If you’ve been marketing your business online for some time, you know that email marketing is an essential avenue to reach clients and customers. Each weekday, white-collar workers spend an average of 2.5 hours checking email. Research has found that email marketing can yield a 122% return on investment, to as high as a staggering 4,200% ROI, generating $42 in revenue for every dollar spent on marketing. And businesses have taken note, with 69% of companies employing email marketing, with 73% of them sending emails at least weekly.
But to whom you send your emails matters very much, as well. Your thoughtful, engaging email campaigns deserve a large audience, but there is such a thing as building a list of subscribers too quickly—or too sloppily. We all benefit from good reputations, and in business this is no exception, whether that’s in the esteem of your clients or the robots of the web. In the latter case, a bad reputation as an email marketer—that is, your emails are sent to too many defunct accounts and to people uninterested in your communications—can impair your reputation among internet service providers, meaning your emails are more likely to be shunted into people’s spam and junk folders, yielding lower click-through rates on the content you work very hard to create.
One qualitative measure of your reputation among ISPs is what’s called your sender score. Your sender score, not unlike a credit score, is monitored and kept by an agency called Validity, which collects data from tens of millions of email accounts. The less your emails bounce back from invalid accounts, and the less your recipients unsubscribe or flag your messages as spam, the better. Your email account is assigned a sender score somewhere between 0 and 100, with a score of 80 or above considered great. The stakes are clear enough: According to Validity, 83% of the time an email doesn’t reach its destination, a poor sender score is to blame. You can go to SenderScore.org to check yours.
The best way to avoid such a fate is to implore your subscribers to verify their emails, ensuring that your list is populated by an attentive and deliberate audience. If not, you risk compelling too many ornery and confused readers to impulsively unsubscribe, or drag your emails into their spam folder, compelling Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, or other email service providers to treat you as a nuisance, rather than the charming and thoughtful brand that you are.
A popular precaution to protect the quality of a subscriber list is to employ a reCAPTCHA task at the point of sign up, to prevent bots from barraging your website with fraudulent email addresses. Many email marketing services, like Mailchimp, offer and encourage the use of reCAPTCHA features to ensure the quality of mailing lists.
There are also a handful of services you can run your subscriber list through to verify emails and prevent bounce-backs, some of whom have free trials, such as Zero Bounce, Never Bounce, Email Hippo, and Hunter. With their help, you can purge your list of mistyped or defunct emails, such as employee accounts that are no longer active.
But your business will want to do more than merely weed out the robots and the typos—you’ll want to have your subscribers verify themselves. A shrewd way to get subscribers to do so is to send them a confirmation request as soon as you receive their email address—a method called double opt-in. Say visitors to your website enrolled in your newsletter out of sheer interest, or perhaps they gave their email address in exchange for a piece of downloadable content, or to attend a teleconference event your company hosted. They will soon receive an email containing a link that they will have to click to verify their email address, and only users who click the confirmation link will be added to your list. Right off the bat, this is an effective tactic to prevent a user’s typo from adding a bounce-back email to your list, which harms your reputation among email and internet service providers. But double opt-in has the primary downside of thinning your email list, since not every user is going to bother to click the confirmation link. While that may sound significant, many c0mpanies maintain that the benefits of double opt-in outweigh that central demerit, and many marketers use the confirmation email as a further opportunity to highlight their social media presence, or to introduce what subscribers can expect from their emails.
But what of those subscribers who found you before you implemented double opt-in? Generally, having their email address is the hardest part. Now that you have their attention, you can create a sense of urgency by sending them an email requesting that they verify their address, lest they be purged from your list, and miss out on your company’s latest deals or most valuable information. Typically, people don’t like the sense of imminent exclusion. Another strategy is to level with your subscribers, and ask them to do something quick and easy as a favor to you, one that’s likely in their interests, as well. One of the best things your subscribers can do is drag or flag your emails under their Primary folder. This can go a long way with Gmail, the world’s largest email service provider, with 1.8 billion users. Your sender score could benefit greatly by sending a quick, image-filled email holding your subscriber’s hand through this process. Multi Edit Software has a superb tutorial on this, which is accomplished by either drag-and-drop or right-clicking on your email:
Email verification offers benefits beyond granting your business priority sorting from email services. By encouraging subscribers to verify themselves, and purging those who don’t, you’ll build a lean, active subscriber list that will feed you and your marketing staff reliable data. Mailchimp’s research has found the average open rate on email marketing across industries is 21.33%, while the average click rate is 2.62%. With a manicured email list, you can better understand whether your marketing efforts are exceeding or falling below the average, and determine whether experiments with your content strategy have been successful, placing your business on a robust footing to reach a wider, active audience—and grow.