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Email list hygiene – definitely worth it

Email List HygieneWe humans are in love with shiny things, because they make us happy. Spring cleaning allows us to throw out the unnecessary and unwanted possessions, and we should allow ourselves to clean and trim our email marketing lists.

However, there’s always that .00001% chance that the subscriber will change his mind at some point. How do you deal with that inner urge to “keep” the inactive accounts in your list?

Why keep the list clean?

Email list cleaning is a process that you will need to do regularly. However, if sending email costs virtually nothing, why should we clean our email marketing lists in the first place?

Here are a few reasons:

  • The owner of a clean list will have fewer or no complaints about unwanted email (inactive subscribers become angry if you keep bombarding them with more messages.
  • Such complaints can actually make your entire list obsolete (see our article on email deliverability).
  • ISPs can block email from you altogether if you keep sending email to bounced emails, because bounced emails are seen as ‘unknown’ addresses to them.
  • Emailing inactive subscribers will reduce your brand’s value.
  • Email list hygiene is keeping on top of misspelled addresses. Correct or remove them as fast as you can.

Mr. Clean’s guide to email list hygiene

1. If you don’t need to prune, keep inactive emails separate from the main list. Sending them only your most attractive offers or a “renewal message” asking them whether they want to continue the  subscription or not.

2. Build only targeted email lists. Although emails that are fake, bought, or acquired through not quite legal means will be something bigger to show your boss, these email addresses will inevitably drain the life of your campaign, and will damage your company for as long as they remain on the list.

3. Start new subscribers with a welcome message which explains how often should they expect messages from you; what you’ll be sending to them, including an initial offer so the subscriber gets to know your product range right from the start. Email list building is about honesty to the subscribers, and if you’re honest to them, they’ll return the compliment.

How to keep the dirt off your email lists

Perhaps the biggest threat to email list quality is aggressive marketing strategies, which (many a time, artificially) inflate the subscriber count. Although the short-term gains of aggressive strategies are more than clear, the long-term losses become evident only through analysis; this article at the Email Experience Council describes one such case in great detail. Pruning your email list will have no effect, if you pad it out in this manner. It is better to have a list with fewer interested subscribers than a huge list with a fraction actually interested in your products.

Then there is the issue of misspelled addresses. When your list is in its infancy, you will obviously be checking the new addresses out, but as the list grows bigger, it can be hard to check each and every new address. Scheduling time to edit your list your lists would work. For example, proofread your list once a week — or simply watch for bounced emails after each sent campaign.

What to take from this

Think of your email lists like of a lawn. You have to mow the lawn regularly, weeding it from time to time; otherwise it will not look its best. That’s also what you need to do with email marketing lists. Although high subscriber numbers are alluring and – superficially – attractive, the list will be worth next to nothing if it has no inside value.

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2 Comments
  • [...] you run an enterprise with a high customer/value projection. Purging is also recommended for rarely cleaned email lists, because sending to most likely obsolete emails can further damage your [...]

  • [...] 1. Clean the list you own regularly. This is a no-brainer. Remove bounced email addresses regularly, and re-engage the customers when doing it can yield returns. Besides, clean email lists give more accurate statistics, and will greatly lower your email bounce rate. For more information on list maintenance, check out our article on email list hygiene. [...]

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