10 Top Email List Cleaning Tips

July 10, 2012
By Michael Neubarth

One area in which email marketing experts are in agreement is the importance of maintaining a clean email list. As Dan Forootan relates, keeping your list clean, without duplications and incorrect or out-of-date information, "is imperative to having an effective email marketing strategy."

Following are 10 email list cleaning tips from leading email marketing experts from around the web: 

  • Remove Undeliverable Addresses—With ISPs and email services more closely monitoring traffic, invalid and outdated email addresses threaten your reputation and waste resources. Use an email delivery service to accurately capture email bounces, and make sure it’s configured to stop mailing hard bounces immediately and remove soft bounces after a few attempts. An email validation service is also an effective way to remove bad emails, and it avoids the risk of damaging your IP addresses and mailing reputation. 
  • Eliminate UnsubscribesMailing to people who have unsubscribed can get your emails sent to spam folders and arouse spam complaints that negatively affect your reputation. While the CAN-SPAM act allows 10 days to respond to an unsubscribe request, you should honor the request immediately. 
  • Suppress Spam TrapsSpam traps are decoy email addresses that are used by blacklists and ISPs to catch spammers. If they get on your list and you send mail to them, your email sender reputation and your ability to get email delivered will take a definite hit. To avoid looking like spammers, experts like Sandeep Vadgama recommend monitoring your reputation and practicing good list hygiene.
  • Reinvigorate or Remove Inactive Subscribers—Inactive subscribers can drain your resources and threaten your reputation. Try to reengage inactive users through reactivation campaigns, and reclaim as many inactive addresses as possible through an Email Change of Address (ECOA) service. If after a reasonable period of time the members continue to be unresponsive, eliminate their addresses.
  • Optimize Your Data Capture ProcessAs Spencer Kollas advises, "List hygiene starts with collecting good data." Start by providing well-designed forms with double data-entry fields for addresses. Employing real-time email verification services will enable you to verify and correct data in real time as it is entered on your website and before it gets on your list. 
  • Segment Your List—Profiling, segmenting, and targeting prospects and customers according to their interests and product preferences typically yields superior results. As Eric Groves notes, "This way, they're only getting information about the products they use." Profiling can be done by monitoring behavior, examining data, and through surveys. You also can acquire valuable data about prospects and customers via demographic append services
  • Reconfirm Subscribers—A number of email experts advise marketers to ask list members to reconfirm their subscriptions. Carrie Hill advises drafting a blast of list members thanking them for participating and asking them to reconfirm their desire to continue receiving emails. This tactic will greatly reduce the size of your list, and is best suited for organizations with severe delivery problems.
  • Use Intelligence. Tools and services are available to help you track spam complaints and monitor the paths and open rates of your emails. Also, as Spencer Kallas counsels, you can maximize your inbox delivery by signing up for white lists and feedback loops offered by ISPs and other providers. 
  • Audit and Consolidate—For marketing databases that are fed from multiple sources—such as corporate web site, point-of-sale systems, e-commerce platform, social networks, and mobile promotions—Jim Davidson of Multichannel Merchant advises examining, consolidating, and cleaning the data to optimize your marketing efforts. 
  • Practice Regular List Hygiene—As Silverpop and other email marketing authorities relate, the secret of the top email marketers is list hygiene. In this vein, Spencer Kollas advises you to, "Scrub your lists regularly."


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