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Posts Tagged ‘Email Validation’

Mail Servers: Where in the world…?

We love data here at Service Objects. We are constantly working to expand and improve on our datasets to further innovate our product lineup. A big part of what makes our Email Validation (EV) service so good is the data that helps drive it. When communicating with a mail server in real-time to verify an email address it helps to know what kind of mail server it is dealing with and if it is trustworthy. Just because an email address is deliverable does not always mean that it is good.  For example, an email may be disposable, vulgar or worse yet, a spamtrap.

Our Email Validation service already keeps track of mail server behavior patterns for millions of domains, which allows us to identify and flag mail servers with malicious activity or servers that have a high association with malicious activity.  In addition to monitoring behavior patterns, we are now focusing on determining the geographic location of the email servers.

What benefits does identifying mail server location offer?

Email addresses can be sent and received from anywhere in the world. They are not anchored to one physical location, and at a glance, one cannot easily discern its geographic origin. Even email addresses with a country code for a Top Level Domain (TLD) can have a global presence and may have servers located in multiple countries.  Fortunately, mail server location data can be derived and aggregated from some of our other datasets. This allows our Email Validation service to better identify potentially malicious mail servers and flag servers from known geographic hot spots.

In addition to helping identify problematic email servers, mail server location data can provide additional insights and benefits. From a marketing and administration perspective, the mail server location data can be used to help identify and organize email addresses for a particular region. The location information can also be used to gain business insights about a company and its location(s). At Service Objects, we are using the additional information to further enhance some of our other services, such as Lead Validation.

Challenges to identifying mail server location information

There are a number of challenges to accurately identifying mail server location information. First, we are identifying the mail server locations of a domain, not attempting to identify where an email message was sent from. This would require more than just a simple email address. However, the location data can be used to help cross-check and verify the legitimacy of an email message. For example, an email message is received, and the headers say that the message was sent from Gmail.com. However, the server IP address in the header does not match any of the known Gmail mail server locations, so chances are the message was spoofed and that it is spam or part of a phishing scam.

Second, trying to identify all of the mail servers for a particular domain is not something that can be done quickly enough for a real-time service where end-users expect sub-second response times. Real-time communication with a mail server can often take several seconds, but trying to identify all the mail servers for a domain from around the world can sometimes take several minutes. For this reason, our DOTS Email Validation service does not include mail server location identification in its suite of real-time checks. Instead, the service relies on background systems that have already collected and identified mail server locations from around the world. This ensures that the service is not bogged down by slow processes and continues to respond normally. While mail server location identification may be too slow for a real-time check, it is a daily process that we perform to ensure our list of locations is up to date. The process is also quick enough that our background processes can routinely check for any new domains that we have not come across before and process them hourly.

Third, if a business has multiple locations, then a typical DNS lookup for a domain will just tell you which mail server(s) to connect to that are closest to your area, and not necessarily tell you about their other mail servers. DNS does this to help ensure that communication is quick and efficient, that way an end-user isn’t trying to communicate with a server on the other side of the country or potentially in a different nation entirely if it doesn’t have to. Part of what makes the location identification process “slow” is that we are looking for mail servers in every major region of the world, and not just in our own local areas.

What’s going on behind the scenes

While our email validation service will currently only display the location(s) of the mail server(s) in the notes of the output when it has been identified, it is doing a lot more with that data behind the scenes. Knowing the IP Addresses and locations of the mail servers means that we can perform cross-checks against more data points in other areas. Service Objects is extremely interested in fraud prevention, so we use this data to check for associations with known proxies, VPNs, bot services and other data points that have ties to malicious activity. The data allows us to check various data driven blacklists and white hat resources against more than a simple email address and domain.  Instead, we can pull back the curtain, so to speak, and dig deeper into the mail server(s) that run behind the scenes. All, while continuing and expanding our server behavior monitorization.

With the addition of this new data, we have added additional NoteCodes to the output from our DOTS Email Validation 3 service. Below is a list of the new notes codes and that have been added:

Code Description Example
11 Countries: The ISO2 country code for the country where the mail server(s) is located. If mail servers are found in more than one country, then all country ISO2 codes will be represented in a pipe-delimited list. JP
12 Region: The region in the country where the mail server(s) is located. The region is commonly returned as a two-character abbreviation. If mail servers are found in more than one region then the value will be a pipe-delimited list of the regions. OS|TY
13 Localities: The name of the locality where the mail sever(s) is located in. If mail servers are found in more than one locality then the value will be a pipe-delimited list of all the localities. Osaka|Tokyo
14 PostCodes: The post code of where the mail server(s) is located. If multiple post codes are found, then the value will be a pipe-delimited list. 543-0062|102-0082

 

For more information about terms for international addresses and locations please check out this previous blog post.

Unlike other NotesCodes where the corresponding NotesDescriptions value will be a human readable flag to describe the note code, the value will instead contain the list of locations found.

Get started testing DOTS Email Validation by downloading a real-time API trial key or sending is a sample list to run for you.

Email Marketing Tip: Dealing With Role Addresses

Do you have any friends named “info” or “customerservice”?

If you do, our sympathies, because their parents were probably way over-invested in their careers. But in all likelihood, you probably don’t. Which leads to a very important principle about your email marketing: you always need to make sure you are marketing to real people.

Email addresses like “info@mycompany.com” or “customerservice@bigorganization.com” are examples of what we call role addresses. They are not addressed to a person, but rather to a job function and generally include a number of people on the distribution list. They serve a valuable purpose, particularly in larger organizations – if you have a problem with Amazon.com, for example, you don’t want to wait for Cindy to get back from vacation first to respond to you.

You probably realize that role email addresses create the same problems as any other non-person in your marketing database: wasted human effort, lower response rates, bounces, and the like. However, there are several other important reasons to purge role addresses from your contact database:

Bounce Rate. Role emails are generally the responsibility of an email administrator.  These administrators are not always kept in the loop when individuals move onto other positions or leave the company.  This can result in a role email’s distribution list not being up-to-date and emails being sent to inactive email addresses.  These inactive addresses are usually set to automatically bounce emails, resulting in a higher bounce rate and poorer campaign performance.

Blacklisting. Spamming a role email address doesn’t just annoy people. As one article points out, it can trigger spam complaints and damage your sender reputation – in fact, role accounts are often used as spam traps by account holders. This can lead to your IP being blacklisted for the entire organization, cutting you off from leads or even existing customers far beyond the original email.

CAN-SPAM compliance. Permission to send email is fundamentally a contract with an individual, and marketing to a role email address risks having your materials go to people who did not opt-in or agree to your terms and conditions – putting you at risk for being in violation of the US CAN-SPAM act that governs email marketing.

New laws. In Europe, the new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) takes effect in 2018, severely restricting unsolicited email marketing. While it is not always clear that you are mailing to Europe (for example, many people do not realize that household names like Bayer and Unilever are based there), you are still bound by their laws and potentially stiff penalties. Eliminating role accounts from your contact database is an important part of mitigating this exposure.

Exponential risk. When it comes to risk, role addresses are the gift that keeps on giving. One of these addresses may go to 10 different people or more – and only one of them needs to complain to get you in trouble. Moreover, you can easily get multiple complaints for the price of one errant message.

Customer reputation. When someone signs up for your contact list using a role address, it is a form of “friendly fraud” that absolves them from personally receiving your emails – much like the person who signs up as “Donald Duck” to receive a free marketing goodie. But when other people start receiving your materials without their permission as a result, it is not a good way to start a customer relationship.

Thankfully, avoiding role-based addresses is relatively easy. In fact, many large email marketing providers won’t import these address in the first place. Or if you manage your contact database from within your own applications environment, we can help. Our email validation capabilities flag role-based addresses in your database like sales, admin, support, webmaster, billing, and much more. In addition, we perform over 50 verification tests, clean up common spelling and syntax errors, and return a quantitative quality score that helps you accept or reject addresses at the point of import.

So, with pun fully intended, your role in data quality is to ensure that your online marketing only goes to live, real people who welcome your message. Our role is to automate this process to make it as frictionless as possible. Together, we can keep your email contact data ready to roll!

How to Use DOTS Email Validation 3

The DOTS Email Validation 3 (EV3) service has been designed to be robust enough to accommodate the particular needs of a detailed oriented programmer and simple enough to be used by a marketing assistant who needs to run an email campaign. The service can meet various needs that can essentially be narrowed down to two use cases, form validation and post-processing jobs such as batches and database hygiene. Before we discuss those two cases we will first go over the recommended service operation and review some of the important result fields.

Which Operation Should I Use?

The recommended service operation for EV3 is the ValidateEmailAddress method. This operation performs real-time server-to-server email verification. It lets the user specify a timeout value, in milliseconds, for how long it can take to perform real-time server checks. A minimum value of 200 milliseconds is required; however, results are dependent on the network speed of an email’s host, which may require several seconds to verify. Average mail server response times are approximately between 2-3 seconds, but some slower mail servers may take 15 seconds or more to verify.

Please note that the above information is also available in the service developer guide.

Understanding the Results

The service returns many results that can be used to meet a programmer’s particular email validation needs, but the easiest way to determine if an email should be accepted or rejected is by looking at either the IsDeliverable value or the Score value.

Score:

For most cases it is recommended to use the Score along with other output values to cater to your particular needs. Here are the possible score values.

Score Description Notes
0 Email is Good Indicates with high confidence that the email address is deliverable and good. The email address was verified with the host mail server and no malicious warnings were found.
1 Email is Probably Good Indicates that the email is deliverable but one or more lesser warnings were found. For example the email may be a potential alias or a role, which are sometimes used as disposable addresses.
2 Unknown Indicates that not enough information was available to determine deliverability and integrity. Unknowns most commonly occur for slow mail servers that do not respond to the web service in time. They also occur for catch-all mail servers and greylists.
3 Email is Probably Bad Indicates that one or more warnings were found, such as a potential vulgarity or a string of garbage-like characters.
4 Email is Bad Indicates with high confidence that the email address is bad and/or undeliverable. Occurs for email addresses that fail critical checks such as syntax validation and DNS verification. Most commonly occurs for email addresses where the actual host mail server verified that the email does not exist. Also occurs for deliverable email addresses that are known spam traps or bots.

IsDeliverable:

The simplest way to use the service is to look at the IsDeliverable field. This field will return true, false or unknown. If your primary concern is to be able to send out email with the lowest possible chance of a hard bounceback then this field alone will suffice. However, this field does not take spamtraps, vulgarities, bots or other factors into consideration. It simply indicates if the service was able to verify the deliverability of an email address with the host mail server. It does not measure the overall integrity of the email address.

If you choose to only look at one result value then it is our recommendation that you use the Score value instead of the IsDeliverable value. The Score evaluates the overall integrity of the email address and not just its deliverability. Either one of these fields can be used in conjunction with other result values to more intelligently evaluate an email address if the need arises. For example, if an email comes back as unknown in either the Score or in IsDeliverable, then we can refer to the following outputs to help us decide if we should accept, reject or retry the email address.

IsSMTPServerGood:

Returns true, false or unknown to indicate if the email’s host mail server was responsive at the time of the check. This is a one of the service’s critical checks. If this value comes back false then it will be reflected in the IsDeliverable value and in the score. Refer to this value if the email is unknown. If the value for this field is also unknown then the service most likely did not have enough time to finish verifying the email address with its host mail server. In these cases the service will continue to try and verify the email in a background process even though the request has finished. Chances are high that if you wait one or more hours and check the email again that the service will have been able to finish verifying the email addresses with the host mail server.

IsCatchAllDomain:

Returns true, false or unknown to indicate if the email’s host mail server is a catch-all. A catch-all mail server will say that an email address is deliverable even if it is not.  This is because catch-all mail servers do not reject email addresses during the initial SMTP session. This means that a catch-all mail server cannot be trusted to verify the deliverability of an email address because it may or may not reject the email address until after an email message is sent. If an email address is unknown and this value is false then chances are good that if the email is checked again at a later time then the service will have verified its deliverability. If catchall is true and there are no warnings, then we know that the mail server is good and that the email does not appear to be bad. In general this scenario leads to a 55% chance that the email is deliverable and won’t result in a hard bounce.
IsSMTPMailBoxGood:

Returns true, false or unknown to indicate if the service was able to verify the email address with its host mail server. This value can be treated similarly to the IsDeliverable value. A true value indicates that the email address is deliverable. If the value comes back false then the mail server verified that the email is undeliverable. A false will be accompanied by the warning flag, ‘Email is Bad – Subsequent checks halted.‘ Some common reasons why this value will return unknown; the mail server is a catch-all, the service ran out of time when communicating with the host mail server or the host mail server used a defensive tactic such as a greylist.

A complete list of the output fields and values are available in the service developer guide.

The result fields given above are useful when it comes to sorting, grouping and filtering all of your validated email addresses. This is useful when working on a post-processing email job, which we will discuss later. Next, we will look at some of the descriptive flags that the service will return. These flags can be used programmatically or at a glance to determine the status of an email address.

Warning Codes & Descriptions:

There are many warning flags that the service may return but we will look at some of the more common and critical ones.

DisposableEmail, SpamTrap, KnownSpammer and Bot

An email address may be deliverable but if one or more of these warning flags is returned then it is highly recommended to reject it.

Alias, Bogus and Vulgar

If one of these warning flags is returned then you may want to either reject the email or set it aside for later review, depending on how strict you want to be.

InvalidSyntax, InvalidDomainSpecificSyntax and InvalidDNS

These are warnings for critical checks that failed. If one of these flags appears then it will be immediately followed by the warning flag ‘Email is Bad – Subsequent checks halted.

Email is Bad – Subsequent checks halted

This warning indicates that the email failed a critical check and is undeliverable. If the flag is not preceded by one of the critical warning flags then it simply means that the email’s host mail server verified that the email address is undeliverable.

A complete list of warning codes and their descriptors are available in the dev guide.

Note Codes & Descriptions:

The note flags will return descriptive information about the email, not all of which will affect the score, but we will focus on the ones that will explain why some email addresses came back as unknown.

GreyListed

The service is good at detecting greylist behavior from mail servers and has procedures in place to avoid them, but not all greylists are avoidable. If the service encounters a greylist then it is temporarily unable to verify the email address with its host mail server. If you encounter a greylist then chances are good that if you try to validate the email again a couple of hours later that you will get a better response.

MailServerTemporarilyUnavailable

This flag indicates that the service was able to connect to the email’s host mail server, but that the server was temporarily busy or unavailable and it was unable to verify the email for us. If you encounter this flag then try and validate the email again a few of hours later to see if the server becomes more responsive then.

ServerConnectTimeout

This flag indicates that the service was unable to establish a connection with a host mail server. A possible reasons for the connection failure could be that the mail server is completely offline or it is responding too slow and unable to respond in time. Some mail servers are configured to commonly respond slowly, taking as long as 60 seconds to respond to a connection. This behavior is rare but it is not entirely uncommon. If an email returns this flag then try and enter a longer timeout time to allow the service the time it needs to verify the email.

MailBoxTimeout

This flag indicates that the service was unable to finish verifying the email address with the host mail server in the time allowed. The mail server could be responding very slowly or the timeout time given to the service was too short. If an email returns this flag then try and enter a longer timeout time to allow the service the time it needs to verify the email.

A complete list of note codes and their descriptors are available in the developer guide.

Use Case 1 – Using Validate Email Address for Form Validation

The ValidateEmailAddress method has four input fields that are all required.

Input Field Name Description Notes
EmailAddress The email address you wish to validate.
AlowCorrections Accepts true or false. The service will attempt to correct an email address if set to true. Otherwise the email address will be left unaltered if set to false. The majority of the email corrections are being performed on the domain. The local part of the email address, the portion before the @ symbol, is generally left untouched.
Timeout Accepts an integer as a string. Timeout time is in milliseconds. Do not include any commas or non-numeric values. This value specifies how long the service is allowed to wait for all real-time network level checks to finish. Real-time checks consist primarily of DNS and SMTP level verification. A minimum value of 200ms is required. When it comes to form validation it is recommended to use a timeout time that is short enough to not keep your user impatiently waiting, but long enough to allow the server-to-server communication time to finish. A relatively short timeout time between 2 to 4 seconds is generally recommended.

 

LicenseKey Your license key to use the service.

Accept, Reject or Review & Retry

ACCEPT

Emails with a score of 0, 1 or 2. In general it is recommended to not be too strict when accepting emails in a form because you do not want to potentially lose an end user.  Also, when performing form validation an end user may become agitated if they have to wait more than 5 seconds for the validation process to complete, but some slow mail servers may not be able to respond in that short amount of time.

REJECT

Emails with a score of 3 or 4. If you do not want to be too strict then you can accept 3 for review, but you should always reject an email that receives a score of 4.

REVIEW & RETRY

Depending on how strict/cautious you want to be you can choose to not initially accept emails with a score of 2 and instead put them aside to have them reviewed. If the IsCatchAllDomain field is not true then you can try and validate the email again later. Email addresses that return a score of 3 can also be set aside for review if you do not want to initially reject all of them. An email will commonly be given a score of 3 if a potential vulgarity or string of garbage characters is found.

In form validation the programmer is sometimes allowed some luxuries while others are taken away. For example, a programmer can be given the opportunity to communicate a result back to the end user but is usually restricted to a shorter timeout time so that the end user is not kept waiting too long. If you have the ability to communicate back the end user then ask the user to check for a typo and try again or try a different email address. If you don’t want to accept a role or alias type email address because they are commonly not accepted by mass email marketers then you can catch for that and tell the user to try again with a different email address.

Use Case 2 – Using ValidateEmailAdress for Batches, Email Campaigns and Data Hygiene

The ValidateEmailAddress method has four input fields that are all required.

Input Field Name Description Notes
EmailAddress The email address you wish to validate.
AlowCorrections Accepts true or false. The service will attempt to correct an email address if set to true. Otherwise the email address will be left unaltered if set to false. The majority of the email corrections are being performed on the domain. The local part of the email address, the portion before the @ symbol, is generally left untouched. Since you are unable to ask a user to re-enter and try again if they make a mistake you can set this value to true and allow the service to make corrections.
Timeout Accepts an integer as a string. Timeout time is in milliseconds. Do not include any commas or non-numeric values. This value specifies how long the service is allowed to wait for all real-time network level checks to finish. Real-time checks consist primarily of DNS and SMTP level verification. A minimum value of 200ms is required. For non-form validation it is recommended to give the service plenty of time to verify an email address with its host mail server. Most mail servers will only take about 2 seconds on average to verify an email address, but for the occasional slow mail server that requires more time it is recommended to set the timeout time to 65 seconds. The number of mail servers that require this much time is generally minimal, so the long timeout should not make a big impact on the overall batch job.

 

LicenseKey Your license key to use the service.

Accept, Reject or Review & Retry

ACCEPT

Emails with a score of 0 or 1.

REJECT

Emails with a score of 3 or 4. If you do not want to be too strict then you can accept 3 for review, but you should always reject an email that receives a score of 4.

REVIEW & RETRY

Emails with a score of 2, unless the IsCatchAllDomain field value is true. An email that gets an unknown score  due to a greylist, timeout or temporarily busy server should be checked again a couple of hours later.

If you would like to discuss your particular use case for recommendations and best practices contact us!

Will Omnichannel Someday Die Out Because of Big Data?

You probably know what omnichannel means, but a quick definition is always helpful. It refers to the various touch points by which a business/organization can reach a customer. The idea — and the ideal — is to get the offer in front of them at the time they’re most likely to be interested. Typically in the modern business ecosystem, omnichannel refers to:

  • Website
  • Brick and mortar locations
  • Social media
  • Other digital efforts
  • How you come across on mobile
  • Face-to-face interactions between customers and employees

There is more you could group under omnichannel, but that’s a good start. Unfortunately, in a few years from now, we may need a different approach entirely.

Why?

OMNICHANNEL AND THE RAPID SCALE OF BIG DATA 

Consider this: in 2020, it’s possible 1.7 megabytes of new data will be created for every person on the planet every second. If you do the full math on that, the total volume of data globally in 2020 might be around 44 zettabytes. A zettabyte is a trillion gigabytes. This is somewhat because of “The Internet of Things” — connected devices and sensors — which should have an economic value of $3 trillion by 2025. Internet of Things tech alone will be 3-6 zettabytes of that total.

Now we know the rapid scale of Big Data. It’s actually arriving in daily life maybe faster than even mobile did. What are the repercussions?

THE REPERCUSSIONS FOR OMNICHANNEL

As noted in this post on Information Age:

Companies hoped “omnichannel experiences” would enable them to anticipate customers’ needs to provide them with a personalised response, which meets or even exceeds their expectations. And this effort is based on the company’s ability to mobilise the necessary data to deliver.

But what happened?

Today, these same companies struggle to draw together all the information required to give them a unified view and appreciation of their customers’ needs. The result is a mixed bag of omnichannel initiatives, many of which result in failures. In the retail sector, for example, only 18% of retailers claim to have an engagement strategy, which covers all channels.

The sheer math looks like this: 44 zettabytes of generated data in 2020 is 10 times — yes, ten times — what we are generating now, three years earlier. Companies are already struggling to manage data properly towards better customer experience. What will happen when 10 times the data is available in 33 months or so?

WHAT’S THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR OMNICHANNEL AND CX?

This is obviously hard to predict. In times of great complexity, though, sometimes sticking to the basics — i.e. The Five Customer Experience Competencies — isn’t a bad idea. A strong base almost always beats an all-over-the-place strategy.

In my mind, this is what needs to happen:

  • Companies need a good handle on what really drives their business now and what could drive it in the future.
  • This involves products/services but also types of customer and platform they use.
  • Once that picture is mostly clear, senior leaders need to be on the same page about the importance of customer-driven growth.
  • “Being on the same page” also involves, ideally, vocabulary and incentive structures.
  • If the customer-driven plan/platforms and senior leadership alignment are there, now you need to make sure the work is prioritized.
  • No one should be running around on low-value tasks when great opportunity is right there.
  • Kill a stupid rule, etc. Basically move as many people as possible to higher-value work, especially if lower-value work can be more easily automated.
  • It’s all been important so far, but let’s bold this: You don’t need to collect all the data. You need data that relates to your priorities and growth. 
  • That data should be analyzed and condensed for executives. You may need “data translators,” yes.
  • Decision-making should come from relevant information and customer interactions.

This flow is hard to arrive at for some companies, but essential.

Phrased another way: trying to be “omnichannel” in five years and looking at an Excel with trillions of touch points/data on it? That will just burn out employees and managers alike. You need a prioritized, aligned plan focused on customer-driven growth and well-articulated goals. That will get you there post-omnichannel.

Reprinted from LinkedIn with permission from the author. View original post here.

Author’s Bio: Jeanne Bliss, Founder & CEO, CustomerBliss

Jeanne Bliss pioneered the role of the Chief Customer Officer, holding the first-ever CCO role at Lands’ End, Microsoft, Coldwell Banker and Allstate Corporations. Reporting to each company’s CEO, she moved the customer to the strategic agenda, redirecting priorities to create transformational changes to each brands’ customer experience. Her latest book, “Chief Customer Officer 2.0” (Wiley) was published on June 15, 2015.

Making an (email) list and checking it twice: Best practices for email validation

For most organizations, one of the most critical assets of their marketing operations is their email contact database. Email is still the lingua franca of business: according to the Radicati Group, over a quarter of a trillion email messages are sent every business day, and the number of email users is expected to top 4 billion by 2021 – roughly half of the world’s population. This article will explore current best practices for protecting the ROI and integrity of this asset, by validating its data quality.

The title of this article is not just a cute play on words – and it has nothing to do with Santa. Rather, it describes an important principle for your game plan for email data quality. By implementing a strong two-step email validation process, as we describe here, you will dramatically reduce deliverability problems, fraud and blacklisting from your email marketing and communications efforts.

The main reason we recommend checking emails in two stages revolves around the time these checks take: many checks can be performed live using a real-time API, particularly as email addresses are entered by users, but server validation in particular may require a longer processing time and interfere with user experience. Here are 3 of the most important checks that are part of the email validation process:

• Syntax (FAST): This check determines if an email address has the correct syntax and physical properties of an email address.

• DNS (FAST): We can quickly check the DNS record to ensure the validity of the email domain (MX record) for the email address. (There are some exceptions to this – for example, where the DNS record is with a shoddy or poor registry and the results take longer to come back.)

• Email Server (VARIABLE, and not within the email validation tool’s control): Although this check can take from milliseconds to minutes, it is one of the most important checks you can make – it ensures that you have a deliverable address. This response time is dependent on the email server provider (ESP) and can vary widely: large ESPs like Gmail or MSN normally respond quickly, while corporate or other domains may take longer.

There are many more checks in Service Objects’ Email Validation tool, including areas such as malicious activity, data integrity, and much more – over 50 verification tests in all! We auto-correct addresses for common spelling and syntax errors, flag bogus or vulgar address entries, and calculate an overall quality score you can use to accept or reject the email address. (For a deeper dive, take a look at this article to see many of the features of an advanced EV tool.)

Here are the two stages we recommend for your email validation process:

Stage 1: At point of entry. Here, you validate emails in real-time, as they are captured. This provides the opportunity for the user to correct mistakes in the moment such as typos or data entry errors. Here you can use our EV software to check for issues like syntax, DNS and the email server – however we recommend setting the API configuration settings to no more than a wait of a couple of seconds, for the sake of customer experience. At this stage either the user or validation software has a chance to update bad addresses.

Stage 2 – Before sending a campaign. Validate the emails in your database – using the API – after the email has been captured and the user is no longer available in real-time to make corrections. In this stage, you have more flexibility to wait for responses from the ESPs, providing more confidence in your list.

It is estimated that 10-15% of emails entered are not usable, for reasons ranging from data entry errors to fraud, and 30% of email addresses change each year. Together these two steps ensure that you are using clean and up-to-date email data every time – and the benefit to you will be fewer rejected addresses, a better sender reputation, and a greater overall ROI from your email contact data.

Phone, Mail, or Email Marketing? The Pros and Cons

There has always been one eternal question in marketing: what is the shortest path between you and your next paying customer?

We already know the right answer to this question: “It depends.” But a better answer is that effective marketing is very context-dependent. So let’s look at the pros and cons of three of today’s key marketing approaches – phone, mail and email marketing.

Telemarketing has practically been with us ever since Alexander Graham Bell first solicited his assistant Watson from the next room in 1876. Its key advantage is that it is the only one of these three approaches that builds an interactive personal connection with a prospect – one that allows you to qualify him or her, ask questions, and respond to their needs. Big-ticket products and services, particularly in a business-to-business environment, are often sold as the result of a sales process that begins with a phone contact. Conversely, large scale telemarketing often is a key ingredient of selling consumer products and services in large volumes.

Telemarketing also has numerous drawbacks. It is labor-intensive, time-bound, and requires a good telecommunications infrastructure when used on more than a small scale. Perhaps most importantly, it requires the right business context. If you are selling an airliner or high-end financial services, those prospects may expect an initial phone call, while carpet-bombing consumers with telephone sales pitches at dinnertime may provoke mostly negative responses. Moreover, unsolicited calls to consumer wireless phones can lead to large fines under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

Direct mail marketing gives businesses an opportunity they do not have with phone or email: the chance to deliver content-rich information in print or even multimedia form. (For example, anyone who belongs to Generation X or older remembers those ubiquitous AOL CDs that were a fixture of the 1990s.) Anyone with a valid mailing address is a potential prospect, it is a medium that lends itself well to A-B testing as well as demographic targeting, and there are few if any regulatory roadblocks to targeting consumers with a direct mail campaign.

Drawbacks of direct mail include its expense per prospect, in terms of time, content costs, and mailing costs. This is particularly a disadvantage for smaller businesses, given the economies of scale that reduce per-unit printing and mailing costs for those who can afford very large campaigns. Response rates are generally low and can vary widely, and the accuracy of your contact data is a critical factor in your costs and profitability.

Email marketing is, relatively speaking, the new kid on the block – even though it now has its own decades-long track record. It has one towering advantage over the other two approaches: a much lower cost per contact that only minimally scales with the size of your prospect base, once you have a list that opts in. Email also gives you the opportunity to include rich media content, or make “warm call” introductions to individual prospects as a precursor to telephone contact.

Disadvantages of email include being the easiest mode of contact for people to ignore – particularly as the inbox sizes of busy people continue to expand – as well as the need to have accurate contact information from people who have opted in to hear from you, to avoid consequences for spamming from your internet services provider.

A common thread through each of these marketing approaches is data quality. Inaccurate, incomplete or outdated contact information will cost you in time and marketing expenditure at the very least, and in the worst cases could subject your business to substantial penalties. And in a world where up to 25% of your contact data is bad, and up to 70% goes out of date each year, a data quality strategy is absolutely necessary for effective marketing.

The best marketing strategy? As we said earlier, it depends. But with the right approach to data quality, you can get the maximum ROI from any approach that fits your business.

C# Integration Tutorial Using DOTS Email Validation

Watch this video and hear Service Objects’ Application Engineer, Dylan, as he presents a 22 minute step-by-step tutorial on how to integrate an API using C#. In order to participate in this tutorial, you will need the following :

  1. A basic knowledge of C# and object-oriented programming.
  2. Visual Studio or some other IDE.

Any DOTS Validation Product Key. You can get free trial keys at www.serviceobjects.com.

In this tutorial, we have selected the DOTS Email Validation web service.  This service performs real-time checks on email addresses to determine if they are genuine, accurate and up-to-date. The service performs over 50 tests on an email address to determine whether or not it can receive email.  If you are interested in a different service, you can still follow along in this tutorial with your service of choice. The process will be the same, but the outputs, inputs, and objects that we’ll be dealing with in the integration video will be slightly modified.

Enjoy.

Mother’s Day 2017 – Estimated Spending to Reach $23.6 Billion

While Mother’s Day is all about the Moms in our lives, it’s an even bigger day for retailers. This year the National Retail Federation estimates Mother’s Day spending to reach an all-time high of $23.6 billion; roughly $10 billion higher than 2010. The traditional gifts of jewelry and flowers, along with personal services are predicted to contribute the most to this increase. Needless to say, with Mother’s Day only a few days away, businesses are experiencing a busy week, especially in ecommerce.

According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, 30% of Mother’s Day shopping is to be done online this year. Most ecommerce sites have already experienced an influx of orders over the last few weeks. With an even bigger rush coming in now from typical procrastinators (like myself) who will take advantage of two-day delivery from retailers like Amazon. Online shopping has become even more convenient with the addition of mobile shopping. With thousands of easy to use mobile apps offering gift cards for anything from dinner to spa treatments, redeemable right on the recipient’s mobile device, digital sellers have definitely made Mother’s Day purchases easier than ever…even for the most ardent procrastinators.

Unknown to most, data quality solutions are quietly working behind the scenes contributing to a smooth and happy Mother’s Day for businesses and celebrants alike. Data quality solutions have made processing increased online holiday orders, restaurant reservations, and mobile app purchases more efficient and safer than ever. By leveraging tools like our Address, Phone and Email Validation services, our clients ensure that their customer contact information is complete and accurate while also identifying malicious fraud before transactions are completed. Our data quality tools give businesses more time to focus on providing memorable experiences for their customers and achieving their revenue goals on the busiest of holidays, including Mother’s Day.

Whether our clients are experiencing or still preparing for a busy Mother’s Day, our data quality solutions will be running smoothly in the background for them the entire time. If your business needs any assistance now or before the next major holiday contact us.

Maintaining a Good Email Sender Reputation

What are Honeypot Email Addresses?

A honeypot is a type of spamtrap. It is an email address that is created with the intention of identifying potential spammers. The email address is often hidden from human eyes and is generally only detectable to web crawlers. The address is never used to send out email and it is for the most part hidden, thus it should never receive any legitimate email. This means that any email it receives is unsolicited and is considered to be spam. Consequently, any user who continues to submit email to a honeypot will likely have their email, IP address and domain flagged as spam. It is highly recommended to never send email to a honeypot, otherwise you risk ruining your email sender reputation and you may end up on a blacklist.

Spamtraps typically show up in lists where the email addresses were gathered from web crawlers. In general, these types of lists cannot be trusted and should be avoided as they are often of low quality.

Service Objects participates in and uses several “White Hat” communities and services. Some of which are focused on identifying spamtraps. We use these resources to help identify known and active spamtraps. It is common practice for a spamtrap to be hidden from human eyes and only be visible in the page source where a bot would be able to scrape it, but it is important to note that not all emails from a page scrape are honeypot spamtraps. A false-positive could unfortunately lead to an unwarranted email rejection. Many legitimate emails are unfortunately exposed on business sites, job profiles, twitter, business listings and other random pages. So it is not uncommon to see a legitimate email get marked as a potential spamtrap by a competitor.

 

Not all Spamtraps are Honeypots

While the honeypot may be the most commonly known type of spamtrap, it is not the only type around. Some of you may not be old enough to remember, but there was a time when businesses would configure their mail servers to accept any email address, even if the mailbox did not exist, for fear that a message would be lost due to a typo or misspelling. Messages to non-existent email address would be delivered to a catch-all box as long as the domain was correctly spelled. However, it did not take long for these mailboxes to become flooded with spam. As a result, some mail server administrators started to use catch-alls as a way to identify potential spammers. A mail server admin could treat the sender of any mail that ended up in this folder as a spammer and block them. The reasoning being that only spammers and no legitimate senders would end up in the catch-all box. Thus making catch-alls one of the first spamtraps. The reasoning is flawed but still in practice today. Nowadays it is more common for admins use firewalls that will act as catch-alls to try and catch and prevent spammers.

Some spamtraps can be created and hidden in the source code of a website so that only a crawler would pick it up, some can be created from recycled email addresses or created specifically with the intention of planting them in mailing lists. Regardless of how a spamtrap is created it is clear that if you have one in your mailing list and you continue to send mail to it, that you will risk ruining your sender’s reputation.

Keeping Senders Honest

The reality is that not all honeypot spamtraps can be 100% identified. Doing so would highly diminish their value in keeping legitimate email senders honest.

It is very important that a sender or marketer follows their regional laws and best practices, such as tracking which emails are received, opened or bounced back. For example, some legitimate emails can still result in a hard or permanent bounce back. This may happen when an email is an alias or role that is connected to a group of users. In these cases, the email itself is not rejected but one of the emails within the group is. Which brings up another point. Role based email addresses are often not eligible for solicitation, since they are commonly tied to positions and not any one particular person who would have opted-in. That is why the DOTS Email Validation service also has a flag for identifying potential role based addresses.

Overall, it is up to the sender or marketer to ensure that they keep track of their mailing lists and that they always follow best practices. They should never purchase unqualified lists and they should only be soliciting to users who have opted-in. If an email address is bouncing back with a permanent rejection then they should remove it from the mailing list. If the email address that is being bounced back is not in your mailing list then it is likely connected to a role or group based email that should also be removed.

To stay on top of potential spamtraps marketers should also be keeping track of subscriber engagement. If a subscriber has never been engaged or is no longer engaged but email messages are not bouncing back, then it is possible that the email may be a spamtrap. If an email address was bouncing back before and not anymore, then it may have been recycled as a spamtrap.

Remember that by following the laws and best practices of your region you greatly reduce the risk of ruining your sender reputation, which will help ensure that your marketing campaigns reach the most amount of subscribers as possible.

Service Objects is the industry leader in real-time contact validation services.

Service Objects has verified over 3 billion contact records for clients from various industries including retail, technology, government, communications, leisure, utilities, and finance. Since 2001, thousands of businesses and developers have used our APIs to validate transactions to reduce fraud, increase conversions, and enhance incoming leads, Web orders, and customer lists. READ MORE