By Jeff Kline


How To Keep Your Email List Squeaky Clean

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Your email list is a powerful yet delicate marketing asset. 

Red sock image courtesy of dontwastethecrumbs.comHere at Accrisoft, we call it The Golden List. It’s your collection of every contact that means something to your organization—customers, prospects, members, donors, volunteers, sponsors, partners, etc. It allows your organization to communicate with a massive number of people all at once, keep tabs on who’s still engaged, and send tailored messages to segments of your audience. 

But it only takes one rogue email address—like that one red sock that, every so often, ends up in a load of whites—and suddenly you have a disaster on your hands.  (And by disaster, I mean reported as spam or blacklisted. Yikes.)

Fortunately, if your email list is a bit messy, there are ways to clean it up AND prevent messes from happening as you continue to add new subscribers.

Email List Management

The combined effort of maintaining and building a high quality email list is referred to as Email List Management. There are established best practices for email list management that help you keep your list clean, up to date, and devoid of any issues that would negatively affect the deliverability of your emails. 

To properly discuss email list management, I have divided the subject into two blog posts:

  • Today’s post will cover best practices for maintaining a clean, high quality email list. 
  • Next week I’ll discuss best practices for building your list.

As you read this two-part miniseries, you’ll find that there is a lot of jargon used to describe different aspects of email list management. For that reason, we’ve put together an Email Marketing Glossary for you to reference.

What is a “Messy List?”

I think the best way to define a “clean list” is to first explain what makes a list “messy.” 

One of the most common offenders is a simple misspelling: If you try to send an email to this address, your message will bounce.

When people on your list have requested to unsubscribe, but they are still on your list, that’s a problem. These people will become frustrated and may report you as spam. Fortunately, most email marketing software and email service providers (ESPs) will automatically honor unsubscribe requests.

If you’ve had your list for a long time (I’m talking years) there is a good chance some of the email addresses on file may no longer exist. These will also bounce. And too many hard bounces like this is a good way to get yourself blacklisted.

If an account has been inactive for more than six months (meaning that person hasn’t opened or clicked on any of your emails), it’s not good to keep sending emails to this person. Many spam filters are set to detect if someone is sending recurring emails to a user who isn’t opening them—that’s usually a strong indicator of spam.  (And you, of course, are NOT spam!)

You definitely don’t want to get caught with a spam trap. Spam traps are email addresses that are used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other anti-spam organizations to catch spammers red-handed. They are often inactive email accounts that were taken over by ISPs or fake addresses like ISPs place these “trap” email addresses in lists that people have no business acquiring—often lists that people can purchase. Any server that sends an email to one of these spam trap addresses will be reported to the ISP and considered a “spammer.”

Too many of these rogue email addresses (or maybe even just one!) can really damage your reputation as an email marketer. That’s why it’s important to give your Golden List a good scrub every six months.

How To Clean Your List

Schedule a list cleaning every six months or so, and perform the following tasks: 

  • Correct misspellings.
  • Double-check unsubscribe requests and make sure they have all been honored.
  • Check your email analytics, and remove any addresses with zero opens in the last six months. 
  • Remove fake email addresses. 
  • Look at your bounce list, and remove all addresses with hard bounces (usually non-existent email addresses or domains). 

Make those Golden Lists sparkle!

Email List Management Software

Accrisoft customers now have an easy way to manage their email lists! The email marketing software that comes included with every Accrisoft website has been updated to include an email list management component. With this new functionality, your email marketing software can now perform automated list maintenance, monitor your “sending reputation” and provide crucial feedback about bounced and undelivered emails. To learn more about the new email marketing functionality, contact us today!

Up Next: How To Build A Clean Email List

Now that you know how to clean your list, come back next week to learn how to build your list without letting in any of those “messy” addresses. I’ll be discussing two best practices for building a clean list: the Opt-In and Opt-Out methods.

Email Marketing Consultation


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