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Unraveling Email Deliverability: The Truth About Buying Email Lists and List Hygiene

This blog post is the second installment in our deliverability series based on our interview with Dana Carr. Stay tuned for more insights and practical tips on how to optimize your email marketing strategy. For more information on this topic, please see our first installment: Unraveling the Mechanics of Email Deliverability: Insights from Marketing Expert Dana Carr

In the world of email marketing, the practice of acquiring email lists is a critical decision that can significantly impact your campaign's success. There are several methods to acquire an email list, each with its own set of implications. Let's delve into these methods before we explore Dana Carr's insights on the subject.

Methods of Acquiring an Email List:

  1. Buying an Email List: This method involves collaborating with a list provider to purchase a list of names and email addresses based on specific demographic or psychographic information. For instance, you could buy a list of 10,000 names and email addresses of individuals aged 25-40 living in New York.

  2. Renting an Email List: In this scenario, you work with a list provider to identify a segment of people to email. However, you never actually own the list, meaning you can't see the email addresses of the people you're emailing. Therefore, you must collaborate with the provider to send out your email.

  3. Owning an Opt-in Email List: This is when someone voluntarily gives you their email address, either online or in person, so you can send them emails. They may choose specific types of email content they wish to receive, like email alerts when new blog posts are published. Opt-in email addresses are earned through the interest and trust of your contacts because they believe you have something valuable to say.

It's important to note that some vendors or marketers may claim that their rented or purchased lists are "totally opt-in." This means that the people on the list have agreed to receive email communication from someone at some point — typically the list provider. However, this does not mean that these individuals have opted in to receive email communications from your business. This is a crucial distinction that we'll explore further in the next section.

The Risks of Buying and Renting Email Lists

Dana Carr, a seasoned MarTech professional, strongly advises against buying or renting email lists. She explains, "You still have no idea what you're getting. And worse yet, these are users that did not exclusively opt in to receive your content. So while it may seem exciting to

make your database more robust with these additional users that you're purchasing or renting…”

“…they are not expecting your content, meaning they may or may not want it."

This lack of consent from the recipients can lead to a host of problems. For one, it can result in low engagement rates as the recipients may not be interested in your content. This can, in turn, harm your sender reputation, affecting your email deliverability in the long run.

Moreover, Carr points out that the data you get from these lists can be outdated or irrelevant. "You have no idea how far back this data has been active from," she says. This means that even if the list provider has good intentions and capabilities, the value of the list may not be as high as you expect.

The Importance of List Hygiene

Regardless of how you acquire your list, maintaining good list hygiene is crucial. This involves identifying and eliminating invalid or harmful email addresses. Carr warns against trying to manually correct obvious typos or errors in email addresses, as this can lead to compliance issues. Instead, she recommends using third-party validation tools like FreshAddress, ZeroBounce, or MX Toolbox.

These tools cross-reference your list against various databases to identify potential issues, such as spam traps, hard bounces, and invalid addresses. As Carr explains, "They have a bunch of databases that they run your lists against. And they are able to determine which addresses are most likely spam traps, which ones based on pinging, the addresses are hard bouncing, which ones are abusive, which ones are invalid based on the way they're built."

Real-Time List Cleaning

Real-time list cleaning is another valuable tool in your arsenal. This involves validating email addresses as soon as they're entered into your system. Carr describes the process: "When you enter your address at an opt-in, immediately those addresses are pinged. And based on what's returned back, which is really checking what the kind of feedback message would be if you attempted to send to it. If it's safe, if it comes back that this is a real address, that it's not dead, then that address would then be accepted and sent to the database within the platform."

This proactive approach can help prevent invalid addresses from entering your list in the first place, enhancing the overall quality of your email list.

The Timeline for List Hygiene

The timeline for list hygiene can vary depending on the size of your list and the tools you're using. For example, with a tool like Zero Bounce, a list of 200,000 users might take around an hour and a half to process. Once you've downloaded the results, you can then update your database accordingly. As Carr shares,

"All of this can happen in a single day."

While buying email lists might seem like a quick way to expand your reach, it's fraught with potential pitfalls. As Carr succinctly puts it, "It's still not a good idea to send to people that haven't asked to receive your content." Instead, focus on building your list organically and maintaining good list hygiene. This will help ensure that your emails reach the right people, boosting your engagement rates and protecting your sender reputation.

Stay tuned for further installations of Unraveling the Mechanics of Email Deliverability. If you'd like to find out what Joseki Tech can do for your email deliverability, don't hesitate to contact us.


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