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List Decay, Lead Nurture, and 38 Other Email Marketing Terms Everyone Should Know

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email marketing terms

Did you know that good hygiene is as important to your email list as it is to your teeth? Or that email lists come in a variety of “colors,” including black, white, and gray?

While we could give you another boring Email Marketing 101 list of definitions, there are already enough of those out there on the web already — and you probably know all about that stuff anyway.

So today, we decided to define some email marketing terms that are easily confused with others or relatively unknown to new email marketers. Since email marketing is always changing, we’ve also left out terms that are no longer used.

If you’re struggling to figure out which acronyms are the most important in the email marketing world, check out the following definitions so you can sort through your CTAs and CTRs with ease.


  • A/B Test: The process of creating two versions of the same email campaign to test which one will perform better. The “winner,” which is usually determined by the higher open or click rate to a small portion of the list, is sent to the entire list.
  • Abandoned Cart Email: Abandoned shopping cart emails are designed for e-commerce email marketers to remind customers that they’ve added to a shopping cart but haven’t checked out. Some companies also send Abandoned Cart Email Sequences.
  • Acceptable SPAM: The rate of spam email that won’t get a company blacklisted. Expressed as a percentage.
  • Autoresponder: An automated email or sequence of emails that occur when a customer performs a specific action, such as placing an order or filling out a form on your website. These may or may not be personalized. Also referred to as “drip” emails.


  • Behavioral-Based Email: An email campaign sent to list subscribers that perform a specific behavior, such as watching a video or downloading free content.
  • Blacklist: A list maintained by a third party company like Barracuda or Spamhaus. If your IP gets added to one of these commercial maintained blacklists, it can cause serious email deliverability issues, but you can usually request to have your information removed.
  • Bounce Rate: The percentage of emails in a campaign that are unable to be delivered due to hard or soft bounces.
  • Breakup Email: The last email in a sales email sequence. When written well, you can actually win over prospects or get inactive customers to buy.
  • CAN-SPAM: Short for Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003. This is a law that sets rules for commercial email sent to subscribers in the United States.


  • Call to Action (CTA): A line of text or button created with the intention of attracting email readers to take a particular action, such as buying a product or filling out a form.
  • Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL): Commercial email legislation passed in 2014 similar to the infamous GDPR. CASL requires that all Canadian subscribers have to opt-in to any commercial email lists.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): The percentage of email readers that click on a link in an email campaign.
  • Click-To-Open Rate: A percentage of how many people opened your email AND clicked on a link in your email. Not be confused with CTR or Open Rate. It’s calculated by dividing unique clicks by unique opens.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of email readers that perform a specific action you requested in a CTA. This is different than other forms of marketing that call conversions the point at which a prospect buys from you and converts from a lead to a customer. It’s typically calculated by dividing total conversions by total visitors.


  • DMARC: Stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. All email service providers have policies in place on their servers to decide if a message should be filtered as spam. If your email doesn’t meet a mail server’s DMARC standards, it may be delivered but sent straight to your subscriber’s spam or junk folder.
  • Delivery Rate: The percentage of emails that were accepted by the email servers they were sent to. Also called acceptance or email deliverability rate. Not to be confused with open rate.
  • Double Opt-In: A method of verifying subscriber email addresses. When a subscriber enters their information on a signup form, they immediately receive an email in their inbox requesting that they verify their email address and confirm the subscription. This helps avoid bounces and SPAM marketing terms
  • Drip Email Sequence: A form of automated email marketing where a prospect or subscriber automatically receives a set of email messages every day or week.


  • Email Service Provider (ESP): The company you use to manage email marketing, or the company a customer uses to read and send email (Google for Gmail, etc.).
  • Exit Intent Popup: When a website user appears to be leaving a website (usually when they scroll to the bottom of a page), a popup form will show, which usually encourages the user to sign up for a newsletter or download something. All About Exit Intent Popups from RoblyTV on Vimeo.


  • Footer Copy: Text written at the bottom of every email that usually includes the company name and address, an unsubscribe link, and/or other required text.


  • GDPR: Stands for the European Union General Data Protection Act. New legislation that requires all commercial email senders to EU subscribers to provide clear information on how and where personal data about them is being used.
  • Gravestoning: An action taken by major ISPs like Xfinity and Gmail that turns inactive email addresses into spam traps.
  • Graymail: Commercial email that is never opened but not marked as spam.


  • Hard Bounce: An email that is undeliverable because the address is invalid. The reports tab on your Robly dashboard shows the number of hard bounces for every campaign, as seen in the example below outlined in red.
    email marketing terms
  • House List: Your main email list that contains every email you’ve ever collected.


  • Landing Page: A webpage with a single CTA that entices a customer to do something, such as fill out a form or download something.
    email marketing terms
  • Lead Nurture Sequence: A series of “getting to know you” emails with the ultimate goal of converting a lead or prospect to a paid customer without using hard sales techniques.
  • List Churn Rate: How many subscribers leave your list in a given period of time. Knowing this number helps you determine how many new email subscribers you need and how often you need them to keep your email list healthy.
  • List Decay: Hubspot reports marketing databases (yes, your email list qualifies as a marketing database) decay at a rate of about 2% per month. Often confused with churn rate, list decay is when addresses on your list “go bad.” (Churn rate refers to when a subscriber intentionally unsubscribes from your list.)
  • List Hygiene: A healthy list is a happy list. Cleaning your email list regularly helps prevent churn and decay. If you don’t know how healthy your list is, we have a great quiz to help you figure it out.


  • Multi-Channel Campaign: A marketing campaign that includes multiple touchpoints, such as email, social, direct mail, video, and more.


  • Open Rate: The percentage of emails that are opened in a campaign. Often confused with acceptance rate.


  • Personalized Email: An email that includes personal information about the recipient in the subject line, body text, or both. The example below includes personalization in the subject line.
    email marketing terms



  • Segmenting: The process of breaking a very large email list into smaller groups to send more targeted emails. Segments can be based on demographics like age, income level or buying behavior.
  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF): A DNS record entry on your domain that helps authenticate emails. This is a great way to prevent hackers from using your email address to send spam. Warning: Changing DNS settings on your own website can crash your website. Do not attempt unless you are extremely technically savvy. Contact your website administrator or domain host for assistance.
  • Single Opt-In: A method of adding subscribers to a mail list which doesn’t require them to verify their email address. This is no longer recommended, and most ESPs no longer allow customers to do this. The best option for single opt-in is with the use of Recaptcha, which prevents form hacking.
  • Soft Bounce: An email address that is temporarily unavailable. This means the email was accepted by the mail server but couldn’t be routed to that particular address for various reasons, such as a full mailbox. Both hard and soft bounces contribute to a campaign’s bounce rate.
  • Spam Trap: A fake or recycled email address set up by an ISP or anti-spam company (like SpamRobot) to catch spam emails. Spam traps can be placed online in places meant to expose senders who are collecting email addresses illegitimately. Having spam traps on your email list can make your acceptance rates plummet.
  • Sponsorship or Sponsored Email: A form of advertising where a company pays a publication like a blog to send email to its subscribers. This is different than selling email addresses (which is considered unethical) because the subscribers’ email addresses are not sold to the company buying the advertisement. The creative entrepreneurship blog Millo often sends sponsored emails to their subscribers (see the example below):
    email marketing terms


  • Whitelist: The opposite of blacklist. These are senders that are allowed to send email to a particular mail server or person.
  • Welcome Email: An email that introduces your company to a subscriber and lets them know what to expect as a member of your email list.

To Learn More

This little glossary is just a sample of all the email marketing jargon floating around cyberspace.

While knowledge is power, experience is always the best teacher. Why not get started on your email adventure today?

At Robly, we offer a 14-day free trial, no credit card required. Unlike other ESPs, we have proprietary AI technology that generates 50% more opens! What are you waiting for? Sign up now!

Are there other email marketing terms you’re struggling with? Ask us about them in the comments!


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