two hands email bcc pitfalls

Thou Shalt Not BCC

What’s that saying? Everything old is new again. Recently, someone asked why BCC wasn’t a valid work around for those just getting started in email marketing. Truthfully, we had to pause and think about it.

It never occurred that someone might contemplate foregoing the many competitively priced email marketing options out there. So why doesn’t BCC work as a viable alternative to other well established forms of email marketing?

BCC Pitfalls: Tracking and personalization break

The power of email marketing stems from the ability to measure success. The most fundamental type of measurement, for those getting started in email marketing, is an open. Did the recipient open the email? If yes, then assume a level of engagement. If you don’t have an open, then work on your content until you get one. The open and tracking pixel isn’t 100% reliable. Email clients that turn off images and links by default allow someone to read the text in the message without triggering the tracking pixel. Hence, this is a major source of frustration for email marketers everywhere.

How does BCC break this?

If you BCC a list of people and include the tracking pixel, you get but 1 unique open. This is the case because tracking pixels are personalized on a per recipient basis through the clicked link. You might see the link triggered over and over again, but you wouldn’t be able to discern it on a per user basis. Modern marketing applications allow you to generate an email per user and personalize all of the links and underlying redirects. The result of hitting these redirects is captured and aggregated by the sending system which results into granular reporting for the marketer. BCC would render all of that beautiful reporting absolutely useless.

Similarly to how your open tracking would break, link tracking would also render useless using BCC vs. standard unique message generation on a per recipient basis. Modern emails have highly personalized links and redirects that allow marketers to measure the efficacy of their calls to action, their primary, secondary and tertiary offers. Tracking activity by links is crucial to understanding if the content is engaging, if the offers are compelling, and if the marketer is achieving his or her goals.

In addition to measuring efficacy, link tracking is a good way to measure the user friendliness of an email template. Consider a template as a repeating construct with containers to plug in content and links. Then from there, understanding which links get the most clicks helps you refine your template. Less is more. Dropping unnecessary links from email templates, refining designs and cutting to the chase with calls to action is a marketer’s recipe for success.

What about deliverability?

In truth, using BCC doesn’t directly affect deliverability – it sounds crazy but it shouldn’t affect it at all. When you consider that someone using BCC is probably using an application not purposefully built for email, you can assume that they probably aren’t familiar with best practices. They may not be using email authentication, signing with SPF or DKIM or coding their messages properly. There are a lot of problems with using applications that aren’t designed to send email according to best practices and ISP terms of service. BCC as a delivery mechanism isn’t bad. However, it’s not the best way to accomplish the kind of engagement you want when sending email.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!