Keep Bad Email Addresses From Marring Your Database

Sep 11, 2002

Nathan Segal

E-Commerce can be a tricky business, especially if your site sells a popular downloadable software product that requires registration before you can download it.

Often, people enter a bogus email address on the site in a hurry to get to the download page. While that's works for them, you wind up with unusable email addresses in your database. So how do you do filter them out?

Enter EMailResolver, an application created by Flicks Software. Priced at $149, it's fully scalable and can easily be used as part of an enterprise, company officials said.

"EMailResolver was designed out of necessity, because we noticed that when people signed up for our software, we were getting a lot of bogus email entries that were filling our database with junk," said Scott Gordon, director of marketing.

Gordon said the application "contains a COM component and several different features that allow you to dictate the level of enforcement that you want. The COM component will run on a Windows server and it's a set of rules or commands that you can call from any Web page."

Things that EmailResolver check for are: proper syntax, an @ sign and a .com or .net, whether the domain address is valid and whether there are mail servers on the domain.

"EMailResolver can apply up to five levels of enforcement," Gordon said. "This has two benefits: You can use EMailResolver as you receive an email address to make sure that they are valid, or you can use it to verify addresses you've been given before an email campaign."

Joakim Kagstrom, managing director for Medienmacher, tested EMailResolver and said "it seemed to give us a perfect result."

"However," he added, "it takes time, and at the second-highest level of enforcement, it takes up to 24 hours if you have 10,000 email addresses you need to check. Initially, we used EMailResolver on a large Web service with a fast connection, but when we tried to go to a smaller Web service, we ran into some problems.

"How long it takes depends in part on how fast the outbound server functions. If you only have a 2-megabit line, it might take some time. It also depends on the speed of the server that the software connects to," Kagstrom said. "I don't think it would be fair to say that the product is slow."

He added that while his company tried all five levels of enforcement, "we use the second highest, because not all the email receivers have the ability to communicate in that language with the software."

"At the highest level, EMailResolver actually asks if that specific recipient would take the email that is sent and we had some problems," Kagstrom said. "I don't think that the problem is with the software, but within the mail receiver."

Another issue concerns email lists. Gordon said Flicks Software does its "best to have a double opt-in process and allow people the opportunity to de-list themselves if they don't want to receive notifications of software updates."

"Our mail shots are typically around 40,000 and if 5,000 go to bad email addresses, we get tagged as a spammer," Gordon said. "Our way of dealing with this issue was to contact our network administrator and the service provider and let them know that we are sending out an email notification, which we do because our customers ask us to."

But not everyone agrees with this approach. Derek Galon, author of The Savvy Way to Successful Website Promotion, said, "Perhaps they have their own server and that there is nobody to shut them down. That solves the problem for them, but not for their customers. Personally, I don't trust targeted customer lists. The only list that works for me is the list that I create, which is very difficult to use on a large scale without being flagged as a spammer.

"There are some lists which claim that they only have people that opt-in. But in my own experience, I get lots of stuff that I never subscribed to and it says that I am on a purchased list of opt-in Internet users and it's not true," Galon said. "So even if someone uses such a list and thinks he's comfortable using a decent product, he's simply been misled by whoever sells these lists. And I don't think it saves you from any trouble. There is no way of knowing if the list is entirely double opt-in until you conduct a campaign and hear back."


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