Email List Cleaning – Give Your Email Marketing a Fresh Start

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Karolina Petraškienė
Content Marketing Manager
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Sending out an email to your list of subscribers can feel like a little adventure.

You carefully select the subject line, brainstorm the content, and work hard to make your call to action as appealing as possible.

But then, the numbers roll in, and … it’s not what you expected. The email goes to spam for much of your audience, banished to a folder that rarely sees the light of day. Your amazing offer is lost forever.

For email marketers, maintaining a healthy email list dramatically lowers the possibility that your email goes to junk. But how do ecommerce brands maintain a clean email list? Stay tuned to learn how to:

  • Scrub your email list and why you should do it in the first place
  • Remove invalid and hard bounce email addresses from your database
  • Avoid the most common pitfalls of maintaining a clean email list
  • How to grow a healthy and engaged subscriber list

Email List Cleaning: What is It and Why Should You Do It?

Email list cleaning is the act of updating, or “cleaning,” your email marketing subscriber list by removing unengaged and outdated contacts, as well as honoring unsubscribe requests. Regular email list cleaning helps to keep email from going to spam by tackling two common issues:

  1. Sending emails to inactive email addresses
  2. Possessing a poor email deliverability rate and sender reputation, which prevents emails from landing in customer inboxes

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

1. Email addresses tend to become inactive

The veracity of email lists naturally declines with time. Some studies show that in just 28 days, 4.5% of your subscribers can become unresponsive. Your list may also contain spam traps (stale emails turn into these) and fake emails generated by bots. It is easy to imagine how this can quickly snowball and turn a profitable email list into one that even marketing pro Neil Patel can’t resurrect.

2. Poor list management ruins deliverability and sender reputation

Maintaining a clean email list helps you keep a positive sender reputation.

Deliverability is a complex topic and consists of many components, like the sender’s reputation and domain reputation. Every domain has its own reputation. When you send an email from your domain, the Internet Service Provider (ISP) of your recipient acts as a bouncer. It has one job and one job only: let in the acceptable emails and throw out those smelling of trouble.

It’s important to understand the fundamentals. Details are featured in our full guide to email deliverability.

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What is an ISP and Why Does My Email Go to Spam?

An ISP (Internet Service Provider) is an organization that provides services for accessing, using, or participating in the internet. There are many different kinds, but those most important to this discussion are email service providers such as Google, Yahoo, and Outlook. People who use them want one very simple thing: zero spam emails. So, it’s critical that their filters allow no spam emails through.

To decipher the good from the potentially bad emails, the filters survey the sender’s domain reputation. A good domain reputation, no problems. A poor domain reputation and your message is banned.

Domain reputation fluctuates. Your ever-changing reputation is based on a number of factors: how many subscribers open your emails, click on your links and label them as spam, as well as the amount of emails that hard bounce or are simply deleted.

How Do You Keep Email from Going to Spam?

There are many ways to improve your email marketing to prevent email from landing in the spam folder. However, maintaining email list hygiene should be a top priority. Marketers that have been amassing contacts over many years should especially put resources into cleaning their email lists.

Removing old, fake, and spam trap email addresses will improve your sender reputation and increase the chances of receiving an invite to the inbox.

Great subject lines matter—but not if they are lost among the spam heap. Clean your email list first!

When Should You Scrub Your Email List?

Always complete email list cleaning before changing your email service provider (ESP), for several reasons:

  • You won’t transfer bad contacts
  • You keep your reputation intact (very important during the warm-up process with the new ESP)
  • You will quicken your warmup process
  • You only pay for active subscribers and not fake, bad or inactive email addresses

If switching ESPs is not in your future, we recommend cleaning your email subscriber list at least once per quarter and whenever you notice a sudden drop in open rates. Additionally, a monthly check is ideal when rapidly increasing new subscribers.

How to Clean Your Email List of Bad Subscribers

Inactive contacts spoil your overall metrics, decrease deliverability, and unnecessarily burn through mailing credits. Ridding your list of idle addresses involves two primary actions:

Unsubscribing (not deleting or removing) inactive customers by way of creating a segment

Email subscribers stop opening emails for a variety of reasons. If you’re not actively monitoring your level of unengaged contacts, you run the risk of hurting your inbox deliverability. While isolating and unsubscribing these unengaged contacts is a good start, creating a long-term plan is essential to a healthy list.

Ecommerce brands should implement an automated re-engagement series, sometimes called a win-back series. This message series is directed at email subscribers who have not opened an email after a set period of time. If the subscriber continues to stay dormant, they are automatically removed—leaving you a form of automated list cleaning.

Utilizing an email list cleaning service for detecting spam traps and fake emails

There are a number of email list cleaners from which to choose. Omnisend offers one of the best comprehensive email list cleaning services in the industry. Our email list scrubber applies artificial intelligence to constantly validate email addresses, and includes custom grammar checks for Hotmail, Yahoo, and Gmail emails.

With our email list cleaning service, you upload contacts and can check for:

  • bad email addresses
  • inactive accounts
  • email address typos
  • other nuances that might bounce or damage the sender’s reputation

The nature of Omnisend’s cleaning process arrives at the true status of a particular email address, as close as possible. This process not only checks the email address status at the moment of validation, but scans historic data across a database of billions of email addresses.

It’s important to note that list cleaning does not identify all bad emails or inactive Yahoo email addresses.

Both steps are vital when scrubbing your email list. Mail list cleaning services are generally affordable and provide great accuracy. If you’re an Omnisend customer interested in list cleaning services, contact your Customer Success Manager or support representative.

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Attract and Maintain the Right Kind of Subscribers

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so keep your list free of bad subscribers in the first place.

Grow your list of subscribers organically through well-placed sign-up forms, pop-ups, and landing pages. These elements are designed to attract the right kind of subscriber—those who have a clear interest in your brand are much more inclined to engage with your emails.

Interactive forms, such as the Wheel of Fortune, drastically increase engagement. Our data shows they drive a 12.74% sign-up rate. Compare that with the 1.28% rate affiliated with standard, static sign-up boxes.

Wheel of Fortune Maintaining a healthy email subscriber list

For extra vigilance, verify that new subscribers truly intend to join your mailing list by adopting a double opt-in for your email program. A double opt-in can help mitigate common typos in email addresses. No longer will you have to worry about “Hoymail” and “Gnail” email addresses from ruining your deliverability.

Ongoing contact management is essential. Allow subscribers to manage their own preferences, so they can decide exactly what kind of content interests them. A good email marketing platform incorporates a “preference center” for your subscribers, which is easily accessible from any email you send.

updating email preferences: keeping your subscriber list clean

Finally, make it easy to unsubscribe from your email program. As painful as it is to lose subscribers, those who are clearly uninterested are better left behind. Develop a straightforward and easy-to-find unsubscribe button for a built-in email list cleaning mechanism. The alternative is an unhappy subscriber who marks your messages as spam.

Email Hygiene Best Practices

There is no point in sending emails to stale email addresses. Just let them go. Once your list is free of ghosts, you can focus on improving communication with your audience.

The main points to take away are the following:

  • Poor list hygiene can result in poor email deliverability, costing you sales. Check your lists regularly.
  • If you are about to switch your ESP, consider email list cleaning to protect from spoiling your sender reputation.
  • Regularly (once per quarter) verify your email list and unsubscribe unengaged subscribers who have not opened your email for three or more months.
  • Use email cleaning tools to remove spam traps, inactive email addresses, and ones with typos.
  • Keep email engagement high by applying email segmentation and marketing automation.

There are a multitude of reasons that your emails might be going to junk. One of the easiest and most effective fixes for keeping your emails away from spam is to access quality email scrubber software and follow the email list cleaning best practices described above.

Avoid the vast majority of spam traps with regular list cleaning and email verification. Make sure your carefully crafted emails reach the people who value them most—your subscribers!

Want an easy way to maintain email list hygiene and maintain great deliverability? Try Omnisend free for 14 days!

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Karolina Petraškienė

Karolina is a writer, content marketer, and email enthusiast at Omnisend. When she's not curating articles, you can find her in the woods challenging herself in hiking boots or off-roading her bike.


Further Reading:

11 Reasons Why Your Email Goes to Spam
Email Deliverability Guide 2021: Common Issues and Best Practices
sender reputation warming cover
How to Use Sender Reputation Warming for Better Email Deliverability

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