but doesn't require you to go to Mailchimp every time.

If that's possible I would think it would be the best of both words: a site based app that uses a professional newsletter engine.

Anyway, please let us know what else you may find. As you can tell, I have similar requirements from time to time and the more I know the better.


Author

Commented:
Thanks guys for your input, I think I am going to go ahead with implimenting a Newsletter section in my CMS anyway, since most other CMS have it, and just have a detailed warning about the potential pifalls and blacklist problems so they can make their own decision about it.
Dave BaldwinFixer of Problems
Most Valuable Expert 2014

Commented:
Sounds good to me.
I think it's a good idea. Maybe you could embed links to Anti Spam organizations like Spamhaus etc..

Here is another idea: with a bit of research you could probably find hosts that were more friendly than others in regard to hosting one's newsletter. You could become an affiliate for them and place the links in the read me files or directly in the CMS.

Another option could be to list companies like Constant Contact, Mailchimp etc. as an alternative if your users run into trouble. (Might as well get an affiliate from them as well)

By the way, are you going to make your CMS Open Source or closed?
I specialize in Open Source CMS and e-commerce development and I wouldn't mind trying out a copy.

Good luck to you

Author

Commented:
All good ideas conticreative, I'll keep them in mind.

It's going to be closed not open source but it will be so ridiculously cheap, I don't think people will mind.

It started by the need by me of a ultra ultra simple CMS that my clients would be able to use and then as development went on I thought, what the heck, I have the technology :-) why not hang it out there in a multi billion person market and see what happens.

Some of it's capabilities :-

•Free 30 day trial with full version (but locked to domain name) so that you can see if it works on your host before buying.
•Very easy installation, just need to create, or have your host create a Mysql DB and supply you with these inputs for the installation script - DB name, DB password, DB host, DB user, then upload a folder called Admin to the root dir and call an installation script from it that you plug the DB details into and that’s it, the backend admin is created. Then create template generated pages right in the root directory from that or create 'php includes' that can be embedded into existing pages whose content will be editable as a sepaerate page in the admin.

•Easily retro-fitted to existing web sites.
•For Web Designers an excellent way to add a very simple, for them to use CMS, for your clients new sites.
•Uses owner templates and manual ‘php includes’ coexisting if desired.
•Create - unlimited Search Engine friendly new pages from within your online Admin very easily.
•Create - unlimited Standard Content type pages.
•Create - unlimited News Item type pages with their own automatic floated left or right news headline index.
•Create - unlimited Blog type pages with comments capability that can be turned off if not desired.
•Create - unlimited FAQ type pages with auto generated top of page index.
•Create - unlimited Photo Gallery pages with automated pop-up Lightbox expanding photos capability.
•In fact all of the types of pages above can have very easy to add lightbox style pop-up photos from thumbnails placed anywhere in the page, the code is automated, just upload the larger image, a thumbnail is generated and place the thumbnail where you want it and the popup works automatically.
•Create - One master admin with full rights and unlimited Secondary Admin Users that don't depend on a 'levels of access' system but have individual unique levels of access each.
•Create - unlimited Restricted Pages that only signed-up General Members can view, with complete control over Members (Members are not the secondary admin users mentioned before).
•Create - unlimited 'Groups'. Restricted pages belong to 'groups', and you can control which group/s a Members is in and thus can view.
•Newsletter creation capability.

It's a couple of months off and will need extensive bug testing so if you're interested I can send you a copy if you have a domain name to test it under.

Cheers
Greg