Maintaining Email List Hygiene


Have you been keeping your email list clean? While I obviously don’t mean this literally, you most certainly should be monitoring every list you send to constantly. Although it may seem irrelevant, performing this task is crucial when it comes to ensuring deliverability and getting the most out of your sends. Here’s a few words of advice on what to look out for when maintaining your email list hygiene:

Provide a Change of Address Facility 
Unlike when people change residence, if the recipient does not request email forwarding, there’s no one on the receiving end to say “Hey, they don’t live here anymore,” stick it back in the mailbox, and carry on with their life. The easiest thing to do in this scenario, for both you and the recipient, is to make it as simple as possible for the subscriber to update their information or change of address. The quicker they can access this facility and update their information, the more likely they are to do it. Even if the likelihood is low that people will update their information, it’s still a good idea to have that option out there. We’ll go more in-depth with this topic later this week, so stay tuned!

Anything with a Hard Bounce
A lot of things can bounce: Balls, checks, or if you’re an economist, dead cats. But if you’re an email marketer, you know that bouncing emails is never a good thing. This means that your emails are not getting delivered or there is an issue with the address. If you have addresses that are repeatedly flagged as a hard bounce, chances are good that they’ll continue to bounce. Why not take those email addresses off of your list and retrieve more accurate data in future campaigns? There’s really no excuse to leave dead emails on your list and continue to send to them.

Errors in Data Entry
Depending on how you gather email subscribers or generate opt-ins, there can be a large room for error in how the email was entered. I have done email list building for both a restaurant group and a local radio station, both of which used the option of hand-written email cards to subscribe to an email list. I consider myself to be somewhat literate, yet you’d be amazed how many times I got cards with completely indecipherable email addresses scribbled on them. I would try my best to unscramble the lettering, but most times I had no other resort but to just guess. Sometimes the email would go through, other times it wouldn’t; I never left a misspelled email address on the list, though. Why? Because it served no purpose other than to skew the results. There are also people who misspell their own email address when typing into a form or purposely enter a fake email address (a favorite example at WhatCounts is Keep an eye out for these addresses on email campaigns and make sure to pull them when you see them bounce.

Keep in mind, list hygiene is not a one-time, cure-all solution — You constantly need to be cleaning your lists. You’ll get a more accurate view of how effective your email campaigns are, increase deliverability, and see your metrics increase for the better. Really, it’s a win-win-win situation and something you’ll be happy you did.


Sarah Zibanejadrad
Inbound Marketing Coordinator, WhatCounts

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8 Responses to "Maintaining Email List Hygiene"
  1. Tim Brechlin says:

    In addition to making it easy for a subscriber to update their address, it’s just as essential to make it easy to update preferences, be it content, frequency, etc., especially depending on the vertical in which you’re working (this is huge in travel marketing). Anything we can do to keep someone from hitting the Junk button…

    • Sarah Zibanejadrad says:

      And having a preferences section also allows for better segmentation on the marketer’s end — Great point, Tim!

  2. Steven says:

    We use a company named Email Answers to do our list cleaning and validation. Since we collect about 10k signups a month, we find that using their service normally purges about 6-9% of the fresh emails as being either scrubbed out for a multitude of reasons or undeliverable and our IP reputation has increased by almost 12%, hence vastly improving our deliverability to the inbox. I would highly recommend their service.

  3. Jay says:

    I use a company name it’s a FREE multilingual open source. It works as a breeze for me. It worth to give it a try.

  4. LeadSpend says:

    An email hygiene service is a great investment and helps improve deliverability and the overall performance of an email campaign.

    LeadSpend ( accurately identifies harmful email addresses at the point of collection and on the back-end, allowing you to remove those addresses before mailing to them. By removing bounces and identifying, known traps, monitoring domains, blackholes, disposable addresses, invalid domains, and other nefarious addresses, the service significantly improves email marketing results.

    And we agree – do not fix typo addresses. Often times, those typos are made on purpose and fixing them will increase your complaint rate. If our validation service is implemented at the point of collection, and a user’s email address turns out to be invalid, you can actually prompt the user to re-enter a valid address before they leave the form. We find that about 70% of the time, people will correct the address.

    We’re more than happy to run a free test on a sample of a list or at the point of collection on a website or landing page.

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