August 24, 2023

5 Effective Email List Cleaning Tactics For Better Engagement

Reading time about 10 min

Email list cleaning is key to an effective email marketing strategy. Want to learn how to clean your email list? Here are five simple email list cleaning tactics to get you started.

  1. Segment your email list for inactive subscribers
  2. Send a re-engagement email campaign
  3. Renew the opt-in
  4. Make it easy to unsubscribe
  5. Find out why your emails bounce

Benefits of email list cleaning

Before we get to how to clean up your email list, it’s important to know why you should make the effort in the first place. 

A clean list improves your overall email campaign performance. Here are a few ways email list cleaning can help you improve email marketing KPIs

Lower bounce rate

When emails can’t be delivered to the recipient’s inbox, they bounce back. This happens if you’re trying to reach invalid email addresses (hard bounce) or full inboxes (soft bounce). You’d have a very high email bounce rate if you buy an email list as you’re bound to get fake emails. A clean email list consists only of valid emails of subscribers who actually want to read your emails. 

Better sender reputation

From there, fewer bounced emails improve your sender reputation because it signals to email service providers (ESPs) like Yahoo, Outlook, or Gmail that you’re not a spammer sending bulk email randomly. So they’ll allow your email to get past spam traps and land in the inbox. Then, if the recipient interacts with it positively (open it, click it, forward it, etc.), it’s another good signal that your emails are genuine.

Increase email deliverability

This results in improved deliverability rates to your whole email list. The more positive feedback your emails get, the less they’ll get labeled as spam. More email clients will let you in inboxes and you’ll be able to reach more and more contacts on your list.

Increase engagement

Regular list cleanup will also increase the overall engagement, open, and click-through rates of marketing emails. This translates into more meaningful relationships with email subscribers.

It’s important to give your email list a good scrub every now and then to create a more targeted list of engaged contacts. This lets you focus on the subscribers or customers who really have an interest in your product. You’ll be able to create content that satisfies their needs and interests.

And most importantly, you’ll have higher email open rates, conversion rates, and a more engaged community. Especially in ecommerce, this means higher revenue and overall customer satisfaction.

Related: The Top Email Marketing Mistakes You’re Probably Making

What are the risks of not cleaning your email list?

Some businesses don’t invest in email list hygiene because they assume there isn’t an additional charge to send an email to one more person, but that’s not true.

The cost of not using a clean email list can be: 

  • damage to your sender reputation from email bounces, 
  • unsubscribes, 
  • and spam complaints. 

Over time this damage adds up and can negatively affect your ability to reach your entire subscriber base, including your best or most engaged customers. To avoid this, it’s best to follow email list cleaning best practices or get an email list cleaning tool.

Related: Best Email List-Building Tools

How often should you clean your email lists?

A good practice is to clean your email list every six months or once a year minimum. However, this may depend on a variety of factors including the size of your list and how often you send email marketing campaigns.

For example, you might want to clean your email list after sending a major campaign. This involves checking lists for catch-all or duplicate email addresses, typos, and syntax errors. You can also use a tool for real-time email verification. This acts as an automatic email checker, prompting new subscribers to correct accidental errors before signing up.

So, how do you clean an email list? Here are 5 ways.

5 simple email list cleaning tactics

Now that you know why it’s so important, here’s how to clean up your email list and improve your email marketing:

1. Segment your email list for inactive subscribers

Email segmentation is a great tool for cleaning your email list. You can set up rules to automatically remove duplicate email addresses or segment subscribers that meet certain criteria. 

Easily purge invalid or outdated email addresses from your list using marketing automation to remove emails that bounce. Set up a rule to remove any addresses that bounce two or more times rather than after a single bounce.

You can also set the rule based on a time limit, e.g. people who haven’t opened an email from you in 6–12 months. With email marketing tools like Brevo, it’s easy to filter subscribers based on periods of inactivity.

customer segment

Marketing automation can also help you identify low-engagement subscribers and then re-engage them. You don’t necessarily have to remove these less interested subscribers from your email database either. Instead, segment them into a new list and try a different marketing approach to see if it will resonate with them better.

2. Send a re-engagement email campaign

reactivation email example

Low engagement doesn’t necessarily mean that recipients don’t want to hear from you at all. They may just not like the type of content you’re sending. Before removing less active subscribers, consider what other kinds of content you could provide that might be more appealing.

Unengaged subscribers can sometimes be lured into activity with the right winback email offer, such as:

  • A free gift or discount
  • A special perk
  • Exclusive content

Sometimes email subscribers appreciate your content, but they’re just experiencing email fatigue. This is especially common around the holidays when inboxes get filled faster than stockings!

You can try to reconnect with these contacts on other platforms as well. Add links to your social media profiles for those who’d prefer to follow you there. 

3. Renew the opt-in

There’s no need to ask your most engaged subscribers to opt into your emails again because their interaction makes it clear that they find value in the emails.

However, your disengaged subscribers may want to go and just haven’t taken the time to unsubscribe. Do yourself and your unengaged subscribers a favor by sending a re-optin campaign and remove them if they don’t re-subscribe.

Simply notify inactive subscribers that you’ve noticed their lack of engagement and let them know that you don’t want to clutter their inbox if they’re not interested. Ask them if they want to continue to receive emails with a clear call-to-action button that will re-sign them up for future emails.

4. Make it easy to unsubscribe

Most countries require you to provide a way for people to unsubscribe from your email communications. But the laws don’t necessarily specify how to do this, which means there’s a lot of variation in how businesses handle this requirement.

Brevo’s bulk email software is fully GDPR compliant and automatically includes an unsubscribe link in all emails. No extra effort required on your part. 

Some businesses intentionally make it difficult to opt-out to try to keep subscribers in their list. This usually doesn’t go down well.

The worst thing you can do is hide your unsubscribe link or make the opt-out process unnecessarily time-consuming or confusing. If recipients feel like they can’t leave, they’ll just mark your emails as spam, which counts as a big strike against your sender reputation.

When recipients report your emails, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) lose confidence in the value of your emails, which means that they start blocking or filtering your emails out of other recipients’ inboxes as well.

The reality is that including an easy-to-find unsubscribe button and a one-step opt-out process won’t encourage subscribers to leave if you’re giving them a reason to stay. So make it worth their while by providing real value.

Related: GDPR in Email Marketing: How to Be Compliant and Avoid Fines

5. Find out why your emails bounce

Even valid email addresses for interested consumers can bounce on occasion due to a full inbox or server technical error. Emails that bounce multiple times, however, are a sign that the email is no longer active.

This is especially important for B2B companies. Their bulk email lists usually consist of mostly work email addresses, which have far shorter lifespans than personal email addresses due to employee turnover.

To learn why some of your emails bounce, check to see how your email provider handles different types of bounces and automatic blacklisting. Once you understand this, you can make automation rules that will fill in any gaps you think need to be addressed.

Best practices for email list cleaning

Email list cleaning is not a one-time job. Unfortunately, you can’t do it once and forget about it. It requires regular efforts to keep your email list clean and your emails away from the spam folder. 

Here are a few best practices to adopt:

  • Use double opt-in or an email verification service to prevent errors during newsletter signups;
  • Send a welcome email to new subscribers to manage expectations and weed out potential unsubscribers as early as possible;
  • Write subject lines that don’t trigger spam filters;
  • Use interactive content (polls, buttons) to encourage click-throughs, not just opens;
  • Try resending email campaigns to soft bounces (it means a temporary issue and you can still reach their inbox);
  • Automate win-back emails to re-engage inactive subscribers after a certain period of inactivity;
  • Provide a way for subscribers to manage their preferences;
  • Segment your newsletter list and send tailored content;
  • Prune inactive subscribers every 6 months.

Ready to clean your email list?

Now that you know how important email list cleaning is, it’s time to take action and make sure that your list is squeaky clean for the year ahead. Email list hygiene will help you execute your email marketing strategy without your list holding you back.

That way, you’re sure to see more engagement from contacts and build more quality relationships with customers.

To do that, your email marketing tool should offer email scrubbing  functionality. 

For example, Brevo can help you:

  • Implement double opt-in and respect subscribers’ consent;
  • Send email campaigns to engaged contacts only (all it takes is ticking one checkbox);
  • Automatically blacklist hard bounces, unsubscribers, and contacts that reported your email as spam so you don’t email them again;
  • Deliver the email at the best time for each contact to increase email open rates;
  • Include unsubscribe links automatically so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Segment by opens, interactions, and other engagement metrics
  • Use templates for double opt-in, welcome emails, and newsletters

Need an email list cleaning tool to grow your business?

Keep your email list clean with Brevo

Free plan includes access to all core email features, signup forms, unlimited contact management, and even automations to keep your list clean.

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