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Email List Hygiene: Best Practices For A Clean & Healthy List

Email list hygiene plays a crucial role in ensuring good deliverability and maintaining sender reputation. A neat email list can substantially raise your involvement levels, lessening the danger of being marked as spam or having messages sent back.

This comprehensive guide delves into the intricacies of email list cleaning, from understanding its importance to determining how often you should scrub your lists. We will also discuss why purchasing third-party lists is not a good idea and how to program size impacts cleaning frequency.

We’ll explore role account removal and address the effects of high bounce rates on your mailing lists. Furthermore, we’ll provide strategies for dealing with unengaged recipients and outline how to confirm subscriptions using the double opt-in method for better Email List Hygiene.

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What Is Email List Hygiene?

Email list cleaning, or scrubbing, is a must-know for business owners and copywriters. It’s about removing inactive, bounced, unengaged, and invalid email addresses from your list. The goal? Only send emails to people who actually care.

So, email hygiene is keeping a clean list of actively engaged subscribers. Quality over quantity. A smaller, engaged audience beats thousands of uninterested email subscribers.

  • Inactive Subscribers: These folks stopped opening or clicking your emails. Identify them and remove or try to re-engage.

  • Bounced Emails: Emails that couldn’t be delivered due to invalid addresses or full inboxes. They hurt your delivery rates and reputation.

  • Unengaged Recipients: They open but never click. They’re not interested. Consider removing them during cleanup.

Why Is Email List Hygiene Important?

Email list hygiene is one of the many factors that affects your deliverability rates and sender reputation.

As email providers have evolved, they have grown more intelligent and advanced in their ability to detect and filter out spam. With the integration of machine learning algorithms, numerous ESPs (Email Service Providers) now rely on these technologies to assess inbox placement and ensure successful email delivery. Maintaining a clean email list has become imperative to ensure that your emails reach their intended recipients’ inboxes accurately.

Sending emails to non-existent or uninterested recipients wastes resources and can get you flagged as spam. That means even your legit subscribers might miss out on your emails.

Determining the Frequency of Email List Cleaning

What’s the frequency for keeping your email list in good shape? It depends on a few elements, like the magnitude of your program and how actively involved your recipients are.

You can get away with cleaning less often for small programs with a handful of subscribers. If you have a sizable program with over 100k subscribers, it’s time to try to clean your list more frequently.

Impact of program size on cleaning frequency

The size of your program also affects how often you should clean. Smaller campaigns can get away with a quarterly scrub, while big operations might need a monthly or even bi-weekly cleaning frenzy, depending on your subscribers’ activity.

No definitive answer exists regarding how often you should clean your email list; it depends on the scope of your program and what is necessary to achieve optimal outcomes. It all depends on your business needs and the resources you have for keeping those emails squeaky clean.

Proper Email List Hygiene In 4 Easy Steps

A clean list improves the effectiveness of your email marketing campaign efforts, strengthens your sender reputation, and enhances the overall success of your campaigns. By adhering to the guidelines below, you can maintain a clean email list that fosters higher engagement, lower unsubscribe rates, and minimal spam complaints.

Step 1: Identify Disengaged Subscribers

Before proceeding with cleaning your email list, it is crucial to distinguish between inactive and disengaged subscribers. Inactive subscribers should be removed, while disengaged ones may still be won back with targeted marketing efforts.

To determine disengagement, establish specific criteria. For instance, consider whether a subscriber hasn’t opened an email in three months or a year, whether they have not engaged with any campaigns, or if they haven’t clicked on any links in the past six months.

Once you have identified disengaged subscribers, create a separate list and analyze common themes among them. Develop a strategy to rekindle their interest, such as offering a discount code, using personalized subject lines, or implementing other engagement tactics. Give your best shot at re-engaging these subscribers before considering them truly disengaged and inactive.

Step 2: Identifying Reasons for Bounces

Bounce rates negatively impact email deliverability, but it’s important to differentiate between hard bounces and soft bounces. Hard bounces occur when emails are undeliverable permanently, often due to inactive or non-existent addresses. Soft bounces, on the other hand, are temporary issues like full inboxes that might resolve over time. Having a high bounce rate is not desirable. It damages your sender reputation and limits your email deliverability.

Remove emails that result in hard bounces from your list, but monitor those with soft bounces for improvements in their deliverability.

Step 3: Checking for Spam Filters

Immediate action should be taken when subscribers mark your emails as spam. Spam complaints and filters harm your deliverability rates and tarnish your reputation.

If a subscriber no longer finds your emails useful or considers them spam, it is best to part ways by removing them from your list. Continuing to send emails to individuals who view your messages as spam can have detrimental effects on your deliverability rates and sender reputation. By promptly removing these subscribers from your list, you minimize the risk of further complaints and ensure that your email list consists of engaged and willing recipients.

You can maintain a clean and reputable email list by promptly addressing spam-related issues, removing subscribers who mark emails as spam, and analyzing your content and practices. This approach ensures good deliverability rates, protects your sender reputation, and helps foster stronger relationships with engaged subscribers.

Step 4: Remove Inactive Subscribers

The final step in email list cleaning involves creating separate lists for the various categories mentioned above and removing inactive email addresses from your main list. If a user doesn’t open your emails for 90 days…don’t send them any more emails. Put them in a separate segment and send emails sparingly to re-engage inactive subscribers.

Although it may be challenging to let go of these subscribers, doing so ultimately benefits your deliverability and engagement rates. By ensuring your list consists of active and engaged recipients, you increase the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts.

Role Accounts Removal

In the world of email marketing, role accounts can be a tricky business. These are group or alias-based emails like ‘[email protected]’ or ‘[email protected]’. Multiple people commonly utilize these addresses within an organization, making them difficult to manage.

What are role accounts?

An email address that does not identify a single individual but rather serves as an identifier for a role, department or collective is known as a role account. They’re typically used for customer service inquiries, general information requests, and other non-personal communications. While it might seem like sending your newsletter to such addresses would increase its reach, it often results in low engagement rates.

This happens because people with access to these accounts may overlook your message among the multitude of others coming into their inbox daily. Or worse yet – if one person marks your mail as spam, it could affect deliverability to all other recipients on the same domain.

Addressing Unengaged Recipients

It’s crucial to address several factors to avoid being marked as spam. The primary concern is a lack of engagement. If your emails consistently receive open rates below 10%, email providers like Gmail, Yahoo, and Hotmail interpret it as a lack of interest from recipients, leading to your emails being filtered as spam. To mitigate this, ensure your initial welcome email and subsequent messages maintain good open rates. This can be achieved by crafting well-written emails, as we have discussed previously, and understanding that quality outweighs quantity.

It is advisable NOT to email individuals who haven’t opened any of your emails in over three months. Segment your email list so that you target recipients who have engaged within the last 90 days or less, while keeping inactive subscribers aside. Although more advanced, technical issues such as DM, SPF, or DKIM misconfigurations can also trigger spam placement. Additionally, being placed in the promotions tab in Gmail is detrimental, as it decreases visibility and may cause recipients to overlook your emails. While other factors can contribute to spam issues, engagement remains the primary concern.

The challenge of unengaged recipients is a crucial one that needs to be addressed for effective email list hygiene. These are subscribers who, despite being on your mailing list, do not interact with your emails. They neither open them nor click on any links within the content.

Having a bunch of inactive subscribers can mess up your email deliverability rates. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) use engagement metrics to decide if your emails are worth delivering or if they should dump them in the spam folder.

It is a good idea to measure your inbox placement performance and remove unengaged subscribers.

Confirming Email Subscriptions via Double Opt-in Method

The double opt-in method is like a secret handshake for email subscriptions. It’s a two-step process that ensures subscribers want to join your email list. First, they sign up. Then, they confirm their subscription by clicking a link in their email. 

Tips for Implementing Double Opt-In Effectively

If you’re ready to embrace the double opt-in method, here are some tips to make it a smooth process:

  1. Promptly Send Confirmation Emails: Don’t leave your subscribers hanging. Once they’ve signed up, get them a confirmation email quickly. Strike while the interest is hot.

  2. Simplify The Process: Make it easy for subscribers to confirm their subscriptions. Keep the instructions clear and concise in the confirmation email. Ain’t nobody got time for confusion.

All things considered, implementing a double opt-in system may slow down your subscriber growth initially, but it’s worth it. You’ll build an engaged audience who genuinely appreciates the content you share. That’s a win-win for everyone.


Maintaining good email hygiene is essential for copywriters and business owners, comparable to flossing for your email campaign. Just like stale bread or emails, a stale email list is unappealing and ineffective.

By prioritizing email list hygiene, you ensure a fresh, active, and receptive audience for your email marketing endeavors. So, grab your virtual floss and keep your email list in tip-top shape for optimal results and engagement.