Email Validation is Not Enough: Typos Can Get You Blacklisted

It has been a few weeks since the initial news broke in Ken Magill’s The Magill Report, but the email marketing world is still scratching their heads. Anti-spam agency Spamhaus put a Fortune 500 retailer on one of their blacklists… for typos. On top of it all, they enforced the blacklist during the holiday season.

One could speculate that perhaps these typographical errors were from some type of a purchased or scraped list, but that is not the case. According to the blacklisting report, customers provided their email addresses at the point of purchase in the store. At some point between collection and deployment, they were incorrectly entered into the retailer’s database.

“The issue is that typoed email addresses are being associated with customer accounts and receiving all sorts of email (transactional and marketing both) without ever being confirmed,” wrote Spamhaus in their blacklisting report. Spamhaus goes onto state that “one solution would be to not send additional email to email addresses gathered at a point of sale for receipts. Simply send the receipt, then discard the email address.”

On the contrary, many email marketers we have spoken with consider that asking for one’s email at the register a great way to build an opt-in list for future marketing efforts. If the customer did not want to hear from that retailer, he or she simply would not have provided their email address at checkout.

Now that it is publicly confirmed that Spamhaus maintains purposely misspelled spamtraps, it is clear that marketers urgently need to rethink their email hygiene strategies. Too many companies do nothing or rely on services that simply “validate” the deliverability of an email address. An email validation simply confirms the email address is working, so it cannot catch these typo spamtraps, as they are all deliverable email addresses.

Typos are a fact of life and happen frequently. If you encounter one of these typoed spamtrap addresses on your list and only run your standard validation to confirm the list is deliverable, you are asking for trouble. You as a marketer should work to find a comprehensive and robust hygiene service that will go beyond validation.

A good hygiene solution will have a robust correction engine, designed to catch and correct the typos before they enter your database. And the provider should have a dedicated team of experts working behind the scenes to dynamically maintain the correction knowledgebase to ensure the highest accuracy.

Spamhaus went beyond its core mission of stopping botnets and fraud gangs and targeted a legitimate marketer, jeopardizing a significant revenue stream during the most important time of the year. Don’t let it happen to you! Spamtraps are a fact of life and email validation alone is not enough to protect you.

The complete blacklisting report can be found here: http://www.spamhaus.org/sbl/query/SBL168458

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