List hygiene entails removing inactive (cold) contacts from your email campaigns and keeping your remaining list engaged (warm) with healthy email sending habits. This practice improves your inbox placement rates and saves you money as you'll only be paying for and engaging with your active contacts.
Why list hygiene is important
Email service providers (ESPs) have become smarter and more aware of what recipients want to receive in their inbox. They are continually reviewing the emails you're sending, and the engagement recipients are having with those messages. Your opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and spam complaints are all factored into the algorithms that determine inbox placement. A poorly maintained list resulting in low engagement is a recipe for your messages getting flagged as spam.
Cold versus Warm recipients
A cold email recipient is one that hasn't been contacted or engaged with your emails for four to six months. Meanwhile, a warm email recipient has opted into your messaging, been contacted in the last four to six months, and is regularly engaging with your emails.
Clean an existing list
Cleaning an existing list requires a couple of steps but is well worth the effort.
1) Scrub the list for issues
The first thing you should do is locate and address apparent issues. You should:
- Remove duplicate entries
- Delete obviously fake email addresses or bots
- Delete email addresses that have bounced or marked your emails as spam
- Correct typos or other errors in email addresses as soon as possible
- Remove role-based addresses (e.g., admin@, support@, sales@, office@, marketing@). These addresses typically forward to groups of individuals, which invalidates the unsubscribe function and is a direct violation of the CAN-SPAM legislation.
Ultimately, it's much easier to drive conversions and engagement if your contacts are real.
2) Confirm contact interest
Next, ensure that you're working with a list of subscribers that still want to hear from you. To confirm a contact's interest, send a re-engagement email that asks contacts to fill out a campaign (e.g., landing page or embedded form) to confirm their interest or unsubscribe. A confirmation at least once every two years is recommended.
3) Remove uninterested or cold recipients
Finally, use the Contacts Dashboard to review the contact profiles of your subscribers and delete those that are uninterested or haven't engaged with your content in 4-6 months.
Maintain list health
A clean list doesn't stay that way forever. In addition to periodically performing the "scrubbing" steps outlined above, you should also ask for feedback from your contacts.
1) Check content relevance
It's essential to understand what your audience wants, so ask them. Send an email asking your contacts why they signed up and what kinds of information you can offer. During this check-in, make sure to consider the following:
- Content expectations. Have you conveyed what your subscribers should expect when signing up for your communications? A recipient is far more likely to mark an email as spam if it is not quickly recognizable and does not align with what they expected.
- Mailing cadence. Do you have an established sending schedule? Contacts who have not heard from you in a while may not remember signing up for your content or mailing lists. It's crucial to stay relevant while not over-communicating. Sending one or two bulk emails (e.g., Newsletters) a week is ideal for most Privy merchants.
2) Monitor your performance
Get in the habit of reviewing the performance of each email that you send. This process will help you appreciate and increment on content that works while noticing issues. For example:
- Spam complaints. A spam complaint rate of 0.1-0.2% on an email is a red flag that will increase your chances of bouncing or landing in the spam folder for all emails moving forward.
- Low interest. A consistent lack of interest among your recipients does damage to your sending reputation. Make sure to note emails with open rates lower than 15% so you can make adjustments or pivot back to content that your recipients found more relevant.
3) Send relevant emails
Use the information you've collected on what your contacts want, and create a schedule of content made for your audience. Some best practices include:
- Engage new subscribers. To keep new subscribers from getting cold, consider setting up a process where new subscribers receive emails from you immediately, perhaps through a welcome email sent with a campaign's autoresponder feature.
- Use contact segments. You can target your audience with various segments and provide tailored emails based on the recipient's attributes and interests.
- Personalize your content. You can use merge tags in your email content to pull in contact information, including default (e.g., Name, Email, etc.) and custom fields.
- Avoid spammy habits. While being marked as spam by a few recipients is almost a guarantee, there are steps you can take to ensure that you avoid as many spam reports as possible.
With these best practices in mind, you can deliver value to your contacts on a regular schedule so that they look forward to engaging with your emails, thereby keeping your list warm.