How Often Should You Email Your List?

Best Email Frequency To Your List

Ahh sending emails, there's nothing that seems to be more frustrating to new marketers than trying to understand all of the ins and outs of how to use their list.

Once we get beyond the initial list-building stages, one of the questions that we get asked most frequently is how often should I send an email to my list?

While this answer does fall into the “it depends” category, a good rule of thumb for email frequency is you should be sending no less than once per week.

Although this may feel like a lot (or little), depending on your experience with email marketing and your industry, we find that using this frequency is enough to keep your list engaged and not too much as to overwhelm or take your attention away from other important marketing activities.

If you're able to commit to this weekly cadence, it becomes very simple to build the habit and make sure that you're able to leverage your email list in all of the positive ways that we’ve discussed in the past.

After you successfully establish the habit of sending emails, you can test sending multiple times per week to see how your audience responds.

If they respond positively, meaning they continue to open emails and click to your site at a similar rate, it's safe to assume that you should continue with this increased frequency.

Can You Send Too Many Emails?

I think it's safe to say the answer to this is obviously yes, you can send too many emails.

After all, we probably all experienced the sensation of receiving just one too many emails from an overly eager business and either crafting a very angry response, or rage unsubscribing from any emails they want to send us in the future.

That does however beg the question, how do I know if I'm sending too many emails and how do I fix that?

How To Know If You’re Sending Too Many Emails

While we should not take one or two angry emails from people telling us that were emailing too much (if you haven't gotten one yet…you will) as a sign that we actually are emailing too much, there are a few signs and symptoms that we should keep an eye out for to make sure we are over emailing our lists.

Increase Spam Complaints

The first and most obvious sign you may be emailing your list too much (or you're using too much of one kind of email, usually you're being overly promotional), is an increase in the number of spam reports your emails receive.

Usually, your emails should average about a 0.1% spam complaint rate, meaning about one out of every 1000 people on your email list thinks that any given message is spam.

It's important to keep in mind that this average will vary based on the quality of your list and the industry that you're in, so it's important to take a look across the last few dozen emails that you have sent to, but the number that's normal for your specific list.

If you see this number slowly start to creep up on average (not just in  one or two emails, which may trigger some people on your list to unsubscribe or mark them as spam because they are controversial), it's usually a good indicator that you may be sending too many emails.

Decreased Open Rates

A second sign you may be sending too many emails that you notice a decrease in your open rates.

We like to use 20% as a rule of thumb for what will be considered to be a good email open rate, although this may depend on your specific industry and the overall quality of your list.

Regardless, if you average together your last 10 to 20 emails you should be able to get your average email open right.

If you notice a decline in this number, just like with spam complaints, keep in mind that you should be using multiple emails to come to this conclusion, it may be a sign that you are sending too many emails.

If you are overwhelming your list with promotions or content, people can become frustrated and potentially feel like they're missing out on something you have to share, if they miss a few emails in a row and they stop opening as a result.

Contrary to popular belief, there can be too much of a good thing.

How To Recover From Sending Too Many Emails

Recovering from sending too many emails is actually a fairly simple process.

Step one would be to reduce the overall frequency, my suggestion would be to reduce it to the ones per week frequency recommended at the beginning of this article at least for now.

Step two is to fall back on more content-based emails (we will discuss more the different types of emails below) to rebuild goodwill with the people in your audience who are still opening your emails.

By doing both of these things you should be able to recover your email open rate and reduce spam complaints, while at the same time increasing the positive signals seen by email service providers, such as clicks to your website.

Can You Send Too Few Emails?

Just like with sending too many emails, sending too few emails is a common problem that we see many businesses dealing with.

How To Know If You’re Sending Too Few Emails

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, if you are sending less than one email per week, you're more than likely sending too few emails.

Unlike sending too many emails, the signs and symptoms may not be quite as obvious, but there are still there.

Quite often, if you're sending too few emails, you will see decreased open and click-through rates, because the people on your email list simply forget who you are, and email service providers, like Gmail, don't have as much data to work with in terms of how people interact with your emails, meaning you're more likely to end up in the promotion or spam folders.

How To Recover From Sending Too Few Emails

Thankfully, if you're sending too few emails this is easily remedied by moving to a more frequent cadence such as the once per week cadence we've discussed since the beginning of this article.

It's important to start by slowly increasing the frequency until you've arrived at the once or twice per week mark with your list.

Additionally, I would suggest using more content-based and fewer promotional emails (we discuss these different email types below) until you've reached a higher frequency.

You may also want to start your new frequency by sending what we call the “cold reboot” sequence, which you can find outlined here, that’s designed to get people to start interacting with your emails again.

What Types Of Emails Should I Be Sending and How Often?

Just as, or perhaps more, important than how often we email our lists, are the types of emails that we send them.

While it's very tempting to think we should follow the “big guys”, like Best Buy who sends out a catalog at least once per week, the truth is there are several different types of emails that we should consider sending to our list each with their pros, cons, and frequency.

Content-Based Emails:

Content-based emails are emails written to deliver value to your audience, build goodwill, and promote free content that's available on your site or other places such as YouTube.

The point of these emails is simply to keep your list engaged and to build goodwill with your audience.

A good rule of thumb for these types of emails is that they should make up the vast majority (75% or more) of all of the emails that you send.

If you're following the once per week cadence we discussed above, this would mean three out of the four weeks in every month (yes…. I know some months don't quite have four weeks and some may have more than four weeks), you would be sending a content-based email.

Promotional Emails:

For the sake of keeping things simple, a promotional email is any email whose entire purpose is designed to sell a product or service that you have to offer.

As a general rule, we suggest promoting no more than once per month.

Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you're sending one email about the sale or promotion that you have, at least you shouldn't be, but rather that you're keeping it to one time per month.

If you're interested in how we structure our promotional emails, you can find out all about what we call the profit push sequence here.

Hybrid Emails:

Hybrid emails are… Exactly what they sound like, a combination of a promotional email and a content-based email.

Essentially, the main body of the email is the same as a content-based email, it's built around delivering value and driving your audience to visit a piece of content.

The twist comes after the PS, where we can deliver a quick promotional message, like reminding people of a sale we have ongoing.

While this type of email doesn't build goodwill in the same way that a traditional content-based email does, it does a much better job than sending additional promotional emails.

This type of email is best used to replace additional promotional emails or if you're not sure how to write a great promotional email or simply don't want to feel slimy when promoting your products.

These emails are best sent no more than once or twice per month if you're sticking to the once-per-week cadence we discussed at the beginning of this article.

Feel free to mix these in place of either promotional or content-based emails as you see fit.

That’s a Wrap

As you can see, nailing down the exact frequency you should use to email your list is a little bit of art and a little bit of science.

If you take advantage of the three types of emails we discussed above, with a big focus on content-based emails to build goodwill, and you can commit to sending at least one email per week, you'll start to notice the difference it makes in your traffic and sales AND you'll come to love 

Chris lives at the intersection of business strategy and growth tactics. Having consulted with dozens of different businesses (as well as building several of his own), he brings a unique perspective on what's working across the eCommerce world in businesses of all shapes and sizes.

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