Need a healthy email list? Do these four things today.

by | Apr 24, 2019 | Email

Need a healthy email list?
Do these four things today.

How you can determine email list health. Second of a four-part series.


My last post looked at the importance of quality in your email marketing. We should strive for quality email content to a quality list of subscribers who want our content. As a result, you’ll have a healthy list. Today’s post will look at four steps to determine email list health.

1) Use an Email Service Provider

Make sure you’re using an Email Service Provider (ESP). I’ll typically reference MailChimp, as we use it for our company and many of our clients use it. Regardless of which provider you choose, you’ll want an ESP that provides tools to help determine audience engagement. Without that information, you’re speaking into the void.

Still sending your emails out of Outlook, Gmail or others?  You can download your list and then upload that list into your ESP of choice. Here are some resources on how to do that:

2) Know the email engagement stats

Engagement stats show how subscribers interact with your emails. These are critical indicators of your email list health! You’ll be able to look at stats such as:

  • Open Rate: what percentage of subscribers opened your email?
  • Click Rate: what percentage of delivered emails had a link clicked?
  • Conversion Rate: if you can get fancy with your tracking skills, this is fantastic! You can set up your email and the landing page to see how many people do the thing you want them to do. This isn’t your typical link click. Think event sign-ups, file downloads, etc.
  • Bounce Rate: what percentage of emails didn’t get delivered? Different reasons exist, and your ESP can help you determine how to proceed.
    • Hard Bounces come from emails that don’t exist for whatever reason. Typos, shut down accounts, etc. Say goodbye and delete these emails from your list.
    • Soft Bounces come from emails that are in a holding pattern. Maybe inboxes are full, maybe there’s an issue with the subscriber’s email. These will more than likely go through at some point.

Before you go deleting subscribers,
make sure what you’re providing is quality.

Subscribers signed up for a reason, and you owe it to them to try and make things better! Test these factors and see what you can improve.

  1. Positive mobile experience. Around half of emails are opened on mobile devices. Make sure yours looks good and reads well. Does it look inviting? Is it too long? Image sizes too large? Check to see if your ESP tracks activity by device.
  2. Readability. Does it make sense? Is it well-written? Get feedback from others around you. If you’re working solo, read it out loud and listen if you catch yourself stumbling over your words. Run it through tools like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor to catch spelling, grammar or other errors.
  3. Timing. People check their email around 10x per day. You know why? Because they get so many and are looking to see what’s new. Try different times of the day and even different days of the week, depending on your content and what makes sense.
  4. Subscriber feedback. When in doubt, ask. These can be in-person conversations or you can go the survey route with SurveyMonkey or Google Forms.
  5. Reassess email goals. What does the email need to do – not for the organization, but for those receiving it? How will this benefit them? If you aren’t putting the subscriber first, now is the time to make that switch. If you are, you may find clues on where to improve through your subscriber survey.

Make one change at a time and see how stats change over a three-month period. You can’t determine what change is having the effect if you make too many changes at once! Should your ESP have the tools, this is also where A/B testing can be so helpful to determine how changing one thing affects how people respond and engage.

3) Start segmenting

Time to get into it! If you’ve been sending out a weekly email, every week, for at least three months, you should be good. What you want is enough activity to determine email list health and response.

Segment based on open rates

This is a great place to start, as just about any ESP should have this stat. Get started by running a report. I’ll focus on MailChimp here. Dive into your ESP to see what kind of reporting it can do for you! All info is accurate as of publication date.

  1. Log into your account and go to the Audience to access your Audience Dashboard.
  2. Make sure the list you want to look at is selected in the dropdown menu.
  3. You’ll see an email count summary. Click on either the contacts or subscriber counts to get to the actual list.
  4. Now you’re into the Manage Contacts tab of your full list. Click New Segment, which will allow you to run a report to see who hasn’t opened your email in a while. Set the following for your segment, and refer to the image below:
    • Email Marketing Status is Subscribed AND
    • Campaign Activity did not open All of the Last 5 Campaigns AND
    • Date added is before (here you can set it at a particular date or in relation to a specific email campaign).
    • Give your segment a meaningful name (e.g., Inactive since at least x/xx/19).

The segmenting tool in MailChimp allows you to look at inactivity however it makes sense for your email newsletter frequency.

Look at other stats available

Different ESPs go into different details. One thing I like MailChimp is they rate contacts on a 5-star system. They also offer an engagement breakdown that simplifies the process detailed above.

4) Make your re-engagement list

You’ve determined who hasn’t engaged with your email. While in your reporting tool, select those determined to need attention. It’s time to work towards re-engaging them.

Next post, I’ll give a mile high view of what that pruning process looks like, and then wrap up with templates to either inspire or copy/paste.

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