by Anna Wybieralska Apr 10, 2017

Find out how sending to stale contacts can negatively affect your overall delivery.

It's really hard for email marketers to resist the temptation to send every email they create to every contact on their list. The more mail going out means more opportunities for engagement right? Well, not so fast.

Take a good look at your account's statistics, how are your open rates doing. Average open rates regardless of the industry type are over 15% at least and in many cases higher. Your ESP is designed to help you reach the inbox. But it's not just their servers that determine whether or not you're able to connect with your subscribers. There are a lot of factors that you, as the sender, can influence in order to produce excellent statistical results.

One new tool you can take advantage of is our Email List pruning feature.

What are stale contacts?

Part of what ISPs measure is how often you send to an email address and how often that contact opens your mail. Let's say, for example, you send an email to an address and they don't open it. That is feedback for the ISP that leads them to believe the mail may not be wanted. Now imagine if you've sent 10 or 20 emails to that same address and the messages are never opened. This is called stale email.

Your email to that recipient may start to appear irrelevant or unwanted. Because of this, your overall reputation as a sender now comes into question. Your mail is now more likely in all cases to reach the spam folder instead. Even worse, it can not deliver at all due to filters. This isn't just mail to people that don't open it, this is all your mail.

You don't want your overall delivery to the inbox to suffer because the subscribers on your list that aren't engaged. So, what is the solution to stale mail? Stop sending to them, at least temporarily.

How does email list pruning work?

On your Elastic Email dashboard, you can find, on your Settings >> Sending screen an option labeled Contact Pruning. You can manage your lists by choosing when to stop sending to contacts that don't open your mail. For example, you may want to set it to 8 - so after 8 times of sending an email to an address, if they have never open it, that contact will be considered "stale" and you will automatically no longer send to it.

You can change this number to see how it best allows you to optimize your engagement rates - when you send mail, if you send to fewer addresses but have higher open rates, then your mail will be better placed in the inbox overall which can then lead to more contacts seeing your mail.

Using email list pruning can help you increase your overall engagement (open/click) rates and prevent other contacts from becoming stale.

What do I do with stale contacts?

You leave them be for a while, but once you've seen a consistent improvement in your engagement rates and sender reputation, then you can try sending a win-back or confirmation of consent campaign to a few contacts at a time. If a contact that was once stale opens or clicks your mail they are then automatically moved to your engaged lists.

This is a safe way to reach out and try to re-engage people without compromising the effectiveness of your current email marketing practices.

If you've got questions, contact our Customer Success Team - we are here to help you!

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Anna Wybieralska

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