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How to Check the Quality of Your Email Lists via Searchbug.com
Nov
12

How to Check the Quality of Your Email Lists (and Why You Need to Do It)

If you work with email lists, you know that keeping your email addresses current is a bit of a nightmare. This is especially true if you purchase email lists.

Beyond keeping emails current, you need to avoid spam traps, invalid and catch-all email addresses, and abuse emails. Otherwise you could run into email deliverability issues later on.

The workload of keeping your email lists current and keeping them clean is too much to do without some sort of automation.

There was a time when checking emails in bulk was nearly impossible.

Validating an email required sending a test message to every email address. This meant that anyone verifying a lot of emails was bound to run into deliverability issues of their own. So some test messages wouldn’t get delivered. This compromises email verification results.

Fortunately, it’s easier to check lists in bulk now.

Here’s why this is good news.

Why you should use batch deliverability validation on your email lists

There are uses for bulk email verification that go beyond protecting your email deliverability.

First, it’s the most efficient way to weed out bad emails.

It’s also the most affordable way to do it. Manual email verification can be time intensive and expensive.

With bulk email verification, you simply upload your email list. The returned file will identify which emails are unsafe. You can then exclude those from your email sends.

Bulk Email Validation Ensures Deliverability

But it can indirectly save you time and money as well.

Use a bulk email deliverability check to evaluate the quality of your list suppliers

While it is the responsibility of the email list provider to quality control their product, emails are slippery things.

They can be changed and created easily. People make mistakes when they enter email addresses all the time. So even a well-checked email list can quickly become ridden with bad emails. Especially if the list undergoes any manual data entry.

Additionally, some list providers do a syntax check on their email lists just to make sure that all the email addresses have a valid format. But that doesn’t mean that there’s actually an inbox associated with every email address.

So before using any new list, it’s best to check the actual status of all the email addresses. This will give you an idea of how well the list provider is quality controlling their email lists.

If a list provider repeatedly gives you lists that are mostly invalid emails, it may be time to change suppliers.

Also, a bulk email validator is your best bet for quality assurance if you’re a list provider.

Use a bulk email validator to expedite your email sending

Email deliverability is important. However, your sending domain reputation can tolerate sending messages to a few invalid email addresses.

Additionally, things that are considered soft bounces don’t hurt your deliverability. Inboxes that are temporarily full or receiving server errors don’t count as a hit on your sender reputation.

And sending messages to invalid emails won’t immediately tank your sending reputation. But invalid email addresses do eat up your sending limits.

It’s the spam traps and emails on the global suppression list (GSL) that you really want to avoid.

So there are tolerances for the number of bad email on an email list.

Say you process a list of 100 emails, and 90 of them come back as valid and safe to email. The other 10 are simply invalid.

Depending on your operational tempo, it may not be worth the time and effort to remove those 10 emails.

Obviously, your tolerances for invalid email addresses will vary. If you regularly process lists of 5000 emails, ten percent is actually a lot of invalid emails.

You can use bulk email validation to rate your lists out quickly by assessing the number of quality emails they have and determining what your threshold for bad emails is.

Then simply sort your email lists according to your go/no go criteria and send the low quality lists for cleaning.

There are tools that perform an overall list assessment like this. Typically they return results in a grade fashion. An email list will be qualified as safe to use so long as a certain amount of the email addresses are valid.

But these tools often don’t report the status of the email addresses or give information as to why the invalid email addresses can’t receive messages.

A batch email validator that returns the specifics of why each bad email is non-functioning gives you much more utility. And if you use the right one, it won’t cost you any more than an overall list evaluation tool.

Knowing why an email address can’t receive messages gives you more granular control over your list cleaning.

You may want to keep temporarily unavailable email addresses so you can try them again later. Email addresses that simply have an invalid syntax might be easily correctable and retried.

james#searchbug.com is an obvious typo that can be corrected.

But you can salvage some of your emails with more specific batch email validation reporting.

Again, if you’re running very high email volumes, this could amount to a significant number of emails.

Users enter email addresses incorrectly. Servers go down periodically. And people using legacy email services sometimes have full inboxes.

For businesses that run through a lot of email lists, the batch email verification process can be automated with an API so that incoming lists can be processed and routed based on their overall quality.

Automated batch email validation protects your databases.

While it’s best to screen emails before they even get added to any list, that doesn’t always happen. Even then, small typos sometimes aren’t detected because the email address still has a valid syntax. But it doesn’t route to any inbox.

So batch email validation provides an additional filter to help keep your databases clean, which reduces stress on your entire organization and saves you time and money on data management.

To wrap up, if you use a third party list provider, batch email validation is a must. You just can’t ensure that only sendable email addresses are included on every list.

Without a bulk email validator, the worst case scenario is that you hit spam traps or GSL emails, which could disrupt your entire email program. At best, you end up sending a number of useless emails.

If you’re developing email lists yourself, you can use an API to automate the process of validating email addresses at the point of entry to save yourself a lot of headache in quality controlling your lists.

So how do you use bulk email validation? Are you doing list overviews or pulling each list apart to exclude any non-functioning email address?

Check out our real-time email deliverability check, and leave a comment to let us know how you use it and how well it worked for you!

 

Premium Batch Append Service via Searchbug.com
Oct
30

The Searchbug Online Batch Service Just Got Even Better

If you’ve been using the Searchbug online batch service, things are about to get better for you.

If you’re new to the service, welcome! You’re getting here at just the right time.

We’ve worked hard to develop new improvements to the service. Now they’re here!

Here’s what’s new and what’s been improved.

New: Premium Append

Our Append service is still available but has been renamed Standard Append. Why? Because we’ve added a Premium Append option for those looking for higher match rates, more cell phone numbers, and additional information associated with the name, address or phone number you already have.

In addition to all the updated contact data the premium append can add to your records, it searches additional data feeds from some of the most reliable information sources available.

The Premium Append service provides more thorough results, including:

  • Names and aliases (your file will include all found names and aliases).
  • Current and recent addresses reported within the last 3 years (we will also provide the date addresses were reported).
  • All known phone numbers, including mobile numbers
  • Date of birth and date of death, if the person is deceased
  • Relatives names and the month and year of their birth

Premium Append can be used to search for people by:

  • An Address with city, state or zip
  • First and Last Name with city and state.
  • First and Last Name and address.
  • A Phone number

If you want to compare, verify, or update old addresses or phone numbers, use the Premium Append. It will return all of the most recent addresses and phone numbers for each record in your file with dates reported so you can improve your data and increase communication results.

The Premium Append delivers comparable results to most Real Estate data skip websites and is ideal for any organization that needs high-reliability data. If your sales people or telemarketers are wasting time using old data, this tool will save you money.

These are the average match rates with our Premium Append service:

Premium Online Batch Service Match Rates

Compare this with our Standard Append average match rates (which are still quite high).

Online Batch Append Match Rates

Things to consider: 

  • Of course, your results may vary. Hit rates depend largely on the type and quality of the data you submit. 
  • Searching for or by email address or business name isn’t offered with Premium Append.
  • The Premium Append is currently limited to 1000 records per batch.

The best part about the Searchbug Premium Append Service is that you only pay for hits. There are no monthly fees, no sign-up fees, or long-term contracts. It’s a simple flat fee per hit.  If we find nothing, you pay nothing.

Improved: Append Results

Previous to this recent update, the results for our append service included up to five matches for each line of data on your list with each match in a different column (another comma separated value). This made it difficult to copy all the appended phone data into one usable column to export or import into a phone dialer or for addresses to copy them for a mailer.

This format prevented us from giving you all the data we found since adding hundreds of columns of data would not be easy to manage. 

Now, with the new data format we can include every single result we find. Regardless of whether our search turns up eight or eighty hits for one entry, they’re all included in your results. And, the best part is, that doesn’t affect the cost of the match.

Even if we find dozens or hundreds of matching names, phone numbers, addresses, or email addresses for one of your records, you’ll still only be charged for one match.

Append pricing varies based  on the number of records appended regardless of the number of records in your file. Obviously, more records in your file should mean more appends.  The higher your append volume, the lower your price per match gets.  If you want to get an estimate of your file cost, you can visit the order page and enter your quantity in the online real-time append estimator.

This improvement applies to both our Standard Append and our Premium Append services. Overall, the change makes Searchbug results more comprehensive and useful for businesses that need better data.

Improved: Append Results Format

Batch append results are still delivered in a comma-separated CSV file. The file will include all the originally uploaded data, with columns added for the data returned by our search. Your original data will be to the left of our first column called Record ID (see sample data in image below). 

The Record ID indicates which row your original record was in.  The Record ID is repeated for each match our append tool made to your record which helps indicate which of your original records have multiple matches.

The image below is an example of results (actual results are downloaded in CSV format and are not color coded or in a spreadsheet). This input example shows three records with first name, last name, city, and state.

The results file duplicates your rows for each match and appends as much data as we can find that matches your requested input. This gives you the most value of any append service since there is only one charge per Record ID found. If Record ID is blank, no results were found for that record and there is no charge for that record.

Batch Append Service Results Example

Online Batch Append Service Results Example

These improvements will make the Searchbug batch append service more reliable for companies with hardcore data demands while retaining flexibility for those who wish to take a more budget-driven approach.

Searchbug search data still comes multiple data feeds including millions of business records and hundreds of millions of consumer records. Our data is validated by several proprietary processes. And our business and consumer lists receive frequent NCOA updates.

If you’ve got an account, try out the new Premium Append service.

If you’re new to Searchbug, you can sign up and get better data here.

Then leave a comment or tag Searchbug on social media to let us know how you like the new services and improvements!

 

What is a Phone Validator via Searchbug.com
Oct
22

What Is a Phone Validator and Why You Need It

If you’re not using SMS as part of your customer engagement, you should be.

If you are using SMS, you should be using a phone validator on all the phone numbers you collect.

Here’s a little info to show you why.

When it comes to marketing messaging, actually reaching your customers is huge. Getting a response from them is an even bigger deal.

That’s why the metrics for marketing channels like email get so granular.

You measure open rates, click-through rates, and bounce rates. All in the name of discovering whether or not customers are actually getting your message.

The best email campaign gets 20-30% open rates. Of those opens, around 4% actually click through.

That’s pretty good, especially with a large list.

But you’re trying to reliably contact customers, right?

Well, there’s actually a better communication channel: text messaging.

Why SMS is So Great For Marketing and More

First, and foremost, over 60% of the world’s population can be reached by SMS. That percentage is probably higher if you narrow the sample to the U.S.

That means that the vast majority of your customers can be reached by SMS.

Not only that, but SMS messages boast a 98% open rate!

And 90% of text messages are read within 3 seconds!

Lastly, 52.2% of all worldwide internet traffic is generated by mobile phones.

So it stands to reason that SMS can be a very productive method of customer engagement.

You can reach more customers, more reliably, and get them to click links more often when you communicate with them via text message.

Now we’ve established that SMS can work really well. But, since it’s so effective, what types of customer engagement is SMS actually good for?

Sales Outreach

Since the open rates and read rates are so high, SMS is an excellent way to offer promotions and let your customers know about current sales.

Including a link in your SMS is simple, and it makes it super easy for the customer to actually get to a purchasing page.

Be careful here, though. It’s easy to blow up your customer’s phone by sending messages too frequently.

If you have the data, the best way to avoid over contacting customers is to only send SMS campaigns for your highest converting sales and promotions.

Text messaging is also becoming more culturally accepted as a method for professional communication.

SMS is a great way to take care of quick conversations without being disruptive to your customer, and can be an especially effective tool for those that use account based marketing.

Sales and Shipping Confirmations

While it’s pretty standard practice to send all of these via email, SMS is more immediate.

SMS messages also tend to be less invasive than an email. So you can use SMS to ask customers if they even want a follow up email, or if they’d rather just get SMS notifications until they get their stuff.

If you don’t send physical goods, you can also use SMS links to initiate account creation or app downloads.

Again, this can be outrageously effective since SMS is immediate and provides a very direct line to the next action.

Tech and Customer Support

People prefer talking to people when they’re trying to solve a problem.

But, phone calls demand a dedicated block of time.

SMS doesn’t. You just reply whenever you have a second.

Communicating through SMS also makes it easy for tech support agents to help multiple customers at once.

Obviously, there are some issues that require some real-time conversation. Once you’ve made contact with the customer, you can use SMS to setup a time to talk, thus avoiding the dreaded on-hold music.

Lastly, you can replace your touch tone menu or voice command prompts with a simple text process where the customer can be directed to the proper representative by simply sending a few texts.

Security

Although there are alternatives, passwords are still a necessary evil.

Forgetting a password or having an account compromised is a special kind of nightmare.

Fortunately, SMS can help.

First, for account recovery, SMS is a solid authentication tool. Even when accounts are compromised, mobile devices remain unaffected most of the time.

Whoever hacked the account would need to get into the account and also steal the account holder’s mobile phone in order to defeat SMS password recovery. This is quite rare.

Also, two factor authentication significantly increases account security. It’s now standard for many companies like Amazon and PayPal.

Some companies have even gone so far as to do away with passwords altogether and rely solely on unique verification codes sent via SMS.

By now you might be questioning what security has to do with sales. If you have a product which requires an account to be used, like a subscription service or an app, creating an account is a real barrier to making sales.

Creating passwords and trying to remember them gives people legitimate anxiety. Anxiety reduces sales.

The easier you can make it for people to access their account, and the more security you can offer, the more sign-ups you’ll get.

Why You Need a Phone Validator

So, now that you know why SMS is awesome, let’s come back to the phone validator we talked about earlier.

First, what is a phone validator?

A phone validator is a tool that tells you whether a phone number is a cell phone, landline, or VoIP number.

Having a phone validator is important for two reasons:

 

  • You can’t send SMS messages to landlines. If you rely on SMS for any important communication, and the customer enters a landline number during checkout or registration, they won’t get your messages.

 

Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell from the phone number itself if it’s a landline or SMS capable number.

You need a phone validator to find out, so you can send text messages only to SMS capable numbers.

 

  • It takes one task off the customer’s plate. You want your checkout flow or registration process to be as simple as possible. If there are too many steps, people will opt out.

 

Having to tell you whether their phone number is a cell phone or a landline might be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Using a phone validator removes this step from the process and helps you get more people to the purchase finish line.

Having a phone validator in place saves you money on text messaging, because you won’t send messages to numbers that can’t receive them.

It also ensures that you’re communicating with your customers the right way.

How to Use a Phone Validator

Using a phone validator is pretty simple business. There are only two ways to do it:

 

  • Use an external service on your list of phone numbers.
  • Use an API to validate phone numbers when they’re entered.

 

Using an API is the best way.

Validating phone numbers at the point of entry helps keep your databases clean, since the API also checks to ensure the phone number is active.

An API also makes it possible to automate the process of removing landlines from your SMS list and sending SMS messages to mobile numbers.

Implementing an API is straightforward, but requires a bit of tech expertise. A web developer can install an API on your website pretty quickly.

However, if you already have a database of phone numbers that you haven’t checked, the best way is to use a batch processing validator to check your entire list. This is a simple and effective process that can be done with a TXT, CSV, or Excel list of your phone numbers.

You can also use a reverse address or reverse phone lookup tool to get phone numbers for contacts that you already have on your list. Then run those phone numbers through a phone validator to find out which ones you can send text messages to.

Additionally, you can use a batch append tool to complete a large list.

Overall, SMS can and should be a staple in your marketing ecosystem.

It’s conversational and personable. This helps lower people’s resistance to communicating with a company, since it implies the presence of a person on the other end.

It’s absurdly effective and has amazing engagement rates.

And SMS has excellent utility for improving the overall customer experience.

However, SMS can only do all these things if you use it on phone numbers that can receive messages. So use a phone validator!

How do you use SMS in your business?

Leave a comment or tag Searchbug on social media and let us know!

How to Optimize Your Website via Searchbug.com
Oct
01

Website Optimization: Simpler Is Better

Website optimization is largely a matter of creating a website that meets the user’s needs in the simplest way possible.

Here’s a known truth of human behavior: when people have more options, they make fewer decisions.

Analysis paralysis and decision fatigue are real. A key aspect of website optimization is simplifying your checkout process.

Over three quarters of customers leave full shopping carts without making a purchase. That’s a devastatingly high cart abandonment rate.

Why do so many people leave their ecommerce carts?

Here’s another truth about humans: people want things to be easy.

People leave their shopping carts because there are too many decisions to make and the buying process is too hard.

It seems crazy, but people will drop out of making a purchase as soon as they have to make one too many choices or fill in one to many forms. People are fickle monsters.

A simple checkout process keeps more people in the buying pipeline until the sale is finished.

So how do you simplify your checkout process? How do you reduce the choices people need to make without being too restrictive?

Some of the answers will sound counterintuitive. But they work.

Here’s how to make your checkout process better by making it more minimal:

Only Give Shoppers As Many Options As They Need

This advice is primarily centered around the parts of the buying process where the customer really needs options:

  • Payment options.
  • Shipping options.
  • Product variations.

The paradox here is that you need to offer some flexibility in these areas in order to meet the needs of the greatest number of customers. We’ll address the one that’s furthest from the purchase first.

Product Variations

When it comes to product variations there are two ways to avoid offering too many options:

  • Limit the number of variations per page that a customer can view. Some products necessitate options. To avoid deterring a buying decision with too many options, limit your products per page to around four. This way customers can find what they want without getting overwhelmed an fleeing back to the safety of cat videos.

 

  • Reduce the number of variations you offer. This is especially true with products where the difference between models is minimal, like t-shirts. It might be tempting to offer every color imaginable. But then customers end up struggling with which color gray they like best, rather than just buying a shirt. Reduce the variations you offer by eliminating variants that are mostly the same.

 

Shipping options

If you wanted, you could offer ten or even twenty shipping options. FedEx, UPS, USPS, courier. The list goes on. But the best way to choose the shipping options you offer is to remember that shipping options boil down to two things:

  • Speed.
  • Cost.

Shipping is either fast or cheap. All customers want both. But they prefer one or the other, because they know they can’t have both.

So offer a fast option, a cheap option, and a middle of the road option. To help take the decision off the customer’s plate, autoselect the middle of the road option. Most people won’t bother to change it. They also won’t opt out of the buying process because they have to choose.

Payment options

This is the most nerve wracking aspect of website optimization.

The main worry is that reducing the number of payment options limits the number of people who can purchase from your store.

This is true.

However, you’ll lose more sales to cart abandonment than to a lack of payment options. The vast majority of people pay with just a couple payment options. Typically, if you accept credit cards and PayPal, you’ll have just about everybody covered.

Offering another option like Google Wallet or Apple Pay can help. But it’s 2018; the number of people who buy things using checks and money orders is so low that there’s very little return—if any—to offering these payment options.

Since most of the information collection for PayPal, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, and others takes place on those websites, credit cards represent most of the drama related to payment options.

The most efficient payment screen layout is to present the credit card form, with links to the third party payment options below or next to the credit card form.

The issue then becomes a matter of simplifying. The goal is to reduce the amount of information the customer must manually enter. There are a few fields that your site can autofill for the customer based on other information they submit:

 

  • Credit card type. Each type of credit card has a prefix that identifies the card type. Your website should autodetect the card type and select it for the customer once they enter the credit card number. It’s just one less step the customer needs to take to finish a purchase.

 

From a coding standpoint, this is fairly simple to implement. Some companies offer APIs to accomplish this.

 

  • Name. If the customer has filled out a form or signed up for your email list during their visit, your website can autofill this information in the personal information form.
  • Email address. This is especially easy if your sales funnel uses a lead magnet or a tripwire. It can even be achieved if they return days or even weeks later to make a purchase after entering their information into the lead magnet or tripwire form.

 

It also works for people who click through to your store from one of your marketing emails.

Again, this simply reduces how much work the customer has to do to complete the buying cycle.

Both of these are a bit more complex from a development standpoint, so you should work with your web developer or provider to get your form completion dialed.

Then, there are two things that you can simply remove from your website to make life easier for your customers.

First, combine your checkout process into the fewest possible pages. Ideally, the customer should be able to finish their purchase in two pages. However, the difference in overall conversion rates between two page checkout flows and three page checkout flows is pretty small. It could be a statistical anomaly.

But a four page checkout flow is a bad idea. At four pages, people start to drop off.

Second, never require your customer to create an account in order to purchase. Thinking about creating passwords and usernames and then having to remember them causes anxiety.

You should absolutely avoid causing anxiety during the checkout process. Requiring first-time customers to create an account to make a purchase chases a lot of people away.

I’m one of those people who refuses to make that first purchase if the site requires me to create an account. This is serious.

If you’d like to offer customers an opportunity to create an account for future purchases, include a link to your account creation page in the order confirmation email.

These are fairly simple changes that actually make things much simpler for the customer and will reduce your cart abandonment rates.

However, there are also ways that you can improve your website to make your own life easier.

Built in Data Validation

Incorrect information causes issues in the order fulfillment process. It’s a headache for both you and the customer.

While it’s nearly impossible to prevent customers from using addresses besides their primary residence—and you wouldn’t want to anyway—you want to avoid getting typos or blatantly false information in your checkout process.

If the customer enters an invalid address, email address, or phone number, your website should prompt them to correct the error. This minimizes the chances of orders being shipped to the wrong address and ensures that you have good information for contacting the customer during the fulfillment process if you need to.

Building data validation into your checkout flow is actually really simple. You can validate any data that’s entered during checkout with a prebuilt API.

An API can easily check to make sure that the customer enters a real address, email address, and phone number. The entire process is transparent to the customer.

If they enter good information, they’ll proceed as usual. Otherwise, your site will simply indicate which information needs to be corrected before they can proceed to the next step.

If customers can opt in to your email list during the checkout process, this also protects the integrity of your email list and improves email deliverability.

So, have a look at your checkout process and evaluate how easy it is for your customers to finish their purchases. It’ll get you more sales.

Then, make your own life easier with checkout data validation. It’ll improve your customer service.