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Spring Cleaning Part 2: Maintaining Your Email List


This post was updated on April 17, 2020. It was originally published in April 2015.

It’s a lot of work to build an email list from scratch, but it’s one of the most valuable things you can do as an email marketer. In Spring Cleaning Part 1, we discussed what building a healthy list looks like. Now, let’s talk about how to keep that email list clean and maintain it.

We’ve already talked about how a list can degrade, but subscriber engagement often also deteriorates over time. Your subscribers may start off excited to receive your emails, but then they lose interest over time and become inactive. Not only does it cost you money to message these unengaged subscribers, but it can also hurt your deliverability, your brand perception, and overall email metrics.

To get the most out of your email marketing program, you need to keep your email list healthy and clean. That’s why I’ve put together a series of tips, explaining how to nurture your list for optimal deliverability and marketing success.

What is a Clean/Healthy List?

Simply put, a clean and healthy list is a list of subscribers that:

  1. have opted-in to receive your messages. They have willingly given you their email address and they have checked the box to receive your messages.
  2. engage with your emails. If your emails are getting opened, replied to, added to address books, etc., you’re in the clear.

Obviously, if your list doesn’t check those two boxes, you have a list health problem. The first thing you should do to assess your list’s health is to look at your email analytics, which should give you a good sense of whether or not your subscribers are engaging.

Look at:

  • open information
  • bounces (especially hard bounces)
  • spam reports
  • unsubscribes
  • age of the contact

You might also track subscriber-level activity in your mailings with advanced analytic tools. With this information, you can access individual opens and clicks over time. You can also separate out individuals who have not opened or clicked an email in the last 6 months, creating a new sending segment.

How to Keep Your List Clean

Engage Subscribers from the Start

Don’t wait to engage. Make sure you have a welcome email campaign in place to interact with someone as soon as they sign up. It’s a great way to set expectations with your subscribers. Make sure to let them know how often to expect your emails, and what kind of content you’ll be sending.

Plus, welcome emails average 4x the open rate and 5x the click-through rate compared to other marketing emails, which can help boost your deliverability. Need some inspiration for welcome emails? We have a whole round-up to get your creative juices flowing.

Create Segments

You might have already heard that segmenting your email list is important. It helps you improve customer satisfaction, increase campaign performance, recapture lost leads, and build strong relationships with your audience.

So ensure you’re properly segmenting and sending to your list based on user behavior to stay relevant to your audience. If not, you’ll just spin your wheels doing the ole’ batch and blast routine, getting ignored and ending up in the spam folder.

Send a Re-engagement Campaign

Even if subscribers have stopped engaging with you, there’s still a chance to reinvigorate them. Many different approaches can be taken for your re-engagement email, but make sure it’s on-brand, personalized and relevant to the subscriber. It also doesn’t hurt to offer an incentive.

Remove Inactive Subscribers

After a lengthy period of inactivity (and a cold shoulder response to your re-engagement email), it’s safe to assume these subscribers have either changed emails, or they’re just not that into you anymore. It’s time to say goodbye. Even though it’s painful to delete a once-promising lead, practicing proper list maintenance techniques will result in a better sender reputation, email metrics and deliverability rates. Once you have unsubscribed your dormant members, make sure to give them a way back onto your list through an email preference center.

Scrub A-Dub-Dub

To keep your list squeaky clean, you should “always be scrubbin’” as our CEO and co-founder, John Thies, likes to say. Be sure to regularly check your analytics to see if your subscribers are engaged or not. Email lists require constant maintenance, but keeping your list clean and healthy will help you get closer to achieving the maximum ROI from your email marketing program.

Have some thoughts on keeping your list clean or some tips you’d like to share with us? Reach out to us at @EmailonAcid on social media! We’d love to hear what has worked, as you work to keep your list healthy and vibrant.

Improve Deliverability to Hit More Inboxes!

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Author: Kirsten Queen

With a background in marketing and a passion for content creation, Kirsten has written copy for ecommerce email efforts and e-newsletters. She now serves as Email on Acid’s social media coordinator and has enjoyed the deep dive into the close-knit and passionate world of the Email Geeks.

Author: Kirsten Queen

With a background in marketing and a passion for content creation, Kirsten has written copy for ecommerce email efforts and e-newsletters. She now serves as Email on Acid’s social media coordinator and has enjoyed the deep dive into the close-knit and passionate world of the Email Geeks.

2 thoughts on “Spring Cleaning Part 2: Maintaining Your Email List”

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    Best Regards

    Sending Mail Team

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