List Management Best Practices: How to Protect your Sender Reputation and Deliverability

List Management Best Pratices: How to Protect your Sender Reputation and Deliverability - mailmonitor

Many digital marketers tend to measure the performance of their campaigns based on how big they are. It’s quite easy to fall into the habit of believing that the size of our mailing list, the subscribers we have signed up for, or the followers in our channels directly translates to one’s success.

The problem with this is that we often ignore the other important elements that keep people engaged. One term that is particularly beneficial for email marketers is email list management. Without it, you risk losing the interest of your subscribers while reducing the overall engagement rate of your campaign efforts.

Bad engagement rates are particularly harmful in the world of email marketing. The main reason for this is that you’re not making the most of your current audience. Furthermore, it causes problems with your email deliverability, and eventually, sender reputation.

Keeping everyone on your mailing list engaged is simply not realistic. That’s why list management is important because it ensures that the personal details you gather from your subscribers are correct and updated.

Before we dive into the best practices, let’s discuss what list management is all about.

What Is Email List Management?

In email marketing, list management is about organizing the contacts that are currently subscribed to an email list. This is done by confirming and validating all email addresses associated with the newsletter and removing those that are no longer active.

Keeping a list cleaned this way regularly helps ensure that all information within it is accurate. When data is up to date, your email marketing efforts become more effective as it lets you provide more relevant and valuable content to your subscribers.

List management is especially important for a customer service team that wants to have a strong email marketing strategy. Users have different reasons why they would sign up for your newsletter and many of them will eventually move on.

Some subscribers would choose to unsubscribe while others would stay but would simply not open your emails. The worst part here is that they could also forget about you and assign your messages to the spam folder, damaging both your email deliverability and sender reputation.

This is the primary reason why email list management is vital in any email marketing campaign. When you can maintain a list of active and engaged recipients, you not only create content that is relevant to them but you also get to keep them interested in your brand.

How To Maintain a Healthy List

Now that you know the importance of email list management, it’s important to learn how you can go about managing your subscriber database in the first place. Being able to do so can streamline your email marketing strategy while allowing you to start generating positive results.

Here are some tips to help you successfully maintain a healthy list:

Tip #1: Make a Good First Impression

Many people believe in the saying, “The first impression is the last impression” and there might be some truth to this especially when applied to email marketing. Making a good impression the first time you engage with a subscriber can be the difference between an instant unsubscribe or a long-term email newsletter relationship.

You probably know what we’re talking about here as you may also have experienced being unimpressed when a brand sent you their initial welcome email.

Was it the subject line that turned you off or the way they worded their content? Perhaps they sent you an offer that was irrelevant to what you signed up for?

When developing your email marketing strategy, it’s important to consider and put these questions in mind. Try to get in the shoes of your recipients and see how they would perceive the message you just designed.

Ensuring the quality of all succeeding emails you send to a new subscriber is worthwhile since it can set up a positive and enduring relationship with them later on.

To help you craft ideal welcome emails, consider the following:

  • Approach your new subscribers by sending targeted emails. A good start is by ensuring that you refer to them by their first name. Since they provided this detail to you during sign-up, you might as well use it to your benefit. Calling someone by name is a great way to develop a sense of connection with each customer and increase their potential of tagging along in the future. Sending personalized emails will also show that your recipients are valuable to you.
  • Ensure the next steps are clear. Give your new subscriber a straightforward indication of what they need to do next. You can give instructions on how they can make the most of your product, show them how to contact your company, or even simply tell them to follow you on social media.
  • Provide an incentive right off the bat. Providing something of value to a new subscriber such as a promo code on their next purchase or a free e-book can truly make you stand out from others. It makes people feel that you value their interest while also creating a sense exclusive only to your brand.

The main point in doing all of these is to make sure your recipients are excited and interested in subscribing to your email campaign. Succeeding at this early point sets the stage for more successful outcomes later on.

Tip #2: Give Control to Your Subscribers

Giving a good first impression is just the start of a healthy relationship with your subscribers. To maintain that, you need to provide them with control over how they wish to receive your messages.

So how can you do just that? Here are some steps you can take:

  • Let your subscribers opt-in to your newsletter: Although this may seem unnecessary but giving your recipients the option to subscribe to your email is important. Either provide a single opt-in or double opt-in as these are the two common ways of getting people to sign up. Double opt-in is more beneficial than single since it lets you confirm the email address of a new subscriber, ensuring that the email they are using is valid.
  • Subscribers should have control regarding email frequency: Providing users with the option on how frequently they want to receive your messages is important since some wouldn’t want to receive these emails regularly. Your newsletter should have at least a weekly or monthly option.
  • Give subscribers the option to inform you when things change: When preferences or information change and your contacts have no way of letting you know about these, you can easily end up with inactive email addresses in your email list. Although users might have signed up initially, their interests might have changed over time. They may also switch to a new primary email address as well. Whichever the case, providing a way for them to update you is far better than only letting them unsubscribe.

When you give some form of control to your subscribers, you’re letting them know that you value their interest in your brand. This also helps in preventing email churn, which is a major problem for growing mailing lists.

Tip #3: Scrub Your Email Lists Regularly

When we say “scrub” this means to ensure that your lists stay clean and healthy. Similar to scrubbing things clean, we want to get rid of a dirty list by keeping contacts who are active and removing those who aren’t.

It’s important to scrub your email lists several times a year because, as hinted above, people will change over time. Noticing any of the following would be a good time to start cleaning your lists:

  • Your click-through rates begin to drop significantly
  • Many users have begun unsubscribing all of a sudden
  • You start receiving numerous spam complaints
  • Your bounce rates are high and your email deliverability is low

Make sure that you go through your mailing lists at least once each month or every two months to keep them clean. Keeping your lists healthy can notably increase email open rates, reduce bounce rates, and even result in higher conversion rates.

How to Identify Unhealthy Contacts

As you begin organizing your mailing list to keep it clean, you want to know how to identify “unhealthy” contacts that can cause problems for your campaign down the road. Unhealthy subscribers are those that:

  • Regularly result in a bounce when you send them emails
  • Haven’t opened your emails in a long time
  • Were obtained by renting or purchasing from a third-party provider

These are some of the tell-tale signs that a contact doesn’t benefit your mailing list by being in it. There are a few ways you can deal with these subscribers but the best you can do is to stop sending emails to them for now.

What Can Be Considered a Healthy Email List?

Healthy mailing lists are those that have contacts who are engaged and interested in receiving email content from you. When you send to such lists, you can expect positive results such as better email deliverability.

Lists that are slowly losing their subscribers or have been experiencing poor email marketing metrics recently are the opposite as they can affect the sender reputation of IP addresses negatively.

Good email lists have the following characteristics:

  • Receiving new subscribers frequently
  • Has a deliverability rate of 95% or higher
  • The open rates for emails are between 15% to 25%
  • No higher than a 3% bounce rate
  • All existing contacts have actively opted-in

To achieve a healthy list, you need to constantly monitor it, learn how to organize your contacts, and follow the best practices in email list management.

If you want to know more about email marketing statistics, check the Ultimate Email Marketing Benchmarks for 2022 provided by CampaignMonitor.

Best Practices for Email List Management

Here are the best list managing practices you need to follow for a healthy mailing list:

Best Practice #1: Properly Set Up Your Opt-In Forms

As mentioned earlier, allowing your contacts to opt-in to your email marketing campaigns is vital. That’s why you should consider the state of your signup forms and make sure that they have been configured the right way.

Your signup forms should implement either single or double opt-in protocols and should be secure for users to interact with. These forms should also be capable of capturing contact details in real-time as soon as users give their consent.

Here are some additional tips to use with your forms:

  • Let users know exactly what they’re signing up for: Being transparent can go a long way to developing great relationships while also increasing brand trust.
  • Only request essential information from your would-be subscribers: Such data would include their name and email address, in most cases. These two are the main details you need to send your email content to your audience. You can always collect more information about them later on.
  • If you plan to send marketing emails, request explicit consent first: In your signup form, add a checkbox to let people decide whether they want to join your list and receive marketing content from you.
  • Let them know how you plan to process their information: Apart from that, you should also let subscribers know how they can change or remove their data and where they can read about your privacy policy.

Incorporating additional security features to your website or landing page could also benefit your email campaign. These contact management tools help in filtering out spam bot traffic that could bombard your list.

This helps make sure that your signup forms are safe and haven’t been compromised by these bots.

Best Practice #2: Re-engage Inactive Subscribers

Some of your subscribers will eventually stop engaging with your emails as time goes by. These are the contacts who can significantly cause harm to your email campaigns if you don’t do something about them.

Normally, the reason for their inactivity could be one of the following:

  • The email service provider of a recipient has started to filter your messages and has been redirecting them to the spam folder after they have been ignored for quite some time.
  • The user doesn’t find your email content interesting lately or they may have already used your brand to serve their needs.
  • Your offer may no longer be relevant to a user so they decide not to engage with your emails anymore.
  • A user has changed their email address and is no longer using the current one subscribed to your mailing list.

All of the things mentioned above will happen naturally and these shouldn’t be something for you to worry about. However, ignoring them isn’t going to help either.

You need to identify which users are still engaged with your messages and which of them aren’t. From there, segment those who no longer interact with your brand and send a re-engagement campaign their way.

This type of campaign is designed to bring back users to your brand and also to check if their existing email addresses are still operational.

Best Practice #3: Remove Contacts Who Are Still Unengaged

Not everyone you send a re-engagement email to will respond positively. Some would choose not to respond at all and continue to remain unengaged with your brand.

So what can you do to address these situations? After sending at least two emails their way, you should start suppressing them from future emails if they still haven’t responded.

This may seem quite drastic particularly for startups where each subscriber counts. However, sending messages to inactive contact tags continuously will only hurt your deliverability and bottom line. It’s far better to remove unengaged recipients than to keep them.

There is email list management software today that you can configure to automatically remove such subscribers from your list. This should help you save time and effort as the right email marketing tool will carry out your orders on its own.

Best Practice #4: Remind Subscribers That They Signed Up to Your List

We all receive numerous emails per week so it’s only reasonable for some subscribers to forget about why they even signed up to receive messages from your brand. People who forget typically will stop engaging and even report these emails as spam.

That’s why you should include reminders in your emails whenever you send them. Let your contacts know that they opted-in to your mailing list and tell them why.

Sending a permission reminder is a simple way of letting them know how they ended up in your subscriber database. It’s also an ideal way to keep people from disengaging with your newsletter right away and give it one more try.

Best Practice #5: Immediately Take Out Any Email Address That Bounced

In email marketing, a bounce is a term that refers to a message that hadn’t been delivered to its intended recipient. Bounces are categorized into two types: soft bounce and hard bounce.

Soft bounces are those that happen due to temporary reasons such as the email service provider’s server being put under maintenance or that their mailbox is simply full. For hard bounces, this means that the inability to send an email to a specific contact is caused by a permanent problem.

Although soft bounces are considered less of a problem than hard bounces, they could still indicate a bigger issue. No reputable email sender would want their bounce rates to increase so the best thing you can do is to set up your email service provider to automatically remove any bounced email addresses.

You can decide whether to outright delete these specific contacts from your list or just move them to a temporary list.

Best Practice #6: Perform A/B Tests to See What Works

Finally, you want to do several A/B testing to see what types of emails would work best with your audience. A/B testing, also called split testing, is all about seeing which variation of a campaign would turn out better than the other.

By the end of the tests, you should be able to pick out what important details you should continue to apply to your emails moving forward for maximum results.

Some of the elements that you can compare in your emails include:

  • Headers
  • Subject lines
  • Main offerings
  • The length of your messages
  • Hero shots used
  • Various colors and how they affect conversions
  • Subheadings and body content
  • Navigation buttons

The more you can perform these A/B tests, the more you’ll be able to understand what your target audience is looking for. This allows you to create more effective campaigns that will improve your engagement and conversion rates.

The Takeaway

Email list management is one of the most important priorities an email marketer must make once they start building their mailing lists. This is especially true since contacts will eventually stop engaging with campaigns as time passes.

Knowing how to perform list management properly can lead to better lists and more engaged contacts. Some of the best practices include incorporating better opt-in processes, removing inactive subscribers, and performing A/B tests to determine campaign performance.

Using the right email marketing software can also benefit your campaigns tremendously.

By following the tips provided in this guide, you should be on your way to ensuring your email lists stay organized and healthy for increased ROI.

We offer tools and features that help you reduce negative rates and enhance the deliverability of your marketing campaigns