One of the less-glamorous aspects of growing your reader email list is Regular List Clean-up. Glamorous it may not be, but oh, baby, it’s more important than you might think!
Allow me to share a cautionary tale from my own recent experience. I’d been doing small clean-up in some of my email groups, but putting off going through my entire list. What do I mean by email list clean-up? Basically, sending an email to those who hadn’t opened my emails in the last 6 months, asking them if they still wanted to be on my reader email list. Those who click the “Keep me on” link get to stay, but everyone else who receives the email would be unsubscribed.
So, back to the story…It’s a good idea to do a quick full-list clean-up about every 6 months, but it had been over a year since I’d done a full clean. After all, why not give those readers a few more opportunities to click? Finally, I decided I would do a full clean after my February release. It was time. My calendar and my conscience agreed.
But in late January, I received an email from the folks at Mailerlite, which didn’t stir dread in my soul at first (although it should have). The email stated that Spamhaus had contacted them saying one of my recent “campaign hit the spam trap and our server was blacklisted because of it.”
Did they say blacklisted? That word makes every ethical email marketer quake in his or her boots.
I’d heard of spam traps, but had to do some quick research to remember exactly how they work. Basically, a spam trap looks like a real email address, but it doesn’t belong to a real person and can’t be used for any kind of communication.
How and why do such things exist? Sometimes email providers will create these fake email addresses to catch email marketers who aren’t following anti-spam laws. Because a spam trap isn’t a real email inbox, it can’t ever be added to a list through double opt-in. (This is one of the reasons I still heartily endorse double opt-in for your sign-up forms!)
Another way spam traps are created is when a reader closes an email account (say one of your readers had an AOL email and decided to shut down that account). The email provider will wait a few months, then convert that “dead” email to a spam trap. If the email marketer (that’s you and me) isn’t cleaning their email list once or twice a year, their email campaign will hit that spam trap and cause all sorts of trouble. This is what happened to me, and it’s why I’m covering such an un-glamorous topic in this post. Don’t let it happen to you!
So how did we fix it? I had to send detailed descriptions of how I obtained my email subscribers, as well as links for ALL of my sign-up forms. Everything passed muster there.
Next, I segmented the email addresses who hadn’t opened emails from me in the last 6 campaigns, and sent a plain text email to them. I made sure the email didn’t have graphics and only had links to stay on the list or unsubscribe. That lessened the likelihood that the email would be sent to the receiver’s spam folder. You can see the email I sent here: http://preview.mailerlite.com/u2b4q6. It was nice to see that 49 people choose to stay on my list!
After 1 week, I unsubscribed everyone who did not open that email (those who had clicked the Unsubscribe option in the email were instantly removed).
A side benefit of doing full email list clean-up is that your open rate percentage almost always goes up on future campaigns!
Now that the excitement has passed, my email list is healthier, I’m committed to full email list clean-up every 6 months, and we’re all living happily ever after.
So there’s my story folks. Hopefully, my true tale has inspired you to check the calendar to see when your email list is due for clean-up. 🙂