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For some email marketers, the thought of removing perfectly good email subscribers from your baseline campaigns is a frightening thought. Why would you even consider opting down a user if they haven’t raised their hand and explicitly unsubscribed? Well, there are a few reasons, actually…
The most obvious reason to clean your list is to avoid spam traps. Spam Traps are well documented, and are essentially email addresses that were once active users, and have been repurposed by ISPs to track who sends to these addresses. They can also be addresses that have been deliberately published to catch commercial senders who buy and sell lists. Long story short — these addresses can appear on your lists, even if you’ve been collecting addresses properly with a double opt-in, and they can have a negative impact on your sender reputation and overall deliverability.
There are services such as BriteVerify, Informatica, and DataValidation that can help identify potential spam traps and invalid email addresses if you’re looking to send to large, unengaged segments, but there is a small cost associated with these services. Some of these will even help validate users in real time as they sign up on your site. However, the most cost-effective way of dealing with spam traps — aside from never buying lists — is to remove these unengaged users when they have had no activity after a certain amount of time or campaigns, say after 12 months of no opens, clicks, or site activity.
Even if you aren’t hitting many spam traps, your deliverability stats could be taking a hit if your lists are mostly unengaged users. Inboxes look for total send volume, user spam complaints, spam-filter keyword triggers, and total bounces to determine the good senders from the bad ones. If you are constantly trying to “re-engage” using monthly baseline campaigns with the same static content, your overall deliverability and placement metrics are going to suffer.
Most commercial senders have a large amount of unengaged or inactive users who don’t interact with the baseline programs the same way the active audience does. I’m not saying don’t send to these unengaged users at all, but they probably shouldn’t receive content that has proven to not be impactful for 6, 12 or 18 months. It’s more effective to design intervention campaigns to target these users directly and reactivate dormant users. I’ve seen open and click rates more than double for baseline campaigns after removing these unengaged users, and the campaigns still sent the same amount of total users back to the sender’s site.
If you’re still having a tough time selling the idea of cleaning your email lists to internal stakeholders, bring up the fact that it will save your company money. Most senders who have never cleaned their list fall into some form of the 80-20 rule, where 80% of your engagement is coming from 20% of your list. It is probably safe to say that if you’ve never cleaned your list (apart from basic bounce management), then you’re likely to see a significant drop in total send volume by removing these dormant users. Mileage may vary based on the age of your list. It also depends on your comfort level and where you choose to set the last-activity-date threshold. That volume adds up, especially when discussing contracts and budgets. However, the cost savings will pale in comparison to the time and effort saved from having to deal with the deliverability and engagement issues of an uncleaned list.
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