If you’re in the business of sending mass emails for your candidate, campaign, or organization, and have ever received the note, “Your email went to spam,” from a friend, colleague, or boss—keep reading.
When was the last time you performed some email list hygiene? You shower and brush your teeth daily (I hope) do laundry, even change your car’s oil, and it’s just as important to maintain and frequently clean your email list.
If you’ve let your list run wild—think Tom Hanks’ beard in Castaway—chances are you have a number of inactive emails on your list, affectionately called “deadbeats,” who are dragging down your deliverability.
Some indicators you need to clean your list ASAP include:
- People have told you that your emails are ending up in their spam folders.
- Your open rates are unconscionably low—less than 10 percent.
- Your unsubscribe rates are really high.
Alright, so we need to clean your list (don’t worry, you’re not alone), how do we do it?
Start by segmenting names by open rates. If you have a robust email program and are sending regularly, but your open rates are low, start sending to only those who have opened an email over a specified period of time.
Generally, the more frequently you send, the more aggressive your timeline should be. The more you send, the shorter your timeline should be. If you’re sending multiple times a day, start segmenting out those who haven’t opened an email in the past 30 days, and relegate the rest to the “deadbeats” list.
If you’re sending daily, or nearly daily, take those who have opened in the last three months. If you’re only sending once a week, give your folks a little more room to breathe.
Check for typos. Despite pre-filled forms, and Google’s auto-populating (thank you digital gods), typos do happen. Check your list for commonly made typos like @gmal.com, or using commas instead of periods.
Clean for unlikely readers. Check your list for email addresses that start with things like webmaster@, info@, help@, hello@, et cetera. These are likely general inboxes with an intern at the other end—one who doesn’t care about your fight to protect clean drinking water.
And Russians (really, though): While cleaning your list from Russians might not impact your deliverability, if you’re a major advocacy group, committee, or PAC, it might be good to run a report to see if you have any Russian email address on your list. Check for addresses that end in .ru.
Okay, so now you’ve cleaned your list and boom, your reach went from 300,000 to 100,000. Before you panic, let’s revisit the above: It’s possible these names are dead emails, uninterested in your cause, or Russian hackers, and for any of those reasons you need to let them go.
But for the executive directors, deputy EDs, and communications directors who love sending to the entire list (regardless of how active their names are) this can be the hardest part.
Still, you need to stop sending to dead weight. It’s hurting your open rates. It’s hurting your likelihood to end up in an inbox. And it’s hurting your overall credibility.
Cheryl Hori is the founder of Pacific Campaign House, a progressive digital campaign firm.