email list hygiene


Like your fellow human beings, having good email list hygiene is as good for your email marketing campaign is the best practice. Email hygiene means that you inspect your email lists and remove invalid, non-responsive, or old addresses.

How often to clean your email list is often up for debate, but most professionals agree that it should be done every three-to-six months. Whether you decide to do it quarterly or biannually, pick a time to do it and stick with it. It’s important to do so because unhygienic email addresses can affect your email list in negative ways—even to the point of your domain being blacklisted from mail servers.

In the spirit of cleanliness (it’s now spring, you know), we’ll discuss in this article some ways to keep your email list squeaky clean and the profits rolling.

But first, let’s delve a little deeper into why email list hygiene is so important and benefits.

Why is Email List Hygiene Important?

Email providers (like Gmail, Yahoo, etc.) are becoming increasingly aware of what their users want and don’t want in their inboxes. Thusly, they have set up rigorous spam filters to prevent users from seeing emails sent from senders with poor reputations.

Email service providers (ESPs) track everything that passes through their servers to check and see how many emails from certain senders have been opened, unsubscribed to, or unopened (left inactive).

If your list is “dirty,” the more ESPs will see that emails sent from you are being unwanted or not interacted with at all and eventually your domain will be sent directly to a spam folder, or not sent at all.

An important factor in having a clean email list is making sure the people you’re sending emails to actually signed up to (and are aware that they did) receive emails from you. With their known permission, you know that an email sent to them is more likely to be opened, especially if the contents within the email match what they were looking for from you in the first place.

email list EmailOversight

Over time, however, people change their minds and behaviors and may no longer interact with your email as they used to and they might just delete it without even opening it.

Believe it or not, these formerly interested subscribers who no longer care to open your emails hurt your lists’ performance. It’s imperative that you monitor this type of behavior to maintain proper email list hygiene.

Additionally, sending emails to spam folders or nonexistent addresses notifies the ESP that your domain is “spammy,” which in turn hurts your sender reputation. Lower reputation = lower deliverability which means fewer emails are actually getting to your subscriber base.

Again, this is why maintaining a clean list is so important to your business and should be done on a regular basis.

Does Deliverability Really Matter?

Short answer: Yes. Deliverability can be looked at as a “success rate” and involves numerous factors such as:

  • Subscriber Engagement
  • The reputation of your IP / Domain
  • The actual content inside your email
  • The Spamtest

If you fail on any of these factors, your emails are less likely to do anything for your business and you’re just wasting money.

Creating good email-content and cleaning your email lists is the only way to ensure your email campaigns are making you money.

Tips to Clean Your Email List

Getting Rid of Bouncing Addresses

Emails can come back to you as either a hard bounce or a soft bounce. This is because an email address is not a static thing—they can atrophy (the human-email similes are getting out of hand).

Some people make new email addresses, leave their jobs, or even stop checking their accounts altogether.

clean email list

A hard bounce occurs when something like the “leaving a job” scenario occurs and the email address no longer exists. They can also occur when the domain no longer exists or because they have actively blocked the delivery of your emails (the most common cause).

A soft bounce means there is a temporary issue like a full inbox or a downed server. It could also be because your email is too large for their ESPs parameters. A soft bounce can also occur when your domain has been temporarily flagged or blacklisted by the subscriber’s ESP. Typically these flags go away and the email could be delivered during the next campaign.

If an email address soft-bounces more than two or three times, you can move it into the hard bounce category and get rid of it during your scheduled email bath.

Try to Re-Engage

Sometimes your emails just get stale to your subscribers. What might have been working before is no longer doing it?

If you notice a group of users who have not interacted with your email in any way for a few months, we suggest you place those users in a separate group and try to wake them up.

Be transparent with them and ask if they still want to keep receiving your emails. You can even incentivize them with a special deal or coupon.

After you send this email, check the engagement again. See who responded and who didn’t. Drop the users who didn’t. Your list is getting cleaner by the minute!

Use the Double Opt-In Method

The double opt-in method is a surefire way to reach subscribers who really want to receive emails from you.

How it works is that after someone enters their information on your site to receive emails, a “test” email is sent to them asking them to confirm they actually signed up.

This not only ensures that the email they entered is valid (free of typos, etc.), but it gives you the confidence to know that the people in your list actually want to engage with your content.

Content, Content, Content

Speaking of content…

Content is King.

It’s that simple. It’s been the No. 1 rule of the Internet forever now. Without engaging content, no one is going to care.

Good content doesn’t necessarily mean everything you send out has to be written by William Shakespeare. It means that you have to know your audience and make your emails easy to read and engage with.

Use call to actions that are clear and “pop” out to the user.

Make subject lines that are unique and pique the curiosity of your subscribers.

Remember: they subscribed to you for a reason—all you have to do is keep them around. Don’t settle.

Use an Email Verification Service

An easy way to keep your emails clean is to use a third-party email verification service (like ours!).

Email verification services ensure that emails in your list are actually sendable before being sent.

Being proactive like this goes a long way in the success of your campaigns

As you can see, keeping your list clean is a minor annoyance where the good heavily outweighs the bad. Practicing proper email hygiene will separate your list from your competitors and keep your subscribers engaged and happy for a long time.

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