As email marketers gear up for the holiday season, it is good time to devote attention to email hygiene, which can have a critical effect on the success or failure of email campaigns.
As Silverpop and others have noted, regularly performing email hygiene is what separates top-tier marketers from the rest of the pack, and those marketers who clean and optimize their lists during the holiday season can reduce their risks, improve their results, and gain a competitive edge.
The basic goal of email hygiene is to remove or correct bad email addresses that have crept onto your list. Bad emails derive from a number of causes-including people moving, changing jobs, switching Internet service providers, and making data-entry mistakes when filling in forms on your website.
If you’ve ignored cleaning your list for too long, now is a good time to give it attention-before you launch your holiday campaign. Email list degradation is continual and inevitable, and 25% to 30% of your list addresses typically will become bad over the course of a year. Sending to bad addresses will cause those emails to bounce, and a high bounce rate will harm your reputation and ability to deliver email to the inbox.
Reputation in email marketing is of paramount importance and should be carefully protected, as loss of reputation can lead to your emails being blocked and your organization blacklisted. A study by Return Path, for example, found that sender reputation was the culprit in 77% of delivery problems. And as we have seen, ISPs and email service providers have tightened the criteria they use to identify and intercept spam. During the holiday season, as the volume of emails swells, these providers will be even more vigilant in tagging and intercepting what they perceive to be spam.
Spam traps are another hazard to avoid, and even legitimate email marketers can unwittingly acquire email addresses that are used in spam traps. Sometimes an email address on your list has been abandoned and the “dead” email address is picked up by an ISP and used as a spam trap. Bad email addresses also may be acquired when you purchase a list, and people and competitors have been known to purposely submit bad email addresses.
Bad email addresses can undermine your business in a number of ways, including reduced response rates, lost sales opportunities, and increased costs. Studies have found that 2% to 5% or more of an email list contains inaccurate or missing contact data in any given month, and that this bad data can cost organizations 10% to 20% of their revenue. Companies that rely heavily on holiday sales, in particular, do not want to incur these types of losses during this important revenue-generating period.
A well-rounded email hygiene regimen is the best way to combat these problems. A comprehensive email hygiene program will include email validation, email correction, and email change of address (ECOA) services. Not all email hygiene services are equal, and better programs will employ more effective databases, algorithms, and methodologies.
As email experts note, the best way to keep bad emails off your list is to identify them at the point of entry on your website through a real-time email validation service, which should be part of a regular email hygiene routine.