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Your Listserver - Are Your List Numbers Correct?
By Joe Reinbold

One of the tools for delivering your ezine or other type opt-in list is the listserver. We used one for several years through one company which we happened to be a distributor for. We also have maintained several of our lists on cgi based mailing list scripts and used our email client, Eudora Pro, to mail the shorter lists.

The Listserver primarily does everything for you automatically. Subscribers can subscribe and unsubscribe easily and automatically through links directly to the listserver or by sending a simple email. You as the owner of the list can do many tasks using simple email commands. For example, you can manually subscribe and unsubscribe people, you can request a copy of the entire list of your subscribers and you can send your mailings out just by sending the mailing by email to the listserver and using your password.
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We never had problems with the listserver not sending the list out as far as we know. It is a very efficient tool.

We did come up with a problem with the listserver process while testing one of our other mailing alternatives. We downloaded 1000 names out of the 2000 that we had on the listserver to use for a test on cgi based system. When we did the mailing to this 1000, we had over 150 addresses come back as unknowns and host unknown.

We mailed to this list on a regular basis using the listserver and generally we would get two or three bad addresses back. But never received over 100.

So we downloaded the other 1000 names and mailed to those manually through Eudora Pro which we use as our regular email client. We received over 180 bad addresses back from that mailing. In all we had 330 bad addresses come back out of the 2000 we tested.

You are always going to have some bad addresses on a list. Ideally you do not want a listserver that automatically removes everything that comes back either. There are many error messages that could come back when an email address is bad and there is no way that you can control all of them. Some of the normal ones can be removed through filters when they are returned and automatically removed.

Addresses that are over quota may be that way for just one mailing and then they are good again. Sometimes a whole group of addresses may come back from one address because the server was down or for some other technical reason. So you don't want the listserver taking those off automatically.

We have our current listserver setup to allow three bounces before they are removed from the active list and placed in a hold file. We have it set up to flag a particular address in the data base if it is returned so that we can manually take a look at it and decide what to do with it. Our current listserver also makes up to 3 attempts over a day and a half period on addresses that bounce before they are put in a hold file.

Back to the case in point. We were under the impression in using the listserver we were paying for, that bad addresses were removed automatically and never had a second thought about it. And as indicated above we had received several automatic removals each mailing. In the promotional material for the listserver it indicated that bad addresses/bounces were removed.

When we brought the results of our test to the attention of the owners of the listserver, they didn't seem too concerned and said they would keep an eye on it. After they didn't respond at all, we just cancelled the service.

My concern here was that some of the bounced addresses on this list were over two years old and I had no idea for how long or how often these addresses were coming back bad. Approximately 17% of this particular list was bouncing. And it was possible that it had gone on for a considerable length of time. In effect we were consistently mailing to a partially "dead" list since the listserver was not removing them. This leads to inaccurate subscriber numbers and wasted resources.

My concern would greatly increase if I had a list of 10,000 or more and the same ratio was bouncing without my knowledge. That would mean my list might be 1,700 or more less than I thought it was.

So what is the bottom line? You need to concern yourself with the quality of the service that you use to send and manage your list. You might want to do the same type test we did if you don't have full control over the list. Your list can be a lifeline to online profits as well as a key to communication for your online community. Consider these factors when looking for a list service:

- Make sure you have complete control to set it up the way you want it. Insure it has a web based control panel to help you manage it.

- Some ideal assets to look for: automatic progress reports for each mailing - specific controls for bounced addresses - ability to download a copy of your entire list for backup reasons - automatically makes followup mailings on bounced addresses before flagging them to a hold file.

Yes it will cost you a couple of extra bucks to manage your list effectively. We tried the more inexpensive way for several years. It cost us plenty of time and in the long run it cost us business which translates into lost revenue. Learn from our experiences.

If you didn't read our companion articles on "Is Your Ezine Going Out To Who You Think It Is? and "Cgi Mailing List Scripts - Is All Of Your List Going Out?" they are available at: http://www.homebizlink.com/ezineout.htm and http://www.homebizlink.com/cgiscpt.htm

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Article by Joe Reinbold, Publisher of Home Income Quarterly E-dition, a weekly online marketing and home business newsletter. To subscribe visit The Entrepreneur's Home Business Link where you will find the solutions to your home business needs at: http://www.homebizlink.com

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