6 Tips to Improve the Health of your Email Lists (List Hygiene)

When it comes to sales strategies, email marketing remains one of the best revenue drivers. But, you have to make sure you do it right. Otherwise, your email campaigns may just end up in the junk folder. Good list hygiene is key to keeping your deliverability rates high and your subscribers engaged.

Your email marketing might be going to waste if you're not doing list-hygieneClick To Tweet

What is email hygiene and why is it important?

Getting a lot of people to subscribe to your mailing lists is a crucial first step for successful email marketing.  However, it doesn’t guarantee success of any kind. You have to make sure your subscribers are actually exposed to your content, not just subscribed.  

This goes hand in hand with keeping high deliverability rates. That said, getting your campaigns into people’s inboxes can often get tricky.

For instance, people sometimes subscribe, but soon lose interest and stop opening your emails. Keeping such subscribers on your mailing list will only undermine your marketing efforts. It will also affect your deliverability score and ultimately your reputation.

By keeping bad subscribers on your email lists, you're just hurting yourself.Click To Tweet

Even if you keep them on the list, it won’t make a difference. Your email provider will stop delivering your content to their inbox folder after detecting a “deleting” pattern on their part.

list hygiene

Email providers pay more and more attention to user preferences when it comes to email content. By tracking user actions, they try to deliver only “wanted emails” to the inbox. Everything else goes to junk or gets blocked. User actions include the number of opens, replies, messages marked as spam, unsubscribes, sender reputation, etc.

To maintain good deliverability rates, keep your mailing lists clean. Trim the lists frequently, at the very least twice a year. Implement good acquisition and engagement practices, and remove inactive subscribers. 

Recheck from time to time if your subscribers are still interested in your content. Sometimes, even highly engaged subscribers will lose interest and disengage, affecting your list performance.

These strategies will help you reduce your bounce rates. They’ll also increase your sender score, reputation and overall email marketing performance.

Ways to keep your email list hygiene spick and span

Let’s look at 6 proven tips to ensure the lasting health of your mailing lists.

Segment your mailing list to improve engagement

Putting all your subscribers into one general basket is a bad idea. By doing this, you’re just collecting addresses and sending the same generic content to all. You are not taking into account their individual behavior and preferences.

Not surprisingly, this approach won’t generate a good response rate. To improve engagement, segment your subscribers into categories. Do it based on demographics, subscription date, interaction level, product interest, etc. Then, create engaging, customized campaigns for each of these categories.

Fail to segment your lists, and you might as well be sending random bulk emails #email-marketingClick To Tweet

For instance, you have subscribers that frequently engage with your content. There are also those that only occasionally open your emails. These two categories require a completely different approach.

To keep your active subscribers engaged, consider product discounts or free access to resources. You can also ask your subscribers to evaluate your content and suggest improvements.

Your less active subscribers are those who are pretty much idle when it comes to your emails. Try to spark their interest by changing your approach and content. Your other options include: finding out the reasons behind their lack of interest or dropping them altogether.

Remove bounces

Your subscriber base is a dynamic category. People change addresses, stop checking their email or block delivery on purpose. Emails sent to these addresses get returned to the sender. In other words, they bounceMessage bounces may be classified in two ways. They may be hard bounces or soft bounces.

A hard bounce means the issue causing the bounce is permanent. In other words, the recipient may not have an account anymore or they’ve blocked you. Dead addresses will get caught in your provider’s spam filter, so scratch them off your list.

On the other hand, a soft bounce describes a temporary delivery problem to a valid address. Reasons include a full inbox, malfunctioning server or large message size. Nonetheless, if an address soft-bounces multiple times, remove it from your list. Sending to unreachable addresses will only hurt your sender score and reputation.

list hygiene

Eliminate spam traps

Designing appealing emails is not enough. You have to make sure your emails are not perceived as spam by your provider or subscribers. This means doing your best to avoid spam traps. Spam traps are addresses that are not in active use but are actively monitored (acting as honeypots).

If such an address receives an email, the sender is identified as a spammer. This is because the content is clearly unsolicited and sent without the subscriber’s consent. Blacklist providers use spam traps to detect illegitimate senders.

However, due to poor email hygiene and bad acquisition practices, legitimate senders can also fall into this trap.

Remove complainers

Complainers are people that mark your messages as spam. It’s often done as a faster alternative to unsubscribing. Sometimes, people forget they gave you permission to send them content. Others just don’t know how to remove themselves from your list. That’s why it’s better to include an unsubscribe link in your emails than risk a spam complaint.

Why are spam complaints bad for business? To put it simply, they signal to your email provider that your content is irrelevant. Providers use the number of spam hits to determine your reputation. If a large enough number of complaints is received, it can affect your ability to send future campaigns. 

Watch out for email complainers, they can ruin your reputation #email-marketingClick To Tweet

To minimize spam complaints, make sure to track feedback loops. A feedback loop is a service provided by most email providers, designed to report spam complaints back to the sender. Regular tracking will help you remove damaging subscribers and keep your list clean.

list hygiene

Manage non-responders

Non-responders are subscribers without any activity (clicks or opens) for several months. The logical choice would be to remove these long-term “inactives” from your list. But before you do this, make one final effort to re-engage them. Offer them an incentive like a freebie or a discount. If this fails, ask them openly if they wish to opt-out from the list.

Ultimately, the number of subscribers is not crucial to the effectiveness of your email campaign. What matters is the number of actions the campaign generates. This may include link clicks, content downloads or webinar registrations.  

Non-responders can bog down your entire email list. Respond to non-responders with swift action#email-marketingClick To Tweet

Wake-up campaigns can help you re-engage idle subscribers. But they won’t do much good if the subscriber is unresponsive because the email account has been abandoned.

Removing these addresses reduces your chances of hitting a spam trap. Namely, if the recipient has been inactive for too long the provider will turn their account off. In this case, sending to this address will register as a hard bounce.

Use a good email marketing platform

The best way to improve the health of your email lists is to use a good email marketing service. At Emercury we pride ourselves on our dedication to email deliverability and list hygiene. In fact, you might say we’re famous for it.

Whilst we do have a ton of the latest email-marketing features, bells, and whistles, we often don’t even have to advertise them much. This is because we’re flooded with business from big email list owners who come to us for the ability to keep lists clean and get amazing deliverability.

A lot of this is thanks to our amazing reporting features that help you do two things. The reporting helps you measure campaign effectiveness. But it also helps you track list-hygiene and keep your lists clean. Our cutting edge reporting features provide real-time insight into valuable statistics such as opens, bounces, location and unsubscribes.

list hygiene

We’re only scratching the surface here

Do you need to segment your lists to optimize engagement? Keep track of bounced emails and user actions? Perhaps you need list building tools to start? It’s all here for you at Emercury. Our platform comes with a host of list cleaning features. You can remove spam traps, bounces, and incorrect addresses. But it also includes all the latest email marketing features.

Giving it all a try is really easy, just create your free account today. We’re currently offering a “free forever plan” that includes all of our core features for free.


Yes, you read that right. And unlike other email service providers and email automation providers, we have even the most advanced and coolest features in our starter (free) plan. So, this is your chance to learn about list-hygiene with hands-on experience. Get your free account today and learn the best ways to deploy your campaigns like a seasoned pro and keep your lists crispy clean.

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