Snakes In Your Database

LAST WEEK, Chris Helin shared some tips to help make your email append a success. This week, we're going downstream and looking at the database that holds all your email addresses. While the movie "Snakes on a Plane" garnered most of the Internet buzz and fun this past summer, marketers are coming to realize that snakes in your database are no laughing matter either. If you think you have done everything possible to keep these critters from putting a stranglehold on your email marketing campaigns, think again.

While slithering serpents in your database can come in all shapes and sizes, the most venomous ones can be boiled down to three types:
1. Bouncing email adders
2. "This is Spam" button-clicking vipers
3. Spamtrap and honeypot vermin

In fact, your email deliverability challenges are likely to be a direct result of one or more of the database snakes identified above. This is because these snakes correspond to the three main factors that lead ISPs to block your emails:



1. Your bounce rate is too high. All ISPs have bounce thresholds. If you exceed a pre-determined ratio of deliverable vs. bouncing messages, the ISP will put a dynamic block on your email campaign.

2, Your complaint rate is too high. ISPs track the clicks of the "This is Spam" button and will block your campaign if they see too many complaints from recipients.

3. You are sending your messages to spamtrap and honeypot email addresses. These addresses are not owned by individual users; instead they are used by ISPs to monitor unsolicited email. Posted on newsgroups and Web sites, they were originally designed to catch spammers who build their databases by spidering the Web for email addresses or using dictionary attacks. Unfortunately, they also appear in many rented lists and malicious registrations.

As Samuel Jackson would recommend, it is time for marketers to say "Enough is enough. I've had it with these @#$%^ snakes in my @#$%^ database!"

Fortunately, the techniques to remove and keep out snakes from your database are both simple and cost-effective:

  • Clean regularly. Have your email address database cleaned on a monthly basis. Suppressions, at a minimum, should include invalid addresses, closed and unmonitored domains, suspect and malicious email addresses, "squealers and screamers," the DMA's "Do Not Email" list, Utah/Michigan Child Protection suppressions (if applicable), and any spamtrap and honeypot addresses.

  • Be more aggressive about removing bounces from your files - The old "three strikes and you're out" mantra no longer applies today. For AOL, one bounce is sufficient. For most other ISPs, two bounces. Do whatever you can to keep your rate of bounces per mailing as low as possible.

  • Employ a sophisticated email address validation service on your front end to keep bogus & malicious addresses from getting into your database at the point of registration.

  • Avoid list rentals, co-registrations, list swapping, and other third party lists if you are unable to validate each entry before it gets into your database.

    As any good exterminator or doctor will tell you, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!"

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