As online merchants, you are probably sensitive to changes to marketplaces affecting your businesses. As online publishers focused on ecommerce, not only are we keenly aware of those changes, we also closely track trends that may affect our ability to get our message to readers.
Over the last week, we noticed a sudden increase in usage of our contact forms and subscription boxes all coming from a myriad of IP addresses originating in India.
Obviously there were only a couple of assumptions we could make: Either we've become extremely popular in Mumbai, or we were getting hit by spammers.
A closer look at the email addresses showed that ALL of them were using Gmail accounts. 100%. Now, anyone could fill in a form, using a Gmail address that didn't really exist, but what was interesting, was that over 50% of these accounts had to DOUBLE-OPT IN to register for an email newsletter, meaning that there had to be someone at the end of that Gmail address, clicking on a confirmation link to complete a registration.
We confirmed with our list host that this a widespread problem, affecting other publishers over the past week. They also confirmed that many of the emails had been opened, pointing away from the likelihood that the culprit was a bot attack, but rather, a large network of Gmail accounts created to spam websites.
This dumps the issue clearly on Gmail's doorstep. Google has yet to respond on our inquiry about the matter.
Some examples of the thousands of email addresses coming in over the past week are:
Now for the ironic part. Gmail is the most problematic service for online publishers, giving us fits when it comes to getting our DOUBLE-OPT IN emails to legitimate subscribers. They stick email in promotions folders, spam folders, Larry Page's basement - anywhere that it makes it virtually impossible for a user to find it.
In fact, the NUMBER ONE question we receive concerning subscriptions is, "Where is my newsletter? I can't find it in my Gmail account," thanks to Google filtering our emails from readers who want to receive it.
Evidently, Google forgot, in their effort to keep spam from getting TO Gmail users, to police - in a Keystone Kops kind of way - the amount of Spam coming FROM Gmail users.
Because it's happening to other email lists, we're concerned how this might impact online sellers. Have you been affected by a sudden increase in this type of attack?