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One of the many things that I love at Adestra, is our priority of maintaining our credibility as an email service provider (ESP) so that ISPs can trust email that comes through our platform.

Some companies might expect that they can simply port their lists over to Adestra and immediately begin emailing to them. This is a bad idea – for us and for those companies.

How deep is your list?

Let’s take a look at things from the marketer’s side.

In the ideal email list, every record includes the date you collected the email address and where you collected it.  The very best email is recent, double opted in and active.

On the other end of the spectrum are potential clients who may have huge databases but have never been mailed to.

You can’t take records you’ve acquired over years of doing business and start sending to them all. For one thing, many of those addresses are likely inactive. People may have stopped using them, or they may be throw-away addresses they use specifically to register for sites or access content but never open. Based on our experience, I estimate that for lists that aren’t recent, as few as 25 percent may be good addresses with active and engaged users behind them.

Given that email drives the majority of ROI for marketers, your business objectives and campaign metrics would be very different if only 25 percent of your list consists of valuable, active customers.

Your costs for emailing and for services like onboarding will also be affected if your list includes a large proportion of bad addresses.

Here’s another thing to think about: We’re moving past cookies to actual identities – and the email address is becoming the unique identifier of a customer. Therefore, bad email addresses can affect other portions of your business besides your email marketing. For a deeper discussion of this shift, read my recent article, From cookies to ad IDs, why email is key.

Bad rap

Aside from these business considerations, sending to a problematic population can result in your mail stream being blacklisted by an ISP or a third party blacklist like Spamhaus, which will block delivery to numerous ISPs.  When a sender is blacklisted, their sends are effectively blocked until they are able to resolve the issue with the blacklist owner.  This can take time and in this case, time quite literally equates to money.  Most blacklists typically rely on sends to spamtrap addresses.

Here’s an example of what can go wrong: Let’s say your average send-to draws only a 1 percent open rate, to ISPs this mail is clearly not bringing value to their audience.  Put differently, this would be deemed “spam.”  If the email you send is not opened and interacted with, you’ll have a harder time getting your email into the inbox.

A good ESP however, will carefully monitor for any send activity from one client which could lead to deliverability challenges for the rest of its client base. That’s one of the reasons we at Adestra are so invested in helping our clients clean and maintain the integrity of their lists.

Additionally, a reliable ESP needs to protect its existing clients from scams that could affect deliverability for the rest of its network. Instead of taking responsibility for acquiring email addresses legitimately and maintaining a clean list, some emailers will use ESPs to bear the burden of their aggressive tactics. For example, some list managers may engage in “waterfalling”: running the same list of illegally obtained addresses through a series of ESPs.

For each send-through, every successive ESP will clean some bounces and complaints; eventually the list may be usable enough to allow the spammer to move to yet another ESP and may benefit from much improved deliverability. Unfortunately, the ESPs who were used in the early stages of the waterfall process would have to face the fallout from the dirty sends which originated from their network.

Spamhaus provides an enlightening glossary of these malpractices.

How we keep it clean

At Adestra, we begin helping you spiff up your list before you even come onboard as a customer. First, our sales team is on the alert for warning signs. They’re trained to ask about when the list was last mailed to and how the records were acquired, as well as whether the company is using a do-not-send list.

We do a data quality review of every new client, looking for broken addresses and any known spam traps.

Then, we take samples and have our deliverability team evaluate the records. They look at what data shows indicators of a problematic list, and they would recommend the appropriate remedy to mitigate it.

Finally, unless new clients are coming from a reputable ESP and bringing all their data with them — including a robust do-not-send list — we start them out small and then build to full volume.

So, if you’re a new emailer, keep in mind that your gigantic list may be smaller once bad addresses are winnowed out – but that your campaigns will be more effective. Good things take time, but it’s always worth it to do things right.

Featured Image via Flickr.