The average email list depreciates by 25% every year according to MarketingSherpa. Smart email marketers are actively involved with that depreciation. But why would you want to contribute to the depreciation of your email marketing list?
Because by regularly scrubbing your email list, you are removing irrelevant leads and contacts that could be harmful to your email marketing success. List cleaning decreases instances of unsubscribes and recipients marking you as SPAM; it helps you better segment your emails and increase content relevancy; it improves your deliverability and sender reputation; it improves your email open rates; it saves you money if you're charged on a per-send basis; it makes you look like a marketing superstar when your email metrics improve; and most importantly, it keeps you legally compliant.
Now that you're undoubtedly convinced of the importance of keeping your email list clean, how do you do it? Keep reading for the breakdown of all the email addresses you should look for and remove during an email list scrub, and instructions to keep it clean after you have your new, sparkly clean list.
The Email Addresses To Scrub From Your Email Marketing List
1.) Duplicate and Invalid Email Addresses: Make sure your CRM is deduplicating all list subscribers; email is the best record to use for dedupe since it is unique. Every email address should be checked to confirm that it is a real, working email address during the deduplication process.
2.) Unsubscribes: If someone unsubscribes, they must come off your email list. It's the law!
3.) Contacts Who Didn't Opt In: Whether you're replacing a less than scrupulous marketing manager or you've just learned about the error of your sketchy email marketing ways, anyone who is on your list because of list buying, list scraping, or any other illegal or legal-ish email address collection method should be removed. This will not only help keep you out of the clinker, it will help improve your sender reputation, email deliverability, and open and click through rates.
4.) Alias Email Addresses: Alias addresses are things like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Many ESPs don't deliver emails to these types of addresses successfully because not all of the email addresses associated with the alias have opted in to receive communication from you. And chances are, not all of them want to, either.
5.) Bouncing Email Addresses: There are two types of bounces to consider when scrubbing emails that bounce: Hard bounces, and soft bounces. If someone is bouncing for a permanent reason, like an invalid or blocked email address, they're a hard bounce that should be removed from your list. But if they are bouncing for a temporary reason, like an autoresponder or a full mailbox, they are a soft bounce who should remain on your list. Soft bounces should, however, continue to be monitored. If their bounce rate does not decrease, they should be removed from your list because their email address is likely inactive.
6.) Disengaged Email Recipients: If someone has stopped opening or clicking through your emails, they shouldn't be scrubbed from your list immediately. But they should be part of a re-engagement campaign that asks them for feedback, gives them the opportunity to change their opt-in settings, and lets you work to better tailor your email marketing to their interests and needs. If after your re-engagement attempts some recipients are still disengaged subscribers, it's to your benefit to proactively remove them from your list before they mark you as SPAM and damage your sender reputation.
7.) Some of Your Old Email Contacts: The older the email address, the more likely they are to be a good candidate for removal; the email address could be abandoned, or the recipient could have lost interest in your product or service. But you don't want to nix some of your oldest, most loyal email subscribers, either. So how do you tell the difference?
Segment your list based on age of subscription, and monitor the open rates, click through rates, unsubscribe rates, and bounce rates of your older lists as compared to your new lists. The contacts on your old list who have similar performance metrics as those on your new list are active, and should not be removed. But those email addresses that appear to be abandoned, giving complaints of SPAM, or who are bouncing have either changed email addresses, or are probably disinterested in your product or service. Remove those who are bouncing or marking you as SPAM, and enter the disinterested recipients into a reegnagement campaign. If the results are dismal, say goodbye.
How To Keep Your Email List Clean
1.) Provide Clear Unsubscribe Instructions: You must provide email recipients with the option to unsubscribe in every email, and you should make that option very clear in the footer of your email. Use straightforward anchor text, like "Unsubscribe from these emails," so your subscribers aren't confused about their options, and make the process easy and expeditious when they get to your landing page.
2.) Let Subscribers Edit Their Email Settings: When your email recipients click through to unsubscribe, also offer them the opportunity to edit their email settings. Refining the frequency of email send and the topics about which they can be emailed may save you an unsubscribe. Even if recipients don't want to unsubscribe, you should include a link to this page in the footer of every email you send for greater personalization, and by extension happier email subscribers.
3.) Only Acquire Email Subscribers on the Up and Up: Once you've scrubbed out any ill-gotten email addresses, be sure to only collect email addresses to best practices. Use remarkable content and optimized landing pages to generate leads, and use double opt-in to keep your sender reputation safe.
4.) Send a Welcome Email to all New Subscribers: As part of your double opt-in process, send a welcome email to all new subscribers asking them to confirm their subscription, add you as a safe sender, and customize their email settings. Letting subscribers choose their ideal frequency of communications and the topics about which you'll email them ensures you're communicating in the manner they most prefer, tempering the chances you'll end up in someone's spam folder, their trash can, or worse, marked as a spammer by a forgetful or annoyed subscriber.
5.) Send Re-engagement Emails: When subscribers stop opening and clicking through your emails, you have a relevancy problem. Send re-engagement emails that ask them for feedback on what topics are most interesting to them so you can better customize the content you send their way.
6.) Segment really, really well: Segmenting your email list is crucial to maintaining a clean list, because it ensures you're sending only the most relevant emails to your subscribers. As soon as you start email blasting without consideration for what recipients care about, you lose all credibility. Keep collecting lead intelligence and refining your communications as you get to know your subscribers, and target your emails based on their behaviors and actions both on and off your website.
When's the last time you scrubbed your email list? Are there any other types of email addresses you look to remove when cleaning your email list?
Image credit: bark
Originally published Jan 16, 2012 4:30:00 PM, updated June 09 2021