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Complete Guide To Housekeeping Your Email Data Lists

Published: 17th October 2022
Complete guide to housekeeping your email lists; If you are sending out email marketing then your list of email addresses will need regular housekeeping to maintain the crucial elements of good inbox placement, good engagement and a high sender reputation. In this quick video, we are going to take a look at how to do this.

What damage can a bad list do?


So what happens if you don’t quarry out regular housekeeping of your list - does it cause any damage to your email marketing, your company domain name, or your sending server?

In short, the answer is yes, it causes damage to all of the above. Nowadays, spam filters are routinely penalising senders who do not carry out housekeeping. If the spam filters see that quite a few of your emails are bouncing - then they can start filtering your next sends to the junk folder. They can also in some instances also blacklist your sending domain.

As well as high bounces, there are quite a few other elements that can cause the same degree of harm. This is why, for the continued success of your email marketing, it’s really important to regularly housekeep your lists.

Make sure everyone has asked to join your list


First up, is to make sure that everyone on your list has asked to receive your emails by opting in directly with you. If people don’t remember opting in - or they opted in via a third party, then they will mark your email as spam.

If enough people do this - then spam filters will start penalising your future sends. This will result in your email sends being delivered to spam.

Validate all addresses with a double opt-in


In addition to making sure that everyone has opted in, you should also use a double opt-in process when people join your list.

This is done by asking people to click on a link contained within their welcome email to confirm their subscription. So if a person completes your online sign-up form - they are then immediately sent an email to the email address that they have entered. This email would include a link, that once clicked on would then add their email address to your list.

The big advantage of doing this is that only valid email addresses are then added - if your would-be subscriber mistypes their email address then they won’t receive the welcome email and won’t then be added. This also stops automated bots from polluting your list with garbage.

If your list gets polluted by invalid email addresses - then these will all bounce when sent to. As we have previously looked at, bounces mean a higher spam rating.

Remove all unsubscribes


If you are using email marketing software, then it’s likely that this process will be automated and people clicking on unsubscribe will be deleted for you.

If you are manually processing these requests though, you’ll need to make doubly sure that everyone asking to be unsubscribed is immediately removed. If these requests aren’t processed then this can really affect your future deliverability, as often these people will complain to their service provider. This can then result in your company domain name being blacklisted.

Validate new subscribers against previous unsubscribes


If people are removed when they unsubscribe, it’s really important to keep a record of these and cross-check against fresh imports of data. It’s really easy to accidentally import previous contacts who may have historically asked to be removed from your data.

As we’ve identified so far, it’s all too easy to be penalised by spam filters and blacklists for not keeping your list admin up to date. Negative engagements such as complaints really can cause quite a bit of reputation damage.

Remove all bounces


A bounce is a failure - this could be that the email address or domain name doesn't exist anymore. If your email marketing contains more than a small handful of bounces, then this can have a really damaging effect on your sender reputation.

Inbox placement for future sends is based on your sender reputation, this is a percentage score that your company domain name or sender server carries. Negative interactions such as bounces will lower this score - a lower score dramatically increases the chances of poor inbox placement.

Any decent email marketing software will automate bounce removal for you. However, if yours doesn’t, then it’s important to remove hard bounces before the next send, soft bounces should be removed after two failed delivery attempts.

Remove anyone who is not interacting with your emails


This one is often a tough choice for email marketers to make - as none of us likes to delete email addresses from our lists. Unfortunately though, if people aren’t opening your email - then they need to go. Gmail state that you shouldn’t keep email subscribers for longer than 150 days if they are not opening your email.

As service providers such as Gmail are now penalising senders for carrying non-openers inside their lists - it does mean that sometimes we need to be a bit brutal in culling any non-openers.

Segment your data


In order to get and maintain a good sender reputation, we need to make sure that our engagements are high - and a decent number of people are opening our emails and interacting with them.

We can maximise this enormously by segmenting our lists into groups of people who have interests in specific areas. So, if on a previous mailer you had links to different product groupings, then you can then split your lists into smaller groups of people so that you can target each group specifically.

Higher viewer engagements and interactions mean a positive sender reputation.

Summary


Spam filters are getting increasingly more efficient in penalising senders who operate what they term as poor list hygiene. This trend will only continue to grow, so this means that keeping your list nice and clean is more important than ever.

Luckily any decent email marketing software will handle the bulk of this for you. This means that keeping your list up to date and maintaining good standards of hygiene is a process which needn’t be a headache.
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