How to Identify a Bad Email List and Convert It into a Good One
Email is still one of the best ways to contact your subscribers and prospects and convert them into buyers. The research shows that the customer conversion via email has increased by 4X in the last few years.
But email is effective if you send to people who want to hear from you. If you send to a "bad" list, your marketing efforts are useless and can have a negative impact on your business because:
recipients won't read your emails or mark them as spam;
your bounce and spam complaint rate will raise;
your email open rate and click-through rate will decrease;
your deliverability and sender reputation will be spoiled;
your account with your ISP or email service provider can be suspended;
you can violate CAN-SPAM law.
So, it's important that you regularly verify your email lists to ensure everyone on your list has a valid email address and actually wants to receive your messages. It can be tempting to have a huge email list. But sending messages to people who did not subscribe to your emails and don’t have any business relationship with you will spoil your sender reputation with your ISP or email service provider.
In this article I’ll study what bad and good email lists are, and what you can do to turn your bad list into a good one. By the end, you'll feel more secured in email marketing.
What is a Bad Email List?
You can tell that your email list is bad if:
1) you bought, borrowed or harvested emails on the Internet
Any email list that is available for sale or rent will be of a low quality because nobody would share his good list with any 3rd party. As you probably know, money is on the list. The list is valuable for the time a relevant content is being sent to it. So, every good email marketer will keep his "golden" list private and secure.
When people start receiving irrelevant emails, they lose interest and respond reluctantly. The common actions on unwanted emails are 1) delete, 2) unsubscribe, and 3) report as spam. The most harmless one is "unsubscribe" if you process unsubscribe requests after that and delete unsubscribed recipients from your list.
Spam reports hurt your sender reputation and make it difficult for your future emails to get delivered. The worst thing is that many email service providers suspend the sender's account if they exceed certain spam complaint and bounce rate.
The deletion of emails by the recipient is also terrible for your reputation and can result in your emails being filtered as spam. Some providers, for example, Gmail, rely on prior recipient's actions on the messages to classify new emails. If previous messages from the sender were deleted, new emails are likely to be classified as spam.
2) it's growing by leaps and bounds
The quantity of emails doesn't always account for their quality. The fast growth of the email list means that either bots are subscribing to your newsletters, or your team is buying email addresses. In either case, list quality is low.
3) it's old
People change companies, Internet service providers, and abandon their email addresses. This is a reality. So, if you have not emailed to your list for about a year or more, you can expect that many addresses on your list are not valid anymore.
One of the keys to successful email marketing is consistency. You have to email consistently in order not to let your list "freeze". If you do not email for too long, people can forget you and your list value will decline in term of conversions.
4) it generates a high bounce rate
If you sent an email and got a high bounce rate, it's a sign that your list is full of invalid email addresses. Your email service provider sees you as a spammy marketer and can suspend your account, so your further emails are never delivered.
It’s important to differentiate hard and soft bounces before removing the email from your list.
A hard bounce means that the email address is permanently undeliverable, which happens when the message was sent to an invalid or blocked email address. Many ESP, for example, Amazon SES, allows a hard bounce rate 5% or less. You must take hard bounce email addresses off your list after each mailing.
A soft bounce means that the email address is temporarily undeliverable and can happen if someone has an auto-responder or their inbox is full. Keep soft bounce emails on your list, but watch them — if an email is recorded as a soft bounce more than twice, then this email address is most likely inactive and you should remove it from your list.
What is a Good Email List?
Now when you know which email lists not to use for email marketing, let's see what a good email list looks like. Good email lists are built organically and internally. You can tell that you have a good email list if:
1) it's permission-based
Email marketing is about permission, trust, value, and relevancy. People trust you and give you the permission to send them emails. Only by sending relevant emails to people who have given you permission to do it, you build further relationship and strengthen trust and credibility with your subscribers who then become your customers.
2) you already have business relationship with your recipients
If you have records on people who already bought something from you or used your service in the past, there is nothing wrong if you send them emails and offer another product or service that complements the one they already have. Existing customers are best buyers.
How to Turn a Bad List into Good One
If, by this point, you see that you have a good email list, you are a lucky marketer. Keep it up! If you understand that your list is bad, try the following tips to make your bad list a good one:
1) Separate "fresh" email addresses.
You'll want to prioritize contacts who joined your list not a long time ago. For segmentation, use either the date of subscription, date of the email acquisition, last interaction date when the user last opened your email or clicked a link or another age indicator. But don’t overdo in order not to end up with just a dozen of contacts because the return will be low.
2) Try to re-engage inactive users.
Have a portion of subscribers who have never opened or clicked through your emails?
At first, determine the subscribers who haven’t acted upon your emails for several years and remove them from your list, as they will likely increase the number of spam complaints.
Then, try to send a re-engagement email to the rest of your list. Create a compelling email message that gives them the choice to re-subscribe to your newsletters – otherwise, you'll take them off your list. Use this email to ask for feedback too to learn what their interest and marketing needs are.
You can quickly send a re-engagement email using WPNewsman plugin. Simply import your emails with the "unconfirmed" status and choose the "Send Re-Subscribe Request" option.
Don't be upset if the majority do not respond. When it comes to an email list, you'll want quality over quantity. Your open rate will be better when you email to people who actually want to hear from you.
3) Verify your list for validity.
It's a good idea to verify your email list to see which emails still exist and which do not anymore. It's even more important if you have an old email list to which you did not send emails for more than a year.
You can use G-Lock Email Verifier to check your list for bad domains and invalid email addresses. Delete bad email addresses after verification to reduce your bounce rate on a proactive basis and protect your account with ESP from being blocked or suspended.
4) Remove bounce emails.
Monitor your bounce rate after each email campaign and delete hard bounce emails. The bounce ratio is the number of undelivered emails versus emails you sent. The ratio shouldn’t exceed 5%. If higher, your future email newsletters may get blocked by providers such as Yahoo! and Gmail and never reach the inbox.
You can automatically process bounce emails using the Bounce Handler in G-Lock EasyMail7. The Bounce Handler can automatically unsubscribe or delete hard bounce emails from your contact lists, update external databases with the bounce email status, insert and delete bounce emails from external databases.
5) Setup an opt-in process.
The best way to get permission is to use an opt-in form on the web site or landing page and let people subscribe. To entice them to give you their email address, offer something for free in return — awesome e-book, free download, subscriber-only discount, PDF report, access to a video etc.
To put a subscription form to your website, you can use G-Lock WPNewsman newsletter plugin for WordPress. With WPNewsman, you can put a sign-up form on the sidebar or within any page, post or article. The plugin is almost pre-configured. You can install it to your site and start collecting subscribers in a minute. You can use WPNewsman completely free to collect email addresses.
When your list is big enough, you can download G-Lock EasyMail7 email marketing software, create a link to your WPNewsman subscribers' list and send email marketing newsletters to your list using G-Lock EasyMail7.
To be rewarded for your email marketing efforts, you must maintain an active clean email list. To determine your list quality, ask yourself these quick questions:
Where did I get the list?
Do I have permission from those people?
Do my emails meet the readers' expectations?
If you want a high ROI for your email marketing, make sure you use a good email list for your next campaign.
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