When businesses first started employing email marketing, it was common to use the old spray-and-pray approach: buy targeted lists, send out mass email blasts and hope for a modest response that would produce a few qualified leads. And why not? It only made sense to cast as wide a net with your email marketing as possible, right?
It didn’t take long for businesses to realize their mistake. Email is a highly permission-based form of marketing. Over time, abandoned addresses, spam complaints, high bounces and low open rates can all damage your sender reputation—leading to deliverability issues that seriously impact your email marketing’s ROI.
In other words, sending a lot of emails to bad addresses or recipients who don’t want to hear from you isn’t just a wasted effort—it actually makes it HARDER to get into the inboxes of customers interested in what you have to offer.
Maintaining a positive sender reputation is critical to the success of your email program. If that reputation is damaged, it can take weeks—months, in fact—to get it back into shape. Determining the precise cause of sender reputation issues can be complex. Everything from frequency to content can play a role. But the first place to look for problems is your email list.
Here are a few steps you can take to increase the deliverability of your database.
1. Do a little housecleaning
Email marketing databases decay at an average rate of 2% per month, which means you can expect your email list to depreciate roughly 25% per year. How can you tell which addresses in your database have gone bad (and protect your sender reputation in the process)?
Email data goes bad for a number of reasons: your contacts’ email addresses change with job turnover, they opt-out of receiving emails from you or they abandon that old Yahoo email they used for filling out website forms.
Get in touch with your data or direct mail vendor. If they have the data programming manpower to determine the validity of your postal mailing lists, then they should have the resources to determine if your email lists are in healthy form.
Much like they can identify bad postal addresses through CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) and NCOA (National Change of Address), there are email verification providers who can help you determine the validity of the emails in your database.
Scrubbing your list will help: 1) protect your domain’s online reputation and 2) reduce the likelihood of being blacklisted as a spammer.
2. Stay on the right side of the law
Non-compliance with the CAN-SPAM act—which sets the rules for commercial email messages and gives recipients the right to have a business stop emailing them—can spell out tough penalties for violations, like losing your online credibility and/or getting fined (to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars).
Now that we have your attention, here’s a quick rundown of how to stay in the clear:
• Make opt-out a hassle-free experience in every email you send and honor requests to unsubscribe within 10 business days.
• Include your physical postal address in every email you send.
• Write an honest subject line that accurately reflects the content of the message.
• Make sure the language in the “From,” “To,” and “Reply to” fields accurately represent your organization.
• Don’t sell or transfer any email address to another list.
3. Watch out for spam traps
The presence of spam traps on an email list is another reputation ding and can lead to serious deliverability issues, like mail being blocked altogether. This is most commonly spotted on purchased and rented lists and another reason why we stress the importance of growing your list organically. (Plus, weeding out spam traps from your subscriber list can be a major headache.)
4. Avoid getting blacklisted
When a company gets blacklisted, it slows down communication with customers, prospects and the outside world in general. To protect yourself, confirm opt-ins, practice-real time address validation and apply a sunset policy for unengaged prospects (i.e., removing them from regular push lists if they have not engaged with your email by a predetermined milestone).
5. Weed out problematic addresses
Protecting yourself against the costly fallout of problematic email addresses before they enter your database will not only help you avoid potential blacklisting, it can decrease your bounce rate on new subscribers.
An email marketing campaign is only as good as the list you’re sending it to. Sending to an accurate and active audience will help you successfully improve your deliverability and avoid the dreaded spam folder.
Want to see more qualified leads from your next email marketing campaign? Download our 30 Greatest Lead Generation Tips today!
Editor’s note: This blog post was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated with additional information.