January 20, 2022

5 Effective Email List Cleaning Tactics For Better Engagement

Reading time about 11 min

Are you in need of some email list cleaning? If you’re having trouble with email campaign engagement or deliverability, it could be just what the doctor ordered!

So you’ve noticed that your email campaigns or newsletters aren’t getting the proper amount of engagement — or maybe they’re not reaching the inbox at all!

One solution could be cleaning your email contact list to remove contacts who are uninterested, irrelevant, or disengaged.

Manage my email contacts with Brevo >>

The Benefits of Email List Cleaning

Before we get to how to clean up your email list, it’s important to know why you should make the effort in the first place. 

A clean list improves your overall email campaign performance. Here are a few of the email marketing KPIs impacted by a clean email list: 

Lower bounce rate

When emails can’t be delivered to the recipient’s inbox, they bounce back. This happens if you’re trying to reach invalid email addresses (hard bounce) or full inboxes (soft bounce). You’d have a very high email bounce rate if you buy an email list. You’re bound to get fake emails. A clean email list consists only of valid emails of subscribers who actually want to read your emails. 

Better sender reputation

From there, fewer bounced emails improve your sender reputation because it signals to email service providers (ESPs) like Yahoo, Outlook, or Gmail that you’re not a spammer sending bulk email randomly. So they’ll allow your email to land in the inbox. Then, if the recipient interacts with it positively (open it, click it, forward it, etc.), it’s another good signal that your emails are genuine.

Increase email deliverability

This results in improved deliverability rates to your whole email list. The more positive feedback your emails get, the less they’ll get labeled as spam. More email clients will let you in inboxes and you’ll be able to reach more and more contacts on your list.

Increase engagement

Regular list cleanup will also increase the overall engagement rates of marketing emails. This translates into more meaningful relationships with email subscribers.

It’s important to give your email list a good scrub every now and then to create a more targeted list of engaged contacts. This lets you focus on the subscribers or customers who really have an interest in your product. You’ll be able to create content that satisfies their needs and interests.

And most importantly, you’ll have higher email open rates,  conversion rates, and a more engaged community. Especially in ecommerce, this means higher revenue and overall customer satisfaction.

Related: The Top 10 Email Marketing Mistakes You’re Probably Making

What Are the Risks of Not Cleaning Your Email List?

Some businesses don’t care about email list hygiene because they assume there isn’t an additional charge to send an email to one more person, but that’s not true.

The cost of not using a clean email list can be: 

  • damage to your sender reputation from email bounces, 
  • unsubscribes, 
  • and spam complaints. 

Over time this damage adds up and can negatively affect your ability to reach your entire subscriber base, including your best or most engaged customers.

Related: 8 Best Email List-Building Tools

So, how do you clean an email list? Here are 5 ways.

5 Simple Email List Cleaning Tactics

Now that you know why it’s so important, here’s how to clean up your email list and improve your email marketing:

1. Encourage Engagement

Low engagement rates can mean your recipients don’t care about your content. Or maybe they enjoy consuming it but don’t feel compelled to take further action. 

Here are a few ways to stimulate action:

  • Include a survey in the email and maybe offer an incentive for respondents
  • Ask for feedback on something you’ve done or created (like a new product)
  • Ask contacts to set their communication preferences like preferred newsletter frequency and topics of interest within the email itself (can be done with multi-list forms
  • Run a giveaway and invite them to follow your social media channels

Then, you can filter out inactive subscribers who still aren’t interacting with your emails. (We’ll address what to do with these users a little later on.) For engaged subscribers, you can segment these audiences into sub-groups by preference and send tailored email marketing campaigns. 

2. Send a Re-engagement Email Campaign

Low engagement doesn’t necessarily mean that recipients don’t want to hear from you at all. They may just not like the type of content you’re sending. Before you write off less active subscribers, consider what other kinds of content you could provide that might be more appealing.

Unengaged subscribers can sometimes be lured into activity with the right winback email offer, such as:

  • A free gift or discount
  • A special perk
  • Exclusive content

Sometimes email subscribers appreciate your content, but they’re just experiencing email fatigue. This is especially common around the holidays when inboxes get filled faster than stockings!

You can try to reconnect with these contacts on other platforms as well. Add links to your social media profiles for those who’d prefer to follow you there. 

3. Renew the Opt-In

There’s no need to ask your most engaged subscribers to opt into your emails again because their interaction makes it clear that they find value in the emails.

However, your disengaged subscribers may want to go and just haven’t taken the time to unsubscribe. This could be because they care so little that they would rather delete them individually than opt out of them altogether or because they think the process to unsubscribe is too difficult.

Do yourself and your unengaged subscribers a favor by sending a re-optin campaign and remove them if they don’t re-subscribe.

How do you do this?

Be transparent! Notify inactive subscribers that you’ve noticed their lack of engagement and let them know that you don’t want to clutter their inbox if they’re not interested. Ask them if they want to continue to receive emails with a clear call-to-action button that will re-sign them up for future emails.

And if they don’t respond?

Give it a week or two, then delete them. You can do this automatically using marketing automation (see step 5).

4. Make It Easy to Unsubscribe

Most countries require you to provide a way for people to unsubscribe from your email communications. But the laws don’t necessarily specify how to do this, which means there’s a lot of variation in how businesses handle this requirement.

Hey, did you know? Brevo (formerly Sendinblue)’s bulk email software is fully GDPR compliant and automatically includes an unsubscribe link in all emails. No extra effort required on your part. 

Some businesses intentionally make it difficult to opt-out to try to keep subscribers in their list. This usually doesn’t go down well.

The worst thing you can do is hide your unsubscribe link or make the opt-out process unnecessarily time-consuming or confusing. If recipients feel like they can’t leave, they’ll just mark your emails as spam, which counts as a big strike against your sender reputation.

When recipients report your emails, ISPs (Internet Service Providers) lose confidence in the value of your emails, which means that they start blocking or filtering your emails out of other recipients’ inboxes as well.

Many business owners have trouble wrapping their heads around the concept of making it easy for subscribers to leave. After all, you likely spent time and money to attract these consumers, so why would you encourage them to jump ship? The reality is that including an easy-to-find unsubscribe button and a one-step opt-out process won’t encourage subscribers to leave if you’re giving them a reason to stay. So make it worth their while by providing real value.

If you’re offering great email content, you have nothing to fear!

5. Use Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is a great tool for cleaning your email list. You can set up rules to automatically remove or segment subscribers that meet certain criteria. 

Easily purge invalid or outdated email addresses from your list using marketing automation to remove emails that bounce. Set up a rule to remove any addresses that bounce two or more times rather than after a single bounce. You can also set the rule based on a time limit, e.g. people who haven’t opened an email from you in 6 – 12 months.

You can do this in Brevo by creating a filter using “Between” and setting it for between 365 (or however many days you want to check) and 0 days before today.

Brevo email marketing platform window for setting contact segments. This example segment is for contacts who have not opened emails from the sender in a year.

Even valid email addresses for interested consumers can bounce on occasion due to a full inbox or server technical error. Emails that bounce multiple times, however, are a sign that the email is no longer active.

This is especially important for B2B companies. Their email lists usually consist of mostly work email addresses, which have far shorter lifespans than personal email addresses due to employee turnover.

Before you set up rules like this, make sure you check to see how your email provider handles different types of bounces and automatic blacklisting. Once you understand this, you can make rules that will fill in any gaps you think need to be addressed.

Marketing automation can also help you identify low-engagement subscribers and then follow the process outlined earlier to re-engage them. You don’t necessarily have to remove these less interested subscribers from your email database either. Instead, you can segment them into a new list and try a different marketing approach to see if it will resonate with them better.

Remember, marketing automation workflows are your best friend when it comes to having clean email lists.

Best Practices to Keep Your List Clean From Now On

Email list cleaning is not a one-time job. Unfortunately, you can’t do it once and forget about it. It requires regular efforts to keep your email list clean and your emails away from the spam folder. 

Here are a few best practices to adopt:

  • Use double opt-in for newsletter signups;
  • Send a welcome email to new subscribers to manage expectations and weed out potential unsubscribers as early as possible;
  • Write subject lines that don’t trigger spam filters;
  • Use interactive content (polls, buttons) to encourage click-throughs, not just opens;
  • Try resending email campaigns to soft bounces (it means a temporary issue and you can still reach their inbox);
  • Automate win-back emails to re-engage inactive subscribers after a certain period of inactivity;
  • Provide a way for subscribers to manage their preferences;
  • Segment your newsletter list and send tailored content;
  • Prune inactive subscribers every 6 months.

Ready to Clean Your Email List?

Now that you know how important email list cleaning is, it’s time to take action and make sure that your list is squeaky clean for the year ahead. Email list hygiene will help you execute your email marketing strategy without your list holding you back.

That way, you’re sure to see more engagement from contacts and build more quality relationships with customers.

To do that, your email marketing tool should offer list-cleaning functionality. 

Brevo (formerly Sendinblue), for example, can do the following for you:

  • Make it easy to implement double opt-in and respect subscribers’ consent;
  • Make it possible to send email campaigns to engaged contacts only (all it takes is ticking one checkbox!);
  • Automatically blacklist hard bounces, unsubscribers, and contacts that reported your email as spam so you don’t email them again;
  • Deliver the email at the best time for each contact to increase email open rates;
  • Include unsubscribe links automatically so you don’t have to worry about it.
  • Segment by opens, interactions, and other engagement metrics
  • Provide templates for double opt-in, welcome emails, and newsletters

Need a tool to start growing your list and sending email campaigns?

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Free plan includes access to all core email features, customizable signup forms to grow your email list and list management tools.

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