If you are sending your first campaign, you may not realize that ActiveCampaign has some backend protections to ensure compliance to email legislation (CAN-SPAM, CASL, GDPR), to the our Terms of Service (TOS), and adherence to industry metrics (spam complaint rates, bounce rates, open rates). These processes help protect ActiveCampaign and our customers and are a vital part of ensuring the best deliverability possible.
Jess Kaplan, Senior Email Compliance Analyst, shared why manual reviews are a critical component of email compliance at ActiveCampaign.
What is a manual review process and why is it important?
Many Email Service Providers (ESP) have systems in place to review content prior to sending. While most campaigns are automatically approved for sending some email campaigns may trigger a manual review process. During the manual review, one of ActiveCampaign’s compliance analysts reviews the campaign to identify if it should be approved for sending or if there is a need to contact our customer for more information.
Most customers never even know the review process took place. However, there are some instances where a campaign may experience a delay in sending while we try to work with the customer to collect additional information. Customers know if their campaign is undergoing manual review because there will be an alert on the profile icon on the bottom left when logging into the ActiveCampaign account or the campaign may have an ‘Analyzing’ status.
Why do campaigns need to be reviewed prior to sending?
These systems are primarily in place to prevent bad actors from abusing the platform and sending out malicious mail. They also have additional layers that can identify mistakes that could not only impact the ability to get mail delivered to the inbox but also help prevent elevated spam complaints, unsubscribes, and even block events.
What are some of the more common mistakes that lead to a manual review?
The mistakes we commonly see in manual review tend to be the result of rushing to get these campaigns out. Campaigns may be scheduled without double-checking if the content is displaying properly, personalization tags are correct, or if complete mailing addresses are in place to ensure Compliance with anti-spam legislation. It’s not unusual for senders to accidentally use a personal email address as the ‘From’ address rather than the business email address normally used for campaigns.
These reviews may also help us identify senders struggling with poor sending metrics. If a campaign was sent out without first making improvements it would likely have a negative impact on deliverability. Whenever we identify an issue that could cause a negative impact to deliverability and/or compliance with anti-spam legislation we like to bring this to the attention of the sender. We provide guidance on how to make sure these campaigns perform optimally.
Is there anything a sender could do to help accelerate the review process?
Absolutely! One of the best things to do would be to fill out the 3-question survey that displays when importing a list. While filling out the imported survey is optional, if this information is provided upfront it could help prevent delays due to a need to review opt-in methods.
It’s also a good idea for the owner of the ‘Notification Email’ inbox to keep an eye out for any ActiveCampaign emails around send-time in case a campaign is pending additional information due to an issue identified in the review process. Compliance notifications are sent to the ‘Notification Email’ on the account. The ‘Notification Email’ and ‘Administrator’ preferences may be different.
Why might a sender need to provide opt-in information for a manual review?
A sender’s acquisition method directly relates to positive deliverability or negative deliverability.
Acquisition methods centered around opt-in are more likely to get mail to the inbox because those contacts have asked for a company’s email – they’re expecting it. Opt-in methods include newsletter sign-up forms or contacts who checked a box confirming their campaign sign-up when making a purchase on a website.
Conversely, acquisition methods that don’t include opt-in mean unsolicited mail is being sent. If the mail is delivered it’s likely to be ignored, reported as spam, or automatically filtered to the spam folder. Worst case, it can trigger a blocklist event, making deliverability nearly impossible and creating a risk to other ActiveCampaign senders. Non-opt-in acquisition methods include purchasing or sharing contact data, collecting contact info from networking sites, or directly from a company’s website.
We may request opt-in information to make sure campaigns are likely to help a sender rather than hurt them, or the ActiveCampaign platform.
What are some of the less common reasons a campaign lands in review that could actually have the biggest impact on deliverability if sent as-is?
I’d have to say the first would be our extremely high volume reviews. We tend to see this with senders new to ActiveCampaign who may be used to sending 100,000+ contact campaigns on their previous platform. When they switch to ActiveCampaign they don’t realize there is a need to grow their volume over time (‘warm up’) to reintroduce their mail with ActiveCampaign’s sending infrastructure.
Without growing the send volume over time the campaign is at a much higher risk of bounces and filtering to the spam folder. When we see this we’ll take a moment to contact the sender, provide educational materials on how this could harm the success of their campaign, and discuss how to safely move forward with their send. Our high volume senders should read over our Help Center article on Deliverability within your first 30 days to learn about warm up, and if needed, consult ActiveCampaign’s deliverability specialists for a more personalized warm up schedule.
Sometimes we come across campaigns in manual review that are Terms of Service violations. This would be issues like content that is not permitted. When any customer signs up it’s always a good idea to familiarize themselves with their Terms of Service to make sure it’s a good fit for their business model.
Most of these can be resolved with an adjustment to the campaign content but depending on how long that takes it could cause a delay in sending during a time when there’s not much room for late campaigns, like over the holidays. Complying with our Terms of Service not only limits the chances of a campaign going through manual review but it can increase deliverability as well.
What advice would you give to our readers to help prevent delays due to manual review?
Plan ahead! Use a pre-send checklist. A few extra minutes to verify the campaign is ready for sending could help prevent a delay. Consider a checklist like this:
Campaign Checklist – Part I Contacts
- Understand your opt-in methods & make a Customer Acquisition Plan
- Check to see if you need to plan to grow your volume over time (‘warm up’)
- Win-back less engaged subscribers with a re-engagement plan
- Engagement Management – Consider letting go of your unengaged contacts so you can better reach contacts who want to engage with your campaigns
- Does the content display properly?
- Understand your email metrics to know when improvement is needed (spam complaint, bounces, open rates)