Traffic Mansion Blog

Email List Management: Tips for Keeping Your List Clean and Healthy

Email marketing is still strong! Today, more than 3.7 billion people worldwide use email for business and personal communication. According to Statista’s latest report, email marketing spending in the US alone has increased close to 1 billion dollars since 2014. This is because, as HubSpot claims, 85 percent of all business people still prefer to communicate via email more than any other channel.

Email is still the primary tool for the lead generation. It’s a perfect platform for grabbing users’ attention.

]Regardless of how simple it seems in theory, doing email marketing is never an easy job. It takes time, effort, and strategy to win people over via email.

Anyone who has tried to generate sales or subscriptions through this channel knows it’s never as simple as writing interesting messages and clicking “send”. Email marketing involves a lot of A/B testing, creative copywriting, proper segmentation, and list building.

It’s quite easy to get stuck or feel overwhelmed while doing email marketing. However, if you start from the beginning and truly optimize every stage of your process, you’ll surely end up with a decent ROI from your email marketing efforts.

Email Market is All About Analysis and Tweaking

The main reason why most people fail in this department is because they don’t really take care of their lists. Proper segmentation and list management are extremely important elements of every email marketing strategy. If you don’t do a good enough job of sending relevant information to the right people, your subscribers will start to see you as a spammer, which will eventually force them to unsubscribe from your mailing list.

Losing a subscriber this way might seem like you’ve failed, but it may be a good thing. Needless to say, engaging your prospects is important. However, if they’re genuinely not interested in what you do and don’t find your content meaningful or valuable, you can actually benefit from them unsubscribing. It’s far worse that they stay on your list and then file spam complaints to their internet providers, which can result in throttling of emails accepted or even blocks.

In addition, internet providers use unattended mailboxes for creating spam traps, a type of fraud management tool. Email addresses that are converted into spam traps cannot be used for real communication nor do they belong to real users. Therefore, they obviously cannot opt-in to become one of your subscribers. The most common way they end up on your list? You don’t invest enough time and effort in maintaining your email list’s health.

If you happen to send an email to the set spam trap, it can damage your reputation severely. You can expect an increase of your bounce rates and a decrease of your delivery rate. Your IP address might get blacklisted or in the worst case scenario – your sender domain gets labeled as spam. Today’s email inboxes are sophisticated and very user-friendly, so the risk of your messages getting filtered is pretty real.

The recovery process in these cases includes reviewing your subscriber list and all the data you have, identifying how old are your databases, and closely segmenting your list in order to regain positive sender reputation.

Prevention is key here. If you want to keep your list healthy, you need to continuously optimize it. Luckily for you, and everyone else that relies on email marketing, there are numerous great tools out there that could help you with your list cleaning (like Neverbounce, Email Hippo, Bounceless, Kickbox, etc.). For example, we at TafficMansion frequently use EmailListVerify. It’s a great utility for getting rid of typo-mails, “screamers” (people who generally hit the spam complaint button),and emails that been disabled.

The great thing about email marketing is that you can easily solve any possible issues. When you log into an email service provider like Sendgrid, you can instantly see how well you are doing with your email marketing efforts. Take CTRs, for an example, and analyze a couple of your campaigns. If there’s a pattern of declining CTRs, then you’re in a bit of trouble.  

If your engagement is down, something isn’t right. You’re either missing the mark or failing to provide your subscribers with what they want to see in their inbox. In this article, we are going to share a couple of Traffic Mansion’s tips on how to keep your lists clean, healthy, and productive:

1. Check Your Subscribers

Regardless of which niche or market you operate in, there’s a big chance that you have the same type of people subscribed to multiple lists. If your subscribers fit many different profiles (such as clients, prospects, partners, etc.), then you probably need a better system. Sending multiple messages to the same people isn’t really a smart idea. Nobody wants to see their inbox overflowing with messages from the same sender.

Simple data checks can help you eliminate lots of garbage from your lists. Apart from focusing on “removing duplicates,” you should open your list and look for addresses with misspellings and typos.

I know this sounds like a basic tip but a lot of people make this simple mistake while signing up for a newsletter. If you see such simple errors as “ben!” and “cassy@gmailcom” in your lists, you should try to remove/correct them. You don’t want to keep sending messages to invalid accounts.

One way to easily find these emails, is to extract reports from your email campaigns for recipients who did not open or click on the message. This will help you spot the typos you will spot right away and eventually locate users who never engage with your content.

2. Manage Bounce Rates

Removing clutter and invalid accounts from your lists isn’t really a one-off deal. Email addresses tend to go bad over time. Users may shut down their accounts for any number of reasons. They could, for example, switch jobs, which automatically means that their corporate email accounts are now inactive. Most companies either deactivate their former employee’s accounts or just leave them unattended.

Whatever they decide to do, it’s still bad for the senders. When you attempt to deliver an email to an address like that, the send will be registered as “bounce.” The more bounces you receive when sending your emails, the harder your reputation will plummet.

In case you’re not familiar with the process, email service providers assume that it’s the sender’s responsibility to optimize the list and remove all the bad or inactive addresses from the database. Spammers are known for their notoriously high bounce rates, because they do not want to allocate their resources or time to review their lists.

If you don’t want to be registered as a spammer, you need to work on your bounce and clean your email database.

Removing entries from your list in accordance to bounce rates, however; isn’t really that simple. In many cases, a single bounce or even 3 bounces is caused by user behavior. For example, maybe a user is on vacation and the Internet isn’t good in his accommodation. Maybe his inbox is overflowing with emails, and when you send yours, it simply bounces off.

If you were to remove that user after a single bounce like that (which is called a “soft bounce”), he’ll be forever lost to you. You shouldn’t be too hasty and delete people from your database so easily.

To keep your email list clean and healthy, most email marketing pros suggest a threshold of up to 5 soft bounces for the same email before marking it as a hard bounce and add the email to suppression. Everything more than that will just butcher your engagement.

3. Try to Re-Engage Your Subscribers

Once you have cleaned all the dead accounts from your list, your second move should be to try and re-engage your most inactive subscribers. Since they’re already signed up for your newsletter, you can use them as guinea pigs for testing new strategies and approaches. Who knows, maybe you’ll figure out a way to make them fall in love with your content again. You certainly have nothing to lose.

Regardless of which ESP you’re using, detecting inactive or low active users isn’t really a problem. All you basically have to do is look at your subscriber activity. Once you locate your “problematic” users, pull all the messages you’ve been sending them over time and try to look for a common reason why they’re ignoring your material. After you do that, you should experiment with different content and then analyze your efforts again in a couple of weeks time.

4. Eliminate Inactive Users from Your Database

A lot of people have a bad habit of subscribing to a list they don’t really want to follow. Maybe they were curious to find out more on a specific topic in a given moment. But in the vast sea of content, it’s so easy for them to lose their interest; especially if you send newsletters too frequently. Some percentage of your users will unsubscribe. But more than a few of them will still stay on, even though they don’t really engage with the content. These remaining, inactive subscribers just ignore the material that’s being delivered to their inbox. Of course, this negatively affects your engagement rates.

If you want to keep your list clean, you need to eliminate everyone who’s not interested in what you have to share. Before you start deleting users, you first need to define what does “low activity” mean for you. For example, if you send one email per week, then your inactive users are probably those who only engage with your content once in 5 weeks. If you blast your newsletter once a month, then you should consider someone as an inactive user if they respond to your email every 5-6 months.

There are no precise rules or reliable metrics to follow here. It all depends on the sending dynamics and your personal judgment. However, most marketers who are trying to improve their deliverability to inboxes use the so-called “sunset policies” to improve their efforts in this department. The basics of these policies are:

  • Define what an “unengaged” recipient is for you;
  • Decide how long is it ok for your company to send emails to someone whom you see as an unengaged subscriber;
  • Decide what’s your long-term plan with these subscribers (are you going to let them just stay on your list until they leave on their own, or are you going to ask them if they want to continue receiving your messages)
  • Collect and analyze the data;
  • Monitor your engagement and deliverability

5. Proper Segmentation

If you want to have a squeaky-clean email list, you need to develop an idea of the ideal subscriber and then group together in a new list all your database entries that meet your criteria.

In the light of the new GDPR law that will come into effect by the end of May 2018, there’s one thing we have to stress here: you need to be crystal clear and fully transparent about the data you collect from your users. It’s of paramount importance to ensure they understand what data they share and give consent for you to use. Email marketing is permission-based, i.e. you need users to opt-in for receiving your messages. Misusing people’s email addresses and sending them your content even if they didn’t subscribe, can lead to severe consequences. Needless to say, it is illegal both to sell and buy email lists.

Segmentation is remarkably effective and there is nothing wrong about wanting to create more personalized experiences for different subscriber groups. In today’s consumer-centric era, it is kind of expected to. However, you have to make sure you give users the control of what data they are willing to share for more relevant content and enjoyable interactions with you and your brand.

Once you finish assembling your “ideal subscriber” list, you should generate a separate email group for your “low activity” users. I’m talking about those who still receive your emails, but they don’t engage with your content quite as often. Provide these users with an email address or a simple confirmation box for them to opt in, and bring them back to the main list. If they do not respond, keep them on your secondary list and only email them during important revenue or traffic times.

Everyone else is on a probation period. You want to limit the number of emails you send to these “unfiltered” users and closely monitor their activity. From there, you can see in which of the above-mentioned group they fit best, so you can move them and treat them accordingly by serving them the right type of content.

Wrap Up

Thank you for taking the time to read this article from the beginning to the end. We hope it helped you understand why optimizing your lists is a crucial part of your success when it comes to email marketing. If you let things get messy, your efforts in this department will be completely useless. Take care of your email database to truly maximize the potential of this channel.

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