Here are the answers to some of the questions we’ve received from prospective clients about our email list cleaning service. If you have a question and it is not answered below, please feel free to contact us.
Q. We’re considering using your email list cleaning service but we’re concerned about the confidentiality of our lists.
A. We’ve been offering list-related services since 1999. During this time, we have been entrusted with several thousand lists of 500,000 subscribers or more, never mind tens of thousands of smaller lists. We have probably already been exposed to at least 75% of the addresses on your list through one of our other clients. Many Fortune 1000 companies use our services. Our reputation in the industry is so much more valuable than what any single list could be worth to us. Our contract with you includes confidentiality and non-disclosure language.
Q. List management company XYZ has said that our list exceeds their spam threshold. Will cleaning help bring it to acceptable levels?
A. Our cleaning service does remove spam traps. However, we do not check/confirm to see whether or not people on your list actually want to receive your emails, so it is possible recipients may still complain.
Q. Do you have a deliverability guarantee?
A. We do the best work possible with the data we are provided by clients. The work we do is very labor intensive so we have to define a guarantee policy that ensures we aren’t taken advantage of. That said, if reputable mailers say that your bounce rate exceeds 10% post-cleaning, we will issue a refund upon request. Reputable mailers include: Reachmail.com, iContact.com, MailChimp.com, and ConstantContact.com. If you are dealing with a different vendor, please contact us.
Q. How do you do your verification?
A. We follow a multi-step process. First, we will conduct a random check of a small portion of your list. This is to estimate the number of undeliverable addresses. We then compare your file against known undeliverable addresses. Next, we will check the domains on your list to see which are no longer in operation or not likely to be deliverable. We then confirm formatting/syntax of emails. From the addresses that remain, we will follow a process comparable to sending an actual email: we will first attempt to reach a host server. If we are able to do so, then we check to see if the user’s email address exists and is able to accept email. We do not send an actual email to the recipient server. We create a log file of all of the connections/failures and from all of these steps we manually prepare your report.
Q. How accurate is your service?
A. We strive for as close to 100% accuracy as we can achieve. Many email users now require verification before email can get through, email accounts are abandoned and not terminated, email accounts become full and their servers do not return appropriate messages, some email servers will give false positives (meaning they say an account exists when it does not), we also estimate anywhere between 3 and 20% of confirmed addresses no longer exist because of employees leaving companies (where their email returns an autoresponder or is forwarded to another employee). That being said, for most lists, we reach on average 90-95% accuracy.
Q. After using your cleaning service, we are still getting a lot of bounces from addresses you reported as being valid. Why is this?
A. Some mail servers will not return non-existent email address errors when performing a simple SMTP check. This accounts for a small portion of verified addresses. What is also likely is that your sending mail server has been blacklisted or is in an IP address range that has been blacklisted either by a recipient server or one of the blacklisting services. In addition, there is no way utilizing our service to know the results of emails that are forwarded to another address that is not deliverable. Clients that use our service report back to us that anywhere between 2 to 15%, with an average of 7.5%, of reported-valid addresses bounce.
Q. We have difficulties with getting any email through to AOL subscribers, will your cleaning service help improve this?
A. The difficult answer is yes and no. If you see http://postmaster.aol.com – this will give you plenty of information about AOL’s current procedures. Using our service can help reduce the number of delivery attempts you make to non-existent AOL addresses since you will be notified of which addresses can/should be removed from your list. However, we are unable to tell you which members may have blocked your address or any similar information. If AOL subscribers represent a significant portion of your subscriber list, we recommend that you use a delivery service that has a direct feedback loop established with AOL and is white-listed.
Q. We track bounces on our own, but haven’t been purging them from our lists in case they were false bounce reports. Should we send you our full list or only the bounces to have cleaned?
A. It’s a good idea to have both those bouncing and those not bouncing returned since not all ISPs will return bounces if they have blocked your sending server. (ie they will simply drop the email) One of the reasons ISPs and organizations block sending servers is because of seeing a high number of undeliverables come from a single source. Cleaning your list might mean that you are able to get through to more of your subscribers. Consequently, it’s a good idea to check all addresses on your list and not just the ones you are getting bounce notices back on.
Q. Once our list is clean, do you have any recommendations for maintaining good list hygiene in the future?
A. Good list hygiene starts even before you send out an email. You’ll want to make sure you are on double opt-in service to ensure as high a delivery rate as possible. Unless you have the in-house resources/staff to devote to ISP relations, we recommend outsourcing your list hosting to an ESP service. If you do continue to mail in-house, you’ll want to make sure that your sending server’s IP address is not on blacklists or in a blacklisted IP range. Make sure to remove hard bounces (ie where a mailbox doesn’t exist) as soon as you are made aware of them. Remove full mailboxes or inactive accounts within no greater than 30 days (preferably 14). Of course, honor removal requests and be sure to take care of that before you send out future emails. Make sure your abuse.net record is kept up-to-date and that your sending IP address has reverse DNS configured. Ensure that the from address on your outgoing emails is actually monitored by a human being. Be sure to include SPAM-compliant information such as removal instructions and your postal mailing address. Check the content of your outgoing emails to see how it weighs with Spam Assassin to avoid content filtering.
Q. Can I order your cleaning service now and then get the auditing report at a later date?
A. If you order the auditing report within 14 days of when your cleaning was completed, we can providing you with it based on your previous cleaning results. The date shown on the auditing report will be based on when the cleaning was originally performed.
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