Email List Cleaning: Why?

Email is, for most businesses, one of the most reliable and profitable channels for communication. However, if you’re not careful about email list cleaning the value of email for your business will slowly slip. Read on for some list hygene tactics that will drive profit whether you’ve got 200 or 200,000 in your email list.

1) Remove bounced addresses

A “bounce” is when you attempt to send an email to someone, but the domain sends back a response that it was unable to deliver the message. There are two types of bounces. A hard bounce is when the server says it is unable to deliver the message, and it will never be able to. This is usually what occurs when the email address you supplied is invalid, or the user of the email has deleted their email account. A hard bounce should be permanently blocked from emailing. Note: Most of the commercial email providers will automatically remove your ability to send message again to a hard bounced address.

The second type of email bounce is known as soft bounce. A soft bounce is when the email server responds that the particular message you’ve sent will not be delivered, but there is a chance that some point in the future they may be able to deliver messages. This can occur if you’ve been emailing a particular person (or domain) too much, and they’re not engaging with you. It also could be because the email inbox of the recipient is full (some email providers still have limits on how full an inbox can be). The reasons for a soft bounce are usually more varied, and knowing how to deal with them is more of a challenge.

Because you’re at risk for damaging your sender reputation if you continue to email an address that is soft bouncing, we suggest building out functionality in your automation platform that blocks sending emails to anyone that soft bounces for 90 days; then after the 90 days has passed, check the very next email send. If the very next send, after the 90-day quarantine, soft bounces again, then remove that address permanently from your email list. If that email successfully delivers then you know they are safe to email again.

2) Stop emailing people who don’t care

If you’re sending emails to people who never open them or read them, you’re hurting your ability to get into the inboxes of people who actually may buy from you. Each email that you send that goes unopened lowers your sender reputation a tiny amount. If you’re sending hundreds, or thousands, of emails out to people who never open, you’ll pay for it in the long run.

Best practices suggest emailing prospective customers no more than 10 times in a row without an open. In addition, weight earlier email interactions more highly. If, after giving you their email address, a person doesn’t open any of the first 3 emails from you, remove them from your list. After they have opened at least one email, then allow them to go no more than 10 times without opening if they want to stay on your list.

Also- if you’re concerned about dropping someone from your list who may be interested; you can always send out a “We’ll be removing you from our list…” Or, if you’ve got the ability to adjust cadence, simply moving someone from a more frequent cadence (weekly/monthly) to a less frequent (monthly/quarterly) cadence.

3) Be vigilant about removing fake addresses

If your website  allows people to enter their email addresses (as opposed to simply collecting them at your business) then inevitably bots will begin to fill your lists. Why people program bots to crawl the internet and populate lists is a conversation for another day, but the key thing is that it will bring down the value of your email list to send out to these bot addresses.

Most email services will filter out some of these, and a good CAPTCHA on your website also will go a long way to removing these; but there will be some. There isn’t a silver bullet in dealing with these, but the following may be a good starting place. Consider removing anyone who has one (or more):

  • Has Russian/Chinese characters in their email address/name/message to you
  • Has more than 4 numbers in their email, paricularly if the email starts with a number
  • Has any numbers in their name
  • Has a domain that is on the disposable email accounts lists
  • has a “+” symbol in it
  • Has an abnomal top level domain (the “.com” part). Anything other than .org, .com, .biz, .edu might be suspect (if you operate in other countries obviously allow the contry specific ones such as .ca, .eu, etc.)

This is far from an exhaustive list; the easiest way to figure out additonal filtering rules is to spend time combing over your email list, particularly looking at new email addresses who haven’t opened anything from your brand. Look for patterns that will allow you to establish rules to remove them in bulk.



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