5 Steps for Email List Hygiene

Spring is a great time to look around at the processes you have in place and see what can be organized and cleaned up. This applies to all kinds of things, including email marketing! Lists and databases are a primary component of your email marketing. List hygiene is a very important process to have in place to manage the lists of email addresses you have.

It’s best practice to have a regular schedule to hygiene your email addresses and data in place already, but if you don’t…we hope this helps give you the push you need to dust off those cobwebs and set up a great email list hygiene routine. Set up a process that makes the most sense for you and your company’s lists, and decide how often it should take place. While spring is a great time to clean up, we recommend doing it more often than once a year.

What is list hygiene?

List hygiene usually means practices that result in maintaining a clean list of email addresses and data.
Whether you host your lists with JangoMail, connect to a database, or have a new list – it’s important to put a plan in place to routinely tidy up your email addresses.
List hygiene usually consists of actions like:

  • Removing bounced email addresses
  • Removing duplicates
  • Removing inactive/cold users
  • Removing malformed addresses (like gmial.com)
  • Removing role addresses
  • Removing unsubscribed email addresses

Why should you clean your list?
The ultimate goal is an engaged list of valid, clean and active email addresses. Regular list hygiene is extremely important and impacts your email sending reputation. Sending to bad, old, or inactive email addresses can lead to sending to spam traps, which are hurtful to your sending reputation. Using a clean list also gives you more accurate reporting – increasing opens and clicks. Higher engagement with your messages boosts your sending reputation!

You should not use JangoMail or your ESP as a list cleaning service. This means do not send to known bad addresses or lists that are not active and clean, to use sending as a means to weed out bad addresses. This includes sending to addresses and lists that you don’t know how or when they were acquired or built, and haven’t sent to recently. It’s a bad idea…not only can this type of sending flag your account for bad behavior, it’s also damaging to your sending reputation.

Signs it’s probably time to clean your list or it’s been too long since you last cleaned it? A drop in your open and click rates. Increased unsubscribes or complaints. High bounce rates –ISPs see your bounces to their domain and a high amount can hurt your sending reputation. Too many lists to manage and stay organized. While JangoMail does automatically manage your unsubscribes and bounces, it’s a best practice and good idea to periodically clean up your list. You’ll make your sending more efficient and have more accurate results.

Steps recommended for email hygiene

1. Remove bounced email addresses
There are two different types of bounces – definitive (hard) and non-definitive (soft) bounces.

Hard bounces should be deleted and removed from your list the first time it occurs. Hard bounces are in most cases caused by sending to an invalid or non-existent email address. These are permanent failures that will never be able to be sent to again. Hard bounces can be caused by misspelled or malformed addresses, so check for errors like this before removing.

Soft bounces can become hard bounces, so those should not be sent to after several tries. Soft bounces are errors caused by issues like an email’s inbox being too full to receive more email. It’s obvious the recipient doesn’t pay much attention to their inbox if they get that error more than once.

2. Remove unsubscribed email addresses
Make sure you are compliant with all laws that pertain to your messages. In the US, this is primarily the CAN-SPAM Act. This includes using an unsubscribe link in your messages. It should be easy for recipients to unsubscribe from your messages if they wish to do so. If you use JangoMail, we automatically help you with this.

Although your ESP typically handles unsubscribe requests for you, make sure you’re paying attention to unsubscribes that may come to your reply inboxes. We don’t recommend using a two-step or tedious unsubscribe process. If recipients find it too difficult to unsubscribe, they will instead just mark your messages as junk or report as spam. This is very hurtful for your sending reputation.

3. Clean up duplicate email addresses and information
Do you have a multitude of lists, lists you have never sent to, or did you inherit managing an email program? If so, it’s likely you have clutter that needs cleaned.

  • Check for duplicate email addresses across lists, and data that needs combined and organized.
  • Merge lists together or delete. Oftentimes lists are created to segment for one-off sends or projects, but if you aren’t sending to it anymore it’s now just taking up space.
  • Review lists by creation date, check to see if any emails have been sent to it recently. Decide to merge lists into a current, active list or delete.

4. Get rid of role addresses
Role addresses are typically distribution emails with multiple recipients, and likely that not all recipients have opted in to your emails. This means that role addresses have not been obtained with explicit opt in. Role and distribution emails are likely to unsubscribe. We don’t recommend sending to role addresses or sending from them. Examples of role addresses include: info@, support@, admin@, contact@.

5. Inactive email addresses
This is often the most overlooked portion of a list – inactive email addresses. Inactive email addresses are considered emails that are no longer engaging with your messages. Engagement consists of opens and clicks. Cleaning up inactive, unengaged email addresses is the list hygiene step that likely has the highest impact.

It’s easy to identify and clean up bad addresses like the ones we mentioned in previous steps, but do you have a process to evaluate your inactive and unengaged recipients? If an email address hasn’t opened or clicked in a long time, it’s time to put a re-engagement process in place.

A good rule of thumb is to sort your list by the date the email address signed up or was added. If they haven’t opened in the last 6-12 months, send them a re-engagement campaign. If the user still doesn’t act, it’s time to say goodbye. Unengaged email addresses bog down your open and click stats – and ultimately don’t boost your sending reputation at ISPs.

One of the most important reasons to clean up and remove email addresses that haven’t engaged with your emails in a long time is because dormant emails are sometimes used to become spam traps by email providers. Sending to a spam trap greatly hurts your sending reputation. Another reason to clean up inactive email addresses is that these recipients probably already aren’t seeing your messages and don’t care! If they aren’t opening your messages regularly – your messages are probably being filtered to their bulk folder – and not being paid attention to at all. Out of sight, out of mind. Send a last re-engagement campaign and if that doesn’t work, remove them for good.

Best practices for email list hygiene

Develop a plan and procedure that includes our five steps above. Determine how often you perform the hygiene steps and schedule it on your calendar. Each year, evaluate your email list hygiene process and decide whether it makes sense to keep the same schedule.

Need help or have questions about list hygiene? Contact JangoMail today!