Hand knocking on doorPicture this scenario: You have some important news you have to tell a friend; you run to their house and knock loudly on the door, but no one is home. The next day you run over to their house once again to share your news. You knock loudly on the door – and again they aren’t home. After a couple of days of running over to find nobody home you decide it’s time to stop. What’s the use, you wonder. No one is ever home.

Why then do you keep knocking on the door of your contacts – when it looks like no one is home?

I can’t count how many times I have investigated delivery issues only to find that the client has been sending email to contacts that haven’t opened a message in almost two years. So, what’s the big deal, you ask: “I’ve had contacts open an email after three years, and made a huge sale”?

That nice result doesn’t happen often enough to take this risk. In fact, you could be damaging your sending reputation (and future results) if you continue the practice. Tom Sather of Return Path wrote about this exact issue, pointing out that many ISPs determine parts of a sender’s reputation based on how many inactive email addresses are sent to.

Let’s talk about spam traps. There is a possibility that the contact you have been repeatedly sending to – the one that’s not showing any engagement – may turn out to be a Spamhaus spam trap. There’s been a lot of press recently within the deliverability and email community about Spamhaus increasing its spam trap network, and a lot of senders are receiving Spamhaus blacklists because of it. Just to put things in perspective, a Spamhaus blacklist can result in a huge decrease in deliverability – sometimes as much as 40%.

So, what should you do to 1) decrease the chance of a Spamhaus listing and 2) keep your list clean? Our recommendation is to remove or suppress any contact that has not shown any type of engagement (opens, clicks or click-throughs) in the past 12 months. Yes, it can be hard to part with those contacts that you’ve painstakingly acquired over the years. But if they’re not engaging with your marketing, they’re just taking up space, costing you money and increasing the risk that they might turn out to be a spam trap. Don’t delete those addresses, but park them someplace where you can use them as a suppression list if you choose to.

If you take care of your list it will take care of you…but you need to stop knocking when nobody is home.

Art: “Knocking on the door” by cfinke. Used under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.