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Email list cleaning: Complete your chores before playtime

Email list hygiene involves removing unsubscribed or unengaged contacts to enhance email deliverability and increase conversion rates. That way, your marketing emails reach interested recipients, boosting the click-through rate.

Hermes and one other Goddess are connecting from the living room



If we take a trip down memory lane (some of our lanes might be longer than others), we might remember our parents telling us if we didn't tidy our bedroom or help clean the dishes, we couldn't play with friends or go to a movie. Let's face it, none of us wanted to miss either of those things. We wanted to get our chores done so we could see our buddies and share some laughs or see the latest release at the theater and have a great time.

The life of an email marketer is no different; we know if we don’t clean our email contact lists, we can land in a similar situation where we can’t enjoy the benefits of good email deliverability or a strong sender reputation. So, what do we do to avoid this predicament? You've guessed it! Take care of the hard work ahead of time and enjoy the positive results.

Email list hygiene involves removing unsubscribed or unengaged contacts to improve your email deliverability rate and increase conversion rates. This helps your marketing emails reach interested recipients, boosting the chances of a click-through. A clean email list saves you time and effort because you're only sending communications to people who want to receive them. When you don't have a clean email list, it may hurt your sender reputation, resulting in messages sent to the spam folder or blocked altogether by an inbox service provider (ISP).

Email list cleanup is good practice because it benefits both senders and recipients and helps your email marketing strategy succeed.

Benefits of email list cleaning

Now that you know the importance of email list cleaning, let’s look at its benefits.

  • Lower bounce rate: As an email marketer, you want your messages to reach the recipient's inbox. That's essential to make your sales pitch and increase their brand awareness. But, when you send a message to invalid email addresses, they may bounce back. That's known as a hard bounce. Sometimes, an email bounces back due to a full inbox, known as a soft bounce. But a clean email list can decrease your email bounce rate by deleting invalid addresses and only keeping subscribers interested in your content.

  • Better reputation: Email service providers (ESPs) always look for spammers sending unwanted messages. That's why good email list hygiene is essential because it demonstrates you only send content to engaged subscribers who signed up for your content. When that happens, it improves your sender reputation, increasing the likelihood that your messages reach your recipients’ inboxes.

  • Improved engagement: When you put a lot of effort into creating a marketing email, you hope it convinces people to visit your website or make a purchase. But when you send content to unsubscribed or unengaged recipients, there's a decreased likelihood of that happening. An email list that includes only subscribers and engaged recipients ensures your messages get to those genuinely interested in them and can increase conversion rates.

  • Enhanced deliverability: A clean email list of subscribers and a good sender reputation go a long way toward improving email deliverability. Improved email list hygiene gives you peace of mind that your marketing emails go through and convey essential information.

Email list cleaning tips

Check out these tips to know how you can ensure email list hygiene.

  1. Email verification: Validating email addresses significantly increases deliverability, sender reputation, and user engagement. During this two-step process, recipients receive an email prompting them to confirm their opt in via a link. Other email validation methods are also available, like sending a test email. After email verification, you know you have a recipient interested in your content and an excellent contact to add to your email list.

  2. Remove inactive subscribers: Even if an address on your email list subscribes to your content, it's better to remove them if they aren't engaged. That helps lessen unsubscribes and saves you the effort of sending marketing emails that may end up deleted or even in the spam folder.

  3. Avoid spam filters: Recipients may mark your communications as spam emails if you keep sending ones they don't want. When that happens, it hurts your sender reputation with ESPs, and spam filters may stop email delivery. Keeping your email list clean of addresses that no longer wish to receive your content ensures that doesn't occur. 

  4. Reduce costs: Often, ESPs base their pricing on the number of emails sent. A great way to lessen that expense is to clean up your email list, sending fewer messages to engaged subscribers. Doing that can not only increase your return on investment (ROI) but also boost open rates and click-through rates.

  5. Try marketing automation: It may seem tedious going through a long list of email addresses and figuring out which ones to keep and which to delete. But marketing automation is an excellent method for cleaning your email list of addresses that bounce or haven't opened your messages for a certain amount of time. That way, you can keep your list up to date while concentrating on other essential tasks.

How often should you clean your email list?

The frequency of email list cleaning depends on the size of your list and your company. If you're unsure when to clean up your email list, analyzing data on open rates, click-through rates, spam complaints, and unsubscribes may give you a better idea.

Another metric to consider is how many new subscribers you gain each quarter. If that figure's significant, you may want to clean your list more frequently. Or, if you notice an increasing number of bounces, it indicates the time for email list hygiene.

Companies vary in their needs, and email list cleaning can occur monthly, quarterly, every six months, or yearly. But you should clean up your email list every year, at a minimum.

Get your list in order

As an email marketer, your goal is to improve user engagement, which is why removing inactive, unengaged contacts is just as important as growing your email contact list with new and captivated subscribers. This helps optimize the performance of your email campaigns and gives them the best chance of making it to the inbox (and not the spam folder).

Consider segmenting your list based on your user engagement metrics. Target those who’ve not opened your emails in the past 3–6 months. Send them a “We miss you!” reactivation email; if they don't engage in that, remove them from your contact list until after the holiday season.

Let's face it, if they haven't engaged with you in the last six months, the message is pretty straightforward, they've lost interest. You can always try to capture their attention again once the holiday season is over.

Ramp-up to full capacity

Besides cleaning your list, it's important to not increase your sending frequency and volumes too quickly. You may think your list is performing better than ever, so you're exempt from the normal emailing rules, but that's not true.

ISPs often become suspicious if you go from emailing your list once a week to daily and have huge spikes in your sending volume. While we know it's tempting to send more emails to get a higher ROI, you just need to warm the ISPs up to the idea first. You might look suspiciously like a spammer if you send significantly higher volumes in a short time, so take your time and slowly increase sending over a few weeks.

Wrapping up

Now you finally know the secret to reaching a recipient's inbox is cleaning your email list and ramping up your sending gradually to valid email addresses...not cleaning your room!

At Mailjet, we recommend only targeting subscribers who’ve engaged with your emails in the last six months. Focus on your most active subscribers first, increasing the size of your list and sending volume slowly. That way, your efforts won't go to waste, and you'll avoid your emails being blocked.

Do you need some inspiration to create beautiful email marketing campaigns that’ll end up in the inbox and your subscribers will definitely open? Subscribe to our newsletter and discover great marketing tools, from creating jaw-dropping designs to crafting original content.

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