Cleaning up mailing list

Hi

I have a big problem. I want to send a newsletter to 100'000 persons. Unfortunately, the mailing list was not used since one year and therefore a lot of mail addresses are no more valid, resulting in a lot of bounces. That's way I got a warning from Amazon SES.

I contacted Amazon and aked if they could accept a higher bounce rate (about 10%) for the next 100'000 mails so that I can clean up the mailing list. But the answer was negative. They said that Amazon SES should not be used for cleaning up a mailing list. This is very disappointing because it is obvious that a mailing list, which was longer not used, has to be cleaned up in some way. And the only possible way to do this is sending mails.

So what can I do to clean up the mailing list?

20 Replies

Are you being paid per e-mail delivered or something? Let it slide. I'm honestly surprised MailChimp is thinking of letting you use this list in the first place, given how stale it is (and how dubious it sounds).

You probably just want to write off the "bad" addresses. Now that you have a reasonably clean list, why risk contaminating it with addresses you've already determined are bad?

Interesting question, skippy.

What I would do is - if you can find a provider willing to - send out a one time email stating that you must click this link to stay subscribed, then nuke the list.

Of course, depending upon the content of the email, I'm not too sure how happy I would be about receiving it.

Scratch that, what I would really do is just nuke the list - its been a year, you likely don't have proof that the user signed up at all, and even if they did what vonskippy said applies - the implicit contract has likely expired.

Do you have all the undeliverable/bounce-back emails? You should be able to use those as your source of email addresses to remove.

MailChimp has a few recommendations on third party services which could help clean the list for you, although with 100k email addresses - you'll be paying quite a bit.

Thank you very much.

> Do you have all the undeliverable/bounce-back emails? You should be able to use those as your source of email addresses to remove.

No, I only have the bounces for 10'000 emails, afterwards I got a warning from Amazon. To get the bounces for the rest of the list, I have to mail them.

> MailChimp has a few recommendations on third party services which could help clean the list for you, although with 100k email addresses - you'll be paying quite a bit.

This sounds really great. DataValidation is the cheapest one. If I have 108'000 addresses, I pay $0.0035 per address. This is in total ä378.

Is this service secure and reliable? And is there perhaps a cheaper one?

@Helveticus:

Thank you very much.

> Do you have all the undeliverable/bounce-back emails? You should be able to use those as your source of email addresses to remove.

No, I only have the bounces for 10'000 emails, afterwards I got a warning from Amazon. To get the bounces for the rest of the list, I have to mail them.
That's a good start. Clean the 10,000 known bad addresses out and you'll have 90,000 in your list and hopefully a much smaller percentage of bounce-backs/undeliverables.

I'm not sure how you can guarantee Amazon that your delivery rate will be better with the 90k list. There are some free email services but not for that volume. You'd probably have to swap small segments of your list in and out of the free service to see if they bounce back (though that will be rather time consuming).

You could also set up postfix and check the logs for bounce messages.

I have now fed datavalidation.com with my data. In total there are 108'000 addresses. They have different kinds of field which they tested the mail addresses. In the summary I see that around 59'000 are deliverable, 34000 are maybe deliverable and 15000 are not deliverable. But in the bounce section only for 173 addresses there is an indictaion for bounces (from historical data I think).

I have not yet bought it, it will cost $380. So do you think if I buy the cleaned list that there will be less bounces even if datavalidation.com only detected 173 bounces?

> That's a good start. Clean the 10,000 known bad addresses out and you'll have 90,000 in your list and hopefully a much smaller percentage of bounce-backs/undeliverables.

I'm not sure how you can guarantee Amazon that your delivery rate will be better with the 90k list. There are some free email services but not for that volume. You'd probably have to swap small segments of your list in and out of the free service to see if they bounce back (though that will be rather time consuming).

I think you misunderstood me. ;) I've processed 10'000 mails yet, and about 1000 were bounces. So for the remaining 90'000 addresses I have no indication if they bounce or not.

> You could also set up postfix and check the logs for bounce messages.

Which logs do you mean?

@Helveticus:

I have now fed datavalidation.com with my data. In total there are 108'000 addresses. They have different kinds of field which they tested the mail addresses. In the summary I see that around 59'000 are deliverable, 34000 are maybe deliverable and 15000 are not deliverable. But in the bounce section only for 173 addresses there is an indictaion for bounces (from historical data I think).

I have not yet bought it, it will cost $380. So do you think if I buy the cleaned list that there will be less bounces even if datavalidation.com only detected 173 bounces?
The 173 + 15,000 "not deliverable" is the real number you're looking at as far as removal. The "maybe deliverable" is interesting (you're screwed if you send those 34k emails and a lot of them aren't good addresses because Amazon won't like that high of a return rate).

As far as the $380, what is your time worth? What are you trying to do with the mail list and will it generate enough to cover the $380?

> As far as the $380, what is your time worth? What are you trying to do with the mail list and will it generate enough to cover the $380?

I will send a newsletter to the e-mail addresses. The $380 will be covered by my client (I do it for free). So the $380 are not a problem, doing it myself with sending over free hoster or so as you proposed, this would take too long (I can only send at a small rate and I will perhapts get banned often).

As I said the $380 are not a problem but I want to be sure that I can trust datavalidation.com because don't want to spend the money for nothing. They only had about 2h for analyzing the 100'000 addresses…

Is there perhaps another more trustful (or cheaper) service available?

If the addresses are not validated, then obviously you are not mailing to an OPT-IN list, so you're a spammer.

No, I'm not! The mail addresses are validated but long time ago. The list was not used since one year…

Edit: Is just found the following service. http://www.email-checker.com/

This service is cheaper than datavalidation.com but it is not recommended by mailchimp. Does somebody know about it?

So, you're saying that when I met an old Uni buddy a few years back, and said "stop by my house and I'll buy you a beer", that offer is still valid?

At what point, after zero communication, does an OPT-IN list expire?

@Helveticus:

> You could also set up postfix and check the logs for bounce messages.

Which logs do you mean?

/var/log/mail.log normally.

@vonskippy:

So, you're saying that when I met an old Uni buddy a few years back, and said "stop by my house and I'll buy you a beer", that offer is still valid?

At what point, after zero communication, does an OPT-IN list expire?
If the original opt-in request wasn't specifically time-limited then there is no reason to think it would expire ever. Unless you told your old buddy "stop by my house within the next 90 days and I'll buy a beer" then why wouldn't the offer still be valid?

I wrote a script to do this once, it wasn't too difficult.

It checked the following:

Is the address correctly formatted?

Does the domain have MX records?

Is at least one mailer contactable?

Does that mailer accept mail for the email, or reject with a transient failure for greylisting?

Re-check transient failures a few times.

You don't actually need to send a mail to check an email address would be accepted, just drop the connection before the DATA part. I think Yahoo and maybe others don't reject unknown addresses until after the DATA stage so my method won't catch all invalids. Also some places accept all mail and reject with a backscatter email instead.

Anyway I lost the script but good luck writing a new one. :)

Perhaps email-checker.com also flagged some addresses als bad although they are good, false positives…

I'm using Amazon SES and not mailchimp. And I'm not paid, I'm doing a newsletter service for a association.

Hi

I have now checked my mailing list with email-checker.com and I separated the bad addresses from the good. My bounce rate is now much lower but I want to double check the bad addresses.

So my intention is to send a mail to every bad address to check if it is real a bad address. Of course I cannot do this with Amazon SES because the bounce rate would be too high.

Does somebody know a free hoster, e.g. gmx, for doing this without getting into trouble (also legal trouble)?

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