What is a stale list anyway?
It may have come as a surprise that you need permission to send email to others. What’s even more surprising, is that your permission to send actually goes bad, and must be reconfirmed! If you fail to email your subscribers, or if they fail to engage with your efforts, you lose permission to send email to them after 3-6 months. This is one of the most common ways an email list can go stale in a matter of months.
Another way this can happen is that your subscribers change email addresses or simply provided you with one that they never check. Some subscribers leave their mailboxes unattended, while others stop engaging with your content. If a subscriber on your list has been unresponsive, meaning they haven’t opened, clicked or engaged with your mail in a long period of time, their inactivity is greatly impacting the quality and health of your list.
When subscriber permission becomes stale, your entire list is impacted almost immediately! A stale email list has aging or expired permission, the subscribers are becoming unengaged, and the email data is degrading. When a list becomes stale, your chance of reaching the inbox lessens and your overall sender reputation suffers.
How do I know if my list is going stale?
- Decreasing Engagement
Your subscribers are receiving your email, but do not engage at all. If your Campaign Statistics, such as engagement, opens, and clicks are decreasing, your list is showing signs of going stale. Permission expires after 3 to 6 months, and a gradually decreasing open rate should not be ignored!
For example: Your open rate has decreased by 5%.
- Decreasing Conversion Rates
Whether you are measuring the conversion rates for signups, purchases, or website visits, a sudden decline in these numbers could mean your emails are not reaching the inbox. While email marketing may have been proven to be successful in the past, if your subscribers are not receiving your mail, or have stopped opening and engaging, your conversions rates are going to suffer.
For example: Your conversion rate has decreased by 10%.
- Increasing Bounce Rate
The number of emails bouncing back after you send a campaign is gradually increasing, even though you’ve been working hard to build up an email list.
For example: Your bounce rate has increased from 2% to 6%.
- Increasing Unsubscribe/Complaint Rate
The number of people unsubscribing from your email list is steadily increasing. While this is significantly better than people complaining or reporting your mail as spam, increased unsubscribes can be a precursor for complaints. If multiple people are unsubscribing, you should find out why they no longer want to receive your mail.
How do I revitalize a stale list?
- Start using an Email Service Provider (if you haven’t already) to keep track of campaign information and subscriber statistics.
- Have your list cleaned of undeliverable emails.
- Start using a double opt-in process for subscribing people to your email list.
- Offer preference updates to subscribers about content they’re receiving.
- Always provide unsubscribe options regularly for subscribers, including options for frequency/timing of emails.
- Use segmentation within email lists to dive deep into subscriber stats.
- Send frequent reengagement campaigns to avoid inactive subscribers.
- If subscribers come close to becoming inactive, confirm their interest with a reconfirm campaign.
- When subscribers ignore reengagement or reconfirm campaigns, stop mailing to them to avoid complaints.
- Have email lists monitored on an ongoing basis. Keeping lists organized, free of bad data, and up-to-date will help you to have the best sender reputation possible.
Find out more about what your Email Service Provider recommends:
- When Email Addresses Go Stale -- MailChimp (@MailChimp)
- Best Practices for Sending to an Older List -- Campaign Monitor (@CampaignMonitor)
- How to Revive an Old Email List Carefully -- WhatCounts (@WhatCounts)
- What to Watch Out for When Emailing an Old List -- Emma Mail (@EmmaEmail)
- Out with the Old and In With the New -- iContact (@iContact)