Keep a clean email list: best practices

6 minute read

Why cleaning your email list is important

Cleaning your email list is crucial for maintaining good deliverability, engagement, and sender reputation. It improves the chances of your emails reaching the inbox, reduces the risk of spam complaints, and ensures compliance with email regulations like CAN-SPAM.

Reduced cost for your marketing platform

A clean list leads to cost savings, more accurate metrics, and an overall positive user experience.

Most marketing platforms, including DailyStory, charge based on the number of active contacts.

Email marketing services charge based on the number of subscribers or emails sent. Removing inactive or unresponsive subscribers can lead to cost savings, as you’re not paying for contacts who aren’t engaged.

Better email metrics

A clean list provides more accurate metrics and analysis of your email campaigns. You can better understand the true impact of your emails on an engaged audience.

Understand how Apple iOS impacts email open rates.

Contacts that are not engaged are less likely to interact with your emails. A clean list of engaged subscribes is reflected in higher email open rates and higher email click rates.

Reduces unsubscribes

As your email list grows, there’s a greater chance that some subscribers lose interest over time. It’s common. It’s beneficial to assess engagement and proactively remove those who appear disinterested before they decide to unsubscribe.

Move unengaged email contacts to a separate unengaged segment.

Removing inactive or disinterested subscribers from your list improves your engagement metrics. A smaller, more engaged audience is more likely to open your emails, click on links, and take desired actions.

Improves deliverability

A clean email list ensures that your emails reach the intended recipients.

High bounce rates and sending emails to inactive or invalid addresses can harm your sender reputation.

We recommend running your email list through a service such as NeverBounce or Really Good Data to routinely ensure email addresses are valid and deliverable.

Managing sender reputation with email inbox providers

Email service providers (ESP) and email clients evaluate sender reputation to determine whether to deliver emails to the inbox, mark them as spam, or block them entirely. Keeping a clean list helps maintain a positive sender reputation.

Reduce SPAM complaints

Sending emails to uninterested or unwilling recipients increases the likelihood of spam complaints. A clean list, with subscribers who have opted in and continue to engage, helps minimize spam reports.

Stay in compliance with email regulations

Many countries have regulations governing email marketing, such as CAN-SPAM in the United States and GDPR in the European Union. Cleaning your list and ensuring that you have proper consent from subscribers helps you comply with these regulations.

Improves targeting and segmenting

Cleaning and segmenting your list based on user behavior and preferences allow you to send more targeted and relevant content. This enhances the overall effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.

Steps and best practices to maintain a clean email list

Below are steps for how you can clean your email list.

Identity people who are unengaged

Identify and remove subscribers who haven’t engaged with your emails over an extended period. But, before you take anyone off your list, try to figure out why they are unengaged.

For example, are you sending offers or deals to subscribers who our geographically outside your sales area?

Unengaged means people who are not opening or clicking your emails.

Removing subscribers is a difficult choice. And many in your business may react negatively to doing this. But, look at it this way: unengaged subscribers are not opening or clicking your emails. Which also means they are not converting.

Entice them with an offer or coupon

Maybe they need a special offer or a personalized email to catch their attention. So, before you say goodbye to these subscribers, try your best to get them interested again.

Maintain an unengaged subscribers list

If trying to get them interested again doesn’t work, then you can officially call them not interested and inactive, i.e. unengaged.

Keep a list of unengaged subscribers. You can put them into a new sequence and attempt to re-activate them.

Understand why emails are bouncing

High bounce rates can harm email deliverability, but it’s important to know the difference between hard bounces and soft bounces. A hard bounce is a permanent issue, like an inactive email, while a soft bounce is a temporary problem, such as a full inbox.

Remove emails with hard bounces since they won’t work anymore. However, for soft bounces, keep an eye on them because the issue might get fixed later on.

Use double opt-in

Implement a double opt-in process, where subscribers confirm their subscription by clicking a verification link in an email. This helps ensure that only genuinely interested individuals are on your list.

Double opt-in ensures that subscribers confirm their intent to subscribe to your email list.

Check for SPAM traps and filters

A spam trap is an email address set up to catch spammers. Having spam traps on your list can severely damage your sender reputation. Regular list cleaning helps identify and remove potential spam traps.

Focus on good email list hygiene

To keep your email list super clean, make a good routine and stick to it. Set a schedule based on how many people are on your list and how often they engage with your emails. If a lot of subscribers aren’t opening your emails, it’s time to figure out why. When going through your list, look for duplicates, typos, and email addresses with the word “spam” to make sure your emails reach the right people and don’t bounce.

Automate list management

Email marketing can also be automatic. Your CRM can sort subscribers into lists or tag them based on what they do. Remember moving inactive subscribers? Instead of doing it by hand, set up automation to do it for you and start a reengagement campaign. Automation can also help remove subscribers from email campaigns that don’t apply to them anymore.

Leverage email subscription preferences

When a subscriber is opting out of your emails provide options to change their subscription versus completely opting out. Examples include:

  • Subscription preferences – a subscription preference allows a recipient to identify the types of emails they wish to receive, opting out of some (but not all) emails.
  • Deliver frequency – too many emails? Perhaps setting a delivery frequency of no more than N emails/month will help keep a subscribers.
  • No more emails until – give subscribers and option to opt-out of emails until a point in time in the future.

The goal here is to keep the subscriber. Even if you can’t message them as frequently as you would like.

Segment as much as possible

Create segments based on user behavior, preferences, or demographics. This allows you to send more targeted and relevant content to specific groups, improving engagement.

Authenticate your emails

Use authentication methods like SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) to verify that your emails are legitimate. This can improve deliverability and prevent your emails from being marked as spam.

Comply with email regulations

Always adhere to email marketing regulations, such as CAN-SPAM in the United States or GDPR in the European Union. This includes obtaining proper consent and respecting subscriber preferences.

By implementing these practices, you can maintain a clean and engaged email list, improving the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns and preserving your sender reputation.

How often you should clean your list

Clean your email list at least every three to six months to remove inactive subscribers. Consider more frequent cleaning for specific segments showing declining engagement or before major campaigns. Keep an eye on bounce rates, and if you notice a decline in overall campaign performance, it’s time for a clean-up. Adjust the frequency based on changes in your business and strive to maintain a healthy and engaged subscriber list through regular monitoring.

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