Catch-All Email Addresses: How Should A Marketer Deal With Them?

Having an extensive email address list in your email database is a dream for every marketer who depends on email marketing. Unfortunately, the reality is quite pessimistic and full of practices like catch-all emails which have been striking fear in the hearts of marketers. 

Why? Because such email addresses are neither invalid nor valid enough to deliver your message to the right person. With an email list including catch-all email addresses, a marketer may never know the true results of their campaigns.

Catch-alls, also known as accept-all, are email addresses specified to receive all messages that are addressed to an incorrect email address for a domain name. 

Example: You have three email addresses for the domain 

And you have set up [email protected] as the catch-all email address. Now any message sent to an incorrect email address with the domain will be redirected to the catch-all email address which is [email protected]

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    Why Are Catch-all Emails Problematic For Marketers?

    The concept of catch-all emails was introduced to avoid the loss of any important emails due to reasons like typing errors, email addresses going inactive etc, but with time it has started creating problems, especially for email marketers.

    Increased cost of data maintenance

    Integrity and proper maintenance of data are paramount for successful marketing. Being actively involved in email marketing results in accumulation of incorrect contact records such as invalids, disposables and catch-alls. Such email addresses do not add any value to the quality of the database but drive up its cost of maintenance.

    Increased cost of marketing automation

    Most of the ESPs (Email Service Providers) charge you based on the number of emails sent. It doesn’t matter If your list contains emails addresses which are: 

    • Not active anymore
    • Have a typing error 
    • Present more than once in the same list (duplicates)
    • Invalid

    You are charged for sending out emails which will not fetch any results, shooting up the cost of marketing automation bringing down the campaign results.

    Restraining strategic decision making

    Catch-all emails do not bounce even if they are incorrect so the true performance of a campaign remains unknown! 

    It increases the size of the denominator while calculating all the relevant metrics of your campaigns like- deliverability rate, open rate, click-through rate etc. This leads to inaccuracy in metrics and ways to improve the performance of the campaign remains a shot in the dark.  

    Example : Let’s assume you have sent an email marketing campaign to 500 contacts and the CTR (Click-through rate) is 3%. You will believe that the campaign was not much useful and will avoid repeating it. However, you find that half of the contacts were inaccurate making your click-through-rate 6%. This would categorise the campaign as successful and not repeating it will be a missed opportunity.

    Demotivation and undermining of ability

     Firstly, the inaccurate metrics will not allow you to showcase the good work of your team. Secondly, you may get caught in a cycle of not being able to show positive results from email campaigns making you unable to justify the cost of your marketing automation tool.  Not a good position to be in!

    Unclear results

    You will never know if the intended recipient received your email. Example : You have designed and sent a prospecting email intended for CSO (Chief Sales Officer). 

    This person has left the company and all emails sent to him are redirected to a catch-all email which is reviewed by an IT administrator once a week. Your email (subject line, body, offers) was all designed to entice a CSO so what are the chances that an IT administrator will open your email, go through it and forward it to the new CSO? Pretty unlikely! Now that email remains lost in the catch-all inbox making you believe that your message was not good enough for the target audience.

    Companies are and will continue using catch-all emails. As a marketer be cognizant of the issue especially when you witness poor email metrics and ensure verifying email database with an email verifier before running the next campaign.

    How Should A Marketer Deal With Catch-all Emails?

    We’ll now dive into how you can deal with catch-all email addresses and what you can do to ensure you’re optimising your email marketing strategy to take catch-all email addresses into account!

    Begin With Analysing The Results Of Previous Campaigns

    What is your average bounce rate? Do you get a consistent open and click rate? How many spam complaints do you usually get? Do your subscribers engage with you, do they ever write back?

    These are the principal questions to think about. The answer will paint a clear picture of your strengths and weaknesses. Keep a regular check on email marketing results to know which area is standing out. Some average metrics to compare your stats-

    • Different sources provide different numbers but an average of 17% is a good open rate in 2020
    • According to industry standards, spam complaints should be less than 0.1%
    • The bounce rate should not exceed 2-3%

    If your metrics are not close to these benchmarks then it is time to take immediate action in reassessing your strategy.

    Validate The Contacts To Determine The Quality Of Email Lists

    Email databases decay at an average of 22.5% per year, and this year due to the pandemic the number has been higher. B2B email lists decay at a faster pace even in stable times as people change their jobs more often rather than changing their personal email addresses.

    Your email list is an ever-evolving entity, especially if you are communicating in the B2B sector. For successful email marketing you need to manage your contacts regularly and the finest way to do it is by using an email verification service.

    List cleaning is a common practice for email marketers nowadays to ensure they reach the inbox. An accurate and reliable email verification service like Clearout can detect and remove:

    • Invalid Addresses – Accounts that have been deactivated, deleted or misspelled
    • Role-based Addresses – Usually involves company email addresses defined by a job rather than a person, and are often managed by several people or eventually fall into disuse.
    • Disposable Addresses –  Also known as throwaway email, free email, temporary email, or self-destructing emails which expire after a certain period of time.
    • Abuse Emails – Email addresses belonging to email users who habitually mark messages as spam.
    •  Catch-all Addresses – Some of them are valid, some of them will bounce while others will get lost in other bulk emails. It is important to isolate them from your existing list and clean them up regularly.

    These are just a few examples of risky email addresses which can cause bounces, spam complaints and poor results from the campaigns. Either crop them out and start with a fresh list or use a tool that provides reliable deliverability scores. 

    Use ‘Scoring’ To Validate The Catch-all Email Addresses

    The catch-all feature can be easily enabled or disabled anytime on any domain, so a catch-all email that has been valid for weeks may end up bouncing anytime. Moreover catch-all emails tend to receive a large volume of emails and get full quickly, causing a soft bounce initially and later, if your email doesn’t get through you’ll face a hard bounce.

    Such circumstances can be handled by using tools that provide deliverability scores. Deliverability score is where each email address is assigned a score value range to indicate the probability of the email message getting delivered to that email address. Such scores are calculated on multiple factors, analysing the activity level on an email address being one of them which gives some perspective on its validity.

    Let’s assume you have just verified an email list and some of the results show catch-all emails. You can either remove such addresses from your email list to avoid any kind of risk (you’ll probably remove a few valid leads too!) or prepare yourself to take up the risk. 

    Either way the results from your email marketing campaign will be affected. The deliverability score feature , with its built-in algorithms can help you avoid these risks and email more confidently.

    You upload your email list for verification and analysis and get back a deliverability score wherein a low score clearly shows that you’re dealing with a low quality lead with slim chances in getting engaged with a person on the other end. 

    On the other hand, a high score indicates not only the validity of the lead but also indicates a high probability of its owner opening and clicking through the message. These are the types of addresses you would like to have on your list.

    How Much To Rely On The Scoring Service?

    The scoring service can provide you reliable information on your prospects, the subscribers and what you can expect from them. A valid email address is not always a good lead, the deliverability scores let you judge the associated risks.

    Should all your email marketing decisions be based only on that result? This depends on the service you use as some are better than the others. You can look at email validation and scoring as a guide to filter out the low quality leads and improve the overall quality of your email marketing campaigns. 

    Final Thoughts

    Whether or not to use catch-all email addresses is the most difficult and risky decision one may face while developing the email marketing strategy. But don’t be intimidated as you have all the information required to take them on. Develop the perfect action plan for your organisation, invest in data quality management tools and use the criterias provided above to analyze your risk.

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      Author Bio

      Hi, I am Bharti, a content writer currently working at Clearout & ClearoutPhone. These are Saas products used for email verification and phone validation respectively. Reading & writing had always been a part of me though I never thought it would end up to be my profession too. Together with writing, I have been involved in creating vlogs and demo videos. 

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