Email Address Verification
By: Chris Lewis
From time to time we get questions concerning email address verification. Though many SMTP servers allow the verification of email addresses there are probably just as many that don't allow it. So, email verification at it's best is about 50% accuracy using the method the internet RFC guru's designed. Thanks to SPAMers this built in verification system is not very usable, especially with the big email providers.
Campaign Enterprise and Email Marketing Director do not have this email verification capability mainly because doing mass email verification can cause your SMTP server to become blacklisted. Many SPAMers use this technique with fabricated email lists in hope of getting valid email addresses (ie: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org,...). So while it is an important thing to keep your list clean it should be done as if you were a normal one-at-a-time emailer that gets a bounce when the email is bad, then you don't send to it again. When you send out the first email campaign on a new list you will receive bounces if the email addresses are not valid. It is important to receive these emails and mark them as bounces to not send to them again. There are two reasons for this: First, you don't want your campaign to waste time sending to these addresses again. If your list is small, this may not matter, but if your list is big, or you are paying for each email sent out through a service, it is especially important. Second, if you keep sending emails that bounce your SMTP server will acquire a bad reputation will eventually get blacklisted.
There are verifications services that specialize in the field of email list cleaning that have good internet reputations, are known for being good citizens of the internet, and are allowed mass verifications of lists. One of them we recommend is http://freshaddress.com. You send them a list and they will make sure each address is usable, and they also do other services like email forwarding if the email address has changed.
If you use sending services like SMTP.C
Taking the time or spending the money to get your list clean will have many benefits over the cost. If you try to save money here and do it marginally you may end up spending a great deal more in time and money trying to get your SMTP server off blacklists.
General Bounce Information
Managing bounces is one of the most important steps you can take with email marketing. Remote servers (those responsible for delivering to your customers) tally up the number of failed emails to their domain and will score you based on the percentage. If your bounce percentage is high, they can start blocking you on the fly to other emails in their domain. Identifying bounced emails the first time, and filtering them or removing them from your list is critical for email deliverability.
In order for Campaign Enterprise to manage bounces, you must set up an email account exclusively for Campaign Enterprise's use. Create a new POP3 or IMAP4 email account as though Campaign were a new employee. This account cannot be an alias of another account and must be exclusive to Campaign. Once you configure the account, use it as the return path address, which is identified as the bounce email address on the compose message page in the Campaign edit screens.
The Return Path email address is where non-delivery failure notifications go, also known as NDFs or bounces. These are notices from your mail server, or subsequent mail servers in the delivery chain, indicating a problem with sending the message. A permanent NDF is considered a hard bounce, either the domain or address doesn't even exist. These are identified by Campaign as a hard bounce, and can be filtered or removed from your list immediately in most cases. A temporary NDF is a notice from an email server that there was a problem with delivery, but your mail server may retry the message on a scheduled retry. You'll need to talk to your mail administrator about the number of retries your server has. These are identified as soft bounces by Campaign and you can use more discretion on filtering or fixing these addresses.
Managing Bounced Emails with Campaign
Other write back features in Campaign Enterprise use the unique id, but the id is frequently stripped out of bounced email messages. The only thing that is always preserved is the original to address. Unlike other features with Campaign Enterprise, the record that bounces is updated by comparing the original to address with the address field in your source table, not the unique id. Since this is the case, you will need one bounce email account for each table to which you are connecting.
In the example below, there are three different campaigns, all using the same source table. In this case, all the campaigns use the email address for bounce account 1, but only one campaign needs to actually have bounce enabled. All bounces, regardless of which campaign sent them, will update in the source table.
Since the source table is updated, all three campaigns will be able to identify the bounced emails and apply the filter to prevent those emails from going out again. Using this scenario, you can create a Bounce Campaign, which is open to the entire table, no filtering, and enable it to monitor the account. It will monitor the account for all of the campaigns connected to that table and using that bounce email account.
This example shows how bounces should be managed with multiple tables, one for each campaign. Since the source table has a specific group of addresses, you cannot check that account with the same bounce account being used by another campaign, the email address may not appear in the table. Each campaign would use the email address for the specific bounce account to which they are connected.
Finally, you can set up your bounce account to monitor an email account that accepts wild cards. With this option you can use VERPS, or Variable Envelop Return Paths. This is explained in more detail in these two articles.
More on VERPS
Unfortunately, MS Exchange Server 2010 does not support email accounts with wild cards. For more information on setting up your bounce email account, check with your email service provider.
By: Chris Lewis
Ports on the internet are like frequencies on your radio. They allow you to use the same "air waves" for a lot of different communication. So, basically, if you try to connect to a service on the internet, like a webserver, then a webserver needs to be eagerly waiting for your request. When you type in HTTP on a browser (along with the URL), your browser assumes you want to connect to the destination Webserver via port 80 (unless you override it). Since Campaign Enterprise has a webserver built into it, it listens for requests. If you put Campaign Enterprise on the same computer as an IIS Webserver there is a possibility that the two might collide if they are both trying to listen to port 80. Actually, what will happen is that the first service that starts up will "win" and take over the listening of port 80. The second service that starts up will try to listen to port 80 and fail because the first service has "binded" to that port. You can see the problem: If two services were allowed to listen and respond to a request, the results would be chaos.
Since port 80 is well-known for website traffic it is almost always let through firewalls, etc. and should be used for response functions. Using port 80 in links within emails also are much more acceptable to SPAM ranking filters than a hyperlink using a "strange" port like 81.
To make Campaign Enterprise use port 80 but "play nice" with other Webservers on your system, you will have to assign multiple IP addresses on your computer so that Campaign Enterprise will bind to one IP and the IIS Server can bind to one or more of the other IPs. It is the pair of IP and Port that makes the traffic coming back to the computer unique. If traffic comes in directed to the computer using the IP and port that Campaign Enterprise is "listening" on, then Campaign Enterprise will respond to it and the IIS Server will ignore it. The opposite applies to the IIS Server traffic where the IIS Server will respond to it's IP and port assigned to it. So overall, if you find Campaign Enterprise when starting says "port in use", you will probably need to make adjustments to Campaign Enterprise and the IIS Server to allow them to co-exist.
"So", you may ask, "why does Campaign Enterprise come with the default ports of 81 and 82?" This is done strictly for demo purposes so that you can be successful demoing the product on a computer with IIS Server running without running into the problems of colliding ports. When you are ready to use Campaign Enterprise for real, change the response port to port 80 so your email will not be marked as SPAM because of the strange ports used in the URLs.
There are two different ports used in Campaign Enterprise, one for the administration of the product and the other is for the traffic coming back to the server. It is probably good to keep the administration port something oddball if you are planning on allowing administration of Campaign Enterprise from outside your firewall because then it is less likely to be crawled by robots out there looking for computers to harass.
Bounced Emails - Hard or Soft
By: Chris Lewis
When you send out an email and something goes wrong with it being delivered it is usually returned to you or "bounced". Bounced emails can happen for various reasons, some of them being permanent and some of them being temporary.
Hard Bounces - Hard bounces happen when any of the SMTP servers down that the email address you used to send will just never work. One of the first reasons an email will not reach it's destination is that the domain name does not exist. The second reason is that the mailbox on the mail server for that domain just does not exist. Hard bounces are usually characterized by a 500-series error. When an email is returned with a 500 series error inside, Campaign Enterprise and Email Marketing Director will categorize these as hard bounces. Usually when a hard bounce like this occurs, you mark a hard bounce field in the corresponding database record, and then when you send using that list again you filter out any email records that have this hard bounce field marked. Since it is a permanent failure, there is no reason to try sending to that address again. Aside from other information you want to keep in that record, the email address is virtually useless.
Soft Bounces - When a returned email not a 500-series return code, it is assumed to be a temporary or soft bounce. These types of bounces usually mean the domain is good and the email box is valid but for some reason the email server is not accepting any emails for this address at the present time. The reasons can range from the mail box is full, the server is too busy, or the person has marked his account as being on holiday. In the case of soft bounces, it is ok to try again the next time you send using that list. There will come a time though when maybe too many soft bounces really means a hard bounce...where an email box is always full (maybe not in use). In this case, you many not want to filter soft bounces out until a certain point, say, you get 20 soft bounces for that email address. In that case, you can filter the email list to exclude any records that have over 20 soft bounces. Now this is very arbitrary so you will have to set the number of times a record can soft bounce before you remove it from the list. Many times, sending emails to these addresses over and over is ok because the destination mail server does see the email box as valid, just not reachable, and that is not a bad mark on you.
So, for many, they just worry about hard bounces because those are the ones they can get in trouble with concerning the big mail providers. I would recommend just ignoring the soft bounce recording but it is up to your companies conventions.
BTW: Hotmail just got transformed to a new mail service called OUTLOOK.COM. We will be following this change to see how it affects our customer's deliver ability so check back over the next few weeks.
Bounced email is a subject that comes up very often in our tech support department. In this blog we will try to define all the aspects of email bounced and how to deal with them. But first we need a reason...
Dealing with bounced emails is very important. Many times bounced emails are just ignored because it does not "cost" anything to just keep sending to the same email addresses. The problem is that many mail providers like AOL, Hotmail, Gmail are all sensitive to emails sent to them that do not exist. For instance, if you are sending 1000 emails to AOL addresses and hundreds of them does not exist, AOL will consider you a spammer because you are not a "good citizen" and will at some point not allow your SMTP server to send ANY more email to them. When you do this to all the major email providers all the time you can see why many of the emails you send out will just not make it to the REAL end users. So overall, you need to deal with bounces to keep your reputation clean.
As explained in a previous blog, bounces can happen immediately or delayed. Immediate bounces happen when your SMTP server rejects the email the instant it is submitted. These records can be marked as "bad" in Campaign Enterprise and then you would filter these addresses on the next send or just delete them completely. The delayed bounced emails are the tricky ones. Here is how a bounce is generated:
1. You send an email using your SMTP server
2. You SMTP server verifies the format of the email address and accepts the email message into it's queue
3. Sometime later, your SMTP server looks up the MX record for the domain of the email address (like AOL.COM)
4. If the domain does not exist, then your SMTP server sends a bounced email to your bounced email account
5. If the domain exists, your SMTP server now contacts the destination SMTP server
6. The email message is submitted to the destination SMTP server
7. The destination SMTP can immediately reject the email message, and if it does, then your SMTP server sends a bounced email to your bounced email account.
8. If the destination SMTP does accept your email message, it can then reject it later if it finds a problem. In that case, the destination email address will send a bounce email to your bounced email account.
So, from all of this, you can see that the actual bounced email you receive can come from many different sources. The "Wild West" reference in the title refers to this process and also to the actual contents of the bounced email: There are no rules about the content. This makes if very difficult for us. To properly record a bounce we need to know two major things: The original email address we sent to, and what the error was. Sounds easy? Nope. With all the email systems throughout the world, there are that many different bounced email formats, and they change, all the time. So harvesting information from bounced emails is truly an "art" and is a good reason to keep updating your Campaign Enterprise product because we strive to keep up with all these formats.
In tomorrow's blog, we will discuss the differences between "soft" and "hard" bounces because it is a big subject in how to deal with these.
Some people are calling with problems with their MySubscribe accounts and forms. Several months ago, the site switched from www.arialsoftware/mysubscribe.com to mysubscribe.arialsoftware.com. If you have an old bookmark to the old site, you should be able to go to the new site and log in there. The list of emails you have gathered should be available at the new location. During the recent move, some of the image references need to move over, clearing your cache may help.
If your web form has quit working, you will need to log in and create a new one, then post it on your site. Password recovery can also be performed if you do not remember your information. If you cannot recall anything, please use the contact form to get a hold of us to see if we can look you up on our system.
Email Delivery Tips
By: Jim Kinkade
To keep email deliverability high, it is very important to be aware of the possibility of getting blacklisted. By following good email marketing practices and being diligent in keeping your list clean and up to date you can lessen the chance of getting on a blacklist. Being aware and understanding behaviors that can get you listed on a blacklist is the first step to getting your email into the inbox and out of the junk or bulk mail folder as well. Here are some things to consider when sending marketing email, if you want to stay in good standing, and off of the "spam cop" block lists.
No email software program can keep your mail server and domain from getting blacklisted if you not following good practices. There are features built into our programs that will help you stay in compliance with the CAN SPAM law and even help with keeping on the good side of the "spam cops". But to really understand how this all works it is important to know that the CAN SPAM law and the spam cops are not the same thing.
The CAN SPAM law is a US law and is a legal entity, non-compliance can get you fined or arrested, although this happens rarely and only when the offender is a true "spammer".
Spam cops are more like self-appointed "cops" or vigilantes who watch and report behaviors that are considered to be "spam" like. Because so many ISP's use the information provided by the spam cops to police the emails coming into their servers; it is important, if not imperative, to comply with the "unwritten laws" of email. Complying with "best practices" as well as making sure you are complying with the actual CAN SPAM law is your best defense against getting blacklisted.
We recommend using a "home grown" list, if possible, but renting and buying lists are also common practices. Renting or buying a list can pose problems. The quality of the list is the primary concern. Your list is only as good as the list broker who sells it. It is important if you ever rent or buy a list, that you ask certain questions of the broker. The best list is a list that you have compiled from customers either coming to you and making a purchase or at least signing up with you and requesting information. When someone makes a purchase or requests to be added to your list you will want to respond promptly. An email sent very soon after their request or purchase makes it less likely that they will forget your company or organization and possibly mark your message as spam as they delete it. Send them an email quickly so that it imprints with them that you are a known company, one that they want to receive information from. Also asking your customers to whitelist you or add you as a contact will help too.
But in cases where you or your client wants to use a rented or purchased list these questions (at least) should be asked of the list broker before purchase of the list has been made. Even when the answers to these questions are positive, proceed slowly. That way if there is an issue you will know after sending 1000 emails rather than after sending 20,000.
Again, when configured properly our program can track hard bounces and mark them in the list so that you do not send to them again It is extremely important to track and filter out any hard bounces of your list. Hard bounces in your sent can hurt your deliverability. While this is not a law, it is one of the things the spam cops watch. Also the incoming mail servers look closely at your hard bounce rate, if they see a send coming from your mail servers with a high percentage of the emails being hard bounces (and that can be 10 % or less) they may look more closely at your message before delivering it, deliver it to the junk folder, or even not deliver it at all. Spam cops also track high hard bounce sends and having a lot of hard bounces in your send can get you into trouble with them.
Our software does have the ability to throttle the sends (limit how many get sent to your server per hour). Sometimes sending very fast is not the best option There are times you may want to throttle your send, especially when sending to certain domains such as hotmail, yahoo, gmail, AOL and many others. Targeted throttling for specific domains may be a function available on your SMTP server.
One of the biggest factors in getting on a blacklist is the list you use. There are many things spam cops track with relation to your list. Is your list rented or purchased? That can count against you because when you use rented lists the receivers are more likely to mark your message as spam. If very many people do that, you can get blacklisted. If you list contains lots of older email addresses, that can get you into trouble because it will likely result in a higher hard bounce rate which spam cops also track. Also, if your list ever contains email address that have been "harvested", (and the spam cops have lots of traps out there to track that) you almost certainly will get blacklisted. And finally, if your list has people who are not opt-ins (asked for information from your company) they are more likely to mark your message as spam as they delete it and that is not good, the isp's track this and may report this to spam cops or are at least likely to send your message to the junk folder if they deliver it at all.
Any mail server that has smtp enabled is fine to use with our software. Make sure that your client adds the mail server they are going to use to their domain registration, so that the reverse dns checks out. Many of our customers use either PowerMTA by Port 25, Ironport or Ispwitch for their mail servers.
You are eligible for free upgrades when you maintain an active support plan. Updates are free whether you have support or not.
To recap, Campaign Enterprise:
_While Campaign Enterprise does contain a de-dupe (de-duplication) email address feature in the Datasource Tab when you edit a campaign, it’s best to take care of duplicate entries permanently on the source database table. Here is how to do that with Microsoft Access. You can use this query to delete records with duplicate email addresses, however, the Access table must have an autonumber type of field as the unique identifier. Here are the steps: