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Why and How to Verify Your Email Marketing Lists

email marketingEmail marketing is a blood sport. In the last 20 years, the only thing that’s changed with email is that great email senders continue to get punished more and more by email service providers. While ISPs and ESPs could totally coordinate if they wanted to, they simply don’t. The result is that there’s an adversarial relationship between the two. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) block Email Service Providers (ESPs)… and then ESPs are forced to block clients.

It’s not as simple as double opt-in in the industry. Sites like ours work with partners on shared campaigns with vendors and clients. We don’t give them access to our list, but many times we collect email addresses together to execute campaigns on. That’s been a huge headache. Email service providers don’t care about your optin methodology nor your audit trail, they simply assume you’re a spammer.

ESPs like Mailchimp have implemented intelligence on email addresses in a system called Omnivore. With Omnivore, Mailchimp sent 50,000 warnings and shut down 45,905 malicious accounts in 2011 alone. They may promote the fact that those accounts were malicious… I’d argue that many of them were simply companies sending to their lists and not using best practices.

According to Jupiter Research, more than 20 percent of email registrations contain typos, syntax, domain and other errors. Doing something as simple as sending to an old list where a specific threshold of email addresses bounce can set off their threshold. That’s not malicious. Not to mention bots out there pushing SPAM trap email addresses through systems every day to try and catch you. The irony, in my opinion, is that I believe it’s easier for a SPAMMER to get email into your inbox than the average company sending a good message.

Email Service Providers aren’t too honest about their deliverability rates, either. Often, they’ll tout a 99% inbox rating but the small print states that it’s after a few email sends. Well, duh… the first sends capture the invalid email addresses! The average inbox rate for a Sender Score of 91 or greater is 88%. Having 1% of your list bad can drop your inbox percentage by over 10%!

Thankfully, there are email verification and list hygiene providers on the market who gather intelligence and will help you clean your lists prior to getting caught up in this mess. Here are the leading email verification and list hygiene services online:

email verification

  • BriteVerify – tools you need to remove invalid emails from your customer databases, email marketing campaigns, or online newsletters and keep them out for good. You can easily drag and drop a file, share the file via the cloud, and get detailed reporting on your list without ever contacting the company. They also have an API if you’d like to integrate your email verfication with them!
  • DataValidation – offers you an easy-to-use, customizable solution for maintaining a clean and accurate email database.
  • eHygienics is a professional email verification company. They remove bounces, threats, protestors, litigators and all other perceivable hazards from subscriber databases. eHygienics offers real time API platforms which are used daily by subscribers worldwide.
  • FreshAddress helps companies that depend on email to drive revenue by building, updating, segmenting, and cleaning their email lists.
  • Impressionwise‘s data intelligence platform is based on policy-driven rule sets and real-time scanning algorithms that use a multi-layered approach to identify, validate and protect against a wide range of e-mail-based threats.
  • LeadSpend – Remove harmful email addresses before you mail! Whether you have a single list to validate, or many, we provide several secure and easy-to-use list upload options.
  • StrikeIron – Quickly and effortlessly verify and validate email addresses and domains to ensure their accuracy before you spend unnecessary time, energy and money, increasing your message deliverability by 90%.

Utilization of these list hygiene services can improve the percentage of emails that make it to the inbox, reduce your risk of being blocked by the Internet Service Providers, and reduce the risk of getting fired by your Email Service Provider… they’re worth the investment if you’ve got an old list or collaborating on one.

© 2013 DK New Media.

Join The Conversation

  • Oct 7 Posted 3 years ago Bill Kaplan

    Great overview of the deliverability problem, Doug, but verifying an email list is just a small component of an overal email hygiene solution. Of course, the first steps to ensuring a clean list are to require opt-in registrations and to carefully vet any co-registration or other third party registration partners as many of these companies are more interested in stuffing your files with questionable registrations so as to make the most money for themselves.

    As you've detailed, however, doing the above is not sufficient to guarantee deliverability.  Fraudulent entries, inadvertent hygiene errors, and older lists will often result in blocking and blacklisting issues that can bring down one's entire email program.

    This is why the leading marketers utilize email hygiene, correction, and validation services to block problematic addresses, correct syntax/formatting/misspelling/top level domain errors, and validate the deliverability of each email address before letting these email addresses get into their marketing databases.  In addition, cleaning and updating these marketing lists on a regular basis (quarterly or bi-annually) helps to further ensure against problems that can arise when good email addresses become inactive and get turned into spamtraps.

    Most of the providers listed above simply perform an SMTP check (i.e. a "ping") to determine the validity of an email address. While this process is a useful data point, it's not a perfect process and it's critical for marketers to also block toxic-but-deliverable addresses as well correct hygiene errors if they want to avoid the wrath of the spam filtering organizations, ISPs, and ESPs.

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