At ProBlogger, we talk a lot about the value and importance of using an email strategy to drive traffic to, and make money from, your blog. But if you don’t keep your email subscriber list clean, it can negatively affect your blogging business.
By a clean list, I mean making sure your subscriber database is legal, accurate and engaged. Otherwise you may find yourself:
- fined for breaking international laws
- blacklisted by email service providers
- suffering from poor sender reputation and struggling with low open rates
- paying for inactive or non-existent subscribers
- passing up golden opportunities to connect with and market to your readers.
Here are some fundamental tips for maintaining a clean and valuable email list.
In 2003 the United States passed the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM Act) into law. Most other jurisdictions across the world followed suit, and implemented these regulations that guide the behavior of email marketers, including bloggers. Check out the useful Compliance Guide from the US Federal Trade Commission to make sure you’re doing the right thing.
The basics of not spamming are to:
- be clear and transparent in your email marketing
- make it very obvious how subscribers may opt out of your emails.
Most email service providers ensure you don’t spam with the checks they have set up in their systems.
Beware the European Union’s GDPR
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) came into effect in May 2018. If you have subscribers within the European Union, then these rules apply to you.
And the penalties are heavy.
We’re not lawyers, and these regulations are quite complex and far-reaching, so we won’t be offering any advice on this. But you can check out these handy tips we’ve followed from our email service provider, Drip.
Build and Maintain Your Sender Reputation
Your email sender reputation is scored like a credit score. Businesses such as email providers use this data to determine whether to receive or reject your email. Email engagement rates such as opens, clicks (good) and spam complaints (bad) will affect your sender reputation. So the better your email engagement, the better your sender reputation, and the better your email deliverability will be.
Use a Double-Opt-in
While a double-opt-in process may seem like an obstacle to gaining subscribers, getting people to confirm their subscription is a good idea. Firstly, you know their email address is correct. (You’d be amazed how many potential subscribers misspell their own email.) Secondly, you’ll know these subscribers are real people and not bots. Thirdly, it shows they’re committed enough to go through this process to receive your emails.
It also lets you include extra messaging such as GDPR compliance in your confirmation prompt.
Pay Attention to Bounces and Undeliverable Email
Get in the practice of looking at the reports after every email you send to investigate bounces and undeliverables. (We suggest checking a week later.) You don’t want to carry dead weight in your list, so identify email addresses that have problems, and set up a system to manage and either fix or remove these email addresses.
Keep Your Subscribers Engaged
Given your primary purpose of emailing your readers is to open up a line of communication with them, having them open your emails and click on the links is essential to this strategy. (Here’s an article on the benefits of email engagement.)
Google also uses email engagement (along with your sender reputation) as part of its algorithm to filter emails into subscribers’ different Gmail folders – Primary, Updates, Promotions and Spam. And at last count around half the email addresses in the ProBlogger database were Gmail addresses. How many do you have?
Certain keywords in the subject line or the email itself may send it straight to Promotions. But the more email opens and clicks you have, the better your chance of hitting your subscribers’ Primary inboxes. So building your email engagement carries momentum for further email engagement.
If you dig into your email stats (assuming can get these reports from your email service provider), you may well see some subscribers slowly drifting away, engaging less and less with your emails. Decide on what level of activity triggers a warning signal for losing these subscribers (e.g. one month of not opening your emails) and try to reactivate them. You can do this automatically with more sophisticated email programs such as Drip or Convertkit by sending these subscribers a survey or offer to re-engage them.
Prune Your List
Over time, people’s interests change and subscribers move on. So there comes a time when you need to prune the ‘dead wood’ of inactive subscribers from your list. If your email service supports it, you can do this automatically after efforts at subscriber re-activation have failed.
If it doesn’t, them you should check the health of your list at least every six months to make sure you’re not paying for zombie emails that add to your email bill and provide nothing in return.
Decide Whether You’re With the Right Email Service
At ProBlogger HQ we’ve been conducting a list health check on Darren Rowse’s other (and much larger) Digital Photography School blog, which currently uses AWeber as an email service. We’ve been assessing all aspects of our subscriber list in terms of its ability to drive traffic and make money, as well as how clean it is.
If while trying to clean up your list you run into limitations based on your email service, or after some analysis decide it might be time to upgrade, our comparison of email service providers for bloggers may assist you.
This article was prompted by us weighing up the decision to move the Digital Photography School list from AWeber to Drip. We’ve been using Drip at ProBlogger for more than a year now, and we love it. Our analysis revealed a lot of insights about the business, and how we can improve our email strategy. (If you’re interested in hearing more about this, let us know in comments, as it’s a work in progress that might make a good case study.)
Hopefully you’ve gained some takeaways to improve the health of your email list, or been spurred into action to ‘clean house’. Let us know your top tip or takeaway for list hygiene in the comments below.