March 9, 2017

7 Simple Tips to Make Sure Your Email Contact List Stays Clean

Reading time about 10 min

After building your email contact list, the work doesn’t stop there. To maintain good engagement rates and deliverability, you have to make sure you have a clean email list at all times. 

Do you have a clean email list? The answer is not as simple as you may think.

The goal of an email list is to send relevant information to real people who have asked to receive messages from you. This sounds easy enough — if they sign up to receive your messages, then they obviously plan on opening them, right?

Unfortunately, this is not always true. You may be missing things that are affecting the health of your email list and hurting your engagement rates.

How to know if you have a clean email list

Many marketers focus their efforts on getting as many contacts to sign up for their list as possible. Logically, this makes sense since you’re trying to reach as many people as possible.

But, it’s actually not a good idea to think only in terms of sheer list growth. After all, you wouldn’t want to have a list of contacts that’s full of people who have no interest in your product. This just means you’re wasting your time, and possibly even hurting your sender reputation, by sending to these uninterested contacts.

To make sure you’re sending to people who actually want to receive your emails, keep an eye on the following:

  • Engagement rates: If you have consistently low open and click rates on your email campaigns, one of the problems could be that your list has bad contacts hidden throughout.
  • Complaint rates: Spam complaints and unsubscribes are a clear sign that you might not have a clean email list. These indicate that your contacts aren’t satisfied with your emails and most likely aren’t interested in your offering.
  • Deliverability: Bad email deliverability can be a symptom of an unhealthy email list because it means either you have a lot of hard bounce email addresses (no longer existing), or you’ve had low engagement with your emails, which has dragged down your sender score.

If you are seeing issues with the above metrics, you might need to implement some email list cleaning strategies to clear out contacts who shouldn’t be in your list.

From there, you should keep following best practices to make sure you keep a clean email list. To help you out, here are 7 tips that you should keep in mind as you grow your list and send out email campaigns to keep your list full of engaged contacts.

7 Best Practices for Keeping a Clean Email List

1. Do Not Buy Email Lists

Like putting kerosene on a campfire, using purchased email lists will allow you to increase the size of your subscriber base quickly — but it can spell big trouble later on!

These types of paid lists are against anti-spam laws in many countries. These are in place to protect consumers, which means that you may face legal trouble for buying and using lists to contact consumers.

Additionally, sending emails to people who haven’t opted into correspondence from your company can result in poor engagement with your emails. This somewhat defeats the purpose of sending out email campaigns.

Not to mention – spam complaints and high unsubscribes can affect your sender reputation over time. This jeopardizes your email deliverability and success of future communications.

2. Maintain Regular Contact

Keeping in contact with your subscribers is another good way to ensure the health of your email list. Sporadic emailing can take subscribers by surprise. This increases the likelihood that your emails will be blocked and reported as spam by people who have long since forgotten that they signed up in the first place.

To start off your relationship with new subscribers right, set up a welcome email using marketing automation. This can reaffirm your value proposition, and set your subscribers’ expectations.

Example of a welcome email.

After that, make sure to send messages at least once a month to keep your company fresh in the minds of your email contacts. Some companies choose to send out emails at predictable intervals (the same day of each week, the first of each month, the end of each quarter, etc.) to establish even more regularity.

3. Segment Contacts Based on Past Engagement

Not every subscriber is going to respond to the same campaign strategy. To make sure your list stays clean, it is important to tailor your campaigns to different group’s preferences.

Sendinblue’s reporting capabilities allow you to see information about the people who are opening your emails and clicking on links. You can also see the subscribers who are ignoring your emails. This information can be used in many ways to improve your relationship with subscribers and get a better understanding of how you can improve.

A good place to start is to set up unique messaging for two groups: Rewarding your active subscribers and digging deeper with low-engagement subscribers.

Active subscribers frequently open emails and engage with the content inside. Segmenting these people allows you to

  • Reward them with exclusive content, discounts, giveaways, and other promotions.
  • Leverage their influence in referral campaigns to bring other people to your site.
  • Ask for feedback from active consumers of your content to see if they have suggestions for improvement.

Low engagement subscribers rarely open emails and spend little or no time engaging with the content inside. Low engagement could be caused by many different factors, but this segment is definitely not a lost cause. You can still message them to

  • Test new campaign strategies. This could mean using new or non-traditional content to win back their interest, or lower frequency campaigns.
  • Gain feedback on why they are not engaged to better understand what you can do to improve.

4. Remove Hard Bounces and Consistent Soft Bounces

Sending email campaigns to addresses that can’t receive them is the last thing any marketer wants to do. When an email fails to be delivered, it is considered a “bounce.”

Bounces can be caused for different reasons, and they are broken into two different types: hard and soft bounces.

A hard bounce occurs when an email is not delivered because the email address is not valid. This may be the result of a typo when the contact subscribed, or it could mean that the email address no longer existing. Any email addresses that result in a hard bounce should be removed to avoid hard bounces on future emails as well. Luckily, Sendinblue will automatically remove these for you.

Soft bounces usually mean that the email was not delivered due to a temporary problem. This could be a server issue or simply a full inbox. If you are getting multiple soft bounces for a certain email address, it is probably not a good idea to keep them on your list.

You can easily find soft bounces in your campaign reports on Sendinblue:

Where to find soft bounces in Sendinblue

5. Remove Generic Email Addresses

Email campaigns are supposed to contain relevant information for subscribers. The more relevant the content of your email is, the more likely they will be to engage with your campaigns. However, if your list contains generic email addresses like or, then you are not actually reaching real people.

Sending content to these email addresses is pointless because it’s usually blocked by spam filters or manually deleted by someone monitoring the account.

That means they are doing nothing for your business except damaging your email engagement rates. By removing these addresses you are able to focus on helping real people on your list. This creates better engagement because they are actually being delivered to your subscribers.

6. Use Double Opt-In to Acquire Quality Subscribers

You know when you delete something on a computer, and you get a popup message that says, “Are you sure you want to delete this file?” You should apply the same principle to people signing up for your email list — a double opt-in signup process. This makes sure that you are only getting quality people on your email list.

With a double opt-in approach, a subscriber receives a confirmation email after entering information on your site. This confirmation email contains a link that they click on to confirm their subscription before they are added to your list. If the link in the email isn’t clicked to verify their interest in receiving your emails, they are not added to your list.

healthy email list - double opt-in

The advantages of using double opt-in are impossible to ignore:

  • Reduces hard bounces: By requiring subscribers to confirm their email address, it prevents people from using fake email addresses or addresses that do not belong to them. It also acts as a failsafe for mistyped addresses. This means your messages are guaranteed to end up in somebody’s inbox instead of floating endlessly through cyberspace.
  • Improves engagement rates with future emails: With a second confirmation step, you will eliminate subscribers who half-heartedly signed up. Although you will be getting fewer subscribers, you will be getting more of the right subscribers. These people are definitely interested in your content because they went through the extra confirmation step to receive it.
  • Improves future email deliverability: When new subscribers are expecting a confirmation email from you, they will be looking for it in their inbox. If it ends up in the spam folder, they should be able to find it and move it to their inbox. This paves the way, like a shiny yellow brick road, for successful delivery of your future emails.

Hint: If you need help setting up double opt-in email confirmation, visit our subscription form tutorial for more details.

7. Clean your Email List with a Re-Opt-In Campaign

Like a bad relationship, sometimes it is necessary to have the “we need to talk” discussion. If you have been growing your list for several years, you may have some contacts that have lost interest in your emails.

A great way to make sure you have the most engaged and interested subscribers is to send out a re-op-in campaign. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Determine a reasonable engagement benchmark by which you can segment your “unengaged subscribers” (e.g. No opened emails in the last year). You can set up a filter with this benchmark and use the filter to create an automation workflow.
    Contact Segment for Re-Opt-In
  2. Set up an automation workflow to send an email after this period of time that says something like this:

    Re: We’re sorry to see you go [Contact Name]!

    Hey [Customer Name],

    We noticed that you haven’t opened our emails for a while. According to our company policy, we remove any contacts from our email list after being inactive for one year.

    If you still want to receive emails from us, click on the link below within the next week to re-opt-in to our correspondence list.

    I want to continue receiving emails

    Have a good one!
    [Your name]

  3. Have your automation workflow wait 7 days, and if the contact does not click the button, remove them to your list.

Although you may not want to remove subscribers from your list, this is a very good way to make sure your email list contains only people who want to receive emails from you.

Put it all together for a clean email list

Now that you know how to keep your email list in good shape, you can continue to send your email campaigns with confidence.

However, these tips are not a one-off procedure. You should always be monitoring how your campaigns are performing and where you can improve. This will allow you to keep a positive relationship with your subscribers, and continue to provide relevant information.

Don’t have a free marketing automation account yet? Sign up today.

Happy Sending!

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