How we cleaned our lists, reduced our bounce-rate and doubled our open rate with phpList


logo_turquoise&purpleI’m a partner in Freeform Games, a small UK-based publisher of downloadable murder mystery party games. We use the service to send our email marketing campaigns. We recently became aware that Gmail and other large providers had started to spam-filter our mailouts: consultation with phpList staff revealed that we had a high bounce rate which was causing us problems. We consulted with Anna, from the client support team, about ways to clean up our list and to make sure that the people on it genuinely wanted to receive our messages.

Unsubscribe link prominence

First of all, we made the unsubscribe link more prominent, to encourage recipients who weren’t interested in our mails anymore to click that rather than spam-reporting the mail.

Here is what Anna said: “Subscribers will sometimes click spam rather than unsubscribe, seeing this as a quick way to filter messages they are no longer interested in, out of their inbox. This can negatively effect your deliverability and inbox placement. Even double-opt-in lists like Freeform Games can suffer from spam clicks, especially if campaigns are sent infrequently or are quite long. Putting your unsubscribe link near the top of your mail, as well as the bottom, should reduce the chances of a subscriber clicking spam rather than unsubscribe.”

Making a list of engaged subscribers

Our list was about 4,000 subscribers, although only about a quarter of subscribers had opened a recent campaign: we created a list of these recently-engaged subscribers by exporting the ‘opens data’ and copy/pasting the subscribers who opened each recent mail into a new list. We later excluded the subscribers on this list from list-cleaning actions using the ‘list exclude’ feature.

Inviting low-engaged subscribers to re-opt in

We decided to ask the three-quarters of our list who had not recently engaged with our mails to to re-opt-in to the list. Anna also brought back some subscribers who had previously been unconfirmed because of repeated bounces.

Anna talked us through the process of activating the invite feature, creating an invitation campaign and setting it up to go only to that inactive subset of our total list membership by using the ‘list exclude’ feature. The formula we used was “our main list minus the subscribers who have recently been engaged”. We ran the campaign, and waited to see…

The results

The results were good! Of the 6,700 subscribers we sent the invite to, about 20% bounced; these dead addresses were automatically removed from our list by phpList. Of those who received the mail, 13% opened it, and 40% of them chose to renew their subscription to our list. Our total list size is now around 2,000 subscribers, so about 50% of where we were before. Consequently, the average open rate for our campaigns has risen from 15% to 37% and our bounce rate was less than 0.01%.

We can now be confident that our subscribers really are keen to read our messages. We have also improved inbox placement and reduced the cost of our mailings.

Throughout this process we’ve been very impressed by‘s rapid, clear and helpful responses to our queries, and their cooperative attitude in wanting to help us solve our problem. We look forward to continuing to work together, as our business grows!

009 Dual! Anna Upanover and Eva Goodbody

Guests at a Freeform Games party

Start the discussion at