Did you know that your business’ email list is one of its biggest assets? In this post, I’ll share why that is and explain why it is extremely important to clean your email list on a regular basis.

Why is Your Email Database So Valuable?

For many businesses, their email list is actually their most valuable asset.

That’s because the return on investment for emails is significantly higher than any other method of connecting with your clients—such as social media.

Even taking into consideration declining deliverability, your email reach is MUCH higher than your social media reach.

That’s because social media algorithms have severely restricted the reach of your posts more than email platforms, such as Gmail, Outlook and Apple Mail, have restricted your deliverability.

Emails remain the most effective way to turn leads into clients and to add value to, and get repeat business from, your existing clients.

Just as you take good care of your valuable tangible business assets, such as your computer and mobile phone, you need to periodically clean your email list to keep it working optimally.

Why is My Email Deliverability Declining?

Email deliverability is directly impacted by the quality of your subscriber list, so it’s an important point to understands what impacts deliverability before we move on.

First of all, if you’re seeing a decline in the amount of emails making it into your subscribers’ inboxes, you are not alone. Most businesses are finding it harder and harder to get there.

Rough estimates are that over 25% of emails sent are missing the inboxes of customers.

Where are they going? They’re either found inside their spam folder or they’re never even getting there because they’ve been blocked by ISPs.

Why are they going there? Because spammers have messed it up for the good guys and the email servers are trying to protect their customers from being totally inundated with spam.

Let’s look at four main reasons why emails are not delivered:

Reason #1: Domain Email Settings

If you’re using a domain email (yourname@yourwebsite.com), there are specific key settings that need to be input in order to solidify the reputation of your email (i.e., to tell email servers that you’re not a spammer or spambot).

Specifically, you need to look at your SPF, DKIM and DMARC records.

We no longer recommend doing cPanel domain emails as a result of worse than usual deliverability rates. If you’re going to get a domain email, get a subscription-based plan, preferably from your domain registrar.

RELATED | Email Marketing Tips

Reason #2: Trigger Words

One of the reasons an email get classified as spam is because it contain certain “trigger” words, like “Free”, “weight loss”, and “giveaway”.

This list has gotten LONG—you can find a good one here — The Ultimate List of 394 Email Spam Trigger Words to Avoid

Reason #3: Too Many Images

Another reason is the email contains too many images. For this reason, these days a clean, minimalist design is best.

If you can’t (or don’t want to) get away from images, just keep them to a minimum and make sure they are optimized for quicker loading.

Reason #4: Bad IP Reputation

If you share a hosting IP address with someone else who has been tagged as a spammer, that reputation carries over to you.

Check the reputation of your IP address here.

Why & How to Clean Your Email List | SCRIBACEOUS.COM

How Does an Email List Get “Dirty”?

As mentioned, a “dirty” email list directly impacts email deliverability. Let’s look at the five main reasons your email subscriber list might be “dirty”:

Reason #1: Human Error

Human error is the number one error factor that dirties up an email list. Typos, information entered into the wrong field, missed fields and inconsistent formatting are the most common errors.

Reason #2: Data Decay

“Data decay” is the gradual reduction in the quality of your data. In the case of email subscribers, this is usually caused by changing contact details.

It’s not uncommon for email addresses to change—often a result of a job change—without you being informed.

Reason #3: Duplicates

Because most email marketing platforms automatically remove duplicate subscribers, they are typically only an issue when you have multiple email lists.

No responsible business wants to knowingly inundate their subscribers with duplicate emails—nor do they want to pay twice for the same subscriber.

You may have inadvertently added someone to a list without realizing they were already on another. Or, the subscriber may have opted into to more than one of your campaigns.

Reason #4: Spam Subscribers

A spambot is an obnoxious computer program that automatically signs up large numbers of real or fake email addresses to thousands of mailing lists.

Let’s not delve into the dark hole of why they do this, let just try and prevent them. Spambots are the reason we use reCaptcha forms on the email signup forms we add to our websites.

Reason #5: Loss of Interest

It’s never fun to face a lead or client who simply isn’t interested anymore, but it’s necessary to face reality in order to weed them out. And, it happens to even the most successful businesses.

RELATED | 12 Tips for Keeping Your Emails Out of Spam or Promotions

Benefits of Cleaning Your Email List

There are many benefits to cleaning your email list:

  • Higher open and click rates
  • Fewer spam complaints
  • Less bounces
  • Reduced costs
  • Improved sender reputation
  • Boosted protection of subscriber database

Getting tagged as spam damages your deliverability over time. If you have a bad sender reputation because of your dirty list, email service providers might drop you and email servers might ban you.

If you trigger the “Spam Police,” it gets harder and harder to reach the customers who have asked to receive your messages.

As I mentioned above, this bad reputation affects everyone who sends emails from your shared IP.

Losing your ability to maintain long-lasting relationships with your customers is not something you can overlook.

What to Do Before You Clean Your Email List

The first thing to do before you start cleaning your email list is to get educated. Find out exactly why your emails are “bouncing” (i.e., never making it to the intended recipient).

You’ll do this with your email marketing platform’s insights/analytics section. Here, you should be able to find out is whether your email bounces are “hard” or “soft.”

“Hard” bounces occur when there is a permanent error, so your desired recipient could never be reached. This could be because the email address no longer exists or delivery of your message was blocked by the recipient’s email server (the latter can happen when your email records are not properly set).

“Soft” bounces are those that happen because of a temporary issue, such as the recipient’s inbox being full (over quota), their mailbox not being configured correctly, their email server being down, the email message being too large, the email message being blocked due to content, etc.

This knowledge will help you do a better job at cleaning your email list.

Your second task is to try to re-engage your subscribers.

A “win-back” campaign can help you do this. People who haven’t opened your emails lately aren’t necessarily a lost cause—you can get them involved again by sending emails directly targeted at them.

For example, most email marketing platforms enable you to filter your subscribers by engagement, like those who have no opens in the past 180 days (6 months).

A key part of the campaign will be waving a juicy carrot in front of them to get them to re-engage and ending with a request to unsubscribe from your list if they are definitely no longer interested.

Why & How to Clean Your Email List | SCRIBACEOUS.COM


How to Clean Your Email List

#1: Remove or merge duplicate subscribers

When you are sending the same message more than once to a subscriber, you are reducing your ROI by increasing your send costs and putting your email at risk at getting flagged as spam.

We all get irritated when we are inundated by emails. Getting two of the same email can result in a move to the spam folder.

Removing or merging duplicate subscribers is typically only necessary when you have multiple email lists as most email platforms automatically remove duplicates within a single list.

For instance, AWeber automatically prevents a subscriber from being added to a list they are already on. They will simply be directed to your Thank You Page.

However, if a subscriber signs up to a different mailing list in your AWeber account, they will be a duplicate because lists operate independently from each other.

Removing duplicates from multiple email lists is typically done by exporting your lists to an Excel or CSV file, sorting by email address, and bulk unsubscribing the duplicates from one of the lists.

Here is how it’s done in Aweber.

#2: Remove spam email addresses

Because spam email subscribers can significantly damage your sender reputation, thus reducing your delivery rates, you’ll want to remove them from your subscriber list.

Doing this manually is only possible for the spam email addresses that are easily identifiable.

Here’s an an excellent article on how to get rid of spam email addresses.

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#3: Scrub Your Emails

It’s easy for your ego to be enamored by the number of subscribers on your lists. Remember that egos love bright shiny things that don’t always have much actual worth!

Email scrubbing is simply the process of removing illegitimate or unengaged subscribers from your email list so your subscriber list is comprised of people who actually want to receive your emails.

If you have a lot of inactive subscribers, this can actually harm you.

Many email marketing platforms will automatically remove “bounced” or “returned” emails after a predetermined number of unsuccessful deliveries. But, getting in there and cleaning them out sooner, rather than later, is beneficial.

A simple check of your analytics inside of your email marketing platform will enable you to filter your subscribers by deliverability and their level of engagement.

You’ll be able to do a bulk unsubscribe of those who haven’t been active either because the email address is no longer valid or they just aren’t that into you.

We recommend being conservative and using a one-year benchmark for removal for non-engagement—if someone hasn’t opened one of your emails in a year, that’s a pretty solid message.

It may feel a bit painful to delete subscribers—typical is between 20%-35%—but, cleaning up your email list is actually a process of addition by subtraction.

By trimming the fat, your open rates will significantly improve. Better open rates = improved reputation and deliverability!

How Often Should You Clean Your Email List?

Our general recommendation is to pop in and clean your email list every six months.

But, if you’re seeing declining open and click rates and increasing unsubscribes and complaints, get in there and start cleaning right away!

Open and click rates are calculated as a percentage of the total number of emails you sent. When you’re only sending emails to subscribers who are interested, these percentages WILL increase.

If you haven’t cleaned your email list yet, you are missing out—but, it’s not too late! By starting now, you are saving your valuable resources by hitting your desired target market.

Since the settling of the digital Wild West, nothing is simple anymore. These days it’s very smart business to hire a qualified virtual assistant to help you properly set up your email list, design your email campaigns, and clean your email list.

Let us help you with these tasks so you can invest your time in what you do best! Click on the “Let’s Chat” button below to start a conversation.

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