Why you should clean email list? (and how to do it)

Do you feel confused why your email campaigns give you no or small results?

The campaign is excellent, executives did every single step correctly, and yet they still don’t see the expected results. Upon closer analysis, it turns out that email deliverability is the culprit. Did you consider using an email verification API to confirm the email addresses truly exist?

Your campaign mails instead of going to your customers’ inbox, landed in the spam folder. Many of your customers didn’t even have a chance to see your email. But how did that happen and what can you with it?

This is where email scrubbing comes in.

When was the last time you thought about cleaning your email list?

Never? Is it the first time you hear about it?

Then you’re probably wasting time, effort, and money on sending marketing emails to people who aren’t even interested in your business and thus you are triggering the spam filters.  

Statistically speaking, if you are sending emails to 3,000 addresses, about 1,000 of them may not even get your emails!

They are old or inactive addresses, addresses that changed due to job changes or simply active addresses that belong to disengaged customers.

If those people are not opening your emails and you continue to email them anyway, there’s a good chance many spam filters will flag you as spam – and that will the start of your trouble.

Email list scrubbing is essential to maintain a good sender reputation –  if you are repeatedly sending emails to inactive or uninterested customers and landing in the spam inboxes, you are not only wasting time and money, you are damaging your domain reputation.

Email service providers have many ways to make sure that the email sender got a “permission” to send their emails to a customer (especially now with the GDPR law active).

If they see there’s no such permission, emails are sent straight to the spam folder, and that obviously affects the sender reputation.

Few more “campaigns” like this and your domain might end up blacklisted, and then no one will get your emails.

Why wait for a disaster to happen, it will be faster and easier to get your email list squeaky clean now!

What is email cleaning?

Email cleaning, also known as email scrubbing, is removing invalid, inactive or misspelled emails from your marketing lists and making sure all the people on your email list have agreed to get emails from you.

Not many companies bothered with cleaning their email lists earlier, convinced that “the bigger the list, the better” but GDPR law forced all companies to verify and clean their email lists – that’s why you got dozens or maybe even hundreds of emails from various companies asking do you still want to get newsletters from them or do you wish to unsubscribe.

With the new law in effect, marketers can only send emails to customers who gave them their permission to receive email content – all other cases are treated as spam.  

When do you need to clean your email list?

So how can you find out do your email list needs cleaning?

Easy, it’s all there in your email marketing statistics. If in the last few months you had any of the problems below, it means it’s definitely time for email list scrubbing:

  • Much lower open rates than used to be
  • Much lower click-through rate
  • A sudden wave of unsubscribe messages
  • An unusual number of spam complaints
  • Bigger than usual bounce rate  

Does any of this sound familiar?

If yes, then it’s time to get down to work and make your email list squeaky clean! You will only benefit from it in the long run. There’s plenty of reasons why should you keep your email list fresh.

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What are the benefits of a clean list?

Increase Email Deliverability

Have problems with your emails landing in spam folders instead of the inbox? Or maybe your emails are not delivered at all? Your email list might be to be blamed for this.

One of the biggest reasons behind emails landing in spam section instead of the inbox is because of buying unverified email lists.

No matter how tempting this might be, stay away from people that claim that buying email lists is the fastest, easiest and most effective way of getting email addresses. It is a quick and easy way but to get blacklisted (and you don’t want that to happen).

But even if you have a genuine email list, you might have deliverability problems at some point. Analysts claim that email databases decay naturally by 22.5% every year.

The reasons vary: your customers changed their email address, the email address you have is no longer the primary address of your customer, or maybe the customer picked another company instead of yours.

Why should the invalid or inactive email addresses weight you down? By removing them out of your list, your email deliverability will increase tenfold!

Lowered Bounce Rate

One of the fastest benefit of cleaning your email list you will notice is a lower bounce rate. Bounces happen when an email is not delivered to the destination address.  

There are two kinds of bounce – a “soft” and “hard” bounce. A soft bounce is a temporary deliverability problem (because the customer’s inbox is full or there’s a temporary system issue) while a hard bounce means there is no way for the email to be delivered (for example because of an invalid or deactivated email account).

While it’s okay for you to send emails again to addresses with a “soft bounce” (they will go through on the second or third attempt), addresses from which you got a hard bounce have to be removed immediately. 

ISPs track what kind of and how many bounces you generate with each campaign and uses it to rate your domain’s reputation. Too many hard bounces and you might be even blacklisted!

Having an email “bounce” once in a while is a normal thing, but if your bounce rate is higher than 5%, it’s a clear sign you need to clean your email list.

Protect Your Reputation

Your sender reputation is the most important thing you have. Even if you have an incredible newsletter or brilliant offer, your customers won’t even see it if you have a terrible sender reputation.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs) look at several metrics to decide is your domain trustworthy or not – your open rates, CTR, spam complaints, email bounces and many more.  

If your domain is found to be untrustworthy, you can be blacklisted – and that’s awful news for your business. According to Convince & Convert, IP addresses appearing on just one of the 12 blacklists had email deliverability 25 points below those not listed on any blacklists!

Taking your domain out of the blacklist can take up to 90 days – how many sales opportunities and money you might lose in that time?

Avoiding Spam Traps

Ever heard about spam traps?

Those are genuine email addresses created by the inbox providers for the sole purpose of catching spammers at work.

A person using this email address does not sign up for any newsletters but does leave the email address in places such as message boards, to trap people who instead of waiting for customers to give them their email address, “harvest” emails from various sites on the web.

There is also a second kind of trap, intended for finding people with bad list hygiene. It is made of abandoned by users emails which instead of being deactivated and removed from the server, are used as spam traps by the inbox providers.

Even one “hit” from the spam traps can have an impact on your sender reputation so staying as far away as possible from them is crucial.

Lower your sending costs

Sending marketing emails cost. It might be just a couple of pennies, but as they stack up, the amount of money spent on the newsletter is impressive.

Do you really want to use the money to send messages to people who won’t even respond to you?

Or to non-existent email addresses?

Probably not. Email list cleaning helps reduce your overall costs associated with email marketing – fewer bounces and inactive accounts, less money spent on marketing!

Okay, how can I clean my email list?

Look for obviously invalid email addresses.

Start your email list cleaning with checking for misspellings and typos. When people type their email addresses in a hurry (or by using a mobile device), all kinds of typos and spelling mistakes can happen.

Look for obvious mistakes such as missing the @ sign (so the address looks like mike.yahoo.com), missing commas (tara@gmailcom), or misspelled domain names (anna@yahooo.com). If you have any addresses like sales@company.com or admin@company.com, remove them too.   

Check the activity of your customers  

Thanks to GDPR law, after may 23 you surely got a plenty of emails asking you whether you wish to continue receiving emails from various companies or do you want them to remove your address from their database  – I myself got a good hundred of them, some from companies I didn’t remember giving my address too!

But this is one of the best ways to recognize which of your customers are interested in your offer and which forgot about you already. To separate the wheat from the chaff or you active customers from disengaged ones, send a special feedback email to your customers.

You can ask your recipients to vote in a poll, for feedback on something you’ve done or are planning to do (new features, new service, new product) or simply ask your contacts to confirm do they want to continue getting emails from your company.

Segment your list

After you finished gathering data, consider segmenting your email list into active customers (those who responded to your email) and inactive ones (the ones who didn’t reply). Segmenting, and targeting customers according to their interests and preferences is one of the top practices of 2018 and gives much better results than “one size fits all” strategy.

With a segmented list, it’s easier to give your customers the content and offers they want to receive and keep them happy. Happy customers = less unsubscribes = less cleaning!.

Try to win back disengaged customers

You got rid of invalid email addresses and put the inactive customers on a separate list, and now it’s time for dealing with them! But before removing them from your list for good, try to re-engage your customers first – maybe there’s a reason why they lost interest in your product.

Do they have a problem you can help them with, they think you stopped caring about your customers, or maybe they got a better deal from your competition? Sending them a personalized “We miss you” email or asking for feedback can work wonders!

If your customer doesn’t answer to this email, remove them out of the list for good.

Make it easy to unsubscribe

Majority of countries require companies to give their customers a way to stop receiving marketing emails if so they wish. The problem is, the law did not specify how exactly the companies have to do this.

Plenty of businesses, while technically complying with the regulations, made the unsubscribing as difficult as possible to stop people from leaving (by hiding the unsubscribe link or making the unsubscribe process confusing). GDPR law made this a bit easier by explicitly stating the unsubscribe button has to be visible, and the process has to be as comfortable as possible.

But why would you even do that? You spent time and money to attract those customers, and now you are supposed to give them an easy way to leave? Yes! If someone is only going to delete your message (or worse, report you as a spammer!) why even send the email in the first place?

By honoring the customer’s request and deleting him out of your list, you are saving time, money and your sender reputation (sending further email messages to customers who asked for unsubscribing them is treated as spam by the ISP and can severely damage your sender reputation) – so it’s better to let them leave!

Use cleaning software

If your email list grew up to such sizes manually cleaning it would take ages, there’s plenty of email list cleaning tools available on the market. Those tools are designed for detecting invalid, undeliverable or inactive email addresses and also help with identifying spam traps.

However, be careful while using those tools as they are not 100% reliable.

It might happen that in the cleaning process you will lose valuable addresses along with the inactive ones (always make a copy of the valuable email addresses before using a cleaning tool) and you will have to check the email list manually later on anyway, to make sure there are no misspelled or unsubscribed addresses left.

Ready to clean email list now?

Nowadays, more is less, and a smaller but fresh list is much more valuable than a list with 100k addresses of which only a fraction responds to you.

So take good care of your list 😉

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