Keep It Clean: Email Data Hygiene Matters

By Jason Warnock, Yesmail Interactive

In early 2013, Yahoo! began freeing up email accounts that had been dormant for 12 months or more. And just last month, it was discovered that Microsoft's terms of service meant that they had been recycling email IDs for Hotmail and Outlook for years. Their general rule of thumb has been that each user ID, or email account, should be logged into at least once every 270 days.  Any accounts that have not been accessed within that timeframe would then be added automatically to a "queue for deletion."  After 360 days, the recycled account would then become available again.

For email marketers, it's important to realize that both Yahoo! and Microsoft are giving themselves the opportunity to clean their databases, and for good reason. Senders should avoid mailing to dormant, dead or recycled email accounts. Perpetually sending messages to these types of addresses is known to cause deliverability issues. Data hygiene is an extremely important step that must be taken in order to prevent a blacklisting.

Keeping data clean is also vital to sender reputation.  Here are a few tips for getting the most out of data hygiene:

Perform data hygiene from multiple collection points.

Marketers should ensure that only valid records are entering their database  by applying data hygiene best practices at multiple collection points-the business's website, the point-of-sale (if you're at a brick-and-mortar store) or any third-party data. Emails can enter a marketer's database at any of these collection points and it's important for marketers to determine if addresses are valid as soon as possible in order to avoid serious deliverability issues. An Internet Service Provider (ISP) will only tolerate so many invalid addresses before emails go to the bulk folder.  Regular data hygiene allows marketers to identify and remove invalid or dead emails, thus contributing to low bounce rates.

Removing inactive emails greatly impacts deliverability and ROI.

Optimal deliverability is a high priority for marketers since small inboxing issues can drastically impact revenue. When marketers email a large number of inactive subscribers, ISPs see that the ratio of volume to engagement is low and could decide to send the message to the dreaded spam folder-a place no marketer wants to be. Removing inactive subscribers saves marketers money in two ways: by sending fewer emails overall (most pricing is calculated on a CPM basis) and by reducing the risk of deliverability issues that negatively affect email program revenue. In the course of a year, over 30 percent of people change their email address or become inactive-database hygiene helps marketers ensure their subscribers do not fall in that category.

Avoid and prevent human error. 

One of the contributing causes of poor data quality is human error. It's important to utilize automated verification processes (confirmation emails), train brick-and-mortar staff and identify various data entry points. Incorporating real-time verification technology on a marketer's registration page allows for error detection and correction while the subscriber information is being entered. Employing data hygiene services that scrub a marketer's database frequently for email accounts are closed or are inactive is a great way to prevent deliverability issues before they occur. And during the holidays, deliverability matters more than ever. Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas have led to an increase in email volume and unfortunately, many deliverability problems. Mailing to recycled email addresses presents further deliverability challenges as marketers plan their holiday season campaigns.

Investing in data hygiene not only improves marketing campaign performance, but it's also an effective way for marketers to maintain clean email databases which allows better segmentation, better targeting and better reporting.

About the Author: Jason Warnock is a seasoned digital marketing veteran and the vice president of market intelligence and deliverability for Yesmail Interactive. Warnock has designed and executed successful technology and business strategies for several Fortune 500 companies.