We often stress about things like needing to grow our email lists or think that cleansing them might get rid of potential readers or customers. However, we overlook the fact that our lists can say a lot about us as senders. In other words, how well-managed (or not) our list is can clue spam filters in on whether we're adhering to best practices...or not following them at all!
Our lists are essential to selling, informing, and exciting people about our brand. However, it is critical that we follow best practices or else spam filters will penalize us over time. Inboxes don't just look at spam complaints- they also monitor things such as opens, clicks, and activity vs. inactivity to determine inbox placement.
List hygiene might have a bigger impact on deliverability than others. Spam filters and inboxes are always learning what recipients want to receive, which then affects deliverability. Additionally, if senders consistently make certain errors that go against best practices, their deliverability will tank.
I’ll say it again: Never buy an email list
It is crucial to receive our subscribers' consent when managing lists. Every year, spam filters get better at detecting and differentiating trustworthy senders from bad ones, and your lists can be a telltale sign that you aren’t following proper procedures. Even if you are legally allowed to purchase a list in the country you live and do business in, inboxes and spam filters don’t like that kind of behavior and will penalize you for it.
We tend to forget that the main client of an inbox is your subscribers. The inbox wants to ensure they keep their customers happy, and one easy way to do that is to reduce unwanted emails.
A list filled with subscribers that have given consent to receive emails from a brand will interact completely differently from one that has been purchased. This will signal to spam filters and inboxes that you are not practicing safe sending habits. If your emails are being marked as spam or people are barely engaging with them, it's time for a change. These are clear red flags that will penalize you if you don't take action.
Data from your email service provider might not be enough to tell you if you're dealing with a lot of spam complaints. Google, for example, will tell you the percentage of their clients that reported your email as spam on a particular day, but won’t tell you who marked you as spam.
Spam complaints are a complex topic, but the bottom line is that there's a disconnect between the data your inbox has about a subscriber and what you or your ESP have access to. Most inboxes don't share complete spam complaint information, so you might be emailing complainers over and over again without anybody being able to tell you to stop. If a particular inbox doesn't provide this information, your email marketing tool won't be able to either.
Webbula is an email hygiene tool that can help you weed out complainer emails (those who hit spam overall and not just on your emails) before they become a problem. Webbula's technology is unrivaled in the industry, and it can help you maintain good deliverability while avoiding trouble.
Inboxes aren't designed to make our lives as marketers easier, but rather to offer amazing inbox services to their customers - even if that means protecting them from emails they don't want. If we continue emailing people who have said they don't want our content, inboxes will start reflecting badly on our sending practices. Therefore, it's best to work on building an organic list instead of renting or purchasing one.
Beware of the spam trap
There are a lot of email hygiene and verification tools out there that allow any email sender to clean out a purchased list. You can use an email verification tool to remove most invalid or fake email addresses that bounce, but you will never be able to remove 100 percent of the email addresses that negatively impact your business.
Invalid emails can still pass a simple email verification check, which is why it's important to use an email hygiene tool like Webbula.
Spam traps, bots, and temporary domains can all bypass verification tests because they look like real email addresses. Spam traps in particular are emails that used to have an owner but don't anymore. Because they don't belong to anyone now, there's no way someone would have subscribed to your emails unless you added them yourself. When a spam trap is found on your list, that means you're sending lots of other emails without people's consent.
Webbula’s Email Hygiene technology has the power to weed out most of your bad emails in your list to help you improve your decision making and protect your deliverability.
Every email verification and hygiene provider has their strengths and weaknesses. Some are better at detecting catch-all emails, others are better at detecting invalid email addresses coming from inbox providers in certain countries. But no email verification provider is good enough to make up for substandard sender practices. Always follow best practices and test your options of email cleaning providers. Most providers allow you to run a test, so take advantage of those tests and compare results to see who can provide the best for you.
Segmentation and reactivation opportunities
List hygiene extends beyond blindly deleting undesirable or inactive subscribers. It means taking a look at your entire list to separate active and engaged contacts from ones who aren’t engaging with your emails. This in turn will help you optimize your targeting and achieve your email goals.
Your email strategy will produce better results if you focus on subscribers who are opening, clicking on emails, and performing the actions you want them to perform such as buying your product, reading your content, or signing up for your next event.
Your main objective should be providing customers with content that they will find useful and helps them interact positively with your brand. Let’s say you’re an eCommerce company that sends lots of emails. Start with a goal in mind, and try segmenting based on factors like gender, age, interest, or purchase activity. If they’ve purchased already, for instance, you might try to convince them to make a second purchase. Or maybe they’re disengaging from your emails. In that case, focus on trying to win back their trust by showcasing products that you think will be relevant to them.
Here’s another tactic to try, start by pulling a segment of your list that hasn’t opened or engaged with your emails in, say, the previous three to six months. Then try to win them back. This type of campaign is often known as a reactivation or re-engagement campaign. The goal here is to get a reader’s attention and offer a specific reason to start reading your emails again. If they engage, then you’re free to continue sending emails to them.
Two other tactics you might want to consider.You can always move your inactive readers into a special segment where you only communicate with them a handful of times per year, typically when you’ve got big news or announcements to share. Or, if you prefer, you can unsubscribe them from all emails. Send one last campaign letting them know that you’re planning to remove them from your list if they don’t click on a specific link you added in that email, and then unsubscribe everyone who doesn’t click.
Your list might shrink sometimes, and that’s OK
After putting in the time and effort to grow our subscriber lists, why do we allow people to fall off? It's discouraging enough when our subscribers don't engage with the emails we put so much time into creating. But if you have a goal or key performance indicator (KPI) that measures reducing your list of contacts every 3-6 months, it can be even more disheartening.
The health of your contact list is important. Today, clean your list and take note of the percentage of subscribers you had to remove or re-segment. Later in the year, after you’ve made some improvements to your marketing and targeting, try again and see if your re-engagement list has decreased in size. A smaller number would be an excellent sign that things are going well!
If your list is not well-maintained, it reflects poorly on you and your business practices. This might be because you're purchasing lists, renting lists, or collecting email addresses in dubious ways. I understand that more people on your list makes you feel safer; however, it’s more important to make your subscribers feel safe. It's every marketer's dream to have a large reach, but that doesn't mean your message will be well-received. In fact, if you try to make someone listen to you when they don't want to, it'll backfire. So instead, focus on the people who are already engaged with your brand and more likely to take the action you want them to.
About the author
Sitting on the executive team at the intersection of Product, Growth, and Sales, YT helps drive the company forward in a market in desperate need of accessible and reliable deliverability tools, while representing EmailConsul in places email & deliverability have never been before.