Safelist Marketing
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A Few Recommended Safelists (The Only Ones I Use Now)


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Safelists have always got a bad press from some marketers that didn't really understand them, but until recently I wasn't one of them as they were an effective way of promoting your products and sites by, sending solo ads to a captured audience (members of the safelist)

Oddly, there's never really been a lot of information out there, let alone quality products, concerning safelists. It's an area that's sort of been overlooked by many marketers, although they were a great way of getting results, especially when you were just starting out in marketing.

When I first began marketing in 2006, if it wasn't for safelists I'm not sure how long it would have been before I got disillusioned and gave up, because I started earning money very early on. Not great amounts I admit, but without safelists I wouldn't have earned anything of note. Most of my first $1,000 of sales came from safelist marketing using Clickbank products, so they definitely had something going for them.

Sadly, that's not quite the case these days.

1. What Is A Safelist?

Simply put, a safelist is a list of people that it's 'safe' to send emails to, because they have all joined that site and given permission for other members to send them promotional emails in the form of solo ads.

Text Ad Exchanges have sort of taken over the niche that safelists once occupied, pushing safelists a little out of the public eye, but the basic concept is almost the same.

Basically, when you join a safelist you'll need two email addresses, a list address where the bulk of the emails are sent, and a contact address for admin messages, solo ads and messages that the member has paid for and so go to that contact address, which is usually your main email account, or at least one that you check often. Once you join you'll need to confirm both email addresses.

You'll then start receiving emails from other members, and there are two main types of safelists, the credit based safelist and non-credit based. Credit based means each email you receive will have a credit link at the bottom that you click in order to go to the site that's being promoted. Each click will earn you points that, when you've accumulated enough, you can use to send your own ads to the membership.

Non credit based safelists are less effective, because there's no real incentive to click the links and go to the site, but some of the largest safelists around are of this type, so there's a trade off between the number of members you can send to against how many of them will click your link.

2. What Email Address Should You Use?

If you're going to join and use safelists, then as a general rule don't use certain types of free email accounts, like Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Hotmail etc... Seriously, these are NOT good email addresses for marketers to use, because the spam filtering is particularly tough and so many emails you actually want to receive won't even arrive in your spam folder. A major problem with these addresses is what's known as 'bouncing'. Bounced emails are ones that get reurned to the originator because the receiving account has rejected it, and nothing annoys site owners and hosts more than bounced emails. They take up server resources and space, sometimes quite alarmingly so.

As a result, most safelist and text ad exchange owners have banned these addresses, so you won't be able to join with them, or at least won't last long once the bouncing starts. So what email accounts should you use?

Easy, open a free Googlemail (gmail) account, which at the time of writing is easily the best free email account for using as your safelist list address (and contact address). The beauty of a gmail account is that it's not only big enough to cater for tens of thousands of emails without even getting close to being full, but you can use its superb filter feature to set up groups of emails from one source, known as labels. For instance, if you are a member of Adtactics you can set up a filter to show only messages from that safelist without having to trawl through your inbox to find them. They'll still be in there, but also in their own label.

3. Safelist Email Marketing Basics

As with standard email marketing, when you post your message at the safelist, the subject line is all important, and is the first thing a potential customer will see. It will determine whether or not the recipient will even bother opening it, let alone read it, and as everyone in this business receives and sends so many emails, it might seem an impossible task to be totally original. If you've seen one subject line you've seen them all, so what chance have you got?

Actually quite good, because the majority of people who send out emails are failing in their business, and the reason they’re failing is because they aren't using the right techniques, and that includes subject lines. That gives anybody who learns how to do it properly a BIG advantage.

You can learn a lot from reading other people's subject lines and content. Any emails that got you to open them must have something going for them, so save them and make a note of what they said to pique your interest. Similarly, any that just made you yawn and right-click are to be avoided. Spend time thinking up different subject lines and split test them by producing two headings for the same ad and track which one gets the best response. You can determine which ones work best this way, and using safelists is a good way of doing this.

There is one thing you can do to improve your chances of someone looking at your email in safelists though, and that's put [Credits] at the beginning of the subject line. The most powerful feature of any safelist is the credit mailer, where you can send an email to a certain number of members (depending on your membership level), that will have a credit link in the body. When a member clicks this they will earn credits to send their own messages. Most safelists also have a standard mailer, which can be used when you haven't got any credits left or want to send a second message. No credits are earned for looking at these, so putting [Credits] or something similar at the beginning of the credit message it lets the member know they'll get credits for viewing it. Just remember to leave this out when you use the standard mailer as it's misleading and can annoy someone who opens it to get the credits.

It's easy to forget though and I've done it myself more times than I care to remember, because most safelists allow you to save your messages so you don't have to type the same message out each time, and selecting one with [Credits] at the beginning when sending a standard email is easy to overlook, so be careful. When you send a message you have the option of saving it, but most safelists set that to 'Yes' by default, so you can end up with a lot of identical saved messages. Keep an eye on that too.

4. Everyone Likes A Good Body!

Safelist members receive so many emails that it's almost impossible to open and read them all, so the subject line is THE most important part of the message. However, once someone has opened your message you need to grab their attention and get them interested before they make for the credit link, so remember the principle of AIDA when writing the body of the message.

AIDA stands for: Attention (the subject line), Interest (pique your subject’s interest in the first paragraph), Desire (make them want what you’re offering) and Action (get them to do whatever it is you want them to do). Curiosity and emotion are powerful forces in humans, so use them in your ad copy to give yourself the best possible chance.

However, there's one thing you can do that will increase your chances of halting that cursor on its inevitable journey towards the credit link, and that is to create your message body in HTML. You get the option of sending your message in HTML in the mailer, and this is under-used by most members, yet is the one thing that can make all the difference. In most safelists you'll need to be upgraded to pro to get this feature, but that's the big advantage of being a paying member.

You can design a small web page or splash page as the body of your message in your HTML editor, then select the entire code, copy it and then paste it into notepad. From there you can save the message as a .html file and test it to see what it will look like. Once everything is okay you need to select 'Click here to send the message in TEXT mode' and copy and paste it into the box in the mailer.

Most important of all, check the box next to where it says 'To send your ad in HTML format, please check this box', or similar, depending on the safelist. If you don't it will get sent as plain text and look awful (I've done that a few times too!).

As a free member you may not be able to send HTML ads, so make the text short enough to stay on the page without having to scroll down, because a short novel will invariably get ignored. Most of us simply don't have the time to read reams of text before getting to the credit link, so keeping it short has the best chance of getting your body text actually read, so be concise and to the point, laying out the main points in an easy to read fashion.

5. Your Destination Is As Important As The Journey

Now for the credit link.

The subject line gets the email opened (hopefully), the body text gets the reader interested enough to do more than just get the credits (maybe), and the credit link is the final point of call in the reader's journey.

Where you send the reader to is every bit as important in the process as anything else, possibly more important as it can make or break your chances of making a sale or signup, so careful thought has to be given as to what they see once they've achieved their main goal of getting those credits.

Just like at traffic exchanges, sending your potential customer or referral to a text laden affiliate page could spell the end of the journey. Traffic exchange users don't choose what web page is displayed them them, so they're not targetted viewers. Similarly, safelist users, while at least having an idea of what's coming because they've already seen your subject line and body text, are still more than likely just there to get the points, so again, they're not targetted like a search engine or PPC customer is.

To that end it's still best to point to a splash page, lead capture page, landing page etc... just like you were using a traffic exchange. They have more impact, don't take an afternoon to read and can grab the viewer's attention better than a page full of hype. Save those pages for the targetted viewers and you'll give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding.

6. Now For The Bad News

If there's bad new, why go to all the effort of reading the above advice? Well, it's not just relevant to safelists, but every kind of solo email, so it's good advice for Ad Exchanges and other sites that allow you to send solo ads. However, I am now of the opinion that the vast majority of safelists are just too ineffective to use these days.

Here's the problem. Too many people are sending too many emails to too many dead email addresses! More people than ever are using the internet to try and make money, and so many of those people use throw-away email addresses for their LIST address. The disadvantage with safelists is that you need two addresses, and the one where most of the emails go to is hardly ever used by those members. It means nobody is getting to see those emails you send, unlike at Ad Exchanges, where only one email address is used, so there's more chance that address will be a better one, so important admin emails aren't lost, as you can get a lot of good stuff from them.

Spam is another major problem, because there's just so much of it, and people are so busy, that they just assume most of the emails they receive are spam. The spammers, and there are far too many of them around these days, are being given bad advice by so called 'gurus', or just don't know that what they're doing is wrong. That means that, once again, so many emails are not being read, especially those going to the 'list' address.

I used to get decent results from safelists. Now, I don't, it's as simple as that, so I've dumped almost every safelist I was a member of, only keeping the ones that I think are worth being a member of, either because they are still a bit effective, or have other features worth having.

7. Is There Any Good News?

Luckily, yes! As I said earlier, there are two email addresses you need. One, the 'list' address, is generally useless, which means the list solos and credit mails aren't going anywhere to be seen by the recipient. The contact address, however, can be a better one that is at least given some attention by the member, and some safelists give you options to send to those addresses as well.

Some you have to pay for 'contact solos', but others give you the chance to get those types of solos for free, which makes them well worth having.

Another advantage of safelists is that you don't have to worry so much about spam filters as the emails are coming from a legitimate source and have to get through in order for the recipient's account to stay active. You also don't have to worry about being reported for spamming, because the recipient has agreed to receive them (okay, as an owner I know all too well that agreeing to receive emails [twice because members need to double opt-in] doesn't stop the complaints about receiving too many emails, but those members that do forget what the site is all about have no grounds for complaint, because it's in the TOS :-)

The panel on the left lists those safelists I still think are worth being in, because they offer more than just basic list solos, or have good resources that you can use.

8. Any More Advice About Safelist Marketing?

If you send out loads of ads that take hours to devise, write subject lines and post to loads of safelists and Ad Exchanges, you've simply got to track them so that you know which ones are being clicked. You can save so much time, effort and money by doing the simple task of knowing which links are being clicked and which ones are just doing nothing.

On top of that, many people simply don’t like clicking on a naked affiliate link like this:
I don’t know why because what do they think they’re clicking on if not a personal affiliate link to whatever program they’re interested in, especially as they almost certainly have their own links, but there you go. There’s also the problem of link hijacking, where someone changes your affiliate ID for their own and takes the commission (you can become an affiliate for something without actually buying the product, and then get the product cheaper by using someone else’s affiliate link and adding your ID, or something like that).

This is more of a problem on non-credit safelists, because you have to put the affiliate link in the body of the email as there's no credit link to click, so to solve these problems you need to cloak and track your link, and one of the best programs for doing this is TrackThatAd, which is free to join and will also build you a list as you recruit others into it.

Instead of the above affiliate link you’ll get one like this instead:
The ‘trackthatad’ on the end is a custom identifier (if any) that you choose as your way of knowing what the link is for and where it’s being displayed. It can be anything you want, and there are ten different links to choose from.

Of course that looks better, but it could still do with improving, and if you join TrackThatAd as a pro member one of the many benefits you can get are links that look like this:

Which one do you think looks best?

Oh, one last thing, don’t put your email address on safelist ads. Why? Well, no email address, no reverse marketing (which IS spamming, whatever anyone tells you). Reverse marketing is where you send a legitimate email from a site to other members, and they take your email address and add it to their list without permission, or reply to it with a promotion of their own. Sneaky and unethical, yes, spam, yes, against the TOS of safelists and other site, YES.

While we're on the subject of ethics, please don't use subject lines like 'You've made a commission' or 'You've got a referral' or 'Notification of payment' etc... Imagine how many people are really struggling, and are desperate to see some good news in their inbox, and they see that subject. They click it, only to find it was simply done to fool them into reading your email. One, it's crushing and two, it's a great way of getting reported for spam, or getting yourself a bad reputation. Don't do it|!.

One more 'one last thing', to get the absolute most out of safelists you really do need to upgrade. Lifetime upgrades are the very best, and then you're done paying for them, have always got an advertising resource and have tons of credits to use on the banner and text rotators. This is a great way of not only getting more advertising from them, but also to have your domain name plastered across multiple high traffic and page rank domains. They get picked up by the search engines, and as long as you keep them fed with credits it'll be permanent free advertising.


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