Marketing database maintenance can be a chore, but taking the time to tidy up is vital.
Deliverability is determined by algorithms using a wide variety of signals to determine if an email gets through. When your subscribers open your emails, click through on email content or have some other positive responses to your messages, this helps your deliverability.
If readers simply delete your emails without opening them or mark them as spam, they are sending negative signals that can hurt your deliverability.
Here is your guide to help you keep a squeaky-clean marketing database and improve your deliverability.
Suppress Or Fix Bad Email Addresses In Your Marketing Database
A bad email is marked as such by ISPs because it has one of the following errors:
Bad Format – A format error could indicate that an email address is missing a period, contains a misspelling, or has other incorrect or duplicated characters in the email address. This type of error could simply be a typo that needs to be fixed. When the format error is obvious, like a double period, this can be corrected by making a small adjustment to the email address in your subscriber record.
Bad Domain – Sometimes domain names are changed, merged with other companies or simply deleted. When this happens, it renders the domain portion of your email (or everything after the @ sign) ineffective. Watch out for company name changes, mergers, email service provider domain name changes and other domain name issues in order to avoid bad domain issues in your database.
Bad Account – When an employee leaves a company, their email often becomes invalid after a certain period of time. For example firstname.lastname@example.org may have retired. In the case of professional office environments, staff emails might be forwarded to a third party for a period of time before they are rendered invalid. When this occurs, there are often autoresponder emails sent out asking you to delete or update a former employee’s contact information. Pay attention to these autoresponder messages and take action to update information in order to avoid bad account issues.
On occasion, it will be impossible to tell why an email was marked as bad. If you have attempted to remedy format, domain and account issues, and the email is still being marked as a bad email, it is time to suppress the contact record to ensure that future messages are not launched to the bad email address. Some platforms will automatically suppress bad emails for you.
Remove Generic Email Addresses
When an email address is publicly available, it is able to be harvested by unethical list sellers. Because of this, generic email addresses are often heavily policed for spam. Unless you absolutely know that the person or people behind a generic email address expressly consent to receiving your messages, you should remove any of the following generic emails from your account:
Additionally, generic emails often have low open rates and low engagement, which also negatively impacts your deliverability.
Remove Inactive Subscribers
To keep up to date with email deliverability best practices, we consult with some of the top delivery and anti-spam engineers from major mailbox providers, as well as senders that are like our company, in order to coordinate better ways to get wanted emails to the readers.
One of the most important email marketing best practice trends we identified is to track user engagement and remove inactive subscribers. Engagement means that your readers have opened, read and/or clicked a link in your email. The major mailbox providers such as Gmail, AOL, Hotmail and Yahoo all track how long a message is open and whether the links within it were clicked. They take note if a message was deleted without opening it. They also detect when messages are sent to accounts that no longer check email at all.
Clean Up Dead Weight
A common suggestion for cleaning an email list is to remove all disengaged or inactive subscribers. What this means is that you will be determining all the people who have not opened or clicked on one of your emails in a given period of time and simply removing them from your list.
Why Does This Help?
You may feel like it stings a bit to remove members from a list that you’ve worked hard to grow, but if they are sitting in your database in an inactive or disengaged status, they are actually hurting your sending reputation. A bad sending reputation means you’ll be less likely to be successfully delivered to those who really want to hear from you.
Improve Your Reach
If there is no engagement for a large portion of your list, then it is more likely that your marketing emails will not reach a majority of your audience. To increase the chances of reaching inboxes and not getting filtered out, take steps to remove all list members who are not engaged.
Take a Tiered Approach
You can begin removing people in waves. First, remove those who have not clicked or opened in the past two years. Then change your email strategies to see whether you can boost engagement among your existing members. When you see open and click rates improving, take some time to do a second purge of all those who have still not engaged within the past year. You may also repeat this process as a last step, and look at all those who have not engaged within a six-month period as your final purge.
Purging long-term inactive subscribers also means you’re much less likely to end up in a spam trap. An extremely inactive list with long-term disengaged members can be “gravestoned” by ISPs. This means that ISPs will flag your messages as irrelevant or meaningless to your subscribers, thus negatively impacting your deliverability.
“Healing” Your Deliverability
Even though this process will cause the number of active list members in your database to go down, you will receive the benefit of better delivery rates among those recipients who enjoy your messages. When you view your metrics and reporting, you may notice that the number of opens and clicks will remain steady, but since fewer inactive email addresses are on your list, the open and click rate percentages will gradually increase as mailbox providers begin to recognize your improved sending reputation.
Over time, this process will result in more emails getting into the inboxes of your recipients, producing higher traction and engagement with fewer complaints and filtering issues. When the mailbox providers detect the higher percentage of recipients reading and clicking on links, they will tend to give those messages more favorable treatment by keeping them out of the spam folder. The absolute numbers of clicks and opens will likely go up as well, based on experience from testing this strategy with our existing customers.
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