Things Fall Apart: Entropy and Email

May 21, 2024 Steve McConnell

Steve McConnell is a Marketing Automation Consultant at Sojourn Solutions with 10 years marketing experience specializing in marketing operations, sales enablement, CRM integration, and system and data management. He's a certified Eloqua B2B Implementation Specialist with over 8 years experience in the platform. Steve loves training and empowering Eloqua users to do new and existing things - and as for himself, loves making Eloqua do backflips! 


Why you have no choice when it comes to data removals and email deliverability

There is no more fundamental law in nature than entropy; the tendency for things to fall apart over time. The law’s infallibility was captured in the famous quote from British scientist Arthur Eddington:

“The law that entropy always increases holds, I think, the supreme position among the laws
of Nature. If someone points out to you that your pet theory of the universe is in
disagreement with Maxwell’s equations—then so much the worse for Maxwell’s equations. If
it is found to be contradicted by observation—well, these experimentalists do bungle things
sometimes. But if your theory is found to be against the Second Law of Thermodynamics I
can give you no hope; there is nothing for it but to collapse in deepest humiliation.”

As it is in the Universe, so it is in your marketing database.

“Yes, yes,” I hear you say, “everyone knows you need to look after your database - data
cleansing, field completeness – I’m already doing that!” And that’s probably true – most
companies have at least some form of contact washing machine program in place. But do
you fully understand the implications of data being left in your database over a long enough

Introducing Spam Traps

Do you have any email addresses that you no longer use – including email addresses from a
previous job? If you do, there is a good chance that one of those email addresses is now a
spam trap.

In order to detect spam senders, ISPs (including Gmail and Outlook) convert old email
addresses that have been inactive for a long time into Spam Traps. Any emails sent to these
inactive email addresses are immediately considered to be spam, since the only way you’d
have that old email address is from failure to remove bad data from your email database, or
purchasing an old address from a poor-quality data supplier.

You read that right – over time, every email address in your database has the potential to turn into a spam trap, even those of previous customers.

If you do not take measures to detect and remove these addresses from your database, you will eventually hit a spam trap, and see your deliverability start to reduce. What’s worse, you may not even detect this has happened unless you are using an enterprise deliverability solution to monitor inbox placement.

The Best Disinfectant

Did you know that we don’t actually get net energy from the Sun? It’s true – if we did, the
Earth would cook pretty quickly with all that heat building up!

What we get from the Sun is less entropy. Natural systems which appear stable and
permanent (like the Gulf Stream for example) require energy to maintain and not destabilize
over time. Life on Earth takes energy from the Sun and expends it to build new structures,
organize cells, rearrange their environment – and clean up their email database!

Removing contacts from your email database can seem scary at first, but as we pointed out
in the first part of this article, you simply do not have a choice.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and by removing old, inactive email addresses from your system, you are not only preventing the appearance of spam traps, but you should see your most important performance metrics increase.

Inactive recipients can only ever push your open, click and conversion rates down, and it is these metrics which are most important for email marketing strategies.

Getting Started

If you are already following best practice when it comes to removing inactive contacts, you
are ahead of the game. As long as you are not purchasing data from poor-quality sources
then you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

However, if you have not practiced removing data from your audience historically, your
database may already have fallen victim to entropy and be full of undetected spam traps.

In this situation, you may need to use third party tools to identify these addresses, and to get an accurate view of whether your emails are falling into promotions, social, or the person’s main inbox.

Whatever your current practices though – make sure you are removing inactive emails from your database, and make sure you are avoiding (in the words of Arthur Eddington) “deepest humiliation” when it comes to your email deliverability.

Questions? Contact us to learn more about how to improve your email deliverability and overall email marketing performance. 

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