List hygiene is a key aspect of Email Marketing. It is a best practice to keep your list clean and engaged, for better performance. Yet, it is overlooked by many… but what is list hygiene exactly? Simply put, it is the process of cleaning your email list to ensure the removal of all inactive, invalid, duplicate and, needless to say, unsubscribed email addresses.

Why is it important to clean your email list?

Cleaning your list will help you:

  • Improve your open rate
  • Improve your click rate
  • Lower spam complaints
  • Lower your bounce rate
  • Reduce your costs
  • Improve your reporting

By sending fewer emails to fewer contacts, you will naturally increase your open and click rates, since they are calculated using the total number of emails sent. This will also lower spam complaints, as people who are not interested in your business will not have the opportunity to mark your emails as spam anymore, as well as your bounce rate, which can hurt your overall email deliverability if it’s too high.

This will also reduce your email marketing costs, as many services (including Platformly) often charge you according to the number of contacts you want to save and the number of emails you want to send. Finally, without all those unwanted contacts, your reporting will be more accurate, which will help you find out whether your strategy is working or not.

If you’ve received a warning or suspension notification from Platformly telling you that your Spam Rate or Bounce Rate (or both) are too high, don’t worry… There are ways to get you back on track.

First, it is important to understand the difference between hard bounces and soft bounces.

Hard bounces happen when:

  • a domain name doesn’t exist
  • an email address doesn’t exist
  • delivery is blocked by the server

There are plenty of possible reasons. Maybe the email address was misspelled, or the domain expired… Maybe this person left the company and his email account was deleted…

In cases like that, Platformly automatically removes the email addresses in question from your list, because hard bounces are a permanent issue. They are thus NOT included in your bounce rate.

On the other hand, soft bounces are a temporary issue.

Soft bounces happen when:

  • the recipient’s inbox is full
  • the server is temporarily unavailable

Soft bounces are the only type of bounces included in your Bounce Rate.

Now, this is clear for everyone, let’s see how you can clean your list in just a few steps:

Step #1 – Remove inactive recipients

First, we recommend that you remove inactive recipients from your list. We generally recommend removing subscribers who have not opened an email from you for 6+ months. They haven’t opened your emails, haven’t read your content, haven’t clicked your links, haven’t replied to you… They are simply NOT interested in your business! Maybe they ran out of business, or simply decide to take another road.

To remove unengaged subscribers from your list in Platformly:

  • Select a Project in the top left menu
  • Go to the Contacts section
  • Click on the Filter Contacts button
  • Click on Activity then Add
  • In the 1st drop-down menu, select No Activity
  • In the 2nd drop-down menu, select an activity like Email Opened
  • Enter the desired time period, e.g. last 180 days
  • Click Apply Filter

Once this is done, you will see the list of contacts who have not opened any of your emails in the last 180 days.

  • Click the Select All radio button at the top left
  • Click the Delete button

A little heartbreaking, but it is the right thing to do, especially if you’ve been hit with a suspension warning or notification. Then simply repeat the process every 6 months.

Re-Engagement Campaign

If the idea of deleting all those subscribers is too painful, you may try to re-engage them before you delete them. To do so:

  • Open the Segments sub-section
  • Create a new segment that you might call “Re-Engagement”
  • Go back to the Contact section
  • Instead of clicking the Delete button, click the Segments button
  • Select the segment you just created and click Execute Action

Doing so will add all your inactive subscribers to the “Re-Engagement” segment. Then go to the Messages section to draft an email for those subscribers.

Without sounding too dramatic, make it clear that, if they don’t open this email or perform a specific action (like clicking a link or replying to you), they will be removed from your list. This is also a good opportunity for you to find out if maybe something went wrong, or offer incentives to stay like a special offer, a coupon code…

Step #2 – Remove spam email addresses

You should be able to spot them quite easily… There are often made of strange letters and/or number combinations. If you opted for single opt-in, which is not recommended, you should check for spam email addresses regularly, at least once per month. If you opted for double opt-in, which is highly recommended, this shouldn’t be such a problem, but it is worthing checking every now and then.

Step #3 – Remove duplicate email addresses

You should remove duplicate email addresses and duplicate names with different email addresses. To find them, simply:

  • Select a Project the top left menu
  • Go the Contacts section
  • Click on Email to sort your contacts by email address (to find duplicate email addresses) or;
  • Name to sort them by name (to find duplicate names with different email addresses)

Step #4 – Remove unsubscribes

This is quite obvious, but make sure you don’t email contacts who have unsubscribed from your list. People who have unsubscribed but keep receiving emails from the sender are very likely to mark the emails as spam, which would be a catastrophe.

If you use Platformly, you have nothing to worry about: all the recipients who have clicked the unsubscribe button are marked as unsubscribed and will thus NOT be part of your future mailing campaigns.

Step #5 – Always ask for engagement

In your emails, always ask your contacts to add your sending email to their address book, mark your email as important and, another method, ask them to reply to you. The more replies you get, the higher your engagement. This is all positive for your sender score.

Step #6 – Use an email list cleaning service

You should clean your list with an email verification service from time to time. Email addresses even if confirmed opt-ins, do go bad, and then if you keep emailing them, your sender score will be affected negatively, leading to lower inboxing, less opens and less engagement.

Finally, if you have ever bought an email list in the past, which we do NOT recommend doing, stop using it. Those people haven’t given you the permission to contact them, so they are very likely to not take any action, or worse… mark your emails as spam. We recommend that you send emails to confirmed opt-ins only, i.e. double opt-ins and NOT single opt-ins.

Questions? Suggestions? Don’t hesitate to leave a comment below…

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About Author

Chief Operating Officer of Platformly, a platform made for busy online business owners focused on growth: Business Dashboards, Link Tracking, CRM, Lead Capture, Messaging, Marketing Automation, Reporting... Hobbies include traveling, fishing and basketball. I would love to hear from you so don't hesitate to leave a comment below!


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