Best Practices for Keeping Your Email List Nice and Clean
If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve likely built up a quite a long email list. Email remains a convenient, effective way to reach prospects and customers, so it’s great to have a lot of names to send offers and updates to.
However, if your marketing emails are getting low engagement, it may start to raise eyebrows with internet service providers (ISPs). If you continue to have issues with your email list, ISPs will block your emails from ever reaching your customers—even those who are still excited to hear from you.
That’s why it’s important to keep your email list neat and clean. Sending emails only to those who are engaged and happy to be on your list will ensure better open rates and a greater return on your marketing efforts.
If you’ve let your list get to a scary place, now is the time to tidy it up. Here’s how you do it.
Look at Your Bounces
The first place to start when you’re cleaning your email list is to see where it stands now. Take a look at your bounce rates. Email marketing services will pull reports that show you hard and soft bounces.
A soft bounce is an email address that they were temporarily unable to reach. It may be because their server was down, or some other short-term issue. These addresses don’t need to be removed from your list right away, but do know that if the soft bounce continues week after week, it will become a hard bounce and then should be addressed.
Hard bounces are for email addresses that cannot be reached permanently. It might be because the email address has been closed (this happens a lot when someone signs up with their work email and then leaves the company). It may also be something that you can fix on your end, like a typo.
If the hard bounce is something you can fix, you should fix it and otherwise leave the name on your list! If the hard bounce isn’t something you can control on your end, remove that email address from your list.
Check for Typos and Role Addresses
As I mentioned above, a lot of typos in an email list can have an effect on bounce rate. Some typos are obvious and easy to catch—for example, email addresses with “gamil.com” instead of “gmail.com.” Others require a little more digging to fix. For example, you’re not necessarily going to know how a person’s last name or company name should be spelled, but there are ways to identify these issues. Cross check the spelling of their name across information in your CRM database. If their last name is spelled one way in the name section, but then spelled differently within their email address and the email is bouncing, you can assume that the email spelling is incorrect and instead switch it to the spelling reflected in the other portion of the form.
You can also turn to a service like ZeroBounce to eliminate bad email addresses. Their technology scans for and removes invalid emails and spam traps from your list.
Role addresses should also be removed from your mailing list. These are emails that are “support@” or “info@.” These are addresses that are easy to scan for and remove, and eliminating them can have a positive effect on your standing with ISPs.
Once you’ve gone through your existing email list and cleaned things up, you want to take steps to keep your list in good shape. That starts with opt-in messaging.
For people who sign up via your website, provide them with a double opt-in prompt as they’re entering their information. This means that they’ll click on the “Sign up for our mailing list” button, put in their information, and then receive a second prompt—”Yes! Sign me up for this list”—which they’ll have to click to confirm enrollment. Asking people if they’re sure they want to register will keep those who are on the fence from even getting on your list in the first place.
You can take the same approach with names who have been dormant on your list. You shouldn’t delete them right away on your own, but you can check in with those people who have not read your emails in some time. Send them a re-opt-in message. This gives them the chance to choose to remain on your list. If they do remain, this re-opt-in will perhaps reinvigorate their interest in your list and get them opening messages from you again. If they choose to go, that’s okay, too! They’ve done some of the work of scrubbing your list for you.
Create a Welcome Email
Sometimes people sign up for a new email list and then promptly forget that they’ve done so. A week later, they get the first email from the company and say, “What is this doing here? I didn’t sign up for this!” Suddenly, they’re reporting your email as spam. Get reported as spam often enough, and you can get dinged by ISPs.
That’s why it’s good practice to send a welcome email. Thank your new subscriber for signing up, tell them what they can expect from you going forward, and give them an opportunity to opt out now, in case they’ve already changed their mind.
Better yet, consider establishing a welcome journey series, focused on getting them to a sale even more quickly. No matter what route you choose to take with the welcome email, it will help to manage expectations for both you and them, and allows you to keep your email list clean from the start.
Send Regular Emails
Once you have a list of email addresses you know are valid, from people who are excited to be there, it’s up to you to stay in regular contact!
Setting a regular schedule for your emails keeps your fans engaged and open rates high. People who really want to be on your list will be excited to see your content, offers, and updates on a regular basis. If you only send emails once in a blue moon, it’s possible that even those who like your business will ignore it or question why they’re on your email list.
Sending regular emails is also a great way to weed out those who don’t really want to be there. When a customer or prospect regularly receives an email from a business they’re not excited to hear about, it’s more likely to drive them to unsubscribe. While having someone leave your list may seem like a bad thing, it actually saves you from having to do the work of identifying them as unengaged subscribers and removing them on your end.
Segment Your List
Another great way to keep subscribers happy and engaged is to segment your list. Segmentation means that people will get the content that’s most relevant and important to them, which will keep them opening and reading your mailings.
There are a number of ways to segment. One is by stage in the customer journey. You can provide your best repeat customers special discounts, sneak peeks at new products, and other fun bonus offers. Another is by past purchase behavior. Let’s say you own a toy store. A customer who’s purchased toys for babies in the past likely won’t want information about the newest board games or Lego sets, but they would like to hear about the latest car seat toys.
In the world of email lists, it’s quality, not quantity, that wins out in the end. Building and maintaining a clean list, filled with subscribers who are happy to be there, will help you to decrease your bounce rate, increase your open rate, stay on ISPs’ good sides, and get the most out of your marketing efforts. A tidy email list is a win-win-win, so set aside some time this summer to clean things up and set yourself up for email marketing success.
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Email Marketing.