Not many people get excited about cleaning, often because it involves a lot of dirty work. On the contrary, most people love that feeling when they look around their home and everything looks tidy, the air smells fresh and they can relax in a comfortable space. Of course, list cleaning does not exactly have the same effect but the results on your reporting are just as significant, if not even more positive. The problem is that because undeliverable email addresses or unengaged contacts do not surround you like a mess does in your home, you do not realize how much they are cluttering your database and distorting your statistics. Marketing success is measured in numbers therefore if your numbers are off than you cannot accurately determine what campaigns are working in your favour or not.

List cleaning is an essential practice for successful email campaigns.

Let’s start by a review of what we mean by list cleaning. It seems different individuals and vendors in the email industry have different meanings for list cleaning and we want to be on the same page before we begin. First off, we strongly recommend that you have collected proper permission and consent on all email addresses in your list to begin with. Contrary to some definitions, list cleaning in the context of this article is not through a 3rd party provider to match email addresses or use external data to validate, flag or correct deliverable email information. It is all about reviewing the quality of your email lists or database over a period of time across a number of campaigns and programs to keep it up-to-date.

At itracMarketer, we have seen some customers improve program results by up to 20% through list cleaning!


3 Essential Considerations Email List Cleaning:

1. The list was created over a year ago

Just as furniture collects dust over time if it is not dusted, contacts lists accumulate non-emailable or unengaged contacts if they are not cleaned. If you have not taken any action to clean your older lists, it is likely that they need to be examined.

2. The list has a high fail rate

A high fail rate is an easy way to tell if a list requires some attention. If emails are not even getting through to contacts, then you need to determine the cause.

3. The list results in low open and click rates

Low open and click rates are always a cause for concern however few people consider that a cleaner list is the solution. It might just be that that a large amount of undeliverable emails or unengaged contacts are distorting the percentages.

What types of email addresses need to removed:

Hard bounces

These are email addresses that are permanently undeliverable to for reasons including a non-existent server, invalid email address, a blocked email address or the receiving server does not accept the data. Hard bounces are like the dust bunnies under your bed, they are not going anywhere unless you get out the vacuum.

Soft bounces

These are email addresses that are temporarily unavailable to send to for reasons such as quota issues, protocol errors, routing errors and policy related issues. If these emails bounce more than 5-10 times, they should be removed from the list.

Generic email addresses

Most companies have a generic contact email that multiple people have access to. These email addresses receive many sales campaigns from companies fishing for business. If there is not a high rate of engagement with these email addresses, you can remove them from the list.

Contacts with an unassigned Permission or CASL Consent Status

According to the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation, if you do not have a record of either implied or express consent associated with an email address, you cannot legally send electronic communications to that address. Unless you intend to hear from these contacts in the near future, they can be swept up into the dustpan.

Unsubscribed Contacts

These contacts have clearly stated that they do not want to receive communications from you, so why keep them on your list? To avoid losing contacts entirely, you can set subscription types so that contacts have the option to unsubscribe from only particular campaigns instead of your company as a whole however once they have unsubscribed from a communication, you have to let them go.

Contacts that have marked your communications as spam

If a contact has marked your communications as spam, they become non-emailable. Keeping these contacts on your list is simply adding to your clutter.

Unengaged Contacts

If content is stimulating engagement for the majority of contacts on a list however there are a few that do not seem to be biting, perhaps these contacts are on the wrong list. List cleaning is not always about removing; it can be about segmenting, reorganizing and sometimes contacts fit much better on a different list.


How to keep your lists clean going forward:

Use form validation

Form validation is a great way to prevent clutter from collecting on your contact lists in the first place. To reduce the number of invalid email addresses that feed onto your list, a marketing platform like itracMarketer can be set to only create contacts with valid email addresses. To decrease the number of valid but fake email addresses feeding into your lists, you can use a recaptcha field. itracMarketer can be configured to use the corresponding key to validate the recaptcha responses.

Segment contacts and create relevant content to lower unsubscribe levels

How do you keep contacts from unsubscribing? You deliver what they want. If you keep your contacts happy with content that is tailored to them then there will be less unsubscribed contacts to clean off your lists. A segmentation tool in your email marketing application should make it easy manipulate your data to send targeted communications.

Ask unengaged contacts for feedback then move or remove contacts accordingly

If contacts are not engaged, you can export them out from the campaign analytics and send them a personal request for feedback. Determine what they are actually hoping to receive from your communications and deliver it. This could mean moving them to a different list that receives their desired content or developing new content that meets their expectations. If they do not bother to provide feedback, they can be moved to a win-back list that is targeted with special offers or completely removed to remain focused on engaged consumers.

List Cleaning Feature or Functionality

Many email vendors should have some functionality to help you with this issue. With a couple checks of a box, you should be able clean your lists of contacts that have marked your communications as spam, unsubscribed or resulted in a hard bounce. List cleaning on a regular basis keeps your reporting spick and span and keeps the stink of bad numbers away.

Do not wait for the next change in season or when the stench of poor reporting spreads throughout your marketing efforts! Start cleaning your lists today and ensure that you are making properly informed decisions.