5 Steps to a Cleaner List
The concept of e-mail sending reputation can overwhelm a lot of marketers because there are so many factors involved.
But the good news is that there are simple changes you can make to your e-mail program that can have a positive impact on your reputation and, in turn, your deliverability rates. The best place to start is with your list.
The e-mail services company Return Path recently released a reputation benchmark report that found a 20-point difference in delivery rates for Internet Protocol addresses with just one hit to a spam trap, or a defunct e-mail address that ISPs use to identify spammers. For servers with unknown user rates above 9 percent, the difference was 23 points versus servers with cleaner data. So your list cleanliness has a big impact on your overall reputation score.
Here are five things you can do today to get a cleaner, more reputable list:
1. Bounce those bounces. Know how your e-mail service provider or IT department handles unknown users. This has two positive effects on your list. First, it reduces your unknown user rate, which is a good thing. Second, it can help keep spam traps at bay. This is important because many ISPs will bounce an address for a period of time (typically at least six months, but sometimes longer) before converting it into a spam trap.
2. Suppress old, inactive e-mail addresses. The oldest and least active portions of your list are usually where spam traps lurk. The good news is that spam traps never click on messages. We recommend separating out e-mail addresses that are more than six months old and have never clicked on a message. Doing this on a quarterly basis will go a long way toward reducing your vulnerability.
3. Quarantine new data. New data also can be a source of spam traps, especially those specifically created by ISPs and blacklist operators to catch spam. These spam traps are the most dangerous because they're considered a very strong indicator of spam activity. The best way to guard against these spam traps is to send new data — from any source, including organic, unconfirmed opt-in addresses — from a separate IP until it proves its value.
4. Use confirmed opt-in permission practices. By accepting unconfirmed opt-ins, you increase the likelihood of introducing spam traps and bad addresses into your list. Requiring new subscribers to proactively confirm their subscription by clicking on a link will dramatically reduce your vulnerability.
5. Send e-mail regularly. It might sound a bit strange, but not sending e-mail to your list can result in reputation issues. You're more likely to generate complaints, miss the bounce message for an e-mail address that then turns into a spam trap, and have a high unknown user rate when you send to a list that hasn't been used in a few months. We generally recommend sending e-mail at least monthly. Of course, never send more often than you promise in your sign-up process.