Below is the conclusion of our interview with John Bollinger on deliverability issues currently impacting companies and individuals. Part I of the interview is also available on Real Insights.
How important do you think data cleansing is to marketers? Is there any way to know if they have spam trap emails on their lists?
It’s pretty hard to identify specifically which addresses in your lists are spam trap addresses…pretty much impossible because your emails are being delivered to these addresses. However, that doesn’t mean there is no hope. There’s a two-fold remedy:
1. Prevent spam traps from ever getting on your list to begin with by building your own opt-in lists
2. If they’re on your list already, get rid of them
That makes sense, but how do you find spam traps on your list if they are being delivered?
You need to start thinking like the ISPs about what kind of engagement levels you’ve been having with your contacts. There are basically two ways to get spam traps into your lists:
1. Renting or buying a list or otherwise getting your email addresses from somewhere other than your own sources – which if you are following best practices you are already not doing
2. A previously valid email address that has been converted into a spam trap by an ISP as a way to see whether or not you are maintaining your lists. These are addresses that have abandoned their account at the ISP.
You can identify these as addresses that have not had any engagement (opens or clicks) in at least 6-9 months. We talked earlier about using engagement metrics to keep your emails relevant. Using these same metrics to keep your lists current will prevent your addresses from being converted to spam traps. I recommend that marketers put a policy in place to send a series of re-engagement emails to their subscribers that have not opened or clicked in the last 90 days and again if they have not opened or clicked in the last 180 days with extra verbiage that you will be removing them from future mailings unless they respond. If no response, then remove those addresses that have not opened or clicked in the last 6 months.
But wouldn’t that also potentially get rid of some good contacts?
Your list size may decrease, but your open and click rates will increase and this will help your overall sending reputation. Also, your cost per mailing will decrease. Sometimes the concept of a list size decreasing is a big problem for marketers, especially for those that are higher up in the food chain of an organization, who aren’t involved in the day to day stuff. They’re just looking at the bottom line thinking of the print mail mentality where the more I can send and the bigger our list is, the more potential there is that we can get something, anything. Paring down a list that was a million to 300,000 is a big red flag for them because they wonder how they’re going to get the revenue they think they can get. But ideally you get a greater return on your investment because your reduced list will only be reaching valid emails and you won’t be paying for emails being sent to people who never respond. You’ve got to keep in mind that with direct mail there isn’t really a reputation factor involved…junk mail is just thrown out. The postal service isn’t going to block anyone from sending mail. It’s not the same with email anymore, and the likelihood of people responding after they’ve had no interaction with your emails for a year is pretty slim.
It seems like marketers should be more concerned about deliverability, but quite often it seems like the Email Service Providers are the ones who keep hammering home the importance of it. Why do you think that is?
Clients may think it’s counter intuitive for Real Magnet to be concerned about deliverability because they pay us for the number of emails that go out, so the more that go out, the more we make. But really, the best thing for us is that you’re successful in your email and social marketing. If you’re successful, presumably, you’ll stay with us for a long, long time. Ongoing spamming and blacklisting of our customers could end up affecting our entire IP range and multiple customers. Ultimately we want to help you with deliverability so your bottom line and ROI will be more, and, if you build your list properly, you can still end up with a bigger list that is more responsive and you’ll be a lot more efficient in your emailing.
Any final thoughts on deliverability best practices?
For me, deliverability is a combination of being proactive and reactive. There’s a lot of reactiveness because you don’t necessarily know what’s going to happen until after you send an email. But we can look at the trends of mailing on the open rates and click rates, complaint rates and bounce rates, all of that to get an indication of whether or not someone is following best practices. I’ve worked a lot to educate clients on what the best practices are, looking at the different nuances of the deliverability metrics to find out where they can do things differently or better. I’m also working on the list management side of things to determine where the tipping point is on how old a contact can be to send a message to, looking at the response of the subscribers to see how they’re responding, how often they’re responding, how much mail they’re being sent. So there’s a lot of science involved in deliverability, as well as art, in finding out the best way to deliver for a particular company and that’s what I hope to bring to our customers here at Real Magnet.