Shortly after i wrote, “How to win an argument with
Google,” and after winning the argument with my doctor by
proving i had a bladder infection…
i ended up in the hospital to treat said infection.
One thing led to another, 20 days of hospitalization and
two surgeries later, they found a tumour in my bladder and
i was ultimately diagnosed with stage 3 bladder cancer.
I’m ok, i’m getting treated and i’m working through the
in case you haven’t noticed this email and others have been
sent some time after they were written so the timeline
sometimes appears to distort somewhat. I’ll explain to you
why in this message. It’s pretty cool really.
i was presented with a problem, while building my new email
platform, which i think you would benefit from.
Particularly if you have previously built a large email
list (as i did)…
…didn’t email them for a really long time (as i
…and now you’re thinking to start emailing again (as i
now am doing).
If you kept your Aweber subscription active, the instinct
is to just start emailing. Otherwise, if you managed to
export / backup your contacts, the instinct is to import
them into a new email provider and start emailing.
Please don’t do either thing.
When you send emails, the ip address of the sender is
associated with a reputation. If you have been absent for a
while or you change email marketing provider, that
reputation no longer exists.
Meaning, complaints and bounces can seriously impact your
ability to land in inboxes than they would impact a sender
who has millions of (recent) email sends under their belt
and has the occasional burst of complaints or bounces.
Let’s pause to define “bounce” and “complaint” so
we’re on the same page.
WHAT IS A BOUNCE:
Bounce, in the context of email, is an instance of a
message sent to a recipient, but is for some reason
There are different types of bounces–some are permanent
and others are temporary.
A temporary bounce can be caused by the recipient’s
mailbox being full or the server being valid but
temporarily unreachable. This is not a problem for the
sender to worry about.
A permanent bounce, on the other hand, is typically caused
by trying to send to a non-existent (1) domain or (2)
The simple case is when a subscriber types a fake email
address, either on a valid or invalid domain to bypass your
Another example, suppose your recipient had their own
domain (eg, johndoe dotCOM) which they setup to receive or
forward mail for them, subscribed to your list with this
valid email, and then after a while they let the domain
expire. When you next send after a long pause, their mail
server domain is invalid / unreachable.
This could happen to any sender, any time, of course, even
if you’ve been mailing consistently. However, if you’ve
been absent a while, the probability of having LOTS of
subscribers with expired domains at the same time would be
Each unreachable domain causes the message to “bounce” and
your email marketing platform will count it against you.
Lots of undeliverable mail is a good indicator your email
list is out of date.
Another way you could get a permanent bounce is if your
subscriber was once a user, for example, of AOL, hotmail,
Gmail, or some other public mail provider, they subscribed
with that address, and then later, during your lengthy
absence, their account was cancelled. The domain is valid
and reachable still, but their mailbox no longer exists.
Or, your subscriber was once employed in a company which
provided them with a business mail address, or they
attended a university or school that provided its students
an address. If they subscribed while still at that company
or school, then later they left, and you emailed after a
lengthy absence, it’s likely the company or school domain
is still reachable, but the mailbox is no longer valid.
In these cases, the subscriber’s mail domain is reachable
and will reject receiving the message (because it has no
mailbox to route to). Your email marketing platform is
subsequently notified, so it counts the permanent bounce
Additionally, the domain you sent to (eg, Gmail) will count
the bounce too. If you send to a lot of users on the same
domain with expired / non-existent mailboxes, your sending
domain can get blacklisted from sending to that domain in
Even if you were mailing consistently (without a long
break), this can happen with several email addresses on
your list on ANY given day. It would not normally be a big
issue. But when you’re sending after a long break, the
probability of having hundreds or thousands of these type
of bounces is extremely high and then it’s a problem.
When a sender sends too many messages that bounce, it
indicates their email list is out of date and does not have
currently engaged recipients. Too many bounces and a sender
can get blacklisted. Blacklists are often shared across
multiple email clients and they are cross-checked when
determining if an email should land in spam or inboxes.
WHAT IS A COMPLAINT:
Complaint, on the other hand, is when a recipient gets a
message and then manually marks the email as “spam” or
specifically hits a “complain” button in their email
program to indicate the message is unwanted.
Note this is NOT the same as clicking “unsubscribe”. Even
if it is done using the email platform’s own unsubscribe
button (some email providers give the option to unsubscribe
from the mail header).
Unsubscribes DO NOT count against your sender reputation.
In the case of complaints / reporting spam, the email
server of the recipient will note the message was not
desired, and will send a report back to the sender to stop
further emailing. If the sender does not comply, the email
program will add the sender to a blacklist which will
affect the deliverability of future messages.
However, complaints, whether you comply or do not comply to
stop emailing, they still count against your reputation.
Bounces and complaints are NOT usually an issue IF:
1. you collect emails correctly using opt in forms with
2. you make it easy to opt-out,
3. you build up your subscriber list progressively and
4. and, you regularly email your subscribers
If you do 1, 2, and 3 correctly but not (4) and you stop
emailing your list for a long time then resumed again, you
appear, with no reputation, to be sending a LOT of
Which would be fine if no emails bounced and no users
But the longer you are absent from your list, the more
likely your contacts are to be outdated and the more likely
those who were once interested in hearing from you have no
recollection of ever subscribing to you.
So how have i been handling these issues of reawakening my
email list, and how can you do the same?
Here’s four easy steps to follow…
1. REMIND THEM WITH PROOF:
To start, before even writing a word of email, i crafted an
opt-out message to appear at the bottom of all my emails
that included as much data as i had on the user’s
original subscription. This is to prove they genuinely and
deliberately subscribed for emails from me.
* A timestamp of their original subscribe date,
* the url of the page from which they subscribed,
* the ip of the device they used to subscribe,
* and the geographic location their device was in when
Most email providers store this information for you
automatically, so you can do this too. Just use the
relevant merge codes to show the information.
2. REINTRODUCE YOURSELF
this may seem redundant, but the first email you send when
reawakening your list is the most crucial. You must
RE-INTRODUCE yourself to your subscribers. Truthfully,
you’re probably not that important to be remembered after
years of absence. Even if they remember you, your
reintroduction reminds them why they used to want to hear
Remind them why they subscribed to you and remind them who
you are and why you’re reaching out to them now.
Check if they’re still interested. Early on, present them
the opportunity to opt-out if they are no longer
interested. This is critical because many will not give you
the chance to read the entire message or look for the
opt-out link at the end. You want to avoid them hitting the
complain button and to prefer the unsubscribe one instead.
Remember complaints count against you while unsubscribe
So present an unsubscribe link early in the message, but
not too early so you can appeal to their interest to try
and remember who you are.
3. CLEAN THE LIST
There are a number of services that will check an email
list for you (for a cost).
Service levels range from checking domains only and
checking domains AND email boxes. The latter is usually a
more expensive service and will probably get you a few
false negatives (reporting an email as invalid when it is
valid). Weigh both options up and consider price. I
personally prefer the domain-only check but it isn’t
necessarily the best choice for everyone.
Keep in mind list cleaning services are not completely
foolproof and will not eliminate all bounces in and of
itself. However, doing this step will save you from sending
to many inactive/non-existent email addresses.
I recommend investing into at least a basic list cleaning
4. SEGMENT THE LIST & EMAIL IN CHUNKS
This is probably the hardest step of all but is extremely
important. I started in March 2020 and completed it in June
2020. So i know it works.
The objective is to simulate the “slow and steady”
buildup of your list, while monitoring your reputation.
Depending on the size of your list, i’d recommend
dividing it into smaller pieces. For example, if you have
15,000 subscribers, perhaps divide it into 15 segments of
1,000 subscribers. If you have 1,000 subscribers, divide
into 10 segments of 100 subscribers.
Write your first email and send it to the first segment.
Monitor your bounce and complaint rate over the next 24-48
If it is acceptable, send that same email to the second
segment, and reiterate.
If, on the other hand, your complaint or bounce rate rises
to an unacceptable level, you need to hold off on emailing
a new segment. Instead, write a second email and send it to
the FIRST segment only.
Don’t worry, you can reuse that same email with the other
segments later…but don’t email any new segment yet.
The objective is to dilute your overall complaint and
bounce rates by using progressively cleaner sublists of
your original list.
So if a segment has already been emailed once, presumably
anyone who wants to unsubscribe has already unsubscribed.
Anyone who wants to complain has already complained. And
any email address that needed to bounce has already
This is not always entirely the case, but the probability
of a bounce or complaint is reduced the more times you
email a segment.
Your email marketing provider will automatically not send to
bounced or complaining addresses the next time you hit the
same segment. So this gets you more sends under your belt
with lower probability of complaints and bounces.
You can send a third and fourth email to the same segment
until you have reduced your complaint and bounce rates to a
level you’re happy with.
Only then can you move onto one of the subsequent segments.
Repeat. In the beginning it may take 7-10 emails before you
can start mailing a new segment, but each time you
reiterate, you get more clean segments which more quickly
dilutes the bounces and complaints of new uncleaned
It took me a total of 22 emails to safely clean my list
and i lost more than 20% in bounces and unsubscribes.
What is an acceptable bounce/complaint rate?
I’d suggest checking with your email marketing software
what they allow. I try to shoot for less than 5% bounce and
0.1% complaint rate calculated against ALL emails sent.
Bounce Rate = 100 x total bounces / (total recipients x
emails sent) < 5%
Complaint Rate = 100 xtotal complaints / (total recipients
x emails sent) < 0.1%
This is the basic strategy i’ve been using and why there
may be a longer or shorter delay between when you get
messages from me. And why the time lines seem stretched or
If you’re interested in learning more about how to get
ideas and write engaging emails that sell while reawakening
your subscribers, check out the Super Traffic Machine DIY
Kit at the link below:
Please be patient if links are slow to respond. the email
platform, the blog, the shop, and the membership area all
currently run with the same software. I'm working on making
the system scale on demand by modularising the components
but i'm significantly slower at getting things done now
that i'm ill.
Thanks for your patience,