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Here's the cold truth: Every day you neglect to clean your email marketing program data is one more day of damage you could be doing to your email sender reputation.

We said it was cold!

Your email sender reputation is dependent on your following of best-practices. Are you emailing people only if they consent to receiving your email? Are you removing bad data, such as addresses that bounce? Are you sunsetting addresses that show no engagement within a reasonable period?

Email and data are inextricably linked, and if you're going to start 2021 on the right foot, your email marketing data needs to be pristine. Why? Because competition for attention in the inbox is greater than ever, email volume is at record highs, and you can't afford to be subject to the consequences of a poor sender reputation. After all, you don't want to end up on a blocklist and have zero email reach your recipients...

And so, here are the two major things you need to take care of before we escape the winter doldrums—because if you don't, you'll be racing to catch up with your competitors.

1. Dump your bad addresses

Are you noticing lots of rejected email? Those are bounces. They can be hard bounces (permanent, no mail is getting through) or soft bounces (try again if you're feeling lucky, punk!).

Bounces happen for reasons that may be out of your control.

To get an idea of why the mail is bouncing, you can look at the error codes reported back to you via your email service provider (ESP) data, or you can use Google Postmaster Tools. But if a lot of your emails are bouncing, you likely have a data issue.

Run your addresses through a list validation tool (e.g., BriteVerify) to identify bad addresses. It won't prevent every type of email bounce, but it's a great place to start repairing and protecting your email sender reputation.

2. Sunset your low-activity subscribers

You have consent to mail. Good. But when did you get said consent? Are those recipients still opening your mail?

The journey to being a good sender doesn't stop at getting consent to email your subscribers. Keeping an active eye on your email deliverability metrics is key to a good reputation. Look through your lists and identify which addresses haven't engaged with your email in a given amount of time. The time frame you use should depend on your business goals, but let's say someone has not opened an email from you in six months. It's time to either do a re-engagement campaign—in which you send an email specifically asking them to re-confirm their consent—or remove them from your lists.

If you continue to send to recipients who take no action on your email or, worse, complain about your email, mailbox providers (MBPs) will notice and take action. Moreover, if you keep emailing, those addresses will turn into spam traps and send clear negative signals to MBPs. It's a game you don't want to play.

* * *

Removing email addresses can be scary. They are often hard-won, and they're obviously a direct line to your customers and prospects. But the risk, in this case, is not worth the reward. Even minor factors such as continuing to mail unengaged addresses can slowly chip away at your deliverability and put you in a bad place (psst: blocklist).

Start as fresh as you can, and enjoy the fruits of your labor: more engaged subscribers, less negative (non)interaction, and the peace of knowing you're in control of your email destiny.

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Don't Wait Until Spring for Email Cleanup: Two Must-Dos for Marketers

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Businesses run better and grow faster with trustworthy data. Tens of thousands of organizations rely on Validity solutions—including Everest, DemandTools, BriteVerify, Trust Assessments and GridBuddy Cloud—to target, contact, engage, and retain customers effectively. Marketing, sales, and customer success teams worldwide trust Validity solutions to help them create smarter campaigns, generate leads, drive response, and increase revenue. For more information, visit validity.com and connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.