Why List Hygiene Is The Key Ingredient For Increased Email Engagement & Success

17 Jul
Why List Hygiene Is The Key Ingredient For Increased Email Engagement & Success

You and I both know that an actively engaged email list generates revenue. And in a perfect world, your email list would be 100% engaged 100% of the time.

Everyone would open your emails.

Everyone would click through.

Everyone would buy something, love your brand and refer all their friends.

Sounds great? Totally! Does that happen? Eh, nope.

People get busy and have about forty thousand other emails to contend for their attention.

They don’t always open emails.

They don’t always click them.

They don’t always care.

And that’s okay. It’s going to happen. And when it does happen, you need to have a game plan ready to keep your list clean.

How do you do that and why? I’m glad you asked.

List Hygiene: 4 Reasons Why It’s So Important

When it comes to list hygiene, Ascend2 lists it as one of the top five most important but also most challenging things to do for their email marketing.

Truth be told, most brands have a not-so-quiet resistance to scrubbing their list clean of subscribers.  

I get it. You worked really hard to get those people on your list!

Removing them can seem like a lot of work gone to waste... but keep reading and you'll find out why it's one of the best things you can do for your email marketing efforts.

1. You Stop Wasting Money

The truth is that keeping unengaged people on your list does more harm than good — to both your email marketing efforts as a whole and your wallet.

To prove that point, we decided to put our money where our mouth is and test things out.

For our test, we had access to a list that had 23k+ subscribers on it. The thing was that this list had been around since 2001 and has never once been cleaned up to remove inactive subscribers.

We sent a reactivation campaign out to the subscribers about whether or not they wanted to keep getting emails.

The result?

While the campaign had 1,326 total opens only 177 of the 23,000+ subscribers actually requested to stay on the list.

Essentially, this customer was paying roughly $2300+ per year to host a large list of subscribers that…

  • Didn’t open his emails
  • Didn’t click through even when they did open
  • And who didn’t even really want to be getting emails from him in the first place

So not only did his campaigns produce less than stellar results, he was spending way too much for it.

Money is just one of the reasons why keeping a list with a lot of subscribers who don’t engage with your content is really working against your goals.

When you do take the time to keep your list clean, some really amazing things start to happen.

2. Your Deliverability Improves

When you and I hit send on our email campaigns, our ultimate desire is that the emails hit our subscriber’s primary inbox so that it increases the likelihood of being opened and clicked-through to make sales.

But when you keep sending your emails to people who don’t engage with what you're sending, then the algorithms of inbox providers (ISPs) are going to pick up on that and read it as “These emails are not interesting, they are not good. This is spam. Put in the spam folder. Block all messages! Beep-boop.”

But, really, they do that.

Google says they automatically block 10 million spam and malicious emails every minute...

Or, you may find that you get an increase in spam complaints because subscribers think they didn’t ask to be on your list even when they did!

And let’s not forget that sometimes people stop using email addresses (um, guilty!), they enter the wrong ones or they enter fake ones for whatever reasons. Those spam traps really really hurt your deliverability and hurt your efforts moving forward.

Either way, it doesn’t stack up well for you, your marketing, or your sales.

As you clean up your list of people who drag down your reputation as a brand that sends interesting and engaging content, you increase your chance of landing in the right area of the inbox.

You might hit a promotions tab rather than the primary tab in Gmail or you may hit that main inbox more and more often. Either way, it’s always better than being sent to the trash or marked as spam.

If you want to really nail down this part of your email marketing, be sure to check out our 2020 Email Deliverability Guide. (*hint: your ESP matters a lot more than you think!)

3. Your Bounce Rate Goes Down

When you look at campaigns and see large jumps in bounce rate, you know it ain’t good. ISPs and their prospective spam filter bots are already looking at bounces closely.

If you have a high bounce rate more often than not, you can bet your money on the fact that it is being tracked and will be used against you with the possibility of getting your emails blocked from email accounts altogether.

That’s why email marketers always watch this eCommerce email metric like a hawk.

And it makes for a pretty good reason to get work cleaning up your email list. In email marketing, there are two types of bounces:

  1. Soft bounce. Tends to happen when the inbox is full.
  2. Hard bounce. Happens when the email address doesn’t exist, or you’ve been blocked by the user or ISP.

In both cases, Bounces mean your email didn’t make it to the email address you sent it to and you don’t want that to become a recurring theme.

After all, the whole point of sending emails is for someone to get it. And if those people can’t or won’t get them, why should we cling to that email address anyway?

We shouldn’t so don’t worry about scrubbing your list clean of these email addresses that can’t serve your marketing efforts.

Keep in mind though, that bounces are bound to happen with nearly every campaign you send.

However, anything over a 2% bounce rate should be a cause for concern. The good news here is, that with Sendlane, you can run the list cleaning automatically so that you don’t need to do this manually.

You can set it and forget it.

That way all those hard bounces emails won’t get in the way of you making into the inboxes of people who really want to hear from you.



4. It Produces Accurate Data That Opens Doors To Marketing Opportunities

I love this point because it’s one that very few people talk about in the context of list hygiene.

When you have an email list with a lot of inactive subscribers, all of their lack of engagement can really throw off the true results of your email marketing efforts.

For instance…

Let say you want to launch a new product you think will resonate with our audience. Before you start creating that product, you start to list your 2000 subscribers to gauge interest.

But since you haven’t cleaned your list in a couple of years, your deliverability isn’t great which ends up affecting where your emails land with your active and inactive subscribers alike.

As a result of your hiccups with deliverability, you find one or both of these things:

  • Interest in your new product idea seems surprisingly low
  • Your email metrics don’t seem to match up well with the good interest that you actually managed to generate

In either case, inactive subscribers and bad email addresses are throwing off both your business efforts and giving you confusing data.

In fact, that situation could have even caused you not to launch your new product idea because the results and your data seemed to be saying it wasn’t a good idea when in fact it really would have been.


However, a clean list with an active and engaged audience is much more likely to produce accurate data that can help you with vital business and marketing decisions to move your business forward.

Got a List? Keep It Full of Active, Engaged Subscribers

Inactive subscribers often fall into these areas

  • They don’t open your emails
  • They don’t click through in most of the emails that they may open
  • They aren’t buying anything from you because they’re not opening emails in the first place
  • They may even send your emails to trash or mark you as spam

If they’re doing any of things with any measure of consistency you can bet that it will negatively impact your sales and your deliverability of your entire list.

While we highly recommended having a reactivation email automation set up to win back your subscribers who have grown inactive, if they don’t bite, then it’s probably time to scrub your list of them.

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