The more things change, the more they stay the same. Return Path recently released its Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, 1H 2011, and aggregate email deliverability stats have essentially remained stagnant over the past five years. According to Return Path’s study, “email deliverability still plagues commercial email senders worldwide with only 81% of all permissioned email making it to the inbox. Globally, one out of every five emails are blocked by ISP-level filtering, with ~13% simply missing and 7% landing in a spam or junk folder.”

The findings of this report are quite astounding. Despite widespread awareness of deliverability obstacles, the three top issues — excessive spam complaints, excessive bounces, and spamtraps or honeypot addresses — continue to frustrate commercial senders. For a quick primer on these common complaints, take a quick read of our MediaPost article, “Snakes in Your Database,” published on October 12, 2006.

Apparently the email marketing community is not fully aware of the wealth of tools and tactics available to improve their email deliverability and resulting performance. With the majority of deliverability problems stemming from hygiene problems with the underlying list, marketers need to keep their email databases as fresh and up-to-date as possible to optimize deliverability and performance. Based on FreshAddress, Inc.’s analysis of over one billion email address registrations, registration errors range from 2% to over 20%+ depending on the registration channel (i.e., web site, call center, in-store POS, etc.).

Keeping one’s email list clean requires implementing a few important processes on a regular basis:

  1. Real-time, front-end correction: Clean and correct problematic and invalid email addresses before they make their way into your marketing database. This can be accomplished using a Real-time Email Address Correction Technology (REACT) for your web site, web-enabled POS system, or call center. This innovative technology catches common keystroke errors in real time, as the addresses are being entered. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say. For more details on the high cost of poor email address registrations practices, see “Top E-Tailers Lose Millions Through Poor Email Validation Practices,” published August 16, 2010.
  2. Back-end correction and cleaning: While catching mistakes on the front end is always preferable, it is often also necessary to perform periodic batch or cloud-based email hygiene and correction services on your existing databases. Companies should clean their email address files every three to six months to help purge problematic email addresses. These clean-ups can catch known spam traps or honeypots, as well as keystroke errors and other red flags.
  3. Email Change of Address (ECOA): Statistics show that 30% of your email database will change their email address on an annual basis. To keep your response rates strong, it’s imperative to keep track of your clients’ new email addresses. It’s a good idea to perform Email Change of Address (ECOA) services on your bouncing and inactive email addresses on a quarterly basis. An ECOA service can help you reconnect with 20%-30+% of these ostensibly “lost” subscribers through a simple and cost-effective quarterly process.

Given that poor email deliverability (and worse yet, blocking and blacklisting) can have a disastrous impact on your bottom line, a little upfront maintenance will go a long way to helping you maximize your email performance and revenues. If enough marketers address this issue now, perhaps we won’t need to revisit this article in another five years!

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