All About Email List Hygiene: What to Know in 2024

Melanie Balke
October 4, 2023

Email marketing is like a car. It’s an efficient, remarkable machine! It’s an established facet of modern life, capable of revolutionizing everything. And — like a car — your email marketing requires regular maintenance. Of course, I’m not talking about physical upkeep. You can’t refuel your email service providers or change the oil in your automation platform. However, you can practice email list hygiene!

As its name implies, list hygiene keeps your email list tidy. It improves your results and ensures your messages reach your recipient’s inbox. But! There’s so much more to learn about this remarkable process. So, keep scrolling to discover even more about this remarkable digital marketing tool.

What Is Email List Hygiene?

A city skyline. “The Basics: What Is Email List Hygiene?”

Despite its name, “email list hygiene” describes a process — a multi-stage plan to improve a brand’s email campaigns by cleaning out and double-checking its subscriber list. In its simplest form, email list hygiene services scan your list and remove invalid email addresses. As I’ve noted in other posts, it’s a way to clean, maintain, and validate your marketing data.

Businesses should have regular, set routines for their email list hygiene. More importantly, there should be at least one annual deep cleaning.

It’s Like Pruning a Tree!

So, how do you maintain good email hygiene?

Well, think of it as Marie Kondo-ing your subscriber list. You chisel away unnecessary entries, making room for fresh, new subscribers. While there are many reasons to remove entries from your list, some of the most common are:

  • Bounced emails (indicative of inaccurate or invalid addresses)
  • Inaccurate data (e.g., “typo” email addresses)
  • Inactivity
  • Lack of engagement (generally on a pre-determined time, consistent time scale)
  • Low deliverability (e.g., frequent bounces and spam complaints)

And you don’t have to delete those entries right away!

There’s plenty of freedom in email marketing. You still have time after each audit to re-engage unengaged recipients and win back those inactive subscribers.

Don’t worry about the work, either. Most modern email marketing platforms have built-in auditing tools.

What Are the Benefits of Email List Hygiene?

A rural village street. Several children sit on boxes. “The Perks: Why to Practice List Hygiene.”

In some ways, maintaining good email list hygiene is an obvious boon.

You rid yourself of disengaged subscribers and maintain a dedicated fanbase of frequent fliers. You’re also encouraging good (digital) behavior by practicing proper data hygiene. However, the benefits don’t end there! Everyone benefits from properly maintained email marketing efforts — even your subscribers!

Avoid Unpleasant Surprises

I’ll start with the elephant in the room.

As an extension of data hygiene, email list hygiene is one of many ways to ensure your business keeps tabs on its data. In many cases, it’s a thorough combination of data validation, error correction, and processing. More specifically, you’re…

  • Validating that your email list is “clean” — i.e., free of unwanted data.
  • Correcting inaccurate and outdated information. Aside from email addresses, businesses should keep tabs on addresses, names, and preferences.
  • Processing your existing data.

On a personal level, this guarantees you have the most accurate information. This ultimately improves your targeted emails and amplifies your ability to use personalized subject lines. (Few things are as embarrassing as using the wrong name in your campaigns!) Meanwhile, your business has a better chance of reaching subscribers’ inboxes.

If none of that convinces you of the importance of data hygiene, consider this: Repetitive and irrelevant content is one of the top reasons for shrinking email lists. So, your auditing gets emails delivered and provides active subscribers with a more personal, intimate experience.

Help Email Service Providers Help You

And what about the less obvious perks of email list hygiene?

One of the first “hidden” benefits of note is its ability to improve your sender reputation (also known as a “sender score”). This hidden number tells email providers if your brand is trustworthy, and inboxes are arranged accordingly. Accounts with a high sender reputation are placed at the top, while users with a low sender reputation are often relegated to the spam folder. Particularly poor scores receive an even worse fate: They’re blacklisted, and their campaigns are blocked from inboxes!

Fortunately, many reputable email senders don’t have to worry about this. Following the ABCs of email marketing and sticking to those “best practices” lists are enough to keep your nose clean. However, improving your sender reputation amplifies the effect of future campaigns.

No email provider wants to block valuable content.

An empty inbox is concrete evidence of lost revenue! Yet, by the same token, they don’t want users drowning in scams and spam. That’s why we have this sender reputation system; it protects us and our consumers. Embrace it!

Avoid Spam Traps and Silence Spam Complaints

I must also point out that proper list hygiene can eliminate those pesky spam complaints, ensuring every email reaches its target audience. This is all thanks to how email list hygiene services handle inaccurate data.

When an audit identifies a problem — such as inactive subscribers or dramatically decreased email engagement — it flags the offending account. Afterward, your marketing automation may kick in and send out a win-back or re-engagement email. However, if the service provider receives no response, the offending email addresses are deleted!

This may seem like a problem; nobody wants to lose subscribers. But! Those users were not helping you. In fact, some of them were probably spam traps designed to catch unscrupulous email marketing and automatically remove it from the web.

And, yes, this also helps you maintain a good sender reputation.

Amp Up Your ROI

List hygiene also pays for itself.

Every email is made of money. Sure, it’s a few cents, but that adds up! Much like a pile of unwashed dishes, those inactive subscribers build, ballooning your expenditure. Your marketing messages are not free; you’re paying for the data.

Those invalid or outdated email addresses are eating into your profit!

Don’t waste your email marketing campaigns! Clean your list and remove inactive subscribers. I promise your ROI will thank you.

Verify Your Data and Improve Your Metrics

Finally, removing inactive email subscribers boosts your overall effectiveness. It helps your email program gather more accurate data and boosts your email deliverability. And it makes sense! Your email marketing strategy needs data, but all those inactive subscribers are muddying the water.

Allow me to explain.

Let’s say you ask a crowd of 50 people to choose between red or green cookies. 40 ignore you, 4 choose green, and 6 pick red. That’s a lot of useless data.

Now, what if those 40 were email subscribers? Now, they’re an even bigger problem, right? You can’t rely on this data, and your next email campaign will suffer. You’ll also face scrutiny from internet service providers, and they do not like an influx of unopened emails.

How to Maintain Proper List Hygiene

A crowd in a village near Verdun, France, in 1915. Overlaid text reads, “Tips & Tricks: Keep Your Email List Sparkling.”

Great! We understand what email health is. Now, let’s see how to improve it.

While email list cleaning services help, prevention is always preferable.

In many egregious cases of poor email hygiene, the problem has festered for too long. Email deliverability will suffer, and spam filters are already working overtime to block incoming email campaigns.

Avoid those email bounces and sunk costs! Tackle the problem before it grows.

Never Use Purchased Email Lists

I’ll open with something that should be obvious: Never use purchased lists. Aside from their dubious morality, these “easy” growth “strategies” are far from ideal. If there is a legitimate email list for sale, it’s packed with people who do not want to hear from your business. However, most are stuffed with spam traps and invalid emails.

They’re a waste of money and a surefire way to lower your reputation. Moreover, many inbox providers will ban your account for using a scraped email list. You can send emails all day, but they won’t reach an inbox!

Consider Using Double Opt-In

A double opt-in is another preventative measure to guard against cluttered email lists. They’re also a surefire way to dodge any incoming spam trap.

Unlike a standard opt-in, a double opt-in asks users to confirm their information before they’re enrolled. This eliminates wrong addresses and typos. It’s also a great way to immediately identify disengaged subscribers.

Note that this may decrease the size of your email list. That extra step can deter some customers. However, it pays for itself with reduced spam complaints and a pool of guaranteed engaged subscribers.

Keep an Eye on Your Inactive Subscribers

Don’t focus all your energy on engaged subscribers, though! Inactive and disengaged users are just as important, serving as indicators of the success of each email campaign.

We all want to send nothing but successful email campaigns. We want to have 100% email deliverability, pristine targeted emails, and an unrivaled email list. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Everyone makes mistakes. Eventually, you’ll send emails that just don’t land. Don’t take it as a sign of failure!

Instead, investigate your marketing emails.

Your marketing data is your best friend; it will make or break every email marketing campaign.

Those inactive entries on your email list are as important as the consistent clickers. They tell you what doesn’t work. And — if you need additional feedback — you can use web forms to ask them why they’re not interested in your content.

Know the Basics of Email Marketing

Of course, monitoring your metrics is one of many best practices to consider as you begin your email marketing journey. There are many other things to know, but I can’t fit everything into this blog post!

Instead, I’ve compiled a list of the top 3 things you must know before sending marketing emails. Think of them as your A, B, and C — or even your 1, 2, and 3. They’re the Bonnie to your email marketing’s Clyde — or, more relevantly, the Barbie to your Ken.

Men using a steam engine to drain a body of water, 1937. Overlaid text reads, “The Basics: Three thing to know before you send emails.” The list covers best practices and includes professionalism, grammar, and avoiding too many exclamation points.

So, without further ado, the top 3 basic steps to improve your strategy — for both your customers and your business — are (in no particular order)…

  • Be Professional: Always send emails from a professional email address with domain-based message authentication. More specifically, use a professional sender name and your domain. An email from “” is more trustworthy than “”
  • Build Ethical Lists: An unethical email list is as problematic as a purchased one! Nobody appreciates feeling as if they must do something. I’m sure your emails are wonderful, but build your list properly.
  • Write Like a Person: Finally, don’t be a nuisance. Avoid packing messages with inappropriate content. Avoid using all caps, poor grammar, fancy “fonts” (𝖑𝖎𝖐𝖊 𝖙𝖍𝖎𝖘), and excessive punctuation. Aside from being annoying, these “strategies” negatively impact your accessibility. You’ll also find yourself on the receiving end of spam complaints!

Work With a Pro

Does that sound like a lot of work?

Honestly, it is! Email marketing is hard. It’s a constant balancing act. You must please your current email list and re-engage inactive subscribers. You’re avoiding spam folders and courting your target audience. You have their purchase history and data, but you can’t overshare.

Few people can successfully tackle the task.

Fortunately, there’s an easier solution.

Don’t handle it alone. Invest in a strategic partner. My team at The Email Marketers can handle your campaigns. We’ll manage your email list hygiene and generate new content.

Stop wasting time! Instead of removing inactive subscribers, brainstorm your brand’s next big move while we tackle your emails. The first step is easy. Schedule a free strategy session and see how The Email Marketers can amplify your brand’s impact.

In the meantime, feel free to browse the rest of the blog! I have many more tips and tricks to help you grow your business.