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Mailing lists, email marketing, errors, oh my!

Using old email lists for the first time is like eating really stale doughnuts.  The taste is pretty bad, and the side effects could be disastrous.

Email companies like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp and many others all have strict rules they follow to avoid being caught in spam hell, with their servers blacklisted and worse.  Each has automated software watching over your uploads of new lists.  And each will block the use of any list they detect may be suspicious.

If you have 4,000 names and add 12,000 more, that’s a red flag. Most services will automatically block you until you fill out a form and even speak to a representative.  They will ask where you got the list, and was it single or double opt–in?  Did you get the list from any third party? Is the list tested with opt–ins less than one–year old?

[Email readers, continue here…] Now the last question is a daunting one for any of us.  Which one of us has run any of our lists through the opt–in process each year with a special email to everyone on the list essentially telling them that they must opt–in (again)

Online Marketing Signpost Shows Blogs Websites Social Media And Email Lists

Email marketing –  special warnings regarding lists from BERKONOMICS

to continue receiving material from us?  I’ll bet the answer is “none of us.”  Yet that is what some of the mailing houses insist upon if they suspect a list is not generated by you directly through opt–in sign–ups.

How about a list you have that is over a year old that hasn’t been used lately?  You can pay about a penny per name with a usual minimum of $100 to clean the list, which is quite effective. The list cleaning service will separate your list into five groups: verified (good name and not a trap), unknown (may be good but careful), undeliverable (bounced), unreachable (invalid domain), and illegitimate (known trap, monitoring domain, or black hole.)  The first group is the only safe one to trust.  Many of the common portals like AOL, Yahoo and MSN do not return a response to an email ping, leading all of those addresses to be classed as “unknown.”  And that’s a large part of anyone’s list.

Your mailing list company must protect themselves, and in doing so, protect you.  A large number of bounces or many unsubscribes in a single mailing are red flags that will be caught by the mailing company system.  Depending upon the size of the list in relation to the total size of all of your lists with that mailing company, your account may be placed on hold while you complete a form with detailed answers about where you got the names, if you got them yourself, and if you have verified them with an opt–in during the last year.

So how do you grow a list if you purchase names from a service?  The first answer is in the form of a question.  Does the service guarantee that the names have been run through their verification filter in the last month or two?  If not, the bounce rate will be as much as one percent higher for each month the list has not been trimmed.  That amounts to big numbers in a short time.

The second answer is to divide the list into small bites that are less than a third the size of your present lists in sum, and feed those in slowly into the system.

Another protection with an incremental benefit is to register your domain with, which will verify that your domain for mass emails is legitimate and not spam, then provide a whitelist of legitimate email servers with their domains – to reduce the chance of false positives while spam filtering.  Many ISP spam filters check the legitimacy of domains as one test before tossing your email into their spam filter.  The cost is a minimal annual fee, and may be worth it, especially if you use your “regular” email address for mass mailings and do not want to have normal email traffic challenged as spam.

The days of spam mailings to spam lists are gone, and we have all benefited by the enforcement of laws in many countries, especially in the United States.  Follow the rules and suggestions above, and your doughnuts will not be stale.  And you’ll not suffer a stomach ache or worse.

  • Clarence

    Thanks, I needed this prod to re-evaluate my address book. C

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