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Email List Cleaning 101: Start the New Year With Better Email Hygiene

Jan 11th, 2017

Just like your teeth...

Your email list needs a good cleaning from time to time if you want to stay in good graces with the email marketing gods.

The digital equivalents to cavities include increased:

  • Spam complaints
  • Bounced emails
  • Unsubscribe requests

In an effort to increase email deliverability and reduce the impact of unsolicited emails, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Email Service Providers (ESPs), and anti-spam groups have set thresholds for bounced emails, spam complaints and unsubscribe requests.

Unusually high rates of these occurrences can result in account suspension...

Image via: Customer.io

Separately, Mailchimp reports that most ESPs and ISPs identify a reasonable threshold for abuse complaints at 0.1% or one out of a thousand recipients who report your email as spam. Mailchimp, according to its Abuse Desk, says its thresholds are even stricter.

Effect Of Bounced Emails & Unsubscribe Requests On Email Marketing ROI

Massive ROI...

That's the promise of email marketing, which many digital marketers argue is still the gold standard of permission marketing...

Image via: Email Marketing Gold

Establishing an intimate relationship with your email list can lift conversions and simplify your marketing life in the new year...

But how clean is the list you're working so hard to impress?

A bad list, or one that experiences relatively high bounce rates or is lacking in subscriber activity, can negatively impact your email deliverability rate as well as your marketing ROI in the long run.

To avoid these pitfalls you have just one option...

Since you obviously cannot force a disinterested subscriber not to report your email as spam or remain subscribed to your list, smart marketers conduct an email list cleaning exercise designed to improve the quality of their lists.

Why Clean? Benefits Of A Clean Email List

1. Accurate Campaign Statistics

The data you rely on to inform business decisions must be accurate...

An email list chock full of incomplete or irrelevant addresses that affects your email deliverability can also negatively impact your brand's reputation. The KPIs your engagement email marketing campaigns turn on can become skewed when a significant number of your emails are never opened, clicked on, or engaged with.

Ultimately, you can easily wind up with inaccurate statistics regarding how your campaigns are performing. Cleaning your list of email addresses that aren't engaging with your email or that report your email as junk will not only improve your deliverability rate but also provide you with data you can trust to make future marketing decisions.

2. Lower Bounce Rate

Emails bounce for a variety of reasons including:

  • The email addresses doesn't really exist
  • Users may choose to block your email
  • The email may be undeliverable for technical reasons

These issues contribute to higher bounce rates which can land you in hot water with ESPs and ISPs and result in time in the email marketing penalty box. A clean list- one that is full of valid addresses belonging to real people who want to hear from you- can result in significantly lower bounce rates.

3. Higher Conversion Rates

It may seem obvious, but list scrubbing can also result in higher conversion rates.

Remember the objective of email marketing; communicating directly with consumers who have granted you permission to communicate with them. Besides reduced bounce rates and higher deliverability, a clean list can help you increase engagement with your list in the form of higher CTRs.

4. Better Email Marketing ROI

If you really want to be one of the marketers getting $40 back for each $1 spent...

Scrubbing your list will position you to generate better returns for the entire year.

However, your total ROI doesn't hinge solely on conversions. Especially in the cases of larger lists, ROI can be materially impacted by the money you spend on ESPs. If your list is full of bad email addresses and is often plagued by bounces and undeliverables, you're wasting money that could be better used elsewhere.

"Knowing the value of an email really impacts the effects of your marketing - you need to have a clean list to properly calculate what an email is truly worth to your brand" - Taylor Sicard, VP of Growth at Rare.io

Boost your ROI and be a better marketer by cleansing your list of invalid addresses and disinterested recipients who mark you as spam.

Is Hygiene a Priority For You?

Increasingly, businesses understand the impact a bad email list can have on their email marketing ROI. Specifically, email list quality was listed as a top priority for B2B companies in 2016:

Image via: Marketing Tech Blog

The advantages of an email list scrub are clear...

So how might you clean yours and start the new year off right?

If you're like many of your ecommerce peers and too busy to manually delete each bad email address on your own, there are some alternative measures you can take. Here then are four really simple ways you can clean, keep your email list clean, and acquire the hygiene you need to thrive in 2017:

#1 Use An Email List Cleaning Service

If you have a giant list...

It may not be the best use of your time identifying and manually removing each email address that's bouncing or not engaging.

Email list cleaning services can help your business maintain a clean list of contacts and improve  deliverability. Here's a list of ten email list cleaning services you can compare and contrast.

As reported by Juniper Research, email verification is vital for any marketer as more than 20% of email registrations contain typos, domain and syntax errors, or other faults that can dirty your list.

Scrubbing your list might be even easier than you think. For example, Never Bounce simply requires that you fill in an email address while it does the sometimes difficult work of validating:

Image via: Marketing Tech Blog

Alternatively, your ESP may offer a similar service. For instance, Mailchimp offers users an email validation service called Omnivore. It's a highly effective tool that sent email marketers 50,000 warnings and closed more than 45,000 accounts in 2011 alone.

#2 Improve Your Sender Score

What is a sender score?

A sender score is a number between 0-100 that indicates your reputation as a sender of email.

In other words, the score reveals how mailbox providers view you.

It's basically your email reputation.

A low sender score reflects poorly on your brand's reputation and also likely indicates your deliverability rate is lackluster.

Often, it is beneficial to deal individually with mailbox providers that have flagged you as a low scoring email marketer. Understand the specific spam filters you and your email have made enemies with.

Remember, you can check your sender reputation at a variety of locations.

BONUS: It is vital to note that list cleaning is as much about your reputation as a business as it is to the actual act of emailing. The larger the list, the more difficult keeping it clean can become.

#3 Don't Buy, Rent or Borrow Email Lists

There are business models built around renting email lists...

Proceed with caution though if your brand is the cornerstone of your ecommerce business.

It's tempting to think about buying, renting or borrowing email lists. It's natural to think that this might be a clever and faster way to gather new subscribers and prospects or even lift sales.

However, purchasing a confirmed opt-in list doesn't guarantee that you have explicit consent from those contacts. In fact, receiving unsolicited emails from unknown merchants is viewed as intrusive.

In addition to your businesses potentially getting flagged as sender of spam, purchased email lists can result in fines for breaking various anti-spam laws.

In the U.S, the CAN-SPAM legislation outlines strict regulations regarding legal and illegal ways of collecting email addresses. Even more stringent, the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, which was enacted in 2014, requires businesses to obtain and document consent before sending commercial emails to Canadian consumers.

#4 Acquire Subscribers Intelligently And Only Send Valuable Content

Your list quality is dynamic...

The more subscribers you add or lose can dramatically change list quality by the day.

There are a myriad reasons why users subscribe and unsubscribe from lists like yours and it's important to understand them so you can create and send better email:

Reasons they subscribe

Did you know that approximately a quarter of your email subscribers (24.8%) may have unwillingly subscribed? This is often a result of auto-subscription, which can significantly lower the quality of your email list.

Instead, use double opt-in requests to be sure that your contacts are indeed willing to engage with your business.

Image via: Autopilot Hq

All of this boils down to one thing- observing proper etiquette when emailing your subscribers.

Cleaning House

List quality is how ISPs and ESPs determine whether to bless or punish your email. To lift your deliverability and reduce costs, scrub your list of invalid or inactive addresses and protect your brand's reputation.

So, start 2017 with a clean email list and position your brand for better email campaign performance.

And remember- wash thoroughly and often!

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