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5 Ways to Practice Good Email List Hygiene

Email marketers know there's a difference between the number of people on your email list and the number of people who actually get your email.

And while there are many ways to improve your email deliverability rate, the simplest way is to apply better "list hygiene" practices. List hygiene is the process of building and maintaining email lists so they're optimized for deliverability and reach your customers' inboxes.

This topic is especially important for insurance agents who use a marketing automation system in addition to their agency management system.

Learn these five best practices for email-list hygiene to improve your deliverability rate.

  1. Set up an email preferences page

    A simple way to keep your email list clean is set up an "email preferences page" and link to that page at the bottom of your emails next to the "unsubscribe" link. An email preferences page allows subscribers to self-select the type of emails they want to get from you.

    "If you had to pick one thing to start with to improve email deliverability, it would be to set up an email preferences center to choose the content they're interested in," says Lisa Baker, a consultant who specializes in marketing automation systems.

    When you give people the option to self-select, you'll reduce the number of unsubscribes and spam complaints.

    Here's an example of what an email preferences page looks like:

    email preference center

  2. Remove inactive subscribers

    Removing inactive subscribers will lead to an immediate improvement in your open rate. And your open rate is one of the factors internet service providers, like Gmail and Hotmail, use to determine your “reputation” as the sender.

    For example, you have 1,000 subscribers on your list, but 200 of them are "inactive," meaning they haven't opened an email from you in the past 18 months. This means even if 50 percent of your active subscribers opened your email, your open rate would only be 40 percent.

    However, if you purge your list of the 200 inactive subscribers, then your open rate will instantly increase to 50 percent next time you send an email.

    Before you remove inactive subscribers, contact them to give them a chance to stay on your list.

  3. Remove hard bounces

    A hard bounce occurs when the email address you're sending to has a typo in it or does not exist. Like inactive subscribers, hard bounces should be removed from your list.

    The process for removing hard bounces depends on which email software program you're using. Here are a few links to some of the popular ones:

  4. Keep your data accurate

    If you fail to keep your email records current and accurate, then it will hurt your email deliverability and create more work later.

    While most agents use an agency management system, they'll admit they could improve accuracy in their customer records. "Things like Categories, Statuses, SIC Codes, NIACS codes, sources, and especially user-defined fields are simple ways to characterize customer records and keep them accurate," says Bill Henson, director of development at Vertafore.

    The more detail you have about your subscribers, the more you can personalize your emails. And the more personal the email, the more relevant it will be to the person. This results in higher engagement with your list, which is a factor email service providers consider when they filter messages.

    For example, if you want to send a cross-sell email about your home insurance products to your list, you could send it to the right people if you properly segment them from accurate data. Without segmenting your list or emailing prospects the wrong message,  you may be sending irrelevant emails about home insurance to your life insurance customers and that may increase the chances of your email being sent to the SPAM folder.

  5. Use double opt-in, not single opt-in

    A double opt-in process means you send a confirmation email to new subscribers so they can confirm they really want to join your list. Many agents avoid using double opt-ins because they're concerned people won't click the link in the confirmation email and therefore won't be subscribed.

    However, the percentage of people who fail to double opt-in must be compared to your long-term engagement rate. In other words, you may get fewer people to join your list by asking them to double opt-in, but the ones who do will be more engaged. Remember, the percentage of subscribers who are engaged impacts your overall deliverability rate.

    Choose one or two of these best practices to start implementing this month, and train your team members on why it's important to maintain clean and accurate data going forward. Email is a very easy marketing channel to set and forget.

    However, you try to optimize your email efforts at least once a year to ensure you are sending relevant messages to customers who want to hear from you. In doing so you will learn valuable information about the preferences of your prospects and what makes them convert into sales.

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