Is your list tainted?

Greg Robinson

I finished my last blog post telling you that you shouldn’t purchase email lists and told you to consider how someone could possibly sell a large list of “good, opt-in” email addresses for a relatively small fee.

Take a look at your subscriber list and search for email addresses that have a role-specific local portion (the local portion is everything before the “@” symbol). These might be something like help@, info@, support@ and so on. Though it is possible for someone to subscribe to mailings using one of these generic, role-specific addresses, it isn’t the norm.

If this type of address exists on your list and you don’t have corresponding opt-in information (some form of confirmation or double opt-in) or even a name associated with it, it’s possible that you have a tainted list. Work backwards and figure out how those addresses got into your list. If you’ve ever purchased a list, this is a good place to start looking. Often these role-specific addresses wind up on purchased lists because the person selling the list scraped them from the domains’ websites. Scraping a website is typically done using a tool that searches through the HTML code of various websites looking for something that resembles an email address (the “@” symbol is obviously something they’re looking for). When found, the email address is added to the list being built, that is then sold to you and probably many other people.

For example, one mailbox I monitor is listed on the Informz website. I’ve never opted in to receive mail to this address, but I receive many spam emails to it daily.  It’s very easy for me to identify a spammer in the instance, because they are sending to an address that didn’t opt-in to anything. Nor does it have a Facebook, LinkedIn or PayPal account, which is the purported source of many phishing emails received.

So why is a harvested address a bad thing?

Many role-specific addresses aren’t even used by a person, which means they probably didn’t opt-in to any lists and they may have been harvested.  Using lists that contain these harvested email addresses may throw up red flags at some domains, which may in turn report you to a blacklist, block ALL messages sent from your IP to that domain and/or report to a reputation monitoring service.

By purchasing a list of addresses, you’ve assumed the burden of cleaning the list yourself and you’ve placed it on the domains you are sending to. This is part of the reason purchased lists are not the bargain they may appear to be at first glance. Heck, I could sell you a list of addresses at various domains that I’ve simply made up off the top of my head, but if you send to them, you pay the consequences for any errors in those addresses.

While building your house list organically takes time, you can be confident in knowing that your have good, deliverable, OPT-IN addresses that welcome email from you. The cost in dollars for a purchased list may seem like a deal, but the true cost is much more significant; consider how your bottom line may be affected if you get blocked or blacklisted.

About the Author
Greg Robinson

As the Deliverability Manager at Informz, Greg Robinson oversees all client deliverability inquiries, maintains relationships with ISPs and anti-spam entities, and enforces anti-spam policy. Greg educates clients on best practices and strategy, working to correct existing and avoid future delivery issues to maximize deliverability rates.

  • What do you mean by double opt-in?

    • Tara

      Hi Meryl,

      The double opt-in process refers to a confirmed opt-in where when someone fills out a subscription form, an email request is sent back to the person asking him or her to confirm that they want to be subscribed to that specific list.