Why is Email Testing Important?

Email marketing is a complex business, in no small part because of the email clients themselves. Marketers spend a lot of time and money on email design, copy, and photography to sell their products or services. They want to know that their message will look exactly the way they intended it to when the big blast goes out. Email client quirks often throw a wrench in those plans. Email testing services, like our friends over at Email on Acid, ensure that your email looks perfect in every popular email client before you hit that "Send" button.

In an ideal world, every client would adhere to the same standards. You could send an email and know that it's going to look exactly the same every time it’s opened. The truth is that each client interprets your HTML in a different way. Gmail doesn't allow embedded CSS. Outlook.com defaults line-height to 133%. Outlook 07, 10, and 13 don't allow background images (unless you know a little workaround). Email preview services make it their business to know all of these little quirks and help you spot the land mines before you send out your final blast.

For example, let's say that you included the viewport metatag in your email, in an effort to control how zoomed-in it appears in mobile devices. Seems like a great idea, right? Well, on the BlackBerry your email will now display as a blank white screen. Why? Only the folks at BlackBerry know the answer to that, but a testing service can tell you that it's going to happen. And they can let you know that before 8% of your list of 200,000 subscribers sees a blank, white email and deletes it immediately.

Yes, you can acquire some of these email clients on your own and test them, especially webmail clients like Gmail and Yahoo! But others will be harder to get ahold of, such as multiple versions of Outlook, Lotus Notes and Apple Mail. Not to mention the permutations caused by all of the devices and apps currently available for the mobile market. An email testing service can save you hours of time spent on an otherwise menial task by compiling these images simultaneously. Trying to test against SPAM filters on your own adds another layer of complexity.

What’s the point in coding the perfect email if it’s never going to reach the inbox? SPAM testing allows you to see which filters might refuse your email ahead of time. Many filters don’t offer more information than a simple pass/fail, but through trial and error one can usually hit on something they’ll accept. If your email bombs in a certain SPAM filter, like Barracuda, it could cause a huge dip in your open rate. Losing thousands of emails to a SPAM filter is like throwing money away. Prevent problems like this by signing up for an email testing service today. 

Geoff Phillips is a writer, web designer, and foodie. A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, Geoff polished his writing skills working for newspapers and magazines before joining Email on Acid. When he's not learning about CSS, he enjoys exploring the Denver restaurant scene or hiking in the foothills.

Hit TV Show Gains Email Traction and Reduces Bounce Rates through Partnerships with Lyris & BriteVerify

Business Challenge

A major television network came to Lyris with seven different subscriber lists – totaling six million records that were of varying ages, sizes, and quality – and a specific goal: to promote a program associated with one of its hit shows to these subscribers. Lyris recommended sending to a small segment of the database to test the quality of the data. Over the next few weeks of tracking results of the email send, alarming issues came to light – a hard bounce rate of more than 18% and damage to the sender reputation of the show’s dedicated IP, putting deliverability of future campaigns from the entire network in jeopardy. 

The Solution

As Lyris’ deliverability team quickly concluded, the high percentage of hard bounces indicated that the lists were old, stale, or email addresses had failed. There are several reasons why this may have been the case. People change email addresses every few months or make errors typing in their addresses when they subscribe for email; plus some addresses might no longer exist, or they may have been shut down by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) because they were inactive. 

The consequences of hard bounce rates can be severe:

Much like spam complaints, hard bounce rates that remain high over time can cause a sender’s dedicated IP score to decrease, impacting the ability of future email sends to reach recipients’ inboxes. 

A poor sender score on one IP can influence the other IPs owned by a company – damage to one may result in damage to all. 

Gmail will permanently block all emails from certain IPs based on the number of inbound emails sent, and getting email un-blocked is often a tedious and manual process. 

Once a company is categorized by an ISP as a gray sender or a spammer, repairing its reputation can be quite costly, time-consuming, and may cause a loss in revenue opportunities resulting from a drop in email engagement. 

With all this in mind, Lyris recommended that the network move forward with cleansing the database, and chose BriteVerify as a partner. BriteVerify delivers email address verification solutions that improve data quality, deliverability, and email marketing ROI. The company provides list cleansing as a service but also conducts real-time transactional email verification, going straight to email providers and ISPs, and checking emails at the account level. Data security, timely turnaround, and accurate results were all top priorities for the network. Since its show was on the air at the time and only runs for a few months of the year, it was extremely important to resolve the issue as soon as possible. 

“What started as a TV show has grown into a major brand. The show’s marketing efforts do so much more than drive eyeballs to the show; they inspire people. To that end, everyone at BriteVerify is honored to have played such an important role in its email marketing success.”

Matt McFee CEO, BriteVerify

The network selected BriteVerify as a vendor because it is TrustE certified and operates under Safe Harbor rules. The company has high degree of security and encryption in its database, going well beyond federal and Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) regulations. BriteVerify used secure cloud workstations to pull the network’s six million records from its secure storage environment directly into BriteVerify’s processing platform. This process maximized the security of the data during both the file transit and verification processes.

The Results

The complete verification of the network’s email data took only a few days, and the file was returned before the estimated completion date. The timely return allowed the network to eliminate all invalid records and re-introduce millions of records into its production-mailing channel in time to complement the show’s other promotional efforts. 

Cleaning the network’s email data reduced its hard-bounce rate by 85%, from 18% to 5%. If it had chosen to ignore Lyris’ advice, the original dataset would have damaged the sending reputation for its dedicated IPs. This damage would have taken months to repair and would have resulted in significant lost revenues. By verifying the original dataset and removing invalid email addresses, Lyris and BriteVerify were able to get the network’s show back to sending and engaging its audience within a very short timeframe.

 

Email Marketers and the Law of Diminishing Returns

In economics, the Law of Diminishing Returns states that if one input used in the production of something is continuously increased while all other variables are held constant, you will reach a point where each additional input eventually yields smaller and smaller increases in production, or diminishing returns. This law holds true in many facets of our personal and professional lives yet we rarely give it much notice because to many of us, more of something good is ALWAYS better. In the for-profit business world the primary goal is to maximize profit for your company. As business owners we typically maximize profits by adding more inputs like salespeople and software developers. There is a point at which the cost of additional inputs (people, product) exceeds the value created by adding the inputs. We see this when the next person hired or product developed produces less profits than those that came before it. This could mean that all inputs going forward will be less profitable or actually unprofitable. At this point, adding more inputs becomes a bad idea.

Email marketers face this dilemma every day. I have been party to many conversations in recent weeks that go something like this:

“My boss wants more email addresses in our production database. He wants me to purchase email addresses / correct our invalids to make them valid / add a ‘recently found’ database that hasn’t been touched in years, etc. etc. I know this is risky but I can’t convince my boss not to do this. What should I do?”

The ‘bosses’ in this equation are always men and women responsible for email revenue. The bosses always suffer from the same perception that ‘if my average email generates $X.XX in profits, adding Y new emails must drive profits up.’ If your email program is profitable, and you consider the law of diminishing returns, this logic holds up pretty well provided the cost of the next email isn’t higher than the profit it generates.

Unfortunately, the law we consider here has a fundamental flaw: when you add risky email addresses it’s nearly impossible to keep all other email marketing variables constant. The variable most likely to change is the most influential variable in the entire email equation. When perception forces the bosses to make this fatal mistake your email deliverability is likely to fall immediately. This fall will make the cost of adding risky emails, no matter how cheap they are, an unprofitable decision.

Another thing to consider in this debate is whether your ESP will even allow you to mail to these new-found assets. Most ESPs have their own internal quality assurance databases of risky addresses. Acquiring data on the cheap is likely to trigger your ESP’s internal QA thresholds. This means that your new email addresses are too risky for your ESP to deploy. These types of checks and balances save ESPs from taking on unnecessary risk and thankfully save marketers from themselves.

At the end of the day, delivering email messages to the right inboxes at the right time is the best way to maximize profits in the email channel. A few marketers understand this but most are stuck in the ‘more emails = more profits’ rut. With email, more can certainly be better if ‘more’ is added in the right way. Taking the easy way out by purchasing, fixing, or pulling data from the email graveyard is likely to force all the bosses learn the hard way about email inputs and diminishing returns.

Avalanche of Disposable Addresses

Email continues to be the dominant communication tool between organizations and their customers however with the continuous stream of messages and newsletters that are distributed as well as the relentless onslaught of spammers, it comes as no surprise that users often turn to an emerging class of products that provide real but temporary, disposable email addresses for users to complete their transactions without actually committing with their primary one.

So what are these products’ actual offerings? Simply put, it is to provide an alternative way of sharing and managing email addresses. A unique email address is created for every contact, thus creating a point-to-point connection between the owner and the organization. So if the organization abuses the relationship with unwarranted emails or compromises the email, the owner can simply discontinue or “dispose of” the account. That process seems harmless enough to legitimate organizations, however creating and managing multiple disposable addresses can also become a chore for address owners so disposable addresses are commonly shared with multiple organizations until they have earned the owner’s trust.

The problem for marketers arises when the number of unwanted messages reaches the owner’s tolerance threshold and that account is ultimately disposed. However if a legitimate marketer was sending relevant emails, not only would those emails not be delivered anymore, the marketer is likely to face deliverability issues due to bounces. This certainly gives new perspective to John Donne’s poem “no man is an island” where the acts of others in the marketing sphere can affect your organization directly. However the situation need not be as dire as the ending of Donne’s famous prose.

To avoid this dilemma, the best practice is to be open at the time of collecting emails as to why you need this information and when the potential recipient can expect emails from your organization. Honestly share who else would have access to this information and the frequency with which they can expect to receive messages from your organization. Empowering recipients with options that shapes future communication with what they want to receive, through what channels and when, can lead to a beneficial outcome for all.

Secondarily, check your legacy data and flag those disposable addresses. Most are time-sensitive or one-time use addresses, so are likely expired. Its worthwhile to remove them as most marketers wouldn’t want to own address that do not generate any value but add to their marketing cost and efforts, and just as importantly can affect their deliverability adversely.

With the floodgates opened, the disposable addresses are now endemic to marketing lists however don’t allow them to accumulate so be persistent in verifying and evaluating emails as part of your on-going marketing efforts.

Mountaining Molehills

Or, “Is it at least the same as, or better than, what you have already?” Developers used to write software by first spending weeks or months gathering information, then disappearing for months or years to go off and actually write the software. However, people often found that what the developers finally ended up releasing - after having been away for so long - wasn’t what the client wanted, or what the market needed. So their time was completely wasted and the project was a complete failure.

Luckily, things are changing. In the web world, you can now make a new ‘release’ of your software with just the push of a button, which has shifted modern software development to focus on more “Agile” methodologies. “Release often. Fast development without too much formality. Small sets of changes. Small teams.” - This is the Agile mindset; the idea being that you write some code, get it out to your users quickly, get their feedback, make changes, and repeat. “Agile” is still a relatively new concept though – the “Agile Manifesto” was only released in 2001, so sometimes keeping true to the core concepts can be a challenge - especially for technology managers who are old farts like me.

At an old job I had quite a few years ago, I had a boss - the CTO - who was generally a great guy. Good technologist. Solid conception of how all the pieces fit together. But sometimes, I, or one of the other devs, would bring something up to him that “we should do” and we would inevitably run into the following trap -

Me: “Hey Boss, we really ought to do ‘x’ - it would make our lives easier and make us more money and be super awesome etc etc etc.”

Him: “Well, minion - that’s a really good idea.  But if we’re going to do ‘x’ we might as well do ‘y’ - it’s the very same code! And if we’re going to do ‘y’ we really have no choice but to do ‘z’ - people have been asking for that forever now! And to do all of x, y, and z will take us a jillion billion frillion months. So let’s not do that now.

I called him on that pattern after a while and gave it the name “Mountaining Molehills.” I’ve seen plenty of other people in the industry fall into that trap, too. I’ve even caught myself almost doing it, here at BriteVerify.

So what I’ve found to pull myself out of the trap is to ask the question:

“Is it better than, or at least as good as, what we have already?”

Take a fresh look at ‘x’ - the first little thing you wanted to do, sitting on its own. And see if that even without ‘y’ and ‘z’, it’s at least as good as what you’re doing already, if not slightly better. And doing just ‘x’ might have you releasing something in a few weeks rather than a year. And it puts you on a path where you can do ‘y’, and maybe even ‘z’. But the whole point of Agile is that you may find once you’ve done ‘x’, that that’s enough for this release. It may turn out that you don’t even need ‘y’ or ‘z’. You might instead need ‘w’ - something you hadn’t even thought of yet.

What got me to thinking about this the other day was drafting out a project plan for a new product we’ve been talking about. I had initial release dates set up for 6 months away, with some dates set as far away as nearly a year. That set off alarm bells. I looked at each of the dates I had set, and saw that I could probably trim a few days off here and there, but nothing that was going to cut the whole thing in half.

It was then that I asked myself - well, what if I did just this one thing? It’s not what I want to do. It’s not what the product is “supposed” to be when it’s finished. But - is it at least as good as, if not better than, what we have now? Yes, it is - by far. And as a bonus, by just making tiny “sprints” like that I could get us to a released product much sooner.

So there was my answer: do it.

Fight through your perfectionist urges and do it - not the way you idealistically would like, but the way that will keep you moving forward in a much more practical way. Stay focused on the Molehills and before you know it, you may have even moved that Mountain.

A Word on Spamtraps

At BriteVerify we’re often asked if we remove spamtraps from our users’ email databases.  Typically the question takes the following form: “We’re evaluating verification services.  Competitors X and Y provide trap filters.  Does BriteVerify provide trap filters as well?”

The short answer is no and we lose business because of it.  However, a topic as important as spamtraps deserves more than one question and checkbox on an email verification RFP.  If you’re considering providers that provide trap filters you owe it to yourself to dig a bit deeper.

While there are different types of spamtraps, the most impactful ones are created by ISPs and anti-spam agencies to identify organizations that acquire email addresses using nefarious methods.  Aiding in the removal of these traps is in conflict with our mission.

Verification providers that claim to remove these traps are unable to make a commitment to comprehensive trap removal.  Statements that claim to “remove known spamtraps” imply a partial solution at best.  We recently received an email about a provider that claimed to ‘remove all Spamhaus traps.’  The company that trusted this vendor was blacklisted after mailing their ‘verified data’ because they hit too many traps.

To gain a true understanding of exactly what value a provider can deliver to the spamtrap discussion add the following questions to your RFP:

1. Can you remove 100% ISP-generated traps on my list?

Reason to ask: ISPs NEVER disclose which email addresses are traps.  The credibility of a provider that claims to remove all ISP traps should be closely examined.

2.  Can you remove all spamtraps created by the anti-spam agencies (ex. Spamhaus)?

Reason to ask: Anti-spam agencies use traps for specific purposes.  Disclosing a list of their traps would undermine these purposes.  Again, a YES to this question should lead the questions of credibility.

3. From where do you obtain your trap addresses?

Reason to ask: An answer of “we can’t disclose our sources” is not an acceptable.  The purpose of this question is to allow you to get comfortable with the credibility of your provider.  Probe as deeply as you can on this one.

4. If we select you as a provider and still hit traps what kind of recourse do we have?

Reason to ask: The answer will be NONE.  If you probe further the discussion will help you get a better understanding of whether the provider in question is truly committed to your success or if they are simply out to generate revenues.

In closing, BriteVerify supports anti-spam efforts run by ISPs and agencies like Spamhaus and Project Honeypot and does not supply tools to subvert these initiatives.  These initiatives are good for our ecosystem and a part of the fabric of email best practices.  To learn more about different types of spamtraps and their effects please read http://blog.briteverify.com/the-truth-about-spamtraps.

Deliverability Demystified

Preface by Matt McFee, Founding Partner, BriteVerify

At BriteVerify, we often counsel clients on the benefits of email verification in the context of email deliverability and inbox presence.  These conversations typically center on the notion that “if you have all the other deliverability elements in place, cleaner email data will improve your deliverability.”

However, clean data alone doesn’t guarantee email campaign success.  The ‘other deliverability elements’ mentioned above assumes our clients have the right messaging infrastructure, acquisition and data management strategies, and email messaging strategies in place to maximize the success of each email campaign.   Since these elements fall outside of our purview we aren’t always able to educate our clients on the best way to ensure campaign success after the email verification process.

This is why we’re excited to present the second in a series of educational articles co-developed with Travis Wetherbee (@WC_Delivery), passionate anti-spam advocate, deliverability consultant, and ex-Postmaster at Hotmail.  Our first article entitled ‘The Truth About Spamtraps’ provided insights about different types of spamtraps along with some great lessons for the reader.  We can only hope that this article is as widely embraced and valued as our first.  And now…on to Travis!

 

Deliverability Demystified

 Disclaimer: In this article we will not attempt to define email deliverability.  Instead we will present factors that have the greatest impact on your ability to deliver email messages to the inbox.  While deliverability is widely considered difficult and sometimes referred to as magic, we will do our best to define the important factors and suggest courses of action that you can use to improve your deliverability strategy.

Demystifying Deliverability is broken down into 3 sections, all of which can significantly influence the success of your long-term email deliverability.  While there are other variables in the deliverability equation, we believe Messaging Infrastructure, Data Acquisition and Management Strategy, and Messaging Strategy are 3 very important ones.  We will present the basics of these 3 factors below and look forward to engaging in the spirited discussion and debate that is certain to follow!

 

Deliverability Factor 1: Messaging Infrastructure

The foundation of any successful email marketing program is a strong and reliable messaging infrastructure.  Think about your messaging infrastructure as the car you drive to work each day.  Your car serves a very simple but important need; to take you to work so you can earn an income and then to take you home safely.   A reliable car will get you to work as expected each and every day.  An unreliable car could get you to work on time some days and not at all on other days.  

Your messaging infrastructure will have similar influences on your ability to deliver emails reliably and create value for your company.  For the same reasons most of us prefer to rely on auto-makers to build our cars, messaging infrastructures are also best left to the professionals.  The world’s best Email Service Providers (ESPs) build and manage the most reliable messaging infrastructures available.  

As we dive deeper into the components of a reliable messaging infrastructure it becomes easy to see why your infrastructure is best left to the experts.  As with many things in life, getting deliverability right takes a lot of effort and support.  Getting it wrong takes almost no effort at all!

The experts at your ESP will be responsible for setting up the fundamentals of your infrastructure.  These fundamentals include:

DNS Setup

When your domain’s DNS is correctly set up it will have a zone file which includes MX, A and PTR records.  You may also include a text record which will mainly be used for email authentication.  

Each step of the DNS setup process plays a key role in helping your email messages reach the inbox.  When setup incorrectly your DNS will cause your well-crafted messages to be blocked, junked or deleted by the receiving ISPs.  

Authentication

Another key factor that falls under messaging infrastructure is Authentication.  Authentication has evolved from the standard rDNS lookup to today where DKIM, DomainKeys, SPF and SenderID are needed to help ISPs authenticate you – the sender.  No single method is better than the other and each has their advantages and disadvantages.  While DomainKeys Identified Mail, or DKIM, has proven to be the most widely adopted method we strongly recommend you set up SPF and SenderID as well to make sure you are properly covered.

Whitelisting & Feedback Loops

Last but not least is Whitelisting and Feedback Loop setup.  Once the rest of your infrastructure is setup correctly you can apply to be whitelisted and setup feedback loops with ISPs that offer them publicly.  Both Whitelisting and Feedback Loops are essential to maintaining good deliverability.  

Whitelisting – Whitelisting it is fairly straightforward.  There are a few ISPs that offer in-house whitelisting.  Once accepted, your emails are subjected to less spam filtering than a sender that is not listed.  However, whitelisted senders are held to a higher standard when it comes to email deliverability metrics such as complaints, spamtraps, hard bounces etc.  In addition, ISPs that offer whitelisting have application processes that can include lengthy probationary periods during which your messages will be scrutinized.  You should be on your absolute best behavior during this period.

Complaint Feedback Loops – Complaint Feedback Loops, often referred to as FBLs, are a form of complaint feedback by which ISPs forward complaints originating from their customers to the email sender.  For years email recipients have had the ability to complain about junk email but senders had no way to access to this information.  Originally pioneered by AOL, complaint feedback loops help senders maintain their complaint rates by promising to remove the subscribers that click the “this is spam” button.  

Easy stuff right?  When a reputable ESP builds your messaging infrastructure many of the deliverability fundamentals are taken care of.  Just hop in the car, turn the key, and drive.  But what if you’re a terrible driver?  Your ESP can only guarantee that a good messaging infrastructure is ready for use.  The way you use it, however, will have as much if not more influence over your inbox presence.  So drive carefully and read on.

 

Deliverability Factor 2: Data Acquisition and Management Strategy

Now that you have a reliable messaging infrastructure it’s time to look in the mirror, so to speak, and evaluate your data acquisition and management strategy.  Or more simply, how are you getting people on your list and what are you doing once they are there.  

Acquisition

The cleanest method of adding new subscribers to your email programs is to collect opt-in submissions through forms on your website.  On-site registration allows you to control the registration flow, data collection method, opt-in method, and data verification process of each new consumer BEFORE adding them to your list.  Having complete control over the opt-in process will ensure that you have properly informed each consumer what you have in store for them once they join your list.  

Owning the process also allows you to perform verification on each email address entered into your forms. Using a service like BriteVerify will identify data-entry mistakes and communicate with consumers to get corrections.  Email verification ensures that your new emails are clean and ready to use while improving the profitability of your data acquisition programs.

While ‘on-site’ data acquisition typically yields the most responsive and problem-free subscribers, the cost-per-new-acquisition can be high.  There are many other ‘off-site’ ways to obtain new email addresses.  These alternative methods have varying degrees of risk and reward.  Some, but not all, of the risks associated with ‘off-site’ data acquisition can be mitigated by your internal data management practices.  Consider ‘off-site’ acquisition methods as a compliment to a well-managed ‘on-site’ strategy and please do so with extreme caution.  To echo our previous comment, acquiring clean responsive data that won’t interrupt deliverability can be difficult, but destroying deliverability with poor acquisition methods is easy!

Management

Once new email addresses reach your database the data is yours.  If you verified data on the way in you will have email addresses that are free of hard-bounces.  If your new data (regardless of acquisition method) has not been verified contact a service like BriteVerify to remove the addresses that will hard-bounce upon deployment.  Delivering to email addresses that do not exist is not viewed favorably by ISPs.  Don’t allow data quality issues to derail all the work you’ve done up until now.  Verification is simply, quick, affordable, and, most importantly, it will remove a negative variable from the deliverability equation.

In Section 3 we will address Messaging Strategy as it relates to deliverability.  However, as you begin to deliver messages you will need to pay attention to a few things.  First, make it super-easy for recipients to opt-out of your list if they choose to.  The position of your unsubscribe language is critical as is the ability for a recipient to remove themselves with one simple click.  Remember, it only takes one click for someone to identify your message as spam.  Make unsubscribing easy so the ‘This is Spam’ button doesn’t become the preferred opt-out method.  Based on previous studies, upwards of 60% of all ‘This is Spam’ clicks are consumers attempting to opt-out of future messages.  If your members take this route your deliverability may suffer.

Another by-product of your messaging strategy will be handling hard-bounces and soft-bounces.  If you haven’t cleaned your data or hard bounces materialize through natural attrition you must remove those from future programs.  In addition, soft bounces, or email accounts that are temporarily unable to receive messages (think OOO responders, inboxes over quota, temporary suspension of service) should be monitored closely and possibly removed if these emails don’t become deliverable over a short period of time.

Role accounts, or accounts that are set up to serve a function like accounting@, postmaster@, info@, sales@, etc. should also be removed.   These addresses will dilute your engagement metrics and they could affect your deliverability.  To learn more about soft-bounce removal strategies and how role accounts could influence deliverability please read our first article ‘The Truth About Spamtraps’ hosted at blog.briteverify.com.

Assuming you have complimented your ESP’s messaging infrastructure with a clean and attentive acquisition and management strategy, you are now safe to jump into your messaging strategy.  A good messaging strategy will deliver information your members find useful, timely, and relevant.  However, a poor strategy will ultimately destroy all the hard work and investment you’ve made up to this point.

 

Deliverability Factor 3 – Email Messaging Strategy 

The primary goal of your email messaging strategy is to create value by increasing your members’ engagement with your brand.  Typically, strong brand engagement will result in increased profits generated by your email programs.  Higher profits will make your bosses happy.  

However, ISPs don’t care about your bosses and instead rely on metrics like engagement, bounce rates, complaint rates, and content to determine what kind of reputation you deserve.  In the eyes of an ISP, your reputation will determine whether your messages land in the inbox, spam folder, or trash.  We will use our remaining time together to present the different variables that contribute to your mailer reputation.  Pay attention, dangerous curves ahead!

Engagement: Testing, Testing 1, 2, 3…is This Thing On?

Have you ever heard the quote ‘consider plan B your new plan A?’  No, you haven’t, because we just made it up!

All kidding aside, the quote implies that your original plan A is not as reliable as it used to be.  Plans B, C, & D are often needed to compare against plan A to determine which plan will deliver the most value.  In the email world (and just about every other world) this is known as testing.  Good email marketers test every variable possible, from subject line to time-of-day and everything in between.  Testing in small doses ensures that your large email deployments will result in maximum member engagement. 

POP QUIZ: What happens to deliverability when we send useful, timely, and relevant messaging that results in lots and lots of engagement?  

ANSWER: Deliverability improves!  Whew, that was a tough one.  

Your ESP has testing tools built into your messaging infrastructure.  USE THEM!  Successful testing will improve member engagement rates.  Strong engagement rates will improve reputation metrics.  Good reputation metrics will improve deliverability.  

More Information on Engagement

Each ISP has different thresholds for ‘positive engagement.’  However, they all believe that email marketers who consistently drive high engagement rates should have a better reputation.  Engagement is considered a Positive Reputation Metric by ISPs, whereas complaint rates are considered Negative Reputation Metrics.  

Very few things in today’s email ecosystem can positively affect your deliverability rates like a highly engaging email messaging program.   Consider this: within the last 18 months several large domestic ISPs have introduced functionality that prioritizes the order of emails in your inbox based on which emails their customers want to see.  This functionality determines the order by measuring engagement level with each email message’s sending domain.  Get used to it, engagement rates will likely be considered a primary reputation metric by the ISPs for a long time to come.  

We have worked with marketers who batted 2 for 2 (good infrastructure and data strategy) only to fall flat when it came to their email messaging strategy.  This resulted in a very weak reputation.  In rare cases the opposite has held true.  From time to time we have witnessed brands go 0 for 2 but flawlessly execute their messaging strategy and, by no coincidence, see their deliverability rates flourish.  This illustrates the power of engagement rates with the ISPs.

Ignore Rate: The Opposite of Engagement 

As we mentioned earlier, ISPs have different thresholds for what qualifies as positive engagement.  This means you should always generate the maximum engagement possible using techniques we share in this article.  But what about those subscribers that never engage with your messages?  These people drag down your engagement metrics, reputation, and deliverability.

I found a great example of how fleeting engagement metrics can be in my spam folder this week.  One year ago I signed up for a daily news email with the intention of getting a quick snapshot of the important news in my inbox rather than searching it out on the web.  I engaged daily with these emails at first, then weekly, and most recently only once a month at most.

Last month these messages stopped landing in my inbox and are now exclusively delivered into my spam folder.  I suspect my reduced engagement had everything to do with these emails finding their way out of my inbox.  If this is the case, what should this marketer do next?

How best to handle non-responders is one of the better debates going on right now in the email circles.  Our suggestion is to consider a few variables before creating your own plan.  First, determine exactly how long a subscriber should be unresponsive before moving them into this category.  Second, create a separate program dedicated to winning back interest in your program.  Third, determine why subscribers become unresponsive by asking about content, frequency, and delivery location so you can make your main email messaging programs better.  Lastly, link non-responders with their acquisition method.  If you find that one method or source of data acquisition results in the highest # of non-responders eliminate it from all future programs. 

OK, enough about what engagement can do.  Let’s get to the factors that ultimately produce engaged subscribers.  

Timely & Relevant Content 

Question for you:  When was the last time you had a friend offer you a drink at the exact moment you became thirsty?  Probably never right?  Not sure about you, but my friends have better things to do than predict when I will become thirsty.  Selfish right?

Email marketers are different.  Successful email marketers can predict when needs will arise and fill those needs quickly.  What’s more, subscribers love brands that deliver what they need exactly when they need it.  How does this translate to increased deliverability rates you may ask?  Through engagement metrics my dear Watson!

Timely and relevant messaging is the key to engaging your subscribers.   But I am sure you already knew this.  What you may not know is that engaged subscribers are far less likely to report your emails as spam.  Since highly engaged subscribers don’t typically click the ‘This is Spam’ button, timely and relevant messaging also lowers complaint rates.  ISPs believe that senders with low complaint rates should have better deliverability.  

By becoming an expert on timely and relevant messaging you can improve two key reputation metrics in the form of stronger engagement and lower complaint rates.  These changes will positively influence your mailer reputation.  From experience on both sides of the fence I can honestly say that brands with better mailer reputation will have better deliverability.

Targeted Messaging

Targeting is another key factor in your messaging strategy column that is often overlooked.  From a deliverability perspective not sending targeted messages is akin to leaving money on the table during a negotiation.  Subscribers are used to websites collecting data on their age, location, likes and dislikes in exchange for free stuff.  Unfortunately, many marketers do a very poor job of using this information to create value for both themselves and the subscriber?  Use all data collected to your advantage by segmenting your subscribers and creating content specific to the needs of each segment.  This approach will reduce the dead weight and improve engagement metrics and other negative reputation metrics.  

Why ask for the information if you aren’t going to use it.  Targeting subscribers based on information collected during the opt-in process should be a no brainer.  This bears repeating.  Targeted messaging increases engagement rates, engaged subscribers directly affect deliverability by way of positive reputation metrics. 

 

Closing

To some, email deliverability can seem like magic.  But to those that make an investment and put in the hard work, deliverability is simply the well-deserved byproduct of a strong partnership (infrastructure) and good planning (data and messaging strategies).  These two pieces go hand-in-hand in the pursuit of strong, consistent, and reliable email deliverability.

In the end, the pursuit of email deliverability is unending.  From time to time, ISPs will tweak the rules forcing you to comply with a new set of standards.  This makes the partnership with your ESP even more important as they are often the ones helping translate the changes into action steps.

Our last bit of advice is to remain active in the email marketing world by attending shows, interacting in forums, and keeping your knowledge-base up to date.  You will find yourself falling behind unless you’re actively learning from the thought leaders in our space.  Deliverability is a high-speed train.  Once you’re on board you can get to your destination safely and quickly.  Just don’t get off for a break because if the train leaves you behind it’s going to be expensive and time consuming to catch it the next time it comes by!

 

Travis Wetherbee (@WC_Delivery) is an anti-spam advocate and email deliverability consultant.  Travis has 10 years of email experience, starting as a member of the Postmaster group at Hotmail and including years of deliverability services at Strongmail Systems and WhatCounts.  Travis’ consultancy focuses on Email Deliverability, Marketing, Messaging Security, and Anti-Spam Services.  

BriteVerify.com is a global leader in email verification services.  Our mission is to deliver tools that help data owners follow best practices in email acquisition and protect themselves from the email evil-doers.  Visit briteverify.com today to learn more.

 

The Truth About Spamtraps

In an effort to help BriteVerify users better understand spamtraps, their associated risks, and the practices that should be followed to avoid them altogether, we partnered with Travis Wetherbee, former postmaster at Hotmail and current anti-spam advocate and deliverability expert, to create this blog.  We hope you find this information useful!

I: Introduction to the logic behind spamtraps

Spamtraps are one of the most widely used fraud management tools by large domestic and international Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  ISPs use spamtraps to lure spam from, you guessed it, spammers.  Through the use of spamtraps ISPs can keep track of spammers and block the IPs of those sending email to spamtrap addresses.  Since spamtrap addresses can’t opt-in to receive email there is no way to acquire spamtraps in your database if you’re following best practices.   

Maintaining the use of spamtraps can be categorized many different ways in the anti-spam universe but for the sake of this article it will be categorized as a form of list poisoning.  ISPs and Anti-Spam Services use spamtraps as a way to poison the lists of spammers who knowingly engage in email address harvesting, which is illegal under CAN-SPAM.  

II: Definitions of the types of spamtraps

Not all spamtraps are created equal, which means not all spamtraps carry the same negative impact to your sender reputation.  There are two main types of spamtraps employed by ISPs and Anti-Spam services and they are Pure Spamtraps and Recycled Spamtraps.   

Pure Spamtraps have the largest impact on your reputation and therefore your ability to deliver email to the major ISPs.  The penalty is the greatest with Pure Spamtraps because they are created for the sole purpose of being a spamtrap.  Therefore, any email received at these addresses is considered spam by the ISP or Anti-Spam Services.  There is no legitimate reason for an email message to show up in the inbox of a Pure Spamtrap

The second type is known under several different names (dead addresses, dormant addresses, inactive addresses etc.) however, for the sake of this article we will refer to this type as Recycled SpamtrapsRecycled Spamtraps are email addresses that were once owned by customers of the ISP/Email provider (hence the name recycled) that have stopped using the accounts.  After a pre-defined but undisclosed period of inactivity the ISP will turn the account off and return hard bounce or SMTP errors to senders (for example “550 – Unknown User”).  This process is known as “gravestoning” accounts.  After an email address has been gravestoned from 30 to 90 days, depending on the ISP, some addresses will be reactivated.  Those addresses marked for reactivation then become Recycled Spamtraps.  Any email delivered to these accounts is recorded as a spamtrap hit.

Recycled spamtraps have a lower penalty or effect on your IP & Domain reputation.  Nonetheless, this is still recorded as a spamtrap hit.   It is also good to note that not all ISPs have the same “gravestone” policies.  It is always a good idea to check with the major ISPs that make up a larger share of your database.  

Another type of spamtrap is known as Role Accounts or Function Email Accounts.  These accounts include webmaster@, hostmaster@, sales@, support@, postmaster@, etc.  The penalty for this type of trap hit can vary depending on the domain or ISP you are dealing with.  More often than not these accounts hold a higher penalty with smaller B2B domains.

 

III: How do spamtraps end up in your database?

Spamtraps are by definition a secret, known only to the owner of the spamtrap address.  Finding that you have one or more in your database can be very surprising and at the same time somewhat discouraging considering the penalties.  Below are the most common ways spamtraps end up in marketers’ databases.

The surest way to become infected with spamtraps is by purchasing email lists.  Purchased lists don’t have “born on dates” accompanying each address, so there is no real way to tell how old purchased addresses are.  Also, since ‘email lists for sale’ are aggregated without permission, they do not contain opt-in records.   If you purchase lists, either frequently or infrequently, chances are you’re currently sending to a large number of spamtraps.  

The second most common method is sending email to old lists that have been dormant for years.  This is a real good way to ring up quite a few spamtrap hits.  For example, I had a client that ran contests as a way to acquire email addresses.  After the contests these lists would sometimes be forgotten for years.  In this case, during a revenue meeting someone remembered that an old contest list of 200,000 addresses hadn’t been contacted and were therefore added to the production list.  The result was quite literally catastrophic.  

Other common ways spamtraps make their way into legitimate opt-in lists is by way of common role account hits or typos that lead to dead domains.  Dead domains are quite obviously domains that are no longer in service.  For example, some ISPs either go out of business, merge with another service, or are purchased outright.  In this scenario the ISP can either gravestone all addresses or migrate them over to the new service.  Considering that most Anti-Spam services don’t have the infrastructure to maintain webmail services, this presents them with an opportunity to purchase the gravestoned addresses and transfer them into spamtraps.  

IV: The risk spamtraps deliver to your IP addresses

Spamtraps carry a very heavy penalty on your IP & Domain reputation.  Of the two types, Pure Spamtraps have the most negative effect on your reputation.  Hitting a Pure Spamtrap will almost always cause an immediate block on your IP address and, depending on the ISP, your ‘from domain.’  Not only is getting blocked both expensive and disruptive, but the process of re-establishing your reputation can be quite difficult.  I recently worked with a client who built an excellent reputation.  They followed the best practices by the book when building IP & Domain reputation.  They hit a spamtrap at an Anti-Spam service and saw their inbox delivery to major ISPs go from 98% to 25% overnight.  Every campaign was being monitored by an inbox monitoring service so the fallout from the spamtrap hit was immediately apparent.

Mitigating the after-effects of spamtrap hits can be a long and very frustrating process depending on the origin, type of spamtrap, and ISP/Anti-Spam service.  Your IP address or subnet of addresses can take upwards of 6 months to a year to fully recover from just one spam trap hit if you do exactly what’s asked of you by the trap owner/ISP.

V: Are your deliverability problems related to spamtraps?

In my experience with several top ESP’s and with Windows Live Hotmail I can honestly say that a majority of delivery issues are not directly caused by spamtraps.  The largest contributor to deliverability issues is the lack of adherence to most basic email acquisition best practices (ex. don’t buy lists).

However, if you suspect that your deliverability problems are caused by spamtraps check the bounce logs for evidence of this.  Also referred to as SMTP Failure logs or sending logs, these are the best first step to determining the source of your deliverability issues.  All ISPs who block or defer mail will send a rejection message or bounce message to the originating mail server.  Also known as a Non Delivery Receipt/Report or Delivery Status Notification (DSN) for deferred messages have detailed information as to the reason for non-delivery of the email message.  

If you’ve checked your bounce logs and come up with nothing, the next step is to check reputation monitoring services such as Senderscore.org.  Also you can check the websites of popular Anti-Spam service Providers such as Cloudmark, BrightMail, Message Labs and Barracuda Network and many others.  Another option it to sign up for monitoring services provided by Return Path or DNSstuff.com which provides a Spam Database Lookup tool.  

 

VI: You have spamtraps, now what (expensive partial solutions ahead!)

To restate the obvious, the easiest way to deal with spamtraps is to follow the best practices in email acquisition and avoid them altogether.  If, however, you discover that you have spamtraps, your IP address is blocked, and you are quickly looking for the next steps before your company’s quarterly revenue is cut in half, the below information is for you.   

Before you run out and spend a large portion of your marketing budget on services that claim they can make you spamtraps-free remember this one important fact about spamtraps, they are only known to the owner of the spamtrap.  

First order of business is to identify the source of the breach and close it up before you do anything else.  Spamtrap owners (ISPs and Anti-Spam services) won’t talk to you unless you first tell them where you acquired the spamtrap, so be prepared.  Word to the wise, don’t ask the service provider for the address.  It is your breach and spamtrap owners have more important things to attend to which includes preventing the spread of spam.  Providers simply will not tell you which spamtraps you hit as setting up a new address takes valuable time and expensive resources they don’t have.  Any spamtrap removal service claiming their addresses are provided by ISPs are misrepresenting their services.

There are some very comprehensive sources that explain in great detail how to remove spamtraps from your database.  You are free to read these but remember, the easiest and least costly way to have a spamtrap-free database is to never onboard traps in the first place.   However, if you are infected below are a few ways to help flush out a spamtrap.

 1) Reconfirm your entire database.  This is probably the most costly of the solutions because emails are worth money to your organization and reconfirming is sure to cut your subscriber base by 75% or more.  Conversely, you can help mitigate this loss by only confirming certain segments of your database.  This is a standard best practice, something that I recommend my clients do on a regular basis.  Identifying certain segments can help reduce your fallout rate by 50% or more.

2) Did you recently purchase a list? If so, throw it out not matter what the cost was.  Purchased lists are again, the single largest cause of spamtrap hits by legitimate email marketers.  Throw it out and move on.

3) Did you have an unexpectedly large increase in subscribers recently?  This one is tricky because of the word “recently.”  However, when compared to the first option of reconfirming your entire database the ramification of misinterpreting the word “recently” probably seems like a walk in the park.  Scrutinize any subscribers or large number of subscribers and look for anything out of the norm. 

As I have stated here and experienced along with my clients, rooting out spamtraps is no walk in the park.  It is costly, causes strained business relationships and can have catastrophic implications for your brand’s ability to deliver email to the inbox in the future.

VI: Alternative ways to limit trap risk

Limiting your risk of contracting spamtraps is fairly simple; follow the best practices for acquiring and sending email marketing messages.  That said, I fully understand that business objectives don’t bend around email marketing objectives.  It is usually a one way street and best practices are typically the first casualty of any revenue based meeting.  With that in mind I give you the best bet options to limit your brand’s risk of tripping a spamtrap.

1) Use Smarter Webforms: For any email marketer, increasing the number of sign-ups is job number one.  Improperly increasing list size however, can come at a cost.  Make sure you’re limiting the risk associated with data entry mistakes through your web forms.  Web forms are the first defense in reducing the risk of spamtraps.  While you can hire a webpage designer/coder to code in all of the ISPs and B2B domains syntax rules and rules for dead domains, this can be costly when compared to using a service like BriteVerify.com.  I am a huge fan of this service and my clients can attest to the fact that this is one of my recommendations when working on improving email hygiene.

2) Suppression Lists: Create and maintain a suppression list that is portable and MD5 compliant.  That way if you choose to move ESPs, or take your email program in-house you can bring your suppression file with you.  If you don’t have the time or resources to maintain one, again use a service.  Suppression files usually consist of dead domains, role accounts, wireless domains, government entities etc.  You can also include any subscribers that complain or hit the junk button at their respective ISPs.  This would involve setting up feedback loops which I will cover in another article; however it is a good idea to keep those addresses in a suppression file.  

3) Soft Bounce Management: Create a soft bounce threshold that works in line with your marketing schedule, and stick with it.  Soft bounces can occur if the recipients’ mailbox is full.  Mailbox full is an early indicator that the recipients address may be close to becoming gravestoned by that ISP.  You can avoid hitting a recycled spamtrap if you set a threshold for soft bounces to be removed.  On average if you send 5 emails to a subscriber in any given 30 day period, then your soft bounce threshold should be 5 soft bounces in 30 days.  Once you set this threshold, the MTA will treat the 5th soft bounce in a 30 day period as if it were a hard bounce.  This will save your reputation by avoiding hard bounces and possibly avoiding a recycled spamtrap in the future.  

VII: Closing 

Hitting a spamtrap isn’t the end of the world.  However, if you hit one there is a lot of work that needs to be done.  If you follow best practices you already have done most of the work already.  If not, start by working with an experienced Email Deliverability Consultant.  Next contact BriteVerify.com to identify hard bounces and role accounts before they are repurposed as spamtraps.  You may also consider working with an inbox monitoring service in order to easily monitor your progress.  Doing so will help you track how the changes you implement affect deliverability.  Going it alone is definitely possible, but it will ultimately end up causing delays in having your IP removed from the blacklist.  

Ultimately your goal is to return your company’s deliverability rate back to normal and productive levels because, as we all know, deliverability affects the bottom line.  Good luck and best practices!

 

Travis Wetherbee is an anti-spam advocate and email deliverability consultant.  Travis has 10 years of email experience, starting as a member of the Postmaster group at Hotmail and including years of deliverability services at Strongmail Systems and WhatCounts.  Travis’ consultancy focuses on Email Deliverability, Marketing, Messaging Security, and Anti-Spam Services.  

BriteVerify.com is a global leader in email verification services.  Our mission is to deliver tools that help data owners follow best practices in email acquisition and protect themselves from the email evil-doers.  Visit briteverify.com today to learn more.

 

What Hurts More: Bad Data or Good Data Gone Bad?

Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective forms of business communication and marketing. In 2011, email generated more revenue per dollar spent compared to search, mobile and even Internet display ads. 

Email is bringing in $40.56 for every dollar spent on it in 2011, compared to catalogs' ROI of $7.30, search's return of $22.24, Internet display advertising's return of $19.72 and mobile's return of $10.51. - Direct Marketing Association "Power of Direct" (2011)

While email is powerful, it does have its difficulties. Most marketing and communication channels focus on content. Email, on the other hand, requires attention to both the content and the contact information. You see, email marketing’s worst enemy is bad data.

Invalid contact data will diminish the return of your email program and, more importantly, damage your sender reputation. Sending too many emails to  nonexistent accounts catches the attention of the email providers and can get you flagged as a bad guy. Bad data has both short-term and long-term implications to your email marketing success so it is important to remove invalid email addresses whenever possible.

Bad Data from Forms and Lists

Email addresses can be acquired in a variety of ways.  The question is, how do you know if the data being acquired is real and accurate? Simply “eyeballing” the emails on your list can tell you if you are dealing with real information or meaningless garble. For instance, “qpowijf0p3ehf.com” isn’t an email address while john.doe@email.com appears legit.

Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Just because an email has the correct syntax and the domain can send email doesn’t mean that it is a real email address. It is critical that the email addresses you gather are accurate before you use them in a campaign.

BriteVerify’s email verification platform performs real-time email verification in web forms, files/email lists and via APIs to confirm that your emails don’t just look real, but actually are real. BriteVerify doesn’t just help clean new data, it also helps tell you when good data goes bad.

Good Data Gone Bad

Unfortunately, email addresses are in a state of constant flux. As people change jobs, names, or Internet service providers their email address often becomes invalid and results in a bounce. This happens more often than you’d think.

According to an Association for Interactive Marketing (AIM) survey, 77% of respondents had bounce rates up to 10%, and 23% had rates greater than 10%. If 10% or more of your contacts are bouncing, your data is working against you. MailChimp even states that most people change email addresses every few months. What was once good data can go bad and cause the same problems mentioned above.

Email verification is a simple cost effective process and should be done on an ongoing basis to ensure best results. Validating your data before it enters a campaign and routinely cleaning it every few months will maintain a high ROI and keep you on the nice list and in the Inbox with email providers. 

Want to learn more about email verification? Check out www.briteverify.com.

 

BriteVerify Becomes First Email Verification Provider To Receive TRUSTe Certification

This week, we’re excited to announce that we are the first email verification service that received TRUSTe’s Website Privacy and TRUSTed Cloud Data Privacy certification.

We understand the importance of protecting your data. Often times data is the most valuable asset a company has. We felt achieving TRUSTe certification was absolutely necessary for the best interest of our customers. Now the TRUSTe seal, the most recognized Internet privacy seal in the world “brite-ly”shines on our website.

So what does the TRUSTe certification mean, you ask? Well, it validates our practices for collecting, using and disclosing information obtained through our website and, more importantly, the BriteVerify real-time email verification platform.

Dave Deasy, vice president of Marketing at TRUSTe, put it best when he said, “Businesses that rely on email verification services must pay careful attention to their providers’ online safety and security practices when managing sensitive customer data such as email addresses, mailing addresses and phone numbers. With the TRUSTe certification, BriteVerify is setting the bar for email verification offerings. BriteVerify’s customers can feel confident that the company is committed to privacy protection and complying with industry best practices.”

We are very proud of this certification because it is a testament to our commitment to our customers. If you wish to read more about our TRUSTe certification, you can find more information on our press release.

 

The Trade Show Circuit

Over the past few months we’ve had the pleasure of traveling across the country attending various email, marketing and advertising conferences. While we enjoy our travels, the highlight is always the opportunity to network with other professionals, meet with customers and partners, and connect with those interested in email and contact verification.

We’ve just returned from Ad Tech SFO and we have to say it was a great experience. San Francisco serves as a great location for these types of conferences and attracted a lot of businesses. The innovation alley was packed with new businesses and technologies, which is why our space is so exciting.

It was great talking to several of the new businesses interested in BriteVerify, but one of the high points had to be connecting with some of our partners and current customers in person. Joe Fahrner, founder and CEO of InboundScore, stopped by for a chat – you’ll definitely want to take a look at what they do in the social linkage and scoring space. And we also got to catch up with our friends over at Cake Marketing – a great analytics and tracking tool for online marketing campaigns.

Yes, we just returned from Ad Tech SFO, but we’re already preparing for conferences coming up in the second half of the year. So far our conference itinerary includes:

LeadsCon, New York (July)

Ad Tech, London (September)

Ad Tech, New York (November)

Be sure to let us know if you are attending any of these conferences and we look forward to seeing many of you soon!  Please follow us @briteverify, or contact us via phone (855-862-7483) or email (sales@briteverify.com) if you have any questions!

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Introducing Full Contact Verification

Verify name, email, postal, phone and IP in one request at one low price.

Making your penny shine...

Now that penny you spent just to verify an email address verifies a contact's name, email, phone, postal address, heck even IP, all in one super fast, ultra simple API request. That’s pretty awesome, like unicorns driving racecars awesome. If you are a person who gets way too excited about data verification (me), the Contact API is going to make your day.

Totally new, totally awesome APIs

Along with the new Contact API, we have released totally new versions of all our APIs. This new release represents a total overhaul of our services from the ground up. So even if you still like the ala cart approach, or just want to stick to just email for now, you still get a big speed boost, accuracy tweaks, and the fact that we've made our super simple APIs even simpler. Check out the documentation on github.

Oh and some more big news, BV Connected is now available in the Email API. Now along with verifying an email we will scan social networks, wish lists, photo sites... the web itself really. All to find a heartbeat for your email addresses, to ensure that it active and alive, to find out if a real person is connected to that @, or if it is just a lame old line of text. 

Oh, I almost forgot the BriteFiles API. Now you can take advantage of our insanely fast File processing platform via an API that is as simple, secure, and speedy as all of our services. Just push a file into our cloud via the BriteFiles API, then sit back and watch as tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of emails are verified in no time flat. This API does require additional authorization. So contact your BV rep to get set up at sales@briteverify.com or call 1-855-862-7483.

There you go. That's the news for now. But there is much more on its way. So strap on your helmets and buckle up. We are just starting to pick up speed.

Regards,

James & BriteVerify

 

Web Forms: How Much Are Invalid Emails Costing You?

 

All email marketing starts with a list. And that list starts with a form. Whether you acquired your list or built it yourself, every email was captured at some point from a form. But, just because it was used on a form doesn’t mean the email is valid or that it can connect you with a real human being.

When you’re building your lists, you have to look at more than just whether or not the syntax is correct. Non-existent domains (kjsdf@l312348fh.com) or invalid formats (james2home.com) are generally easy to catch and don’t make it past many form fills. Even if these types of emails got on your list, it would be impossible to mail to these accounts so it wouldn’t affect your deliverability. The truly bad emails are those are that have accurate syntax and working domains but just aren’t connected to a real person.

Bad email addresses can come from a variety of places. Typos, account abandonment, job change or even “fake” accounts can get in the way of you delivering an email to a user’s inbox. Whatever the reason, the costs of sending email to bad accounts can quickly add up so it's vital that you take steps to validate the information collected on your forms right from the start.

Adding Up the Costs

Most businesses make an effort to drive traffic to their web forms, and these efforts have costs associated with them – especially if you are paying for ads. Ads charge by the impression or click and they are pretty unforgiving about what the traffic does once they get to your site. You may spend time and energy on copy, layout, and design to convince people to fill out the form, but if they use a bad email you are out the ad spend.

Another cost that is rarely factored in is lost revenue. Every invalid email account is potentially a lost customer. It is impossible to connect and sell to a real person if you can’t get in their inbox. Unverified lists generally contain many invalid emails and if your forms are allowing these bad emails through, you may be adding to your lost revenue problem.

Sending emails to invalid accounts also comes with huge costs. It’s not so much the cost of maintaining a larger list or sending larger bulk email, it’s the damage that could be done to your sender reputation. When your emails have trouble getting delivered to an email provider, the email provider takes notice. If your list contains outdated, nonresponsive, or questionable emails you will damage your reputation with that provider.

Verifying Within the Web Form

The simplest way to avoid these costs is to make sure your forms collect only valid information. As we said earlier, verifying the syntax and domain of an email address is the easy part. The tricky part is trying to figure out if the email address is connected to a real human being - but don’t worry, we made it easy.

To solve these problems we created BriteForms. With a single line of code BriteForms will help you identify which email addresses are valid and which ones need to be fixed. With BriteForms, mistakes will be corrected by your consumers before they become lost opportunities.  The math is quite simple and the opportunity gained back is significant.  Below is an example of a recent client’s BriteVerify costs and their associated revenue increase:

~~~~~~

Verifications in February: 27,576

Verification Cost: $275.76 ($10 CPM)

Invalid Emails Identified and Corrected: 1,544

LTV of Each Valid Form Completion: $3.00

Revenues From Corrected Emails: $4,632

PROFITS: $4,356.24

~~~~~~

Don’t let your forms get the best of you. Take back your marketing dollars and LTV opportunity! Go to www.briteverify.com to get started.

 

 

Killing Zombie Emails

Are Zombie E-mails Devouring Your Email Campaign ROI? One of the most important things for businesses and e-mail marketers to consider is the quality of their e-mail lists. Poor quality e-mail lists can destroy your campaign ROI and damage the sender reputation. Invalid leads tend to be very easy to identify. For example: ‘JohnDoe@gmail’ has a bad syntax and ‘JaneDoe@thiswebdomaindoesn’tevenexist.com’ uses an invalid domain. Battling invalid e-mails isn’t as much of a challenge as battling zombie e-mails.

What is a Zombie E-mail? Zombie e-mails look like real e-mail addresses. They appear valid (syntax, domain, etc.), but are either invalid or inactive – bottom line, they are not connected to a real human being. These undead e-mails look just like their living counterparts, but are waiting to strike during your next mailing. Zombie e-mails can be detected by bounce rates and open rates; however, this is only apparent after an infected campaign has been sent and the damage has been done.

How to Fight Zombie E-mails? As we all know, the best way to counter a zombie uprising is a pre-emptive strike. Zombie e-mails need be removed from your list before they are ever sent. The best way to verify valid and active e-mail accounts is to determine if the email exists and then if it is “socially connected”. Real, living e-mail addresses appear on social networks and across the Internet. Up until now, verifying that your e-mails are alive and socially connected has been a very manual process and just doesn’t scale. In order to turn the tide in our ongoing battle with zombie e-mails, we’ve created a new weapon called BriteVerify Connected.

 

BriteVerify can verify the Inbox to determine if the email address exists and Connected is a new feature that auto-magically searches the Web for signs of life. Connected crawls wish-lists, social networks, public directories and the Web itself in real time to verify that your e-mails valid and active. This new feature removes the zombies plaguing your list and makes it easy to prioritize addresses that have better performance potential.

To learn more about BriteVerify, please visit briteverify.com or contact matt@briteverify.com

The Innovation Conflict

Let’s pay homage to a man that inspired many of us to be more creative, more innovative, and less selfish than we normally are.   

His biography was just released.  The book discusses a time in his life when his undivided attention towards great products brought his company from near death to the world leader it is today.

As entrepreneurs and innovators we should be inspired by his unwillingness to sacrifice passion for profits.  He was wired to do great things for his customers without having a primary (or even secondary) focus on profits.  Many of us would agree that this is the right way to run a business.

However, most of us don’t have the luxury of having a passion that pays the bills. Most of us gravitate towards creating products we know customers will buy.  We need cash flow before we can do anything else.

As we grow, diversify risk, and build sustainable businesses we can then turn our primary attention back to building great products that deliver maximum value to our customers. 

Unfortunately, some of us don’t make the leap.  Maybe our profits are too great leading us to become complacent.  Maybe the competition is nipping away at our heels forcing us to stay in our box.  Maybe we just forgot what it means to be truly innovative. 

At BriteVerify, we find ourselves resolving this conflict right now.  2 years ago we built and released a platform that delivered services on-demand with no need to sign contracts of make financial commitments.  Our customers simply pay for what they use.  We think that’s fair.

Our service and price structure became popular and inspired a few fast followers with similar models.  This is all good for the market. 

The only problem is, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation since.  From either BriteVerify or our competitors.  Well that is about to change. 

We are extremely excited about the next 3 months for our customers and our industry.  We are getting back to building great products and features that deliver significant measureable value to our customers. 

To our current BriteVerify customers – We sincerely thank you for your business and look forward to exciting you with our new features. 

To our prospective BriteVerify customers – We look forward to the opportunity to earn your business.

To our competition – We hope our innovations inspire you to re-focus on creating great things for your customers.  They deserve it!

Enough talk.  Time to execute.  See you at ad:tech!

Matt

BriteVerify

 

Hello World!

Welcome to our new Blog. We are just getting things started here. But we plan to post all things BV right here from details on new and upcoming product features, to tips and tricks, to just about anything that might help our customers get the most out of the best email verification service on earth.

 

Best regards,

The BriteVerify Team