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May 07, 2008
How To

Overwhelmed by Opt-in Typos? 4 Ways to Fix Misspelled Email Addresses

SUMMARY: When signing up for online offers or newsletters, prospects can enter any gobbledygook of an email address as long as it includes “@” and “.com” or “.org.” That’s not good for hard bounces.

If misspellings or typos are causing hard bounces on ‘Welcome’ messages for you, we have help. Here are 4 proven test ideas to boost the quality of your email list and reputation.
Here at Sherpa, we’re hearing talk that misspellings on opt-in forms are increasing at an alarming rate. As a result, hard bounces on “Welcome” messages have gone through the roof. What used to be 5% hard bounces on welcome messages has risen as high as 20% in some cases.

That’s even for sites that aren’t attracting consumers with contests or other high-appeal incentives. “We haven’t really changed anything important in our email acquisition methodology,” one emailer told us. “And we aren’t getting addresses from serial prize seekers who might type in any old thing.”

Chip House, VP, Marketing Services, ExactTarget, hasn’t seen this big of a jump, “but our data shows that welcome messages do normally get higher bounces than regular mailings.”

Whatever your hard-bounce rate, even the smallest percentage increase can hurt. There are rumblings, for instance, that AOL is putting more weight on invalid URLs when assessing sender reputation.

“Any time you get a lot of hard bounces, whether it’s your welcome message or normal campaigns or transactional emails, it can potentially decrease your reputation with an ISP,” says Spencer Kollas, Director, Delivery Services, StrongMail Systems Inc. “And, it’s not just AOL. It’s all the ISPs.”

ISPs don’t care if you get hard bounces because of poor spellers. They want to protect their customers from spam. Hard bounces are still hard bounces – no matter what.

Here are four tactics you can test to deal with misspellings and typos:

-> Test #1. Use quality-assurance popup

Do you use two boxes to get opt-ins to verify their email address? As we’ve stated in past articles, that remains a *questionable* tactic. Simply put, too many people are going to copy and paste their misspelling for the duplicate box.

That’s why a standard JavaScript validation alert box might be useful. The popup goes with this copy: “Your login account will be ”… “If this is correct, select OK to continue” … “otherwise select Cancel to change your email address.”

Phil Nadel, President, Gulfstream Internet Group, which owns phone-cards marketer PhoneHog, and his team ran an A/B test on the popup button and got a 12% lift in name-capture conversions compared to the control without it. Nadel says the quick and unobtrusive nature of the popup makes it work like a charm. “It’s been successful for us. It helps us get more accurate information.”

Ping your ESP about testing this simple popup feature.

-> Test #2. Pre-populate & make signup box visually unavoidable

Several other marketers are on the right track are Patagonia, Ethos Water and Sur La Table (see creative samples below). These brands put a basic email signup box on their homepages. But once consumers fill in their names, they’re taken to a landing page for what amounts to be the second phase in their double opt-in process.

Instead of sending a confirmation email, they ask for first name, last name and ZIP Code. At the same time, the email address is pre-populated on the form page -- but can be changed if there is a misspelling.

“Up until about six months ago, in our case, [consumers] had to enter their email address in twice,” says Bill Boland, Creative Director, Patagonia. “We feel like the pre-populated aspect has worked well.”

Boland and his team also positioned the pre-populated email slot in the center of the signup page, which draws a viewers’ eye to it. It also begs them to re-examine what they just typed in.

-> Test #3. Force readers to retype

It’s just too easy to copy and paste a misspelled email address. Evogear had this in mind on the opt-in page that follows their signup box. There, they display the inputted email address and make the viewer manually retype it, eliminating the potential for people to copy and paste.

“I spot-checked an email campaign before we had this feature against a recent one and, when comparing the two, the number of ‘invalid email addresses’ [dropped] by 4.7%,” says Nathan Decker, Ecommerce Director, Evogear. “While there were other factors that likely contributed to this improvement, we feel like the opt-in page helps with misspellings.”

-> Test #4. Program system to catch misspellings

This last test falls more into the Web programming arena. Kollas says some of their clients scour their database for common misspellings -- like @yahooo.com, @alo.com and @gmial.com.

Then they redirect the misspellers with an error message stating that the email address is invalid and force them to go back and type in their address again if they want to receive the newsletter.

“It takes a little more work [to implement] than some of the other tactics,” Kollas says. “But we are seeing clients use it.”

Useful links related to this article

Creative samples from signup forms:
http://www.marketingsherpa.com/cs/emailsignup/study.htm


Ethos Water:
http://www.ethoswater.com/


Evogear:
http://www.evogear.com


ExactTarget:
http://email.exacttarget.com/


Patagonia, Inc.:
http://www.patagonia.com


StrongMail Systems Inc.:
http://www.strongmail.com/


Sur La Table:
http://www.surlatable.com/


Comments about this How To

May 08, 2008 - Austin Bliss of FreshAddress says:
This is a topic that is near & dear to my heart as well, so I'm thrilled to see good ideas getting out there. I don't know if you plan to do a follow-up article, but ideas I suggest to our prospects include: -don't make the input box too small (a pet peeve of mine) -don't use default text in the input box -make sure the error messages you use are clear



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