April 07, 2008 | By Spencer Kollas
If you haven't been keeping up with your data hygiene efforts, AOL is about to give you a good reason to get back on the wagon. The "Official AOL Postmaster Blog" has recently indicated that they are refining their filtering parameters to place a greater emphasis on the number of invalid recipients coming from a mailer. They haven't laid out the specifics, but they have said that if you have more invalids than others mailers that they deem similar to you, it will impact your delivery and also facilitate your removal from their whitelist.
AOL has always factored the number of invalid recipient's into a sender's reputation, but it sounds like their new process will weigh this factor more heavily in getting your email to the AOL inbox. If you’re a b-to-c mailer, you likely have a good number of AOL addresses that could be affected. However, even b-to-b mailers should take this as a wake-up call to ensure that their list hygiene practices are sound, and that bad addresses are regularly removed from all mailing lists.
At StrongMail, we highly recommend keeping your lists clean. We advise our own clients to keep their invalid recipients less then 5% of their total list, and we make it easy for them to do this with automated bounce processing and other handy tools in our email marketing solutions. In an era of sender accountability where reputation means more than content, you can't risk damaging the reputation you've worked so hard to establish. And remember that all the major ISPs look at the number of bad addresses you send to assess your reputation – not just AOL.
So, take a good long list at your lists, and make sure you have good processes in place to remove bad addresses. For more information on bounce management, including how hard and soft bounces should be treated differently, we encourage you to read our whitepaper, Get Smart About Bounce Management.