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Happy, Healthy Email Lists

Written By: Madison Potter

When we imagine happy, healthy email Lists, we envision our emails landing in the inbox with loads of reads and clicks, and our subscribers ready to buy or learn more about whatever it is we are promoting. Many marketers don’t realize just how important engagement is to a profitable email list. Without understanding the importance of, and how to achieve high engagement rates, many email marketers struggle to achieve success in their email marketing program. 

This post dives into this engagement, common mistakes marketers make, as well as insights to keep your subscribers engaged to maximize the success of your marketing efforts.

Understanding Engagement

When we send emails to our subscribers, one of four types of reactions happen:

  1. Readers engage. This includes opening the email, clicking on your links, sharing the content, etc. This is a positive effect and leads mail filters to continuously deliver emails to the inbox. Assuming other deliver factors, such as hard bounces, complaints, spamtrap hits, and authentication issues, are normal.

  2. Nothing happens, they ignore your email. Mailbox providers (MBP) view this as a “neutral” response in the short term. Over time, consistent neutral reaction to marketing efforts will cause mail filters to start sending emails to the spam folder to ‘test’ the subscriber’s response.

  3. They unsubscribe, removing themselves from your email list. Within normal limits, unsubscribes do not negatively impact marketing efforts. However, a high volume of unsubscribes can impact inbox placement as the emails are seen as not relevant or wanted.

  4. Marking your emails as SPAM. Readers who view your emails as unwanted are more likely to react with negative actions. Be cautious, complaints out of tolerance lead to future delivery to spam, and potential delivery delays or spam-related bounces.

Reaching The Inbox

Now that we understand how people may interact with emails, it’s important to understand what affects whether or not emails land in the inbox.

  1. Sender Identity: Who are you? This is identified by your domain and is verified by adding the SPF/DKIM/DMARC records. Adding these records into your DNS server, of where you purchased your domain, helps validate your sending through any marketing automation platform.  

  2. Sender Reputation: How relevant are you? Reputation is a measurement used by Mailbox Providers (MBP) to identify where to deliver your email. It quantifies the history of a mailstream to acknowledge that the sender has a history of sending wanted (or unwanted) emails. Your historical reputation affects future delivery. 

  3. Engagement: How are others reacting? Engagement is at the core of critical email metrics that drive Sender Reputation. For example, a high rate of opens and clicks indicate that an email is relevant and wanted, whereas high spam complaint rates indicate that an email is not wanted. Emails that are ignored, over a longer period of time, are viewed as not relevant to the subscriber’s interests or needs. Check out these 20 email mistakes to avoid.

How do Mailbox Providers (MBP) know if your email is wanted? Your users show them.

ENGAGEMENT → allows MBP to identify wanted emails which are used to generate SENDER REPUTATION → which is assigned to the SENDER IDENTITY

Common Mistakes To Avoid

  • Adding all contacts to your marketing list – with or without permission

  • Developing content that is too broad or not timely nor relevant

  • Sending the same offers out to all subscribers, regardless of their interests or needs

  • Failing to monitor engagement or factors that impact the effectiveness of campaigns

  • Using misleading subject lines

How to Boost Engagement

Actions you take as a marketer will build, maintain, or break the trust of your subscribers. Fashion every decision around building and maintaining the trust of your subscribers so they want to continue engaging with your messages.

  1. Be respectful of subscribers’ inboxes. PERMISSION IS A MUST! Never send emails to contacts who have not given explicit permission. This includes those ‘out of the blue’ emails; subscribers should expect and want your content. No purchased or rented bulk email lists, either. For example, let’s say your team collected emails from a trade show, instead of just adding them to your marketing list, first send them a personalized email with an invitation to join your newsletters. Also, don’t over-do the email sending.

  1. List segmentation is a major driver of deliverability. Be timely and relevant. Segmenting lists and tailoring messages for each type of subscriber is critical for keeping your content relevant and contacts engaged. Segmentation is a key indicator of data quality and compliance with best practices, leading to better inbox placement. You could use dynamic placeholders to further personalize the content of your emails.

  1. Create interesting content with the subscribers in mind. Focus on delivering information and services that would interest and meet the needs of your subscribers, while still accomplishing the goals of your marketing program. A few tools you could use include GreenRope’s campaign optimizer to test various subject lines and send the most successful email to the rest of your list. Otherwise, you could use triggered emails (when a reader does something of value) or customized client journeys to improve your engagement. 

Monitoring Your Sender Reputation

Sender reputation is the key contributor to how email service providers decide whether to send your emails to the users’ inboxes or not. It’s a score assigned to your domain based on multiple factors, including the quality of your email campaigns, frequency of sending, how big your list is, and how users interactions with your content. Below are a few helpful resources to monitor your sender reputation.

Monitoring Your Long-Term Engagement

Lack of engagement is harmful to delivery rates over time, both on a personal and global level. For example, initially it affects the individual’s inboxing. However, a high volume of unengaged subscribers affects global inboxing for your domain. A few ways you can monitor this engagement would be through:

  • Setting a recurring CRM Activity reminder to review your email deliverability

  • Use filters to identify long-term unengaged subscribers. This includes no reads, clicks, or conversions over time. You’ll do this by determining your tolerance of inactivity:

    • Aggressive: 3 - 6 months

    • Moderate:  9 - 12 months

    • Conservative: 18 months - 2 years

  • Create re-engagement journeys to entice inactive subscribers to re-engage with your emails. You can include surveys, coupons/discounts, new product/service offerings, free resource offers, customer testimonials, to name a few. Each of these options can be effective when used properly. Knowing your audience will help identify the right type to use.

  • Adjust the frequency of broadcasts to less active contacts

Say Good-bye When It’s Time

Sometimes saying good-bye is the hardest part, but it’s the best thing to do. Removing ‘stagnant’ contacts will increase deliverability to more active contacts, leading to higher effectiveness. If re-engagement efforts do not work, suppress inactive contacts so they cannot continue to hurt your engagement and delivery rates.



Engagement drives deliverability. (2017, July 11). Industry.

Return Path The State of Email Engagement 2019, Benchmark Study Report


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