Posts Tagged ‘Email Marketing’

It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Ping

How do you know if an email address is valid? There is more than one way to find out. In this article, we will show you how something we do – known as “ping testing” – makes these results much more accurate. More important, we will show you how to get the best out of these capabilities.

Email Verification 101

There are fundamentally three ways to make sure an email address is legitimate:

  • Examine the email address itself for things like proper syntax, obvious misspellings (like “gmial” instead of “gmail”), and other problems (like missing “@” symbol).
  • Compare this email address against lists of existing emails – both to see if it is a legitimate address, and also to flag known problem addresses such as spam traps, honeypots, known spammers, blacklisted addresses, and more.
  • Physically test (or “ping”) the email server, domain and address to make sure the address is valid.

All three of these checks are important in their own way. Basic address testing quickly weeds out addresses that are clearly invalid, with fast response times. List testing is also quick but often isn’t enough, because of addresses that haven’t made the list yet. (According to a report from the Radicati Group, new email addresses get created at the rate of a quarter billion per year!)

Then there is “ping” testing, which involves checking the actual email server and address for a response, which is the gold standard for determining the validity of an address. It can also be important for applications such as fraud prevention, to guard against perpetrators who create email addresses in near-real time. There are three main types of ping checks:

  • Testing an email server (STMP) to see if it is real and available.
  • Testing to see if an email address is allowing emails at the domain (DNS) level.
  • Testing to see if the address can reach an inbox.

Of course, Service Objects’ DOTS Email Validation service performs all of these checks. Now, let’s see how you can use them efficiently for your own email validation.

Here’s where you come in

Service Objects’ Email Validation capabilities give you a great deal of control over both performance levels and output tests. Here are some tips to get the most out of your email validation, taken from our developer guide:

To ping or not to ping: You can validate emails quickly – at the expense of possibly missing ping testing – by using our ValidateEmailFast operation. If a “ping” takes too long, it will not be considered in the check (and STMP data about this address will not be returned). However, be aware that this is a less accurate check.

Putting a lid on pinging. The amount of time a “ping” takes may vary widely, from nearly instant response to lengthy delays. If you are using email validation in a real-time application, or are concerned about response speed, the Timeout input variable is your friend. This value specifies how long the service is allowed to wait for all real-time network level checks to finish, such as STMP and DNS testing. Time is entered in milliseconds, with a minimum value of 200ms.

Email servers can be slow to respond to ping checks, and one of the most important aspects is how long you are willing to wait for a response. If you only wait a second or two – and you fail emails that do not respond in that time – you will get a lot of false negatives. If you can wait and/or update the results based on latent responses, you will get a more accurate verification.  If real-time responses are a priority, we recommend setting up a two-step verification process, to help mitigate slow email server response times and ensure a quality user experience.

Two-step validation. The initial step will validate the email address using real-time syntax and ping testing. Syntax issues and fast-responding email servers will provide accurate feedback, so issues can be flagged in real-time.  This allows for real-time notification of any issues, enabling user corrections before being captured by your application or CRM. The amount of time you are willing to wait should be considered in your user’s experience.

The second step is to accommodate slow-responding email servers that ‘timed-out’ in the initial step.  When capturing the email address to your database, include a Yes/No flag of whether the email validation timed-out before completing validation.  For those email addresses that timed-out, you can validate them again but with a much longer Timeout setting, allowing slower email servers time to respond and ensuring the email address has been fully validated.

Pinging isn’t perfect. Sometimes a non-existent address will still “ping” properly. Why? Because some email domains are “catch-all” domains, meaning that their servers will accept mail to any address within that domain. You can test for this using the IsCatchAllDomain output variable that comes back with your results.

Finally, remember that ping testing is not the only factor in effective email validation. Our developer guide has a wealth of tools you can use as part of your specific use case, ranging from optional email address correction to warning codes for bogus, vulgar or disposable email addresses. Check it out, or better yet, “ping” our friendly support team for expert advice. We’re always glad to help!

The Benefits of Email Marketing

Few marketing channels share the power of email. It is immediate, urgent, personalized and inexpensive. And according to the Direct Marketing Association, it has the highest ROI of any marketing channel: an amazing 4300%.

Here are some of the key benefits of good email campaigns:

  • The cost per contact of email is extremely low compared with other channels.
  • Email is easily personalized by customer, market segment, or demographic.
  • Email marketing is much kinder to the environment, versus using natural resources such as direct mail.
  • Your email assets can help you make more informed decisions, develop more effective marketing strategies and strengthen customer/prospect relationships.

That said, your email marketing strategy is only as good as the quality of your email list.

The Importance of Data Quality and Email

The allure of email has always been its scalability: with one press of the “Return” key, your message can go out to dozens, hundreds, or even millions of people. Once you absorb the cost of acquiring email contact data, the costs of its re-use are minimal. So once upon a time, not that many years ago, marketers simply accepted a certain percentage of bad or misdirected email addresses as part of the process.

Today this is no longer the case. As people’s in-boxes have become flooded with spam, and marketers compete more than ever for busy peoples’ eyeballs, the quality of your email contact list has become extremely important. Here are just a few of the reasons why:

TIME AND MONEY

As email lists continue to grow and expand, the human costs of processing bad data and updating contact lists continues to grow as well.

BRAND IMAGE AND CUSTOMER REPUTATION

Mis-directed email is almost universally unwelcome and perceived as spam, which in turn affects the public reputation of your brand and organization.

WASTED EFFORT

When someone provides a bogus email address such as “HowdyDoody@nobody.com,” particularly in conjunction with other contact information, adding them to your list of leads potentially wastes marketing resources in all of your channels.

REGULATORY COMPLIANCE

Laws and regulations such as the US CAN-SPAM act or the European Union’s General Data protection Regulation (GDPR) restrict unsolicited email marketing nowadays, with potentially severe penalties.

LOST MARKETING OPPORTUNITIES

Send unwanted email to the wrong address, and you could be blacklisted from an entire corporate domain— losing access to all of their prospects and customers. These last two reasons are especially important, because bad data now has the potential to do real harm to your business. And all of these factors add up to a future where more accurate and careful email marketing has become an increasing necessity. Email lists are a valuable business asset, but data quality— particularly authenticity and accuracy—always wins out over quantity.

That’s where real-time email validation comes in to separate the good emails from the bad ones.

An advanced email address validation and verification service, such as Service Objects’ DOTS Email Validation, uses sophisticated algorithms and dozens of rules and tests to instantly weed out invalid email addresses. It will also cross reference proprietary data for known bogus emails or spamtraps. Every email validation system should also check for the following:

  • Email address syntax
  • Individual domain specific mailbox rules
  • Improbable names (vulgar, famous, bogus, or suspicious keystroke sequences)
  • Mail exchange record of domain is valid and accepting mail
  • SMTP server for domain
  • Mailbox is accepting mail (when possible)

Want to learn more? Download our free whitepaper, The ROI of Real-Time Email Validation, to explore how to get the most profitability and customer engagement from your email marketing. The strategies presented will not only improve your response rates and effectiveness, they will help protect your organization from a host of issues including fraud, blacklisting and regulatory concerns.