Email Validation for Improved Deliverability and Marketing Results

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Email is quickly becoming the preferred method of communication for businesses across the world, regardless of industry. Email is faster and less expensive than traditional mail, and many customers choose to receive messages from the companies they do business with through the email channel.

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  • 1.EmailValidation for ImprovedDeliverability and Marketing ResultsAn Experian QASWhite Paper

2. EmailValidation: How to ImproveDeliverability and Marketing ResultsReduced inbox delivery andperformanceInternet Service Providers (ISPs)like AOL, Hotmail and Gmail activelyscreen and filter incoming mail fortheir users. Increasingly, ISPs rely ona mailers reputation to determinewhat email messages will get throughto users inboxes. In fact, a studyby Return Path found that 77% ofdelivery problems were based onsender reputation. Sender reputationis based on several factors:Bounce rate- the number ofmessages that are returned asundeliverable divided by the numberof emails sent.Complaint rate- the number of peoplewho report your messages as spamdivided by the number of emailsdelivered.Spam trap hits- the number of emailsdelivered to addresses that areexplicitly used to trace and catalogspam.With all of these metrics, the higherthe numbers are, the worse thesender reputation. A slightly poorreputation will cause some messagesto go into the spam folder, and, asreputation worsens, messages maybe partially or fully blocked.WithAOL, for example, a complaint rateover 0.1% may cause some messagesto go into the spam folder, and a rateover 0.3% may lead to messagesbeing blocked.For most ISPs, a double digit bouncerate or mailing to a single spamtrap can lead to some blocking.Once senders reputation has beendamaged, it takes time and effortto return to a positive relationshipwith the ISP.This means that whilemessages in the current campaignreceive less-than-desirable inboxplacement, future email campaignsmay also be negatively impacted.Email marketers looking to improveand/or maintain positive reputation,to ultimately improve marketingresults should evaluate potentialemail validation tools to improve thequality of email lists.Improved reputation and resultsEmail validation starts with theidentification of undeliverable emailaddresses, but more comprehensivevalidation services can also flagspam traps and addresses that arelikely to generate complaints. A fullsuite of validation services leads to: Reduced bounce rate-RemovingEmail is quickly becoming the preferred method of communication for businesses across theworld, regardless of industry. Email is faster and less expensive than traditional mail, and manycustomers choose to receive messages from the companies they do business with through theemail channel.The success of your email marketing program depends on your subscribers seeing and respondingto the messages you send. Effort spent optimizing the content, relevance, and timing of emailsis wasted if subscribers never actually see these communications. Getting email messages intothe inbox is essential for email marketing success, and mailing to undeliverable emails, peoplewho will mark your messages as spam (a.k.a. complainers and screamers), and spam traps cancause emails to be lost in the spam folder or even blocked. Email validation tools enable you toprevent bad addresses from permeating your list, improve deliverability, and capture more leads ultimately leading to stronger ROI on email communications. 3. invalid email addresses from your list or preventing themfrom getting onto the list in the first place means that agreater percentage of emails sent will be delivered. Fewer complaints and spam trap hits- Not mailingto people who will mark your messages as spam andavoiding traps results in a lower complaint rate and abetter sender reputation. Increased inbox delivery and results-With a betterreputation from fewer bounces and complaints, moreif not all-messages will make it into the inbox of yoursubscribers, resulting in greater open, click, and responserates. Lower mailing costs- If you use an Email ServiceProvider (ESP) to send email, fewer messages senttranslates to lower costs. Improved deliverabilityalso means less effort managing your mailings andinfrastructure. More usable leads- Validating emails when theyreentered on your website ensures that you capture aworking address, increasing data quality and the numberof deliverable addresses on your list.After implementing email validation, companies havereported as much as a 75% reduction in bounce rates and20% growth in open rates. For a retailer, higher open ratesmean additional sales that directly benefit the bottomline. For email newsletters, more opens result in greaterbrand exposure and better response rates to ads, thusrepeat advertisers and higher advertising rates.Validating emails at the point of entry online reduces dataentry errors and fraud, resulting in fewer lost leads anda larger email list. In an analysis of real-time validationresults across its clients, Experian QAS has found that asmuch as 8% of emails entered on websites are incorrector invalid. If you pay a penny every time you validate anemail, catching bad emails and capturing good ones hasa positive ROI if the lifetime value of an email addressis at least $0.125. For businesses that measure the valueof an email in dollars, money is clearly being lost if emailvalidation has not been implemented.How to validate email addressesEmail validation can be as simple as checking if there isan @ sign in the address. But to achieve the cleanestand most mailable set of email addresses, there areseveral steps that should be performed.Catch and correct syntax errorsThe proper syntax for email addresses is defined by theInternet standards document RFC 5322, yet it is importantto note that there are some email address formats thatare used in practice that do not meet the standard. Forexample, the RFC prohibits the use of a period beforethe @ symbol, but some domains allow it. It is therefore 4. essential to use a validation tool that is sophisticatedenough to both accept the full range of valid emailaddresses and also catch emails that on the surface lookacceptable, yet in fact will never work.Free email validation programs do a relatively simpleseries of checks to see if there is a single @ and a periodin the domain, and ensure that the email as a whole usesan accepted range of characters. Often, these free scriptspermit emails with syntax errors, but also reject perfectlyvalid ones, leading to lost customers. For example, certainweb forms will not accept emails that contain a plus sign,even though domains such as Gmail permit these emailaddresses. However, a plus sign cannot be used in adomain name, and other validation programs will let thisthrough.Most ISPs enforce their own format rules, which arestricter than the overall standard. For example, AOLemail addresses never start with a number, and a plussign cannot be used in a Hotmail address. By using emailverification that incorporates accurate ISP format rules,you can minimize bad data and capture more valid emails.By correcting email addresses with syntax and spellingerrors, you can recover otherwise invalid emails andassist visitors to your website. Email syntax errorscan appear because addresses were mistyped bycustomers online, improperly entered by customerservice representatives, or incorrectly scanned fromproduct registration cards. Domains could be misspelled,someone might type 2 instead of @, or a comma appearused instead of a period. Advanced email validationsolutions can fix these errors, allowing the sender toeither prompt a customer with a suggested correction orupdate the email list prior to the next mailing. Here aresome examples:Invalid EmailSmith, Bessie fred;billings!@netzreo.netjohn_doe2hotmale.comsteve@atntworldnet.comjoseaol.comCorrected Emailbsmith@example.comfred.billings@netzero.netjohn_doe@hotmail.comsteve@worldnetatt.netjose@aol.com 5. Confirm email domains workProperly validating email domain namesthe portion ofthe email to the right of the @ sign-further increasesthe number of addresses flagged as invalid. For manylists, proper domain validation can find three times moredead emails than syntax checks alone.A valid domain both exists and is enabled to accept email.Many domains have been registered, but email servershave never been set up, so these domains cannot acceptmail. However, email marketers are cautioned not to relyon solutions that verify domains in real time. Networkoutages are a fact of life on the Internet. If there was anynetwork interruption during a real-time domain check, alladdresses at that domain would be falsely categorized asdead.Enterprise validation services maintain a domaindatabase and monitor the status of a domain over days,not seconds. A domain is classified as invalid only if itfails repeated checks over several days, which ensuresthat no valuable data is lost.Verify mailboxes existThe most important component of email validation isverifying the mailbox at the domain. For example, with theaddress sarah667@hotmail.com, is sarah667 a workingaccount at Hotmail? Experian QAS has typically foundthat invalid mailboxes consistently account for over 70%of the undeliverable emails found during email validation.The most accurate way to validate a mailbox withoutactually sending an email message is to ping themailbox.This is done by pretending to send to an addresswithout actually doing so. It uses the same process asemail delivery software to check for a hard bounce, andit can be just as accurate, as long as the solution canaccurately differentiate the myriad status codes returnedby email servers.It is important to note that this is not a process that canbe carried out by any organization. Pinging a domainmany times without actually sending any email can causean IP address to be blocked. Using an email validationprovider who uses their own dedicated IPs and conformsto best practices will insulate you entirely from any risks.Mailbox pinging will find most, but not all, undeliverableemails.The administrators of each domain controlwhether the domain will provide hard bounce informationduring an email delivery session (using the SMTPprotocol).While the majority does this, some domains usecatch