Spam and Bounces and Broken Links, Oh My

E-mail has proven to be one of the most popular Internet applications with estimates from Jupiter Research (a unit of this site’s corporate parent) that there will be 115 million active email users by the end of 2002. Unfortunately, almost as many users will also be exposed to the disappointments of the communication app, such as spam, undeliverable messages, and broken links.

E-mail technology provider BrightMail measured more than 5.35 million spam attacks for the month of October 2002 – that’s roughly 67,000 more than September 2002 and a whopping 3.66 million more than October 2001.

Those figures suggest that spam will eventually catch up to the 16 percent who change email addresses to avoid all those unwanted messages. A survey of 1,015 U.S. email users during August 2002 and conducted by NFO WorldGroup for Return Path Inc. and Global Name Registry revealed that 49 percent had changed either a work or personal email address.

Of the 43 percent of respondents who had changed their personal email address, half of them cited an ISP switch as the main reason for the change; 16 percent blamed spam; 12 percent changed residences; and 8 percent wanted a more attractive email address.

Work email addresses most often changed due to new jobs (41 percent), followed by an ISP change (18 percent), a change of residence (8 percent), and a name change resulting from a marriage or divorce (6 percent).

All the address switching results in millions of undeliverable messages, representing lost personal communications and dollars for professional e-marketers – more than 50 percent of survey respondents indicated that they had lost touch with personal contacts and Web sites as a result of an email address change.

“…in addition to the impact on consumer relationships identified, there is a real and significant subsequent financial impact on reputable businesses that rely on email to communicate with their customers,” said Matt Blumberg, chief executive officer of Return Path.

Bounced messages are only one of the problems that e-marketers face. Silverpop found unreadable HTML emails with broken links are largely responsible for reduced response rates.

Their study revealed that 20 percent of the reviewed HTML emails had 5 broken components; 9 percent had more than 5 broken components; 7 percent had extremely disruptive errors; and 6 percent were completely indecipherable. Just over half (58 percent) of the 1,400 emails that were analyzed were rendered properly.

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