List Building Tips: How To Get Valid Email Addresses
By Justin Premick July 10, 2008
When building your email list, you want to ensure you’re growing a robust list with email addresses that get your messages in front of your customers or prospects. But sometimes the emails you collect through your online sign up form aren’t valid, functioning email addresses.
This could be because subscribers are mistyping their email address (oops typos!). Is it a good idea to ask them to enter their email address twice to prevent typos?
Two email fields isn’t a good idea
There are a few reasons why having subscribers enter their email twice isn’t a good idea:
Typically, for any sign up form, about 5-20 percent of the submissions are invalid. However, this isn’t always because people mistype their address — it also includes intentionally bogus data (people trying to get to your thank you page without entering their address) and maliciously entered data (i.e., bots). Asking people to enter their address twice serves, at best, a small minority of your visitors.
Not everyone will be willing to take the time needed to enter their email address twice. By asking them to do so, you cut off a portion of your potential subscriber base.
Of the people who do fill out their address twice, many will simply copy-and-paste whatever they entered in the first email box into the second one. So while the entries will match, they may both be wrong. Similarly, there’s no way to know, even if both entries match, that the address actually belongs to the person filling out your form.
How do I make sure I’m getting a valid email address?
The best way to do this is to use confirmed opt-in (COI) to have subscribers validate their addresses after they sign up.
In addition to being one of the email deliverability tips that we recommend to all businesses, confirmed opt-in has the advantage of making sure that the email addresses subscribers provide you are indeed valid ways to reach them.
Do you take these measures to minimize lost subscribers? Do you do something else?
Share your thoughts and ideas for healthy list building below!
Use email marketing to develop deeper relationships with subscribers (using their valid email addresses) and grow your business with the free guide.
Aaron Abber7/10/2008 1:46 pm
Using the Aweber.com feature that allows you to capture their name and email address and display them on the Thank You page, I show them in BIG FREAKIN’ LETTERS the email address they put in–along with their John Hancock.
Since doing so I have seen a number of people who had typos go back and immediately re-enter their info.
But now that I think about it I ought to also give them a link to re-submit if they notice a typo.
[By the way…if you want to hear about Justin’s foot fetish, you’ll need to check out my blog tomorrow. I’ll have pictures and everything.]
Shirley George Frazier7/10/2008 3:25 pm
I notice, when deleting the undeliverable Email addresses, that a good portion of my subscriptions aren’t delivered because subscribers misspell their Email addresses.
I just shake my head when I see "email@example.com." How much you want to bet that if you gave the subscriber a second chance to type their address they’d type the same mistake?
There’s nothing you can do except realize that most people provide the right address spelled correctly the first time. Those valid Email addresses are the path to valid prospects.
John Rodriguez7/10/2008 3:57 pm
There was actually a good MarketingSherpa article on this topic a couple of months ago — " Overwhelmed by Opt-in Typos? 4 Ways to Fix Misspelled Email Addresses"
There were a couple of good suggestions that would apply.
1. Use an alert box. The alert would pop-up once the user submits their info with the message "You have entered in the email address [email address]. If this is correct, select OK to continue. Otherwise, select Cancel to change your email address".
We’re using this for one of our clients right now as well as for a couple of our sites.
2. Use a script to capture misspellings. This would require a bit of programming on the server side to include common ones like hotmial.com, gmial.com, etc.
Tom Kulzer (AWeber CEO)7/10/2008 5:52 pm
I realize "firstname.lastname@example.org" is just a random example, but I do want to make note that we already notify potential subscribers of common domain typos.
"yahoo.comm" for example would never be subscribed to an AWeber hosted list because it’s one of the thousands of typo domains we’ve previously identified and notify subscribers about.
Lori Titus7/10/2008 7:48 pm
Just in my online ordering, I see a lot of things like "myname@yahoo,com" or "myname@yahoodotcom". I am assuming that these people are trying to complete the order without running the risk of being added automatically to an email list. Needless to say, they also do not receive things like order confirmations, shipping notifications, or questions regarding problem orders. *SIGH*
What I would really like to see, though, are suggestions for getting valid email addresses offline. For example, we attend a lot of craft shows. We have an email signup list, and verbally tell people about the list. We do not offer any freebies for signing up – we don’t want people putting down fake email addresses just to get a freebie. But, so many times we still get fake email addresses, or addresses that are difficult to read.
We have a declaration at the top of each signup page that this is for an email list, we do not sell, lease, or otherwise distribute the list, we expect to send out two emails each month with specific content, etc. But, if there is a way to get more valid email addresses on these lists, we would love to know about them.
Herve7/10/2008 7:55 pm
You mentioned "people trying to get to your thank-you page without entering their address"…
I assume it’s for the free gift or e-book for signing up.
I have a question that’s not entirely unrelated to this topic.
I receive a fair number of prospects that DO fill in their email address correctly but neglect to confirm once they receive their ‘confirmation email’.
I suspect it’s because they expected to receive their free e-book directly from the ‘Thank-You’ page– and for some reason decide they no longer want it once the confirmation mail arrives.
I find this a little strange, because what would deter me is usually giving my private vitals (i.e., name and email) in exchange for a newsletter. But once I’ve given out this information, it’s too late, so I don’t see the point in not confirming since my vitals are already in their hands.
Here’s my question.
Is is ‘ethical’ to try and recapture some of those prospects who have filled out the form correctly but failed to confirm– by for example, re-entering their name and email so they receive a second confirmation email (to re-alert them in case the mail has been dropped below a large stack of new in-coming mail)?
Any thoughts on the question? Many thanks.
Johnny7/11/2008 1:22 am
You should take a look at the travelzoo opt-in process…its requires e-mail to be entered twice but their implementation actually address many of the points you mention as ‘pitfalls’. Plus, as a company that e-mails 12 million people weekly I’m willing to bet they know what their doing. What do you think? Would be interested in another opinion on how they do things.
Justin Premick7/11/2008 7:41 am
You can still do freebies to get email addresses offline – but just like online, you don’t want to give away the freebie without getting the email in return!
You might try offering a freebie that they can only get via email (such as a PDF). Or, maybe a product sample that can be postal mailed to subscribers (get their postal address when they sign up, wait to see if they confirm, then mail out the sample).
Good idea for a future topic, though… thanks!
Lori Titus7/11/2008 11:06 am
Justin – In general, a good idea, but we sell honey – sticky, and heavy to ship. Our email list is already being used for free recipes and coupons, and the customers know this when they sign up, so we find it curious that people still give us bad email addresses. Unless maybe they feel like it is impolite to not write something down after we point out the email signup list. I don’t know…..
If memory serves, approximately 1/4 – 1/3 of the valid email addresses we receive offline actually confirm (we use double opt-in), and our list has steadily grown from a few hundred addresses to 1500 addresses, with a surge in sales after each email we send out. The email list is definitely worthwhile maintaining. It would just be nice to streamline the process.
Justin Premick7/11/2008 3:36 pm
As we covered here a while back, it is definitely not a good idea to email people who do not confirm to try and “remind” them about doing so.
Shirley George Frazier7/11/2008 2:59 pm
Just a quick thanks, Tom, for the follow-up response. It’s good to know that a system’s in place to try and limit misspelled Email addresses.
Without it, I can only imagine how many more undeliverable Emails would be sent through my account and others who use AWeber.
Justin Premick7/11/2008 3:57 pm
What about this: give out a free sample in person, with a card attached that offers them a discount/coupon when they sign up to your list online.
If you went that route, I’d set up a special page for people who get that card – i.e. yourdomain.com/craftshow – and tailor the copy to those people who got that card from you.
Food (ha!) for thought… have a great weekend!
Tim Norton7/12/2008 7:33 am
I just upgraded to the the analytics package and it’s such an increased value I can’t believe it. I saw the upgrade notice a week or two ago and ignored it. But yesterday I wanted badly to see who had clicked which email and decided to check the analytics out. It’s massively increasd value, anything with something to sell needs to upgrade, that’s all there is to it. Thanks for adding this to aweber.
Scot McKay7/12/2008 10:51 pm
Justin/Tom: Do you have further info on exactly how Aweber’s "fuzzy logic" for catching e-mail typos works? I still seem to get a fair number of them. Also (and especially) inane QWERTY streams that tend to follow similar patterns like "email@example.com".
Lori: Here’s an idea for you. Take a laptop with a mouse and decent sized flatscreen with you, and sign up for mobile wireless.
Build a squeeze page with an Aweber form and a very prominent invitation to signup for your newsletter to receive a free gift via email.
Then you can simply direct your craft show customers sign up right there in person.
Have the landing page for the opt-in be the reloaded squeeze page, and I’d say you are all set.
My guess is that the costs involved would be far outweighed by the value of the increased list.
Simon Harrison7/16/2008 9:39 am
A few comments:
However, this isn
Justin Premick7/16/2008 12:48 pm
Thanks! I’m glad you like it.
Over the past 10 years we’ve built (and continue to build) a database of common mis-types and blatantly bogus domains. We check signups against that database.
Interesting ideas – but I don’t think they solve the "bogus data" problem better than using Confirmed Opt In:
You wrote: "Add a CAPTUA option, make it a choice , that will kill of 95% of all bots – dead."
CAPTCHAS aren’t a long-term solution.
Numerous CAPTCHAS have been broken/defeated, even at places like Hotmail.
Once you go the CAPTCHA route, you have to continue to invest time/people in improving it as it gets defeated/broken.
With Confirmed Opt In, you don’t have to worry about that – only the owner of the correct/valid address can confirm it.
You wrote: "Well true not everyone but not sure that
Dianna7/16/2008 3:10 pm
Lori ~ You could always do a fish bowl giveaway, using your laptop for people to sign into an excel sheet or your capture, opt-in squeeze page and just gently remind folks that if their email address isn’t correct it will nullify thier participation in the contest. You could get really creative with something like this…….I send out a small jar of homemade jam to one client every two months, so the cost is worth the names! Make sure to give them a business card so if they don’t get the confirmation email they can go directly to your site and sign up again.
Geof7/21/2008 3:56 am
What about having a dynamic field on the "thank you" form showing the email address which the visitor entered? We could then say something like: "You have subscribed with this email address, if you don’t receive our email asking to validate your email it might be that this email is wrong."
Justin Premick7/21/2008 8:50 am
That’s definitely worth testing.
You can configure your web form to do this by marking the webform while creating your web form.
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[…] List Building: How To Get Valid Email Addresses – Email Marketing Tips by AWeber […]
Steve10/9/2008 8:38 pm
Is there a way in aweber to compare values on the form before submitting them? IE if I put a email address / confirm email address text box on the form, can aweber test those values or do I have to write a string comparison for it?
Willie Myette2/5/2009 6:10 pm
I know that I also usually just copy-paste my entry into the next box. If I made a mistake in one, it will most likely just get copied to the next!
I find the best way to get qualified leads is to give great content for free, in exchange for a little information from the user. I think if you make them think "I can’t wait to get this!", they will be emailing YOU asking why they haven’t gotten it!
Willie Myette2/5/2009 6:13 pm
Of course: firstname.lastname@example.org IS a valid email even though it probably is a fake.
In the long run, there is only one way to test for a valid email and that is to send it. Hence, the importance that you do not give away your "bonus" till they have opted-in.
Karen2/6/2009 10:08 am
I get valid e-mails, but after they get my free report, they immediately unsubscribe. What can be done about that?
Justin Premick2/6/2009 10:42 am
If you find that’s happening, you might need to focus visitors’/subscribers’ attention on the other benefits of being subscribed (besides the free report).
You might offer to email them information that supplements what’s in the report itself (i.e. the report gives some detail, but the accompanying emails really go into depth on each point). Follow ups could easily deliver that to them.
Make sure your thank-you page and welcome email emphasize those benefits.
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Rick3/13/2009 6:30 pm
Thanks for the list. I got a couple of ideas out of it.
dcp4/17/2009 1:55 am
I’ve been reading quite a few of these articles today and find them to be quite thought provoking. There many very well be a few practices I change regarding forms.
On my client’s B2B website there are 3 types of forms; A sales rep visit request form on the front page, a product information request form on each product page (about 32000 of ’em), and a newsletter subscription form (which is always called via a link). The two request forms require a minimum amount of information: Name, e-mail, and zip code (additional required information is dynamically provided). Each request form has a newsletter subscription link with parameters on their thank you page. Clicking that link will conveniently prefill some of the newsletter subscription fields. The only required field on the subscription form is the e-mail. Name, Title, and Company are optional. (I am somewhat surprised as to how many people fill in all the information. We do explain that the optional fields are for e-mail customization and for our general curiosity.) We use a sensibly placed second e-mail box "to prevent misspellings" but that will be going bye-bye.
Adding more explanation text would also be beneficial.
Thank you for these articles.
Fernando Veloso5/1/2009 4:19 pm
Good tips. I am learning to use all Aweber features and this is one of the most important basics.
Prince Samuels5/6/2009 2:40 pm
Great tips. Being new to this email marketing, I think I should keep reading these creative tips before my first message send out. keep up the work.
Julie Stoddard9/16/2009 12:38 am
My problem is that I’m getting a lot of spam bots signing up using the email my autoresponder address feature. I want to know how to disable it.
Justin Premick9/16/2009 10:01 am
There’s not currently a way to do that.
It should be noted that spam bots emailing your list email address aren’t going to confirm (since they’re not real people) and will disappear from your list after remaining unconfirmed for 30 days.
Philip Treacy2/1/2011 6:31 pm
what about if you have dozens or hundreds of bot submissions? I have to wait 30 days to be able to remove these, and during those 30 days the bots are submitting more and more so I never really get to clean my list of this rubbish?
It makes the lists very cumbersome to work with, at least let me delete these automated submissions before the 30 days are up.
Justin Premick2/2/2011 10:36 am
I guess I don’t see how it’s cumbersome.
Those unconfirmed submissions don’t count toward your total number of subscribers, they don’t receive your autoresponders or broadcasts, and they quietly disappear after a month.
The only place I would expect them to potentially be noticed is if you’re viewing your entire list via the “Subscribers” page (and you can exclude these addresses by choosing to view Active Subscribers instead of All Subscribers). Where in your workflow are those addresses getting in the way?
Reuben Bright-Davies3/29/2011 6:43 am
How does one find/get targeted traffic to one’s website?