Best Practices for Email List Cleaning

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Email marketing has been one of the most long-standing forms of digital marketing. Since the internet became an essential part of life in the 1990s, email marketing has remained a critical part of the marketing industry. While many focus on other methods, such as social media advertising and lead generation through point-per-click advertising, email campaigns can have a big place in your marketing strategy.

With the wealth of email addresses, email marketing can be a great tool for finding new leads. The problem with email marketing, for the most part, is down to consistency in results.

It is common for email marketers to receive lists of potential email addresses to target. These come from prominent and reputable platforms such as ZeroBounce, Neverbounce, and Apollo. Buying a clean email list is unlikely; it must be cleaned up before being used to its full potential.

When using these tools, you can quickly build a credible list of email addresses to target that should apply to your audience. This leaves you with many email addresses to target with your marketing message. This can mean using cold marketing to find new clients, build relationships, and gain their trust through informative, interesting marketing messages.

Regardless of how your email list came to be, validating the list is essential. You need to clean the list of potentially risky or invalid emails. Cleaning your email list is great for reducing bounce rates, maintaining a strong reputation, and preventing your domain from being burned or, worse, having your ability to send emails removed due to having an account shut down for mass message spamming.

Broadly, there are two ways to clean an email list. First, you can do so manually using the tips we have collated below. Second, you can utilize a catch all email validation tool like Scrubby that is the ideal complement to your in-house list or the list you have received from a platform like Apollo.

Why Should You Focus On A Clean Email List?

Nobody wants to get the reputation of being a spammer. If your email list is cleaned up from invalid and risky email addresses, you will receive good returns on your email deliverability rates.

You have developed an email marketing campaign and a targeted list of potentially interested parties. This could be a cold marketing list that you have purchased, or it could be a list that you have developed organically over the years. You create an exciting, captivating email that should be relevant to most recipients. Why are you seeing low open rates and poor engagement?

One of the main reasons could be that your email list needs to be cleaned up. You want to avoid repeatedly sending the same marketing material, and you would like to use the marketing campaigns you run to receive poor returns for your time and investment. When you see returns reduce during a campaign, it could be a sign that your email list has to be cleaned up.

The main reasons to consider cleaning your email list include:

  • Retain good standing with email service providers
  • Make sure that emails receive a higher level of engagement from the recipients of your marketing
  • Build trust with email recipients by ensuring your marketing is a match for their requirements
  • Maintain higher conversion rates by ensuring your emails are read by interested people
  • Focus extra attention on the email recipients who show an active interest in your offers/services
  • Minimize bounce rates by removing the number of risky or invalid email addresses within the list
  • Remove inactive subscribers to maximize the number of recipients who engage with your campaigns
  • Improve your sender reputation and reduce the risk of your emails being sent to spam folders

The last part on this list, your sender reputation, is very important. What is your sender’s reputation?

What Is Your Sender Reputation?

Mailbox providers also provide senders of emails a sender reputation. A sender with a high reputation will likely find that their email lands in the inbox of their target email address. By contrast, a low reputation means your email is more likely to land in the spam box. Your sender reputation combines the reputation of your IP address and your domain reputation. If your domain is regarded as reputable and trustworthy, that will help emails land.

Your sender’s reputation will be determined by factors such as:

  • Your account’s history for sending emails: how often and how many emails daily?
  • The level of engagement your emails receive: how many recipients click through to read?
  • The level of recipients who then unsubscribe from your emails once received
  • The number of recipients who have made a complaint about you spamming
  • The presence of ‘spam traps’ within your email list – trap emails used to catch spammers

A high sender reputation matters a great deal. It can determine whether or not your email marketing campaigns are as effective as possible. One of the big reasons you might receive a poor sender reputation is your email list having many invalid or risky email addresses within. While SMTP-based email verification tools are great for verifying that a domain you are targeting is active, they cannot confirm that there is a mailbox present on the other end.

This means that many of your emails bounce and are never seen by a reader, thus reducing deliverability and click-through rates on your emails. That makes your account seem more spammy, harming your sender reputation.

Cleaning a list – even one invested in from a reputable provider – can further improve your sender reputation.

Tips For Cleaning Up Your Email List

Now that you understand why your email list needs to be cleaned up, let’s look at the best solutions for cleaning up your email list.

Focus On Double Opt-In

As a rule of thumb, any ‘warm’ email lists you build organically should start with a double opt-in strategy. Bought email contact lists differ, as cold marketing tactics do not involve an opt-in.

One of the most important elements of running a good email marketing campaign is ensuring the recipients want your emails in their inbox. This means receiving their consent through transparent signup forms and then providing a confirmation email.

No matter how good your email content is, if the individual did not subscribe, they are unlikely to read your email in the first place. Potential customers do not want to be distracted by emails they never requested.

The best way to do this is to use a double opt-in process. Double opt-ins give you extra confidence that any recipients on your email list want to be contacted by you.

By sending the link to have someone confirm their subscription, you make it much easier for people to be aware that they will be added to a mailing list. Also, double opt-ins are useful for removing typos and ensuring that every ‘warm’ email address is valid.

The same goes for offering an easy way out. Make sure that your unsubscribe button is not hidden away. Not only can this reduce spam complaints, but it can also avoid losing email subscribers who feel like you abuse their subscriptions.

Make sure that your readers get the ability to unsubscribe. That might sound counterintuitive, but hiding the unsubscribe button does little to build trust and can turn people against you. Make opting out quick, simple, and easy through a one-click process: ironically, this can reduce the rate of people who unsubscribe!

Start Scrubbing

We recommend scrubbing your email list of those who no longer engage with your content. Having a clean list makes sure your email marketing is generally more effective. Reviewing your subscribers’ email activity can help determine who is and is not interested in what you have to offer.

While waiting for people to opt in makes sense, even those who once opted in are no longer interested. Keep a close eye on your metrics. Even the best email mailing lists will see people no longer opening emails. Look for recipients who have not opened your emails for some time; they will likely unsubscribe in the future anyway.

Therefore, it might be better to remove them. If they have yet to open several emails in a row, it could be a sign that they are no longer interested or that the email address they used is no longer active. Why let these inactive subscribers hurt your open rates and click-through rates? It is better to have a smaller list of recipients who engage than a massive list with tiny engagement metrics.

Find Out What Your Readers Want

Now that you have scrubbed those uninterested in your email database, another important aspect of this subject is learning about what your recipients want. If you notice a significant dip in your engagement, you might not be sending content your recipients want to read. Instead of trying to second-guess many people, create a poll: ask the recipients what they would like to receive from you.

Finding out what the people you are contacting want is a great way to improve engagement. Then, once you know what users want, you can create a more targeted re-engagement campaign to maximize interest levels in those who subscribe.

A subscriber poll can be a great way to become better informed on the kind of content that will drive engagement. This stops users from having to respond directly instead of quickly filling in a poll to give you their preference. Having this poll as part of your first email to someone when they subscribe is good practice.

Segment Users Accordingly

When evaluating the above in your email database, one thing to focus on is the distinction between inactive and disengaged. An inactive user has not opened an email for some time you deem to be beyond the point of no return.

You might find someone is inactive when they stop opening emails completely for months; disengaged could be someone who opens the emails (even irregularly) but no longer clicks on links within the email. These are often known as ‘disengaged subscribers’ and should be put on a separate list for further evaluation and engagement.

Segment the users who are ‘disengaged’ and those who are ‘inactive’ – inactive users should likely be removed completely from the marketing campaign. Disengaged users, though, could be targeted differently. You could offer them a discount voucher for your goods/services, a more personalized email, or something related to the last link(s) they properly engaged with.

For example, you could also segment based on the poll idea that we gave above. A questionnaire or poll helps you to work out what people want when they sign up in the first place. This means that you can then set up campaigns based on what the poll results show. If X users want only to receive marketing promotions, you can segment them and avoid other content. If Y users wish to receive your insightful articles and blogs, you can segment them away from those looking for commercial benefits.

Segmentation is easy and effective and can help to ensure that your emails are more positively received.

Remove Duplication And Spam

One of the biggest impacts on your email list’s success will be the presence of duplicate email addresses. Duplicate emails can happen innocently: someone might subscribe to your list, forget about you, and then return later and resubscribe. This leaves you with duplicates on your email list. Duplicates will mean sending the same email twice, which can look spammy in the eyes of email service providers (ESPs).

Removing invalid email address listings makes sense from an email list hygiene perspective, too. Duplication is also a problem, as it might mean a user receives the same message more than once, leading to spam complaints.

The same goes for obvious spam email addresses. Look for people who have signed up and have nonsensical email addresses. High-quality email verification tools can do this for you, so you do not have to scrub the invalid or risky email addresses yourself. Spam email addresses will do nothing but bring down your metrics, so removing them should be a priority.

The same goes for typos. While looking through a list of 10,000+ email addresses is not for the faint of heart, the best thing to do is to search your list for obvious typos on email providers. For example, searching for ‘Gmial’ and ‘Gmali’ could find a lot of genuine email addresses that have been misspelt in the list.

This is most common with purchased email lists, which should be cleaned using an email list cleaning service. However, it could also result from human error on the person who signed up. Regardless of the reason, though, invalid emails will create deliverability issues that impact your sender reputation in the long term.

Evaluate Bounce Rates

Reducing bounce rates is always a key part of any email marketing strategy. When looking at your email performance metrics, the bounce rate is a key factor to focus on. If a high engagement rate is good, a high bounce rate is bad. High bounce rates could eventually lead to your email server being disabled.

You might see a high number of email bounces from certain addresses and remove them indiscriminately. However, it would help if you determined why the email has bounced. Is the email address inactive? Then, yes, this is a ‘hard bounce’ and thus should be removed from your email marketing campaign.

However, a ‘soft’ bounce could be like the recipient having a full inbox or other temporary issues. Soft bounces can be temporary. Create a segmented ‘soft bounce’ list and keep an eye on whether or not these unengaged subscribers return to receiving your emails in the medium term. Set an evaluation period of 2-3 months to see if these emails stop bouncing. If the bounces continue, remove them.

What About Spam Filters?

A common problem today is the presence of spam filters. Spam filters automatically mark your email as spam, meaning the chances of the recipient ever seeing the email are almost nil. This turns these emails into problematic email addresses, as being caught in spam filters will hurt your sender’s reputation and delivery rates. You can check for your email address(es) appearing on spam filters: if certain users have marked you for spam, save yourself the reputational impact and remove them from your list.

To improve email list hygiene, remove any addresses that have you on a spam filter.

Automate Removal

If you want to keep up with this process, you could automate your email list clean-up management. Set rules that feel logical, such as:

  • Removing email addresses that bounce more than X times over Y period
  • Getting rid of bad email addresses with typos in the name of the provider, i.e. Gmail
  • Scrubbing fake email addresses that are a combination of letters and numbers
  • Removing unengaged subscribers who have not opened an email from you in a set timeframe
  • Automatically segment users who are producing engagement below your average

Simple rules like this can help to reduce bounce rates, manage your reputation, and make it easier to spot the users who lack engagement but could be ‘saved’ with a change in approach. This can reduce unsubscribe rates.

Repeat This Annually

We recommend making time for an annual cleaning of your email list. Keep a close eye on your engagement metrics, spam rates, and click-through rates; this will give you a good idea of whether or not you should wait for an annual clean-up or take action now. Look for potentially bad email addresses for new sign-ups and any unclean email list you buy.

The same goes for any re-engagement email campaign you have in mind; segment lists for re-engagement regularly to avoid losing subscribers.

Prepare For Catch-All Emails

One issue many marketers face when managing an email list is the presence of catch-all email addresses. Companies use catch-all emails to send emails to their domain land in one place. If your email address list has many catch-all emails, this could be a reason for low engagement: catch-all email addresses are rarely checked.

There will likely be catch-all emails in any unclean email list you buy. For the best email health and results, it would make sense to understand better what these are.

Catch-All Emails: What Are They?

We mentioned above about catch-all email addresses. While useful for a business that wants to bring emails sent to their domain to one place, they often create low engagement and click-through rates, which is useless for email marketing.

Sometimes known as a wildcard email address, these are useful because they can catch emails that otherwise would have bounced completely. For example, let us say you intend to contact the email address ‘alansmith@yourtargetbusiness.com’ – but, on your email list, the email address spells the name ‘allansmith’ instead – this would mean that the alansmith email address would not receive the email. The catch-all email, though, would.

Catch-all emails are useful because they can help companies see emails that otherwise would have been lost due to a typo. Due to typos, companies take advantage of sponsorship and partnership requests or customer support queries. While useful, catch-all emails tend to go long periods without being checked. You could use your email marketing platforms to send marketing material to a catch-all email address that gets checked only a few times yearly, hurting your engagement massively.

Since catch-all collects their fair share of spam and nonsense, they are less regularly checked than an individual’s email address. However, they are still relatively common, and if they are part of your email marketing list, they should be used as effectively as possible. To do this, you need to verify the email.

Why do you have catch-all emails in your list? It could be for a few reasons, including:

  • An individual from this company joined your mailing list but made a typo signing up
  • An individual from this company joined your mailing list using the catch-all instead
  • You have purchased an email list that has catch-all emails included within the list

If you mostly use email marketing as a cold marketing tactic, bought lists often have catch-all emails within. Therefore, you need to ensure that you verify these email addresses.

Catch-All Email Validation: Why Does This Matter?

Traditionally, using most standard email verification tools, you cannot verify a catch-all email specifically. you can use an email validation tool to see which emails in your list are part of a catch-all domain. However, one tool available on the market today allows for this functionality: Scrubby. If you clean your email list using Scrubby, you can verify catch-all emails picked up from other lists. Then, you can make one of two choices:

1.      Remove these emails from your list to avoid communicating with catch-all emails

2.      Keep the emails on your list after Scrubby verifies they are not catch-all emails

This stops you from communicating with catch-all emails, but it also stops you from removing emails that could be beneficial to include in your email marketing campaign.

How Can You Improve Catch-All Email Validation?

The best way to improve your catch-all email validation process is to use a complementary tool to ZeroBounce, Neverbounce, and Apollo. These provide you with exceptionally detailed email lists, but these lists tend to include a combination of valid, non-valid, and catch-all emails.

Going through these manually would take a huge amount of time and resources. Instead, you can use a catch-all bulk email list cleaning solution like Scrubby. Then, you can determine what to do with those catch-all emails. Have you looked for another non-catch-all email for that company? Do you contact them directly? Do you remove them from your list?

Scrubby has become the go-to tool for cold marketers, in particular, who have invested in a mailing list. They can then improve the quality of their list by validating emails and getting rid of what is known as ‘risky catch-all emails.’ These emails can be detrimental to your success rate. By finding them and then segmenting or removing them, you can make your email list more about quality than quantity.

How Does Scrubby Improve My Email List?

As mentioned, you can use Scrubby to verify catch-all emails. This removes the need to verify each email address manually. How does this work?

For example, let us say that Scrubby takes an email list you purchased with 100,000 emails in that list. Around 54,000 of these emails are valid, with 6% invalid. These invalid emails can be removed entirely, as they are useless. That already makes your email list more effective.

Not only will this reduce your email marketing costs as you are sending to a smaller list, but this email cleaning service ensures that most emails on your list are valid and contactable.

Scrubby, though, can also clean up the ‘risky’ side of the catch-all emails found within this list. This leaves you with a list that is far more impactful and filled with valid email addresses and, thus, are more likely to engage with you.

Since Scrubby pairs with all SMTP-based tools, such as ZeroBounce and NeverBounce, it can be a wonderful complement to a list you have invested in. Now, you know that your emails are landing in valid email boxes, which can lead to better engagement, higher response rates, lower bounce rates, and a higher overall sender reputation.

How To Verify And Clean Your Catch-All Email List

All you need to do is submit your catch-all list of emails to Scrubby. This can then validate the emails that are deemed to be risky, scrubbing these risky emails from your list. Scrubby does this by sending blank emails from burner accounts, meaning your sender’s reputation is not impacted.

Within 72 hours (some emails bounce up to two days after being sent instead of bouncing immediately), you receive a list that has scrubbed the risky emails and invalid emails completely.

You are left with a list of verified emails that are safe to send. This means you can get the catch-all emails worth engaging with while avoiding hurting your metrics by sending emails doomed to be ignored from the start.

Clean Your Email List For The Best Results

As you can see, cleaning up your email lists is a more arduous process than it might first sound. Using the above methods as best practice, you can make scrubbing your email list of wasted, low-engagement, high-bounce rate email addresses much easier. For those who have cultivated an email list over time, this can be great for building a higher level of average engagement and uptake from users.

Those engaged in cold marketing and bought email lists can now speed up the process. Instead of risking your sender reputation by sending your emails to thousands of senders who never opted in, you can break down the list to include only validated, non-risky emails. Then, the level of response and uptake on your cold marketing comes down to the quality of your message instead of the quantity of valid emails.

With tools like Scrubby, you can make this process much quicker and turn those purchased email lists into something you can benefit from. Thanks to military-grade email validation tools, Scrubby ensures you can benefit from 98% accuracy in validation and verification.

For cold marketers looking to help clean up a list quickly, try Scrubby. Then, once you cultivate this list into an active number of interested subscribers, use the tips above to keep that email list clean, performing high, and consistent so you can maintain the best sender reputation possible.

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