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Don’t call the doctor: email health explained

7 min read
by Alena Parfisenko
The term email health is quite special yet not quite specific. It can be used in a variety of ways and applied to different agents of email marketing communication. There’s no single exhaustive definition for it. But one thing is always true: email health is essential for email marketing, however vague the term is. How can something so unspecific be so important?
Generally speaking, email health influences and depends on key indicators like sender reputation and engagement and delivery rates. If you apply this to a single person, it’s their email health. And if you have this information on all your subscribers, it makes up the mailing list email health. Email health helps you determine if the users are active or not — and have an actual mailing list instead of a digital graveyard of fake and inactive addresses.
According to Marketing Sherpa, 75% of all email subscribers are inactive. It’s no joke — if we were to apply this percentage to a campaign mailing list, it would mean that only a quarter of the budget is not wasted. And how many of those do you have in your contact base?
This is why you have to keep a close eye on this: an unhealthy email list plummets your campaigns’ deliverability and other rates, and this process has a snowball effect. The lower the rates, the lower your sender reputation — and that lowers the rates even more. Rinse, repeat. Or don’t — and for that, you need to take care of your mailing list’s email health.
The average expected ROI in email marketing is $42 for every $1 spent. It can be even greater — not without maintaining proper email health, of course.

Healthy engagement

While this phrase sounds good all by itself, there’s a bit more to it than just a happy marriage. In email marketing, your engagement rate is usually represented by click and open rates combined. It’s a simple way to determine how much the subscribers interact with your newsletters, launches, and whatnot. Hence, click and open rates directly affect email health, too.
As we know, open rate is one of the key indicators for any email — for instance, it shows you the percentage of people that checked out your newsletter. Open rate depends on the quality of your subject line and preview text — if they’re good and eye-catching, people are likely to open the email. And when they do, the next indicator comes into play.
Click rate reflects how many people interact with your emails — particularly, click the links. While open rate reveals the quality of the email’s preview, click rate is all about the copy body and the CTA. Generally speaking, if your click rate is low, something’s off with your copy.
This mostly regards your own emails’ and campaigns’ health. Now, what about your mailing lists?
Each of your subscribers has their own email health — it shows how much they interact with your campaigns (and if they do at all). You can and should keep track of that, as if there’s been some time since a person clicked on your email, and the situation stays the same, you’re gaining nothing by emailing them. Meanwhile, your sender reputation sinks.
Though it is crucial to monitor your mailing list’s health, you don’t have to constantly check on each and every one of your subscribers’ behavior. There are many so-called sundown tools that can automatically do it for you. You just have to set everything up, and the program will remove those who’ve been inactive for a certain period from your mailing list. Convenient, isn’t it?

Healthy delivery

Vegan smoothy jokes aside, this is a serious matter, and it’s closely connected to engagement. These two indicators directly affect each other — and email health, too.
The delivery rate is the percentage of emails that reach the recipients’ inboxes. Each email that gets bounced, marked as spam, or caught by the ESPs’ filters, lowers this percentage. That, in turn, lowers your sender reputation, and that affects both delivery and engagement rates… You know the drill.
On top of the sundown tools, there’s a simpler and more familiar way of dealing with this — good old segmentation. It’s crucial to properly segment your contact base to have a high sender reputation, delivery rates, and engagement rates. And it also allows you to reveal your less active or inactive users, which is great for maintaining your email health. It all ties together quite nicely, doesn’t it?
You can segment your contact list based on how active the people are:
  • New — subscribed less than one month ago, typically highly active;
  • Passive — subscribed in the last 1–3 months, haven’t opened any emails since;
  • Active — subscribed in the last 3–6 months, opened emails in the last three months;
  • Lapsing — subscribed for a long time, last opened emails 3–6 months ago;
  • Inactive — subscribed for a long time, last opened emails more than six months ago.
Everything the light touches is your kingdom. The dark areas, though…
Optimally, you want to avoid emailing the last two categories of people. Sending emails to them ultimately puts your sender reputation at risk, and we know how it goes from there. So, as you can see, paying attention to distinct subscribers’ email health ensures your general mailing list health.

Health check

Even if you segment your audience properly, have a sundown tool working, and consider possible email health issues while building your marketing system, you still need to do check-ups. Maybe even now. How do you know you need them if you don’t do those? Something can go wrong at any moment, so you should run health checks once in a while — at least once every couple of months.
We have prepared a small health check guide for you — and a convenient checklist at the end of the article to help you with all your future check-ups. Let’s get started.

Engagement rates

You’re looking for significant drops in deliveries, opens, and clicks — more than 10% in a short period of time. Those are the first sign that something’s off — your emails are probably not being delivered.
You need to figure out any changes that took place right before the drop. Have you adopted a new email solution, or started collecting email addresses differently?

One of the best ways to deal with this issue is by using the segmentation method we described above and sending more emails targeted at your most engaged and active subscribers. By sending them smaller campaigns on a regular basis, you increase your overall engagement rate, sender reputation, and email health.

Inactive subscribers

We mentioned it a few times already: segment, email the active subscribers, and don’t email the lapsed ones. Now it’s time to put your efforts directly into identifying those who are ruining your mailing list health. Even though your email solution likely does it automatically, it never hurts to double-check.
By getting rid of those inactive addresses (or rather gathering them into one segment and leaving it out of your campaigns) you avoid bounces, low delivery and engagement rates, and a decline in sender reputation. While you’re at it, also search for spam trap addresses — these little beasts can harm your domain tremendously over time.

Special tools

To make your tasks easier, you can use some special tools. There are programs that check both your and your mailing list’s email health — and some email solutions have these features built-in, too. Search for them online to find the ones that meet both your needs and your budget.
For example, EmailListVerify is a separate tool for email health check-ups, and Markeaze is an automated email solution that also maintains your and your mailing list’s email health
For example, EmailListVerify is a separate tool for email health check-ups, and Markeaze is an automated email solution that also maintains your and your mailing list’s email health

Keep it healthy

Email health is an intricate issue that’s closely intertwined with other crucial email indicators. As a marketer, you need to monitor both your subscribers’ email health and your mailing list and domain health. While that may sound overwhelming, many tools and email solutions can help you out by automating most of the process so that you will only have to get personally involved only once in a while.
Now it’s up to you — just like your actual health, email health needs to be taken care of continuously. We hope we helped you start strong on the path of maintaining your email health!

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