All About Email List Cleaning

On August 18, 2020
7min read
Roman Onishchuk Marketing Manager

Inexplicably, in the times of the advanced digital era, a broad variety of effective promotion tools, some marketers get scared of the upcoming cleaning email lists. Well, you shouldn’t! 

First of all, it’s worth recalling your main motivation: a clean email client base is the key to success. The cleaner the list, the better your email sender reputation. The better the reputation, the more emails will reach your legitimate clients. And they’ll likely generate a better ROI for you.

Today we will discuss the specifics of cleaning the clients’ base, how crucial it is, how often and when it should be executed. Please, read some useful recommendations about the most effective tools which will lead your campaigns to another level of development. 

Why cleaning email contact databases?

Services of e-marketing can block your account when they receive complaints about spam after the submission. It often happens because the email list is absolutely null. Only 5% of bounces may cause you getting in a blacklist by dysfunctional senders. 

Having a cleaner email list immediately leads to fewer spam complaints. You’re less likely to fall into a spam trap and you’ll stay away from the aforementioned blacklist. In the eyes of email servers receiving your emails, you’ll look more legitimate and they’ll be more likely to let your emails into the recipient’s inboxes.

Within this topic, we should discuss why emails bounce. We can differentiate two types of bounces:

  • Soft. Emails that reach the email servers (they recognize real addresses), although somehow the users can’t receive them. It is usually a short-lived issue.
  • Hard type. Emails returned to the sender, they didn’t get to the recipient. 

Both bounce types may be of different nature. Why you can receive soft returns:

  1. The full recipient’s mailbox. Some mailboxes are limited with their capacity limits. As soon as the limit is reached, the subscription is denied. After, this account stays active and the campaign may be resent once again.
  2. Server timeout. Since there are no 100% safe servers, the message may not be delivered sometimes. This can happen if the server gets overloaded, out of order, or unavailable for some reason.  Frequently, in such cases, the server will retry the delivery in e.g. 24 hours and after a few failed attempts, will finally give up. If it doesn’t, consider sending your campaign again later.
  3. Your email is too heavy. Some mailboxes have very sensitive filters, and they limit the message for its size. No campaign must be a mile long and it should not include huge files.

Consider one important thing: a 3-fold consecutive soft bounce will definitely be followed by a very unpleasant situation – the subscriber stops engaging with the content altogether. To put it clear, your contact is not available for you any longer. Therefore some proper attention should be paid not only to hard returns, but also soft ones. 

Hard bounces, on the other hand, may happen for somewhat different reasons:

  1. Nonexistent email address. Actually, it is the most popular reason why no letters you send to a subscriber can reach the inbox. . Chances are, you can’t deliver emails to a reader because he happens because he made a typo in the address when signing up. Maybe, the owner deactivated his or her address, or possibly migrated to a different email client provider.  .
  2. The  server of the addressee blocked the mailer. Most corporate or government domains are set up with quite strict spam filters that let only authorized emails through. Authenticating the sender’s domain may fix this problem. 

In case your first newsletter gets multiple bounces, check the whole email list by using special cloud email verification instruments

There are some more simple reasons holding you back from obtaining a clean email list:

  • when database entries have been collected over several years ago, and your newsletter was never sent to existing addresses;
  • when for some reason you have not used the double consent tool on the website;
  • if the database was compiled and later saved manually – in this case, typos are inevitable.

Finally, let’s talk about the most important reasons to clean up email list:

  • Save on subscription fees for your ESP by removing the hopeless contacts
  • Improve the campaign’s deliverability rate – a clean list can help you get it up to 99%;
  • Keep an impeccable reputation of a sender – your domain is never blacklisted, and all the messages you share get straight to the “Inbox”;
  • Increase targeted conversions, growing the campaign’s ROI by 3-4 times.

We hope these reasons will become strong arguments in favor of the fastest verification of your customer base. 

What is needed for cleaning the list of subscribers?

Here’s a simple process to obtain a healthy list of addresses quickly and easily. The first step – removing unnecessary contacts. Please, understand that people who unsubscribed from the mailing list, complained about spam, or left their mailbox long ago have no interest in your mailing list. It makes no sense to keep these in your database, as they only litter the lists and increase the cost of email marketing software. 

Many email sending platforms will remove such contacts automatically after they hard bounce. After all, emails sent to nonexistent accounts also hurt their reputation. But if they don’t, make sure you do it yourself.

Inspect Your Emails

Let’s look at the following parameters of email status and availability:

  • refused all mailings;
  • unsubscribed;
  • blocked;
  • not available;
  • server considers it a spam mail;
  • addressee considers it a spam mail;
  • the box is full. 

There are two ways to go about decluttering your subscriber database: . 

Method #1 involves your contact list update. Then, we run the database through the filter until the last submission date. We recommend choosing half a year or more. If the subscriber has not interacted with an email in a long time, perhaps he will send the first letter to “Spam”. Note that these addresses shouldn’t be deleted immediately since you can try to reach out again with a follow-up email. 

Method #2 involves segmentation of users according to criteria: “Email availability” or “Email status”. 

After your email list cleanup, we suggest recalculating the number of valid subscribers  in the database. If it decreases drastically, consider downgrading your email marketing subscription plan for a smaller-scale one.

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So, how can you see when it’s time to clean?

To detect when you should clean your addresses list, monitor how many emails were opened. The mentioned metric indicates the involvement of your subscribers. If it begins to decline, it’s the right time to clean up the area. 

Some old contacts may have several different characteristics. These may be contacts of people who are not interested or not related to the brand. These people will never read your excellent emails. It can also be wrong email addresses: fake, inactive, temporary, disposable, spam traps, etc. 

Take a look at your base having these two “markers” in mind. We are sure that you will not delay with email list cleaning!

How regularly do you need to clean your customer email address database?

As we mentioned earlier, the regularity of cleaning can depend on whether you like engagement metrics or not. But there are a few more starting points to check. It all depends on the amount of information collected, the speed with which additions are made, how long it took to create the list, etc.

When choosing the optimal time to improve your subscribers’ addresses, be guided by the following rules:

  • Clean up after you have any email campaign. Take it as a rule. In addition, the scope of work here is less than it seems at first glance. Preliminary study the statistical data in your Analytics section, where, for sure, you will find unsubscriptions, cancellations, spam. Delete all the problematic contacts before your next campaign. 
  • Optimize the data in your list about every few months. For more efficiency, use tools to segment your target audience. If there are users who, having received your correspondence, did not open for around 3 months or even 6, we recommend sending them an email to reactivate an account. 

If you didn’t receive any reply, stop wasting your time, your money and energy on those who are not interested in your product or service. Focus on new customers and pay more attention to those who are here already. There is always something to strive for! Work on personalizing the content, improving the service, and relationship with subscribers in general. 

Tips & Tricks

Don’t puzzle over how to scrub an email list. We have compiled TOP-5 rules that have a beneficial effect not only on the base itself, but also on prospective marketing campaigns. Well, catch them:

  1. From time to time check your account and remove outdated addresses. This way, you will improve the quality of your correspondence, protect yourself from blocking by postal services and save on postage rates.
  2. Get rid of unnecessary contacts by updating your contact lists and segmentation. You don’t need those who unsubscribed from the mailing list, complained about spam, left their mailbox or initially entered the wrong address.
  3. Use the double confirmation tool for new contacts. By doing so you will filter out invalid, fake and incorrect data even at the registration stage. 
  4. Delete accounting lists when they are no longer needed. The reason for this may be the end of the seasonal promotion, the suspension of the loyalty program and special offers, or reactivation. 
  5. Count the number of remaining subscribers after each email list cleaning and, if necessary, switch to a new tariff plan in order to save your email marketing budget. 

Our top tip relates to choosing a free email list cleaner. It is a modern platform that will help you improve your subscriber base quickly, efficiently and at an affordable price.

What to do with a cleared contact list and how to verify it?

After you’ve solved the problem called “clean my email list,” your next mission should be to keep it as healthy as it is. You can do the following:

  • turn your website visitors into new active customers using lead generation;
  • make it a rule to send welcome emails to your new subscribers regularly;
  • never underestimate copywriting methods in email marketing, work on the principle “brevity is the soul of wit”;
  • show potential customers more relevant campaigns based on their behaviors and interests.

These tips are also relevant when it comes to building a media contact list for PR activities. To improve the process of media contact list creation, you should consider using special tools for searching emails, media outlets, and media contacts. Many of them are free and easy to handle.

Sum Up

Well, you know now not only how to clean your email list, but also what to do with it next. You can verify the contacts of your database right now using a professional online email validator. With a modern cleaning service, you can perform real-time scans using the company’s corporate site dashboard or by integrating an API product into your own system or website.

Article by Roman Onishchuk Marketing Manager

Roman Onischuk is a Marketing Manager at He has 3+ years of experience in email and content marketing.