When collecting data from web forms, junk inputs are inevitable. This is why you shouldn’t send email to every address you collect. While the majority of an audience will use your forms as intended, a certain portion will do everything they can to avoid giving up anything in exchange for your content.
Junk inputs come in several varieties. False or mistyped information is the most common problem. These form completions come through with email addresses that don’t exist at all.
Temporary email addresses or dedicated junk emails are the next most common. Temporary email addresses cease to exist after a short period of time, usually fifteen minutes to an hour. Dedicated junk email addresses are created to insulate primary email addresses and aren’t actively monitored.
Finally, marketers also must contend with automated spam bots using disposable email addresses to submit nonsense form completions.
But, why pay so much attention to the bad data? Most of it is fine, right?
Garbage In, Garbage Out
Your email deliverability pays the price for your bad data. If you were to indiscriminately send emails to every address that came through your forms, you would hard bounce a great deal of the sends. A hard bounce is another good reason you shouldn’t send email to all of the addresses you collect. Hard bounce rate is an important factor in email reputation. An elevated rate (above 1%) means your messages are more likely to be sent to the junk folder, if not blocked outright.
And it’s not just undeliverable emails that will damage reputation. Repeated sends to unmonitored email addresses will drive your overall engagement rates down. Positive interactions with email messages is another factor in sender reputation. There’s no sense in driving these numbers down by sending to an address that has no chance of engaging.
Okay, bad user input is a problem, but what can be done?
Checks and Balances
The best way to combat junk data is multi-stage validation. Data validation works just like any other filter. At each stage, the final product becomes more and more pure. The more stages of filtration, the better the final product.
Another option to curb junk emails is to have content delivered through email. Generally, after completing a form, users will be taken directly to the asset (pdf, video, audio file, etc.). If the content is delivered through an automated email instead, they only receive the asset if they’ve provided a working email address. This doesn’t get past temporary email addresses or dedicated spam inboxes, but it does help to bypass emails that are totally nonexistent.
If you find you’re dealing with a lot of bots flooding your forms, adding CAPTCHA can take care of the problem. Avoid doing so without cause, though, because it’s an added hassle for legitimate form completers.
Just because an email makes its way into your database, doesn’t mean it needs to be sent to. Consider building in a curation process for incoming emails.
Companies with a manageable number of inbound form completions can review each as they come in. Larger companies can set up rules within their automation system to separate out likely junk emails.
Either way, you’ll want to look for:
Junk email keywords (“spam,” “junk,” “trash,” etc.)
Long strings of numbers or consonants
Addresses from temporary email providers (Temp Mail, Mailinator, 10 Minute Email, etc.)
Emails with undesirable domains (.gov and .edu typically)