Slow Launch Your Membership Website or be Banned by Google

ID-10055877I see a lot of new websites make this mistake.  They launch a new membership website, forums, double opt-in list or other website that requires people to signup and receive an email to verify their account.  But because they did not do a gradual launch, Gmail and other mail providers freak out at the sudden influx of verification emails, and either shuffle their emails into spam, or worse, block their emails entirely.

Then, as the website owner, you have the nightmare of spending a lot of man hours and perhaps even thousands of dollars promoting your website, only to have your emails blocked, and your members unable to sign in since they cannot verify their accounts.

And your customers get frustrated too.  For example, it’s been several days, and I still cannot receive my verification email for a website I want to join, simply because Google is blocking their emails.  They don’t even show up in spam.  New website, just launched, days old, huge marketing campaign, already banned by Google.  And the only emails they are currently sending are verification emails to customers who signed up and opted-in on their website.

The Problem

The problem is that Google and other email providers are not smart enough to know the difference between legitimate verification emails from a legitimate website, and spam.  All they see is a sudden and drastic increase in emails that all look similar, and assume its a spammer and automatically block it.

It doesn’t matter if you are following all the rules.  You are banned and since Google doesn’t release details on why you got banned, there is no clear path on getting unbanned.

Luckily these bans are usually temporary, based on certain thresholds.  And what typically happens is that a website owner realizes they are banned and stops promoting, email levels naturally fall under whatever threshold is set, and people start receiving the site’s emails again.

Basically, since Google and the email providers have no idea who you are since you are new, they assume the dramatic increase in email from you is spam.  You have no track record.

The Solution

There is no perfect solution, but there are several things you can do.

Follow the Rules

Make sure that your system is an double opt-in system from the start, and that Google and others have no legitimate excuse for banning you.  This doesn’t mean they won’t ban you if you exceed certain thresholds, but make sure there is no reason for them to manually ban you, which is worse than a ban due to exceeding email thresholds or triggering automatic filters.

Some of the important things include:

  • Double Opt-In (Your verification email for your membership website accomplishes this.)
  • Customers Sign Up Themselves (Don’t add people to your list without their express permission, ever.)
  • Ability to Opt-Out / Unsubscribe (Better than them clicking on spam and getting you banned.)
  • Deliver Valuable Content that Your Subscribers Want (This matters, otherwise people click on the spam button.)

Test Before Your Launch

Before you launch, send a test email from your server to Gmail,, Yahoo and other mail providers and see if it arrives in the inbox or the spam folder (or at all).  If your test email goes in the spam folder and you haven’t even launched yet, you need to either change what is in the email (since something is triggering the spam filter), or find out of your server’s IP address is flagged by the email provider (perhaps another customer on the same server is spamming, if you are on a shared server).  Resolve this before you launch.

Identify Yourself in the Emails

Make sure that it is super-obvious that the email is something they requested.  On your website, tell them you will be sending them a verification email.  And in the email itself, say that they are receiving this email since they signed up on your website.

Have a Gradual Launch or Pre-Launch

One thing that will help is gradually launching your website, instead of having one giant launch.  Google and email providers freak out at huge launches.  Start smaller and let Google and others realize that people are not clicking on spam when they get your emails.  Get yourself a track record with them.

Ask People to Add You

You can also ask your members to add your email address to their address book in Gmail and their other email providers.  Many email providers will whitelist your email for that member, if you are in that person’s address book.

Use a Trusted Email Provider

Another thing you can do is work with a trusted email provider and route your email through their servers.  If Google trusts an email provider (like MailChimp, or others) to police their own members, they may allow your emails through even though there is a dramatic increase in numbers.

Avoiding the Ban Hammer

Since email providers purposely do not disclose the details about their ever changing spam filters, there is no perfect solution to prevent yourself from getting banned or blocked.  But by following the above tips, you can reduce the likelihood of having problems with your website launch.

Good luck and have fun on your new website!

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