Best practices for bulk email mailing lists

EQ Admin

EQ Forum Admin
Staff member

The terms bulk email and mailing lists bring to mind everything from small business contact lists to spam. What I would like to focus on are some suggestions that will help legitimate people and businesses send email to reasonably sized quality email lists. The following are some of the many tips that I use myself and recommend to clients who have trouble with their mailing lists.

First, before you do anything else, you need to have a quality mailing list with subscribers that have asked to receive email from you. If you purchased, rented, or did not confirm your subscribers before adding them to your mailing list you are asking for nothing but frustration, bounces, blacklistings, spam complaints, angry list members, and a damaged reputation for your company.

This is also a great time to review the configuration of your mailing list software. You will want to double check that your mailing list is set to announce mode and not to discussion mode. If your list is set for discussions your members will start receiving all sorts of unintended emails including auto responses and unsubscribe requests from other members which will only cause them confusion and make them angry with your company.

Now that we have a quality list of subscribers and have checked our mailing list settings it's time to focus on creating our first mailing list message. It's OK to be personal and friendly in the message, but you need to be careful with how much information is in the email and where in the content it is located. I do not recommend putting real names within the subject line of an email since many spam filters look for this quality in email messages and score against it. It is better to start the email with Hi $firstname than have their name in the subject line. I would not include much more information than that in the message body, especially sensitive information such as full names, addresses, phone numbers, or other personal data.

An important piece of information that is frequently not included is an easy unsubscribe mechanism. It should be easy for subscribers to identify what email address the email was sent to, and how they can unsubscribe from the list, for example clicking a personal unsubscribe link. Often times an email address that is subscribed to the list will be forwarding to another email account which will cause the subscriber confusion if they try to unsubscribe. A simple "This email was sent to, to unsubscribe click here" notice at the end of the email should result in a quick unsubscribe for people who no longer want to be on your list.

Why are you sending the email? You may have a great deal or promotion but your subscribers need to know where to go to make their purchase. Do not forget to include the link to a web page with additional detailed information about your services and where the subscribers can go to make a purchase from you.

Do you sell advertising space in your mailing list or on your web site? If you have a new site or mailing list I'd wait on selling advertising until you have established a loyal customer base. The last thing you want is your first round of mailings to fail and drive away potential customers because the emails or your web site appear to be full of advertisements and too spammy for your clients.

It is also a good idea to limit the frequency that you send out your mailings. If they are sent too often, members will be annoyed and unsubscribe. I prefer to contact most of my lists only once a month. It's a friendly reminder to them that my web sites exist, but it's generally not so frequent that they ask for their accounts to be removed from the mailing list.

After sending a message to your mailing list it is in your best interest to monitor the bounces and remove bad email addresses from your list. If you do not remove the bad email addresses many ISP's will begin to consider your email low quality and have future messages blocked or sent to your subscribers junk email folders. You may even have your email account suspended or terminated by your ISP. Email addresses that fail with a 4xx error code are temporary errors that can usually be safely ignored, while emails that fail with a 5xx error code are permanent errors such as "user does not exist" are addresses that you should immediately remove from your mailing list.

Good luck with your mailing lists, and if you would like more information or have any mailing list questions, please visit our Email Newsletter Support Forum.
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