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Cleaning Email Lists 101: Refreshing Address Lists

Learn how to scrub your email list. Regular email cleaning benefits your email marketing strategy and can improve metrics like conversion and open rates.

With billions of daily email users worldwide, email marketing continues to be a widely utilized and highly effective digital marketing channel.

Whether you run a small business or a large corporation, email marketing is a cost-efficient way to foster direct communication with your customers and drive growth. Building a substantial email subscriber list, in particular, allows for the easy distribution of newsletters, product promotions, and exclusive offers.

However, no matter how much effort you put into growing your subscriber base, there still comes a time when you need to clean your email list. A trim and well-curated email list with engaged subscribers and valid email addresses provides a myriad of benefits for your business.

For instance, it is more likely to result in better open rates, click-through rates, and conversion rates.

Email list cleaning: the process of removing unengaged or outdated contacts.

What does it mean to clean your email list?

Email list cleaning is when you remove unengaged, unsubscribed, invalid, or duplicate contacts.

It can improve the overall quality of your email list and increase the effectiveness of your email campaigns. In some cases, scrubbing your email list can even help you comply with email marketing laws and regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM Act in the US and GDPR in the EU.

Here’s what to look out for in your list-cleaning process:

  • Unengaged or inactive subscribers: Despite signing up for your email list, unengaged subscribers do not click on any of the links or call-to-action buttons within your emails. Sometimes, they do not open your emails at all. Having a high number of unengaged subscribers can negatively impact your sender reputation as well as your email deliverability and open rate.
  • Unsubscribed email addresses: If someone clicks on an unsubscribe link embedded within your emails, you must remove them from your email list within 10 business days in compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • Invalid email addresses: An email sent to an invalid email address will bounce and fail to deliver. These email addresses are typically misspelled or no longer in operation due to user abandonment or a defunct email provider. Remove bounced email addresses to reduce your email marketing costs and safeguard your sender reputation.
  • Duplicate email addresses: Sending multiple identical emails to the same address can annoy your subscribers and cause email service providers to mark your emails as spam. Trigger fewer spam complaints by removing duplicate emails while list cleaning.

Why you should clean up your email list

Bolster your email marketing efforts by tidying up your email list from time to time. Routine list cleaning can provide a number of benefits for your business.

More engagement

Regularly maintaining your email list can lead to more engagement and, ultimately, more conversions.

By removing inactive subscribers and invalid addresses, you can better engage with those who show a marked interest in your business. As a result, you can expect better email metrics, such as higher inbox placement rates, open rates, and click-through rates.

Improved email deliverability

Better engagement goes hand in hand with improved deliverability. With a lower number of email bounces, unsubscribes, and spam complaints, your emails will have an easier time reaching your intended recipient's inbox.

Higher ROI

Save money on your email marketing campaigns by reducing your costs. Compared to having an email list full of inactive subscribers, targeting a smaller group of high-quality, engaged subscribers is much more conducive to generating sales.

More insightful data

Get a more accurate view of your email list by removing outdated email addresses and fake email addresses. Use the patterns and trends you notice to better segment your audience and make informed decisions on your email marketing strategy.

Meet compliance standards

Know the difference between compliant and non-compliant email lists. Continuously update your email list to follow email marketing laws and regulations.

Make sure you have permission to send emails to everyone on your list to avoid damaging your reputation. Sending emails to people who don’t want to receive them can also trigger spam complaints.

The benefits of cleaning your email list include more accurate performance analytics, lower costs, and more specific targeting and engagement amongst subscribers.

How to scrub your email list

Let's go through the process of cleaning your email lists.

Identify and remove all problematic email addresses

Cleaning your email list begins with pinpointing and eliminating all problematic and potentially harmful email addresses. This can be achieved either manually or by using specialized email marketing tools.

The following types of emails should be specifically targeted for removal from your list:

  • Email addresses with an incorrect format, syntax structure, or domain name: Email verification services can assist in identifying these types of email addresses.
  • Email addresses with no legitimate mailbox: An email verification service can also check to see if a mailbox exists and is able to receive emails.
  • Bounced email addresses: Ensure the validity of your email list by conducting an audit for bounced emails. Use email marketing software or send a test email to a select group of addresses and monitor the bounce rate.
  • Catch-all email addresses: Catch-all email addresses accept any email sent to them, regardless of whether the email address is valid or not. Use a catch-all email checker to remove them from your list.
  • Spam email addresses: Never buy email lists. The quality of purchased email lists is often poor, containing spam traps and other problematic email addresses. Look for spam traps in your email list using a spam trap checker. Eliminate your chance of being blacklisted by internet service providers by scrubbing them off your list.

Re-engage inactive subscribers

Before purging your email list of inactive subscribers, consider implementing a re-engagement campaign to revitalize their interest in your products or services. After all, it's more beneficial to have a larger audience and wider reach.

Single out your less-active or disengaged subscribers, and show them you miss them with special discounts and perks. You can even consider winning them back with a free gift.

If you want to further stimulate engagement and keep these subscribers interested in your business, start asking for feedback and linking to your social media accounts in your emails as well, if you haven’t already.

Identify and remove inactive subscribers

Sometimes your email subscribers just need a little nudge to be active again. However, if they are still inactive after your re-engagement campaign, consider parting ways for your mutual benefit.

While it is possible to remove all of these subscribers manually, it’s best to rely on an email list cleaning service to get the job done in an efficient and timely manner. Email list cleaning services typically consolidate a variety of features into one single platform, including email verification, catch-all checks, spam trap detection, and more. Depending on the service you choose, they can even offer real-time verification and in-depth reporting.

Make list cleaning a habit

Routine list cleaning is crucial for the success of your future marketing campaigns. With each cleanse, you are proactively mitigating issues such as spam complaints, hard bounces, and more.

You also gain deeper insights into your audience, enabling you to effectively segment and target them with relevant content. In the end, this leads to improved conversions and better results.

Best practices for cleaning email lists

While email marketing can look different for every business, there are a few best practices you should follow.

Use double opt-in for new subscribers

Even if someone signs up for your mailing list, substantiate their interest with a double opt-in email that includes a confirmation link. While this may seem like an extra step, it is a good way to check whether an email address is valid and monitored.

Make unsubscribing easier

Make the unsubscribe links in your emails visible and accessible. This simplifies your list-cleaning process and reduces the chance of triggering spam complaints.

Use marketing automation

Use marketing automation to easily organize your email lists and send automated emails. Mailchimp’s marketing automations can nurture new relationships with welcome emails, update customers on their purchases with transactional emails, collect customer feedback, and more.

Clean regularly

While there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to list cleaning, scrubbing your email list every 6 months is often considered ideal. 6 months is enough time for substantial changes to occur in your email list, but not so much that the list becomes outdated or inaccurate.

If you want to get an even stronger hold on your email list hygiene, try purging it every 3 months. Overall, the frequency of cleaning your email list can vary. Choose what's best for your business by evaluating the size of your list, its rate of subscriber change, and your email marketing goals.

Get back to contacting users

A clean email list can do wonders for your business in terms of conversion and growth. Frequent list cleaning provides better inbox placement rates, open rates, and click-through rates. Increase your engagement and get back to contacting the right people by deleting inactive and invalid email addresses from your contacts.

Want other ways to grow your audience? Start a newsletter with automated emails. Mailchimp’s email marketing software offers drag-and-drop email templates, customer targeting tools, and data-driven analytics.

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