How Inactives Cripple Email Delivery

Discussion in 'Noob Central' started by roundabout, May 14, 2011.

  1. roundabout

    roundabout VIP

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    Print this out, tape it to your monitor, all those who think artificially inflating data is a good thing still.
    ...

    How Inactive Addresses Hurt Deliverability plus 3 Tips on What to Do

    Inactive subscribers are a liability to anyone who sends email. They hurt deliverability, which in turn reduces your response rates, and before you know it, your email program isn’t making as money as it use to. Marketing managers usually understand that they key is to get rid of the dead-weight to solve these problems, but most executives try to solve the revenue problem through a numbers game and sending to even more email addresses, many of which are inactive as well. So why should you care about removing inactive addresses?

    ISPs define active vs. inactive addresses in a variety of ways through things like last log in date, how long they spend in their email client, and if the behaviors resemble that of a real person, such as reading, deleting and even marking email as spam or not spam, as well as other actions that we generally call engagement-level filtering. Marketers look at it slightly different based on the data at their disposal, such as opens, clicks, conversions, or website activity. ISPs care about active users because spammers have always been looking for ways to game the system, and one successful way has been to load their lists with inactive email addresses, because inactives will never hit the spam button, and complaints stay artificially low. ISP postmasters are a smart lot though and caught on, and as a result, ISPs calculate complaints based on active and trusted subscribers. This means that complaint rates are much higher for not only spammers, but any other sender as well.

    So what does that mean for marketers? Most marketers have been calculating complaint rates incorrectly for years by doing it off of total volume, rather than email delivered to the inbox. If you’re mailing to a million addresses, and only half reach the inbox and 5,000 subscribers complain, then you have a 1% complaint rate, instead of 0.5% complaint rate based on total volume. Let’s say you only have 250,000 of those subscribers active according to the ISP. You now have a 2% complaint rate which is high enough to get you delivered to the spam folder, or maybe even blocked, at Hotmail, Yahoo, Gmail and AOL.

    Let’s say you turn a blind eye to those inactive addresses. Given enough time, they’ll turn into unknown users and spam traps. Again, spammers ruin the email party through shady list practices that have high unknown users and spam traps. ISPs respond by blocking and sending email to the spam folder when unknown users start to exceed 5% since that is a common link with spammers. Additionally, ISPs recycle abandoned email addresses into spam traps because spammers buy and steal lists and this method is an easy way to find out who’s doing it. Unfortunately for marketers, this means that mailing addresses that haven’t been mailed in awhile could result in spam traps. Just one spam trap hit can cause deliverability issues, which is also supported by research we’ve done at Return Path.

    There are other costs associated with delivering to inactives as well. If you have a large list, mailing to inactives can put strain on your mail system and cause a lag in your delivery. This can be a problem for time sensitive emails and during times, like Christmas, when the ISPs are under strain and trying to cope the increase in volume from all senders. If you’re using an ESP, you’re also unnecessarily paying for emails sent to inactives who will never read your email in the first place. By sun setting these addresses, you can deliver your mail on time and even save money.

    Here are three simple things you need to do to sun set inactives:

    1. Define Active vs. Inactive based on your own business drivers. Common methods may be through opens, clicks, purchases, conversions, or website activity. You can also use a third party service like Connection Engine to help determine who on your file is an active email user.
    2. Once inactives are defined, create a strategy to encourage your subscribers to engage with your emails. Some marketers send surveys, discounts, preference center updates, or other incentives to drive subscribers to open and click through on your emails.
    3. For those that did not engage with your win-back campaign, send a re-permissioning campaign and remove those that didn’t respond.

    Any executive will have a hard time arguing against this given the benefits of higher inbox placement rate, cost savings, and an increase in response rates and revenue

    Source:
    http://blog.deliverability.com/2011...deliverability-plus-3-tips-on-what-to-do.html
     
  2. roundabout

    roundabout VIP

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    Here's another article that basically explains why it may not always be "profitable" to remove inactives too soon.. the question remains then... how soon is too soon?
    ...

    Tom Sather has a good summary of the problems with inactive email addresses and why data hygiene is critical to maintain high deliverability. These recommendations are some of the most difficult to convince people to implement.

    Some of my clients even show me numbers that show that a recipient that hadn’t opened or read and email in 18 months, suddenly made a multi-hundred dollar purchase. Another client had clear numbers that showed even recipients that didn’t open for an entire year were responsible for 10% of revenue.

    They tell me I can’t expect them to let their customers go. These are significant amounts of money and they won’t let any potential revenue go without a fight.

    I understand this, I really do. The bottom line numbers do make it tough to argue that inactive subscribers should be removed. Particularly when the best we can offer is vague statements about how delivery may be affected by sending mail to unengaged users.

    I don’t think many senders realize that when they talk about unengaged users they are actually talking about two distinct groups of recipients.

    The first group is that group of users that actively receive email, but who aren’t opening or reading emails from particular senders. This could be because of their personal filters, or because the mail is going to the bulk folder or even simply because they don’t load images by default. This is the pool that most senders think of when they’re arguing against removing unengaged users.

    The second group is that group of users that never logs in ever. They have abandoned the email address and never check it. I wrote a series of posts on Zombie Emails (Part 1, 2, 3) last September, finishing with suggestions on how to fight zombie email addresses.

    Unlike senders ISPs can trivially separate the abandoned accounts from the recipients who just don’t load images. Sending to a significant percentage of zombie accounts makes you look like a spammer. Not just because spammers send mail to really old address lists, but a number of spammers pad their lists with zombie accounts in order to hide their complaint rates. The ISPs caught onto this trick pretty quickly and also discovered this was a good metric to use as part of their filtering.

    I know it’s difficult to face the end of any relationship. But an email subscription isn’t forever and if you try to make it forever then you may face delivery problems with your new subscribers.

    Source:
    http://blog.wordtothewise.com/
     
  3. DoldGigga

    DoldGigga VIP

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    Ehh...I'd be leary about anything from those sites operated by those douchebags selling overpriced mailing software/hardware/services. They, like many who offer products of little value or distinction, invent piles of bullshit to falsely inflate the perceived necessity for whatever they're selling...a lot like trans fat. "Let's make up something 'bad' that isn't in 99% of the food out there, and then plaster labels all over our packaging that proclaims our product does not have this bad substance. Trans fat."

    deliverability - not a word, not a metric; pure bullshit.
    inbox engagement - not a valid metric because it is almost entirely subjective.

    As for inactive users; it is the responsibility of the ISP to indicate when a particular email is either inactive or non-existent by issuing the appropriate 5xx SMTP response. We have RFC standards for a reason so let's stick to that and force ISPs to adhere to them.

    Mailers who run into problems with inactive addresses are ones who do not remove an email that was issued a 5xx response within a few delivery attempts. If you're doing it right you will probably churn through as many as 1,000 per 1M sent, so your will want to supplement your lists with fresh data at something that would exceed your churn rate.
     
  4. JohnFarrell

    JohnFarrell VIP

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    I wouldn't say it's complete bullshit. There is some merit to a little of what they're saying. In regards to AOL I know user engagement does play a part in their reputation system. You're correct mail the addressess until you get a 5xx code just don't mail them off you're best ips.
     
  5. voint

    voint New Member

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    While I mostly agree with what you're saying, from my own tests, Y will not return a 5xx code for an inactive account (that is, an account to which you haven't logged in for 6+ months). Tested on a couple of old accounts I had lying around that I haven't logged in to for quite a while. Keeping up with bounces and 5xxs is routine cleaning that everyone should be practicing, removing inactives on the other hand is far more art than science. Just wanted to throw that in there.

    V.
     

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