How do you shield yourself against illness and infections? By practicing hygiene, right? Your email list, too, needs some cleaning up (list hygiene) at regular intervals, just to make sure that your email marketing program remains fit and fine and you don't have to deal with an alarming number of unsubscribes.
Why Email List Hygiene?
The success of an email campaign can be dependent on many factors like crisp content, beautiful design, catchy subject line, etc., but that's just the copy side of things. What's absolutely imperative even before you start thinking about creative is maintaining the hygiene of your email list.
An unhygienic list can become one of the main causes of serious illnesses, like poor email deliverability and unsubscribes.
According to the 2015 Deliverability Benchmark Report, only 79% of commercial emails worldwide land in the inbox. In other words, almost 21% of email lists remain undelivered. With duplicate, invalid, and non-responsive email addresses piling up over the time, cleaning up your email list becomes a must.
Moreover, list cleaning also aids in flushing out irrelevant contacts. This in turn helps to better segment your contacts, increase content relevancy, and ultimately improve email deliverability. All-in-all, list cleaning not only reduces the chances of your emails entering the spam folder of the recipient but also decreases instances of unsubscribes.
Top Email List Hygiene Best Practices to Beat Unsubscribe Blues
- Prepare lists by collecting email addresses of those who are genuinely interested in your products/services. These may be the subscribers who have signed up on your website, or maybe during an event or conference. Avoid adding those who are not interested in your emails.
- Purchased lists from vendors are like a virus affecting the health of your email list. Avoid them. While they might tempt you with instant benefits, in the long term, they're not going to benefit much. In fact, you might even invite spam complaints and your list is likely to get infected with spam traps.
Apart from all this, as you send your emails to a huge list of people who have no idea of who you are, you might as well be digging your own grave. It impacts your brand image, sender score and email metrics. On top of that, everybody wants a good email software provider. You can be sure to expect some tough questions when switching email tools about the origin of your list.
- Resort to the opt-in method of signing up by either providing single opt-in or double opt-in. The former involves filling up a subscription form on your website and then the person gets added to your list. The latter involves one extra step. After they've filled up the subscription form, you send a confirmation link to their email address, on clicking which they are added to your list.
Although double opt-in might slash opt-in rates by 20-30%, the greater engagement rates it bestows makes it a better and smarter way to maintain a hygienic list. A study by Mailchimp from 2011 to find out the differences between single and double opt-ins concluded that double opt-ins had a better open rate and saw a 72.2% increase in unique opens. Also, double opt-in unsubscribe rates were 7% lower than single opt-in.
Accurate, valid and actionable email addresses are detected through real-time email verification - thus, validating emails at the point of entry is a good practice. Wherever you got an address from, verification is a must before sending welcome emails. In doing so, you're working to keep the inaccurate ones at bay from the very beginning.
Cross out the role accounts or distribution email addresses like info@, sales@, reply@, etc. These addresses are primarily designed for sending emails, and your email in their inbox is of no use. They are the ones who have not opted into your list; remove them.
Relevant emails get more opens and less unsubscribes. List segmentation is a must for a maintaining a clean list as it helps to create tailored content for your segments, making your emails relevant to your readers. Thus, not only will the subscriber ever unsubscribe but might actually be converted into a lead.
To keep pace with the ever changing email channel, it is essential that you permanently delete the hard bounced email addresses from your list. If you keep sending emails on these addresses, it can badly affect your metrics. Fortunately, most ESPs automatically filter out such addresses after one or two hard bounces. As far as soft bounces are concerned, ESPs will make a certain number of attempts before labelling them as undeliverable.
Those who unsubscribe from your emails, get removed from your list (they aren't deleted from your database); you can still look for their info in their profile. And yes, it is not possible to reimport any of these addresses.
But when you delete a list of email addresses, you lose a lot of useful data forever, and there's always the possibility of re-adding unsubscribed users; this can land you in trouble with greater hard bounces and complaints. You can dodge the bullet by not deleting any list permanently.
Requesting subscribers to add you to their address book is a smart way to reduce the chances of landing in their spam folder. This a good way to get yourself whitelisted and reach your subscribers with each one of your campaigns.
ISPs observe engagement metrics to determine delivery of emails, so it's important that you remove the non-responders after a certain time and do the activity on a regular basis. Try your luck one last time, and send a re-engagement email to recently inactive users. If they respond, they go into your active list, and if they don't, you can remove them from your active list.
It's mandatory for marketers to include an unsubscribe link in every mail, so you can't skip that. But you can always take them to an email preference center landing page. Allowing your subscribers to choose the frequency and type of content they want to receive helps to retain some of them. This not only lessens unsubscribes but also bestows you with a list of genuinely interested subscribers.
Email list cleaning is like a spring cleaning activity - it may not have to be done daily, but to keep your list spick and span, it must be done every once in a while. A healthy list plays an important role in bringing out good marketing campaign results.