A beginning of year audit checklist for your email marketing program

To start the year on a good note, catch errors and identify opportunities for optimization via a thorough audit of your email program. 

It’s common to look back at what you’ve achieved at the end of the year or to use the beginning of the New Year to plan for what you wish to accomplish in the next 12 months. But one shouldn’t forget the present either. Taking a look at how things are running right now is also worthwhile.

In the hustle and bustle of campaign planning, creation, and execution it’s easy to lose track of all the moving parts of your email program – particularly those parts that can go awry if they are not carefully monitored. So to avoid such issues, here is an audit checklist to help you start the year off right:

1. Infrastructure

Your infrastructure is bulletproof and unchanging, in theory. In the real world, mistakes happen and errors can creep into any setup. New campaigns, new platforms, and system updates can all cause unexpected problems.

stethoscope lying on keyboard of a laptop

Sometimes things don’t get updated as they should as your business changes, so it is important to double check these key areas:

  • DNS: Make sure this is correct for your marketing emails in both forward and reverse lookups.
  • Authentication: Be sure that the Sender Policy Framework (SPF) records are complete, and your emails are correctly signed with Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM).
  • Domain-based message authentication, reporting, and conformance (DMARC): Now is a great time to review your reports for any anomalies or issues, if you aren’t routinely doing this already.
  • IP reputation: I suggest using tools like Sender Score and Sender Base to check your sending IP reputation.
  • Reply and response addresses: Confirm they all still work and are being processed appropriately. It’s easy for reply mailboxes to get forgotten.
  • Template links: Check all those standard links that appear in every email – the legal terms and conditions, privacy, and so on. Are the pages still relevant and up to date? Also, check the unsubscription process end-to-end as well as the sharing links, such as forward to a friend, social sharing, and so forth.

When performing an infrastructure audit, it’s important to have a clear picture of all the emails being sent for your brand. In larger organizations, the left hand doesn’t always know that the right hand even exists. Competitive analysis tools can be extremely valuable for detecting if your current infrastructure is problematic. Additionally, these tools can help identify all your email, including those emails that may be impacting your reputation.

2. Automation

I wrote about the myths and magic of automation previously – and as I mentioned before, automated messaging is not something to fire and forget.

Audit of message content

It is important to take time at the beginning of the year to do a thorough audit your automated messages. Confirm that they’re still working properly, as links can change, images can be moved or deleted, and reply mailboxes can get forgotten, filled, or removed. Changes to your business operations can invalidate or make some automated campaigns irrelevant, so make sure that they’re still pertinent and correctly targeted.  Likewise, the business rules may need updating.

Validate program integrations

API and batch integrations should flag an error when things go wrong, but sometimes things can fall through the cracks. I can’t even count the number of times that data processing flaws have slipped past unnoticed.

3. Experience

Perhaps the most valuable step is to truly experience your own program.

Go through your email subscription process and evaluate how it’s actually working; not just the website subscription method, but all the ways you add subscribers to your list. Do you collect point of purchase subscriptions? Does your program use co-registration? Test each process and evaluate the experience from a customer’s perspective.


After subscribing to your own program stay with it for a while to truly experience what it’s like to be on the receiving end of your own email program. Are you sending quality content at a reasonable frequency?

Try reading your emails on a device and platform other than your normal one. I’m sure that you already use render testing to check how things look, but actually reading and responding to email on a different platform is a different experience. Try Yahoo instead of Outlook or Safari on an iPad instead of Chrome on your laptop. See how it feels as a user. Is it as good as it should be?

To sum up

Performing a start of year audit is an invaluable process that helps to identify the necessary changes, errors, and mistakes that need immediate remediation. It is also beneficial as you create your wishlist of program improvements, which you can implement over the coming year.

Related reading

Image from Desigual welcome email to new subscribers.
Vector graphic of black fishing hooks dangling in water.
Vector graphic of an envelope with a document poking out of it, symbolizing an open email.