Addresses from dead domains are like zombies. They exist in your list and look kind of like the real thing (i.e., valid addresses that you can send to). They may have been on your list for a long time, maybe since you started collecting addresses way back when. But, like zombies, they are mere shadows of their former selves.
When compliance folks like me talk about dead domains, we are referring to addresses within a sender’s list that are from domains which are no longer in business, or are no longer providing mail client services. Having addresses from these domains on a mailing list is an indication to any good compliance specialist that the list is in dire need of clean-up, or that the list owner may have purchased addresses. Neither of these scenarios is good for the client’s sender reputation, nor the ESP’s overall reputation.
If only we could dispatch those dead domains as quickly as Madison Clark and her family have done with the zombies on Fear The Walking Dead (#FearTWD) – one of my favorite TV shows. If that were the case, both importing addresses to your list and sending would be a lot easier!
But here’s the thing: domains don’t just die without warning. Organizations that plan to “kill off” a particular domain normally give advance notice to users with email accounts at that domain. In a fairly recent and well-publicized example, when Yahoo discontinued their Chinese email service, they had two domains, yahoo.com.cn and yahoo.cn. Users with email accounts at those domains were advised that as of January 1, 2015, their email addresses would no longer work. Since no mail would be successfully delivered to either of those domains, they were considered dead.
Ultimately, a sender who is using best practices in terms of collecting addresses, sending frequency, consistency, and overall list maintenance shouldn’t have an issue with dead domains, because their list is active and healthy.
The bottom line: Don’t let zombie addresses infect your good lists and kill your sending reputation. Be an email survivor!