Apply Hygiene to Your E-Mail Database

Every e-mail marketer knows that a good list is priceless. But many list owners do not realize that up to 20 percent of their data is undeliverable because of several factors, most importantly bad list hygiene. Like a direct mail database, an e-mail database also should have list hygiene methods applied to keep it in top shape.

What constitutes bad data, and how can you fix it?

Syntax errors: More often than not, non-deliverability results from errors in the format or domain. A basic look at the e-mail address tells you about format and syntax errors, invalid domains, common domain typos and bogus and known bad e-mail addresses. It is easy to distinguish that “” is actually “” or that “” is [email protected] Special formatting requirements, e.g., AOL, also can be checked.

Bad addresses:You need to scrub and purge your list periodically. Locate the bad addresses and remove them from your list based on the black book provided by CAN-SPAM, your in-house black book or the unsubscribe list. This way you ensure delivery into the inbox instead of the spam or bulk folder.

Domain names: Be wary of domains that start with [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected] Those seldom are real subscribers and likely were obtained without consent. These recipients often are system administrators who will complain in such a way that you will be blacklisted.

No activity: Remove subscribers who have not responded in any fashion (open, click or convert). A good number of communications to follow would be five relevant e-mails.

Bounce-handling accuracy: You need to eliminate all addresses from your list that result in a bounced e-mail. ISPs and system administrators will raise red flags if they notice that a large number of your e-mails bounce back.

Opt-in methods: E-mail should be verified by sending the subscriber an e-mail requiring some kind of action, such as click a link or reply to a message. This assures you that the recipient wishes to receive e-mails from you. And you can avoid the “spam trap” addresses.

Opt-out methods: You must provide your client a simple method to terminate a subscription so that your messages are not reported as spam. As an administrator, you should provide clear, effective instructions for unsubscribing from a mailing list. Ensure that clients are informed about how many days it would take for you to implement the change and adhere to that number. Provide an alternative method for terminating a subscription, like a telephone or postal address.

Privacy policy and relevance: It is important for the privacy policy and terms of service to be accurate and mention the identity that will be marketing to them. Subsequent messages should look very similar to the originating site to maintain continuity in the user experience. Content needs to maintain relevancy. As many as 34 percent of subscribers report e-mail as spam to their ISPs when they simply wish no longer to receive it.

Handling complaints: Give clients an option to complain directly to you about the offers that you e-mail to them. Various options should be provided upon subscription and opt out including frequency and topic. This can help maintain relevance.

Remember, if the ISP receives numerous complaints against your e-mails, you will be blacklisted. Each ISP has different complaint ratios. Microsoft may have less than 2 percent whereas another ISP will allow less than 1 percent. The complaint ratio is calculated as the number of complaints against you divided by the number of e-mails delivered by you.

If an ISP assumes that your domain is trying to spam, it may block or blacklist your domain. There are things you can do such as register a new e-mail domain or use another domain to send e-mails. If that happens, you lose any brand equity that you developed with the customer on the basis of your domain name. You also can try to work with each ISP and blacklist operator that your domain or IP address has trouble with, but it can be a time-consuming process that often continues with no resolution.

To avoid blacklisting, you should clean, manage and maintain your lists properly using the methods above. Conduct hygiene tests and update according to results. Reducing the number of invalid recipients, obtaining clear consent, maintaining relevance and continuity and comprehensive subscription options will help keep complaints low and make reaching your subscribers easier.

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