Fall is in full swing and the clocks are rolled back! That means we’re now raking leaves, pruning bushes and cleaning out closets of old clothes as we switch to warmer, more relevant outfits. You and all email marketers should be doing the same tasks before sending Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Holiday email campaigns.

That’s right: It’s time to for the Autumnal cleaning of your email lists!

Why your email list needs a good scrubbing

The number one reason to get your email list clean and keep it clean is this: Deliverability! A dirty list pulls down your recipient engagement and response rates and damages your email deliverability.

ISPs pay attention to what you’re doing. They want to know your reputation before allowing your emails through, because they don’t have to allow them through. If you have a shady or poor reputation, they can simply block your emails from reaching those inboxes they control. And like any kind of reputation, once yours is damaged, it takes time and effort to repair.

When you send to bad email addresses, spam traps, or people who don’t engage with your emails, you tell the ISPs that you’re not paying attention, that you’re a lazy marketer who is careless in their list management and not exactly trustworthy. Their response? To assume the worst of you. And your deliverability goes down. Good list hygiene can prevent this.

Your list also needs a good scrubbing because it’s probably dirty, and it’s dirty because:

     - You have old email addresses that subscribed ages ago but haven’t been emailed lately.
     - You keep sending to email addresses that haven’t engaged in over a certain number of months (or years).
     - You’re unknowingly emailing spam traps.
     - You’re emailing abandoned email addresses.
     - You’re not adhering to best practices for list building.

It’s like the colorful leafs laying in your front yard. They seem harmless enough until you can't find your morning newspaper in the voluminous blanket of red, orange, yellow and brown. Then you realize you should have kept things a little cleaner all along, before you got into this mess--although we’d argue a bad sender reputation is harder to recover from than a cover of detritus.

How to scrub that list

If you’ve simply been emailing people without paying much attention to your email list (or lists) and hygiene, you’re probably wondering, “How do I clean my list?!” It’s not like you can just rake them into a pile like leafs for the kids to play in (although that would be nice!). No, there’s a little more to it.

First off, segment out all unresponsive addresses and addresses you haven’t sent to within a certain time-frame. Be reasonable in the time frame. Six months is a good period of time. A year is kind of pushing it. Two years is definitely too long.

Then, get into the nitty gritty. In 2014, ClickMail published a post on how to do list hygiene that’s still the most thorough one we’ve seen, so we quote liberally from it here:

     - Suppress hard bounces.
     - Look for and eliminate duplicate email addresses. Also watch for duplicates when merging lists.
     - Look for and fix typos in domains. A address can easily be typed in as a one.
     - Look for and remove dead domains like and after April 28, 2017
     - Look for and purge fake accounts or those with spam or junk as part of the email address.
     - Look for and remove role addresses like "info@" and "webmaster@".
     - Consider using a list cleaning service.

     - Ask your ESP about using BlackBox to search your list for questionable email addresses.

How to keep your list clean going forward

Fall cleaning of your email list shouldn’t be a big deal if you’re keeping up with list hygiene on a regular basis like Spring cleaning too! And even that can be a minor task if you adhere to best practices for list building and email marketing like:

     - Ask for email addresses to be entered twice, to catch typos.
     - Use only permission-based lists.
     - Send targeted, relevant emails--no batch-and-blast.
     - Use a welcome email (or series).
     - Have a re-engagement program and use it.
     - If someone still doesn’t engage after a set number of attempts, let the unengaged go.
     - Make sure your unsubscribe link is easy to find and the process easy to do (as in one click).
     - Monitor your email analytics for deliverability trends.
     - Regularly pay attention to your sender reputation.

How dirty is your email list?

Use the BlackBox to test the cleanliness of your list. The higher the match rate, the dirtier your list. Fall shows us how beautiful it is to let things go. It’s also an ideal time to shed the old emails from your list, scrub it clean for the benefit of your sender reputation--and revive your response rates.

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