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Spring Cleaning for Email Marketers: Inbox Edition

By Katherine Beaumont

The dreary months of winter are waning, and spring cleaning should be on the horizon for every email marketer. The volume bloat that typically accompanies holiday mailing season has settled, and the effectiveness of those campaigns has been evaluated. Now is the time to act on that intelligence, cull mailing lists to only the most active and engaged subscribers, and focus in on improving deliverability health. Below you’ll find a roadmap for where to start.

Email Acquisition

How an email address enters your list matters. Whether it was in store, online, or part of a promotional offer, new addresses should be treated with scrutiny until they display a willingness to engage and receive campaigns. Always implement a confirm opt in regardless of acquisition method. AI or email verification services can be used to determine that a contact is valid prior to entering a list, but this should never be used on its own, and never as an acceptable standard for opt-in consent. Improper acquisition will drive hard bounces and spam complaints among new subscribers, leading to bulking, blocking, and blacklisting as a result. A confirm opt in is the only way to safeguard against this reputation damage.

Engagement-Based Segmentation

The last time a customer opened or clicked on one of your messages also matters a lot. If email addresses go dormant, they’ve likely lost interest in receiving campaigns. If you keep sending to these users again and again with no action, the ISPs will take notice. Eventually, these messages will start to land in the spam folder. In the spirit of spring cleaning, it’s ok to let these contacts go, and focus only on those who engage most.

At a minimum, target those subscribers who have opened or clicked an email within the last 12 months. From a deliverability perspective, it is never a good idea to contact an address who has not engaged within this timeframe. Many ISPs invalidate inactive accounts at this point—if not sooner—and addresses can be converted into spam traps as well, further damaging reputation.

While there are a lot of fields that can be used for personalization and custom marketing, these will not guarantee delivery. Only the ISP can deliver a message to the inbox or spam folder, and engagement is the metric that makes the difference.

Re-engagement Campaigns Are Utilized Regularly

Finally, addressing lapsing subscribers (those who have not opened or clicked in three or more months) and proper unsubscribe management and removal is critical to overall deliverability health. As you clean up your lists and remove inactive addresses, it is also key to prevent un-engaged contacts from lingering in your campaigns. To resolve this, implementing a multi-touch re-engagement campaign strategy and reducing overall mailing frequency is recommended. This provides an opportunity on a rolling basis for you to re-engage contacts in your list that have become inactive, and will reduce the likelihood of accruing negative engagement metrics.

Spam Folder Placement

Remember that ultimately where you message lands in a customer’s mail interface is entirely at the discretion of the ISP. The more subscribers open, click, and read your mail, the more it will be delivered to the inbox. The more they ignore, delete, or mark it as spam, the more it will be bulk delivered to the spam folder. This is why our team recommends strict implementation of engagement-based segmentation, re-engagement campaigns for lapsed subscribers on a rolling basis, and strong acquisition methods to prevent bad data from entering your list. The goal is to keep your contacts active, engaged, accurate, and up-to-date. This will protect your overall reputation, and ensure inbox placement. If you’re not utilizing these practices, now is the time to do so!

Find out more about the importance of email deliverability and building our reputation as an email marketer with “Do More with Email Deliverability and Privacy.”

Read the guide

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