Email List Hygiene: Is Your Audience Causing Your Emails To Go Into The Spam Folder?

Written by: David Sandel
Last updated Jun 21, 2021 | Published on Jun 21, 2021
person receiving an email on phone - showing good email hygiene

In my last article, I shared how to make sure your domain is set up properly so that your contacts’ email providers (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, AOL etc.) recognize your email as valid and safe. But, it’s not just your DNS settings and emails that can get you sent to the spam folder, it also has to do with the quality of your list. 

In the case of email list hygiene, bigger lists are not always better! Having a huge contact list that gets you sent to the spam folder is much more damaging to your brand than a very small, engaged list. After all, it’s not about size, it’s what you do with it. 

What makes for poor email list hygiene? 

Audiences with: 

  • A lot of old/out-of-date email addresses
  • High abuse/spam complaints
  • High bounce rates
  • High unsubscribe rates
  • Lack of engagement like low open rates and click rates
  • Blacklisted emails/IPs

Will get noticed by reputable email providers for all the wrong reasons. This can get your account removed, paused, or simply just won’t let your emails through, rendering your email marketing efforts pointless. To avoid this, you need to improve the quality of your email list. Here’s how: 

Start With Permission 

There’s nothing worse than having unsolicited emails in your inbox, and it turns people off if they suddenly start hearing from you if they haven’t given you permission to email them. In fact, a survey by Cisco in 2019 found that 32% of people would switch companies over data sharing or privacy concerns. 

This means that anytime someone ends up on your email list, they should have decided to be there. Not only is it now a law for EU citizens under GDPR, and Californian consumers under the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) but consent (or lack of) plays a huge role in abuse complaints.  

Pro Tip: Both MailChimp and Klaviyo use a double opt-in method so that you have proof that they gave their permission for you to email them. It also helps your mailing list to be free of inactive or fraudulent emails. 

Turn On MailChimp Double Opt-In 

To make sure your double opt-in is active in MailChimp

  1. lick on ‘Audience’ from the tab on the left side of the screen, then > ‘All contacts’.
  2. Once on that screen, click the ‘Settings’ drop-down menu in the navbar in the middle of the screen and select ‘Audience name and campaign defaults’.
  3. Scroll down a bit to “Form settings” and select ‘Enable double opt-in’.
MailChimp Double Opt In Settings

Turn On Klaviyo Double Opt-In

  1. Navigate to the list you want to enable double opt-in
  2. Go to ‘Settings’
  3. Scroll down to ‘Opt-In Process’ > Confirm you’ve got double opt-in selected
  4. Scroll down further to save and update your settings.  
Klaviyo Double Opt In Settings

Pay Attention To Your Bounce Rate

Even though ISPs and email providers don’t publicly publish their bounce limits, what we do know is that high bounce rates are a factor that can flag and cause you to go into the SPAM folder. 

Soft bounces should be ignored for the time being because these can be temporary issues like a technical connection problem, email size issues, full inboxes, and other things that tend to resolve themselves. But hard bounces are what I’m talking about. This is when the email is completely undeliverable because the address cannot be identified. 

The most common reasons for hard email bounces include: 

  • Spelling errors in emails
  • Non-existent emails (email accounts that have been closed or fake accounts that were submitted by bots) 
  • Expired email addresses (e.g. very common in B2B if an employee moves on and their email is closed) 

Go through your last email campaigns and take a look at the hard bounce statistics and remove any email addresses that you find. If you’re looking to benchmark what your bounce rate should be, as of April 2021, the average bounce rate across all industries was around 10.28%, however you should be aiming for as small a bounce rate as possible.

Pro Tip: MailChimp and Klaviyo automatically remove hard bounces for you, so you shouldn’t have to do this manually.

Scrub old lists before you upload to your platform 

If you have a large list from another platform like a CRM, changing email platforms, or you haven’t integrated yet and you have an excel spreadsheet, consider using a list scrubber like ZeroBounce to make sure the emails are still valid before uploading. This saves you time and effort later when your emails don’t seem to be going through!

ZeroBounce Email Verification

Pro Tip: Make sure to maintain your current list and scrub it every 2 – 3 months, or more frequently if you send a lot of emails. This makes sure your campaigns are likely to get the most engagement.

Don’t purchase email lists 

Purchasing email lists was a big craze years ago, particularly before we had legalities in place to protect people’s right to consent to marketing and privacy. But, aside from the dubious practices that most firms use to mine these emails, there’s a more pressing problem with paid lists. 

Most paid lists aren’t your target customer, and these people aren’t interested in your products. They’ve never heard from you before, and even if they are active emails (which a lot of them are not), they aren’t going to buy from you. So why waste time having them on the list and hurting your list health and stats? It’s pretty much a waste of money. 

Reduce Complaints

Complaints are raised when users report your email as spam. This is one of the biggest issues because it’s coming straight from the consumer which is directly affecting your brand.

Types of things that commonly result in complaint reports, and things you should avoid are:  

  • Misleading subject titles (clickbait)
  • Changing the “From” information when you resend campaigns
  • Using spam trigger words
  • Not having consent
  • Old audiences/lists
  • Hiding opt-out/unsubscribe buttons

Ultimately, proper email list hygiene is about ongoing maintenance. It’s something that you’ll have to do regularly rather than just once. So before you start sending out more campaigns, go through and improve your current audience lists today.

If you need a hand with your contact lists, or to boost engagement with your email campaigns, drop me a message. As a MailChimp Expert and Klaviyo Master I’ve got over 8 years of experience helping countless businesses with their eCommerce email marketing and making sure their emails hit the inbox. 

Ready to get started?

David Sandel, Founder

David Sandel, Founder

Low Gravity Solutions

LGS provides full-service automated digital marketing for seven-figure businesses, including strategy, technology management, copy, and design. Your passion is your business. Ours is marketing and automation.

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