Best practicesDeliverabilityList management

Curse of the Stale List

By February 4, 2019 No Comments

As soon as someone signs up to your mailing list the clock is ticking for you to reach out to them. The longer you wait to send them something, the more likely they are to forget about you and move on. A lot of marketers think that once a person has signed up to your list they are there to stay (so long as they don’t unsubscribe), but this could not be further from the truth and here’s why…

Think about that green fuzz growing on those leftovers in your fridge. It’s only a matter of time before you need to do something about it or they are going to stink up the place. In today’s fast-paced world of online marketing, those dormant emails on your list are the same thing!

Why lists become stale over time:

* People lose interest
* Subscribers have already purchased or no longer need what you have to offer
* People forget they signed up
* Folks move on and sometimes change their email address

It’s up to you to take action or your list’s lack of “freshness” going to start affecting your delivery.


People who never open your emails are more commonly referred to in the industry as “un-engaged” and as the number of unengaged people grow, the lower your open rate and the more stale your list becomes. When your open rate drops, it will start affecting your delivery to a point where the people who are opening will likely start seeing your emails in their Junk box.

Spammers tend to have a very low number of engaged users. Because of this, engagement has become a very valuable tool in the fight against spam. The problem is even if you have permission to send to someone, that address could still hurt your reputation if you just leave them in your list for all eternity.

A couple of things you can do to improve engagement

* Strengthen signup forms
* Shorten time to 1st contact
* Feedback loops / Bounces
* Re-engage/Reconfirm

Double vs Single opt-in

If you are not sending a confirmation email right after someone signs up to your list, you are missing out on a golden opportunity to engage that user within minutes of them signing up! These emails have some of the highest engagement rates of all so why wouldn’t you benefit from that? Why wouldn’t you make sure the person who filled out your form actually owns that address and that address actually exists?

Once they have successfully signed up to your mailing list, you need to send them something to keep them engaged. The longer you wait, the more stale that contact is going to get. Ideally, your first contact should be within 24hrs. If you’re waiting longer than a week, you risk losing them.

Leverage Feedback Loop data

Large ISPs have systems in place that alert senders when someone complains and clicks the spam button. These are called Feedback Loops and signing up to receive these complaints is another great way to keep your list fresh of people who are no longer interested in receiving your email. Why would you keep sending to someone that marks your email as “Spam”? FBLs make sure that doesn’t happen. It’s your job as a responsible sender to remove them to keep your list clean.

When an email address no longer exists, it will bounce and it’s up to you to make sure you remove these bounces. The best way to do that is to use an Email Service Provider like Cakemail because we take care of that for you. If you keep sending to an address that doesn’t exist, it’s going to hurt your reputation and ultimately your delivery as well. By making sure you remove these bounces, you are keeping your list is free of these stale addresses for good.

Less is More

Sending a reconfirmation email is an excellent way to re-engage users and freshen up your list. Provide them with some form of incentive to open and click and remove those who don’t at least once every few months.

Don’t get discouraged about losing contacts. Addresses that are not engaged are not a complete loss right away. You should segment these people and try to win them back!

A high open rate is a sure sign of a healthy list. Keep track of your open rate over time and if you see it drop, perhaps it’s time to clean out the fridge! That reminds me… I need to get more Sour Cream and that Salsa should probably be donated to Science. ?

Bye for now..


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Author Kevin Huxham

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