With winter coming to a close this month, it’s not only your closets and desks that could benefit from a thorough spring scrubbing. When was the last time you took a hard look at your email distribution list?
Let’s start with defining email list hygiene: it’s essentially culling your email list for contacts that are doing more harm than good from lack of interaction, and dropping them from your distribution. When did that email recipient last open your email? More importantly, when did they last click on your email? If the answer is “over a year,” or, worse, “I have no idea,” your list is very likely in need of a cleaning.
For the time and energy you put into your email programs, don’t you want to ensure your audience is engaging with them? ISPs providing email service – Yahoo, Gmail, Outlook, etc. – are keeping an eye on your sending practices by way of engagement levels, and you’re in for deliverability trouble if those rates are in the dumps.
What’s the worst that can happen?
If your email sends are getting poor rates of opens and clicks, and/or are seeing high bounce rates, your IP reputation can slip. The lower your IP reputation, the more likely your emails will be snagged at the ISP level and placed in spam/bulk folders. Let it fall far enough, and you can end up blocked or blacklisted, and then no one is getting your email. Even scarier: spam traps. Email addresses that have gone a year or longer without any activity can be marked by ISP as abandoned and turn into spam traps to catch spammers (or those with lazy list hygiene habits).
For the emails that are being delivered, you also need to be wary of complainers. Some recipients will find it easier to hit the “spam” button than unsubscribe from your email. Enough of those folks, or recipients who genuinely feel your messages are “spammy,” and you’ll end up blocked. Even if you’re not keeping an eye on your complaint rate, ISPs are. Remove those who hit “spam” from your distribution list. And if the rates seem high (anything above a .02% of the delivered count), it’s time to take a look at the email. It could probably stand a refresh and some testing or, perhaps, should be dropped altogether.
How do I get started?
Break out your list by engagement and define time ranges: engaged in the last month, three months, six months, and so on. For your non-responsive recipients, decide on a time range of inactivity that you can live with and put them in a separate bucket. If you loathe to go cold turkey with these contacts, try a renewal message to tempt them to once again to engage with you. Offers help. If you have an email preference center, point them there; allow your recipients to control the types of messages they’re receiving. But if they remain unresponsive, commit to removing them from your mailing list.
Be sure to remove addresses that are bouncing time and again from your list. Continuing to email to these addresses is a definite sign to an ISP that you're falling down on the list hygiene job, which, in their eyes, means you could be a spammer.
If you’re dealing with a small list- or have the time/manpower - look for obvious misspellings, especially at the domain level (ex. yhoo.com or gmmail.com) and remove them. Also, keep an eye out for phony email addresses like asdadsadsd@ or klkjkjkhjhj@. Delete any duplicate address you find. Addresses that begin spam@ or abuse@ should also be removed immediately. Look through your lists for role accounts, like sales@, info@, and admin@ and remove them. While these are sometimes monitored accounts, it’s more than likely that they aren’t.
How can I keep it clean?
Keeping your list clean is not a one-time event – it should be part of your everyday to-do list. You should be monitoring bounces and lack of engagement after every launch. To ensure you’re getting folks on your mailing list who are truly interested in hearing from you, try a double opt-in email. Essentially, this is an email where the recipient has to confirm their email opt-in status before you send them promotional messages by acting on the email, usually by clicking a link.
Be sure that your unsubscribe process is straightforward and that the link is easy to locate. If recipients have to hunt around for the unsubscribe link, they’re more likely to hit the “spam” button. And not providing a link is a violation of CAN-SPAM law, which is a giant no-no in the email business and a sure fire way to get your emails blacklisted.
Decide on a time range for inactivity and, on a regular basis (monthly or weekly), review your recipients for those who haven’t engaged. Drop them or incentivize them to come back, but drop those that continue to remain unresponsive.
For more tips about email best practices, be sure and check the Email Marketing page on The corner!