Email an Old List Without Destroying Your Delivery Reputation

A large email list of addresses with no known mailing history or a date of when they were collected (and why!) can be tricky to deal with. How can I send this email campaign out to the entire list without destroying our program?

Over the years as an email marketer, I have been asked this question in varying degrees by clients who know email themselves. What makes this a difficult waltz to master is sending out the email campaign to the entire list without destroying your email delivery reputation. In this article, I discuss methods one can take to avoid total reputation destruction.

The Ugly
Sending out an email campaign to an old list can damage your IP and domain reputation, send your emails to the spam folder or withhold them altogether from being delivered. Email addresses that once opened your newsletters would no longer get them delivered to their inbox and can result in a lower ROI for your business. What’s worse, you can be added to a blacklist that businesses have blocked from getting your email delivered and will quarantine your message. The additional fallout will be the time spent in getting your IP and sending domain back into good order again for inbox delivery.

Clean Your List
An old email list will have emails that are no longer deliverable and the older the list is, the higher the percentage of dead addresses. It’s a great idea to send your list through a data cleaning service that will weed out the bad emails and hand you a cleaner list than you had to begin with. FreshAddress is a great service that is fair-priced with favorable results. BriteVerify is another great data cleaning service to look into. Don’t expect any cleaning service to send back a perfectly cleaned list. Spam filters exist for a reason and no data service can claim to have every spam trap address, which exist to weed out responsible senders from bad senders.

Plan Your Attack
After your list has been cleaned, make a plan based on your delivery factors. Do you have access to a dedicated IP address or a shared IP address? A shared IP with a high monthly sending volume would be better to send the old email list with than a dedicated IP address, which could take a stronger hit in delivery. If you have several dedicated IP addresses in good standing and don’t mind destroying one, you may have a higher success rate (due to historical positive reputation) of getting most emails inbox versus junk folder.

Take a small portion of your list and send out the email campaign to them. Pay close attention to the positive and negative analytics. This can shed some light on how the rest of the list will respond. If there are a high number of hard bounces, it may be a good idea to send it through another data cleaning service. While hard bounces and unsubscribes are considered negative analytics, that if high enough can deter delivery reputation, spam complaints are worse. Email clients such as Gmail and Yahoo monitor the percentage of spam complaints coming from you and determine whether to oscillate or block you from inbox delivery.

Divide your mailing list into smaller segments and send out the email campaign over a period. This will help ease the negative delivery impact. If your list is 20,000 in size, consider sending it out in 5-10 batches. It’s a great idea to pepper in your current email subscribers who open your mail regularly with the unknown email addresses. This way the percentage of negative analytics will be mixed in with positive analytics, and thus ease any overall negative impact on your IP or sending domain.

Opt-out Opportunity
Design the email with several locations to unsubscribe, especially up at the top of your email campaign. By doing this, you present the option to unsubscribe instead of selecting the spam button, which is worse for your delivery. Present the unsubscribe option as a text link and a button so it stands out and can easily be found. Include a preferences link so the subscriber can adjust their email frequency or category of mail they will receive from you. This can sometimes prevent an unsubscribe if they can tailor their emails from you.

Pushing the Button
Once a thought-out plan to deliver the email campaign to an old list has been executed and sent out pay close attention to the analytics over the next 24 hours. Know that a portion of your addresses will hard bounce and unsubscribe but the strategy in place will minimize the negative impact overall.