email hygiene best practices

5 Best Practices for Email List Hygiene

How fresh, clean data can improve deliverability and engagement rates.

You want your company’s campaigns to have the highest possible customer engagement rates, naturally. But that’s only the first step. Successful email deliverability is just one important factor that influences engagement. One of the most common and easiest ways to improve both deliverability and engagement is through regular email hygiene.

Research on global email deliverability in 2017 showed that one in five failed to make it to the inbox and were lost either at the gateway or to the spam filter. Which begs the question: When was the last time your company updated its email list? If you can’t remember, it’s likely been too long!

Why Keeping Email Data Fresh is Important

Email list hygiene that freshens or even re-categorizes lists can help better personalize messaging. These days, to cut through the clutter and compete for attention, personalized messaging that resonates and engages with the targeted audience is a must!

The days of mass email blasts to a general audience are long gone! Today, email service providers’ (ESPs) complicated and ever-changing algorithms determine how, where and even if an email is delivered — while also calculating open and click rates, unsubscribes or inactive email accounts and more. Therefore, a fresh and clean list is the first step to ensuring the highest probability of email delivery.

It’s equally important to both track your prospects’ email activity on a regular basis and run a data hygiene check consistently. Doing these two simple steps can help the overall success of your company’s campaigns (both current and future).  

Here are the 5 Best Practices for Email List Hygiene to Consider:

1.) Remove inactive customers

Many companies remove customers who haven’t opened or clicked on their emails, or perhaps, not purchased in six months, a year, or two years or so — but not before sending a  “this is your final email” communication to help retain at least some customers. While pruning an email list may statistically result in higher deliverability rates and customer engagement, you’ll want to give this careful consideration. These were, after all, previously active customers!

2.) Recategorize rather than purge

Purchasing habits, just like life, happens in cycles. Consider moving a previously active customer to receive less frequent emails. For instance, if sending weekly emails, try bi-weekly or monthly emails instead. Also, consider adding in an enticing offer or content that is relevant to them and will capture your audience’s attention. This is why personalizing the message is so important!

3.) Avoid the spam filter

Once your subscribers or followers have opted-in to receive messages:

A.) Carefully consider the subject line.

Email subscribers can often tell from the subject line whether an email is worth their time to read. Too many exclamation points and grammar or spelling errors are seemingly tell-tale signs. USING ALL CAPS and “click here” also can raise red flags with your audience — that is, if they don’t get caught in a spam filter first.

B) Address properly

One surefire way to identify spam is how you’re addressed.

  • Does it use your name or just “Hi” or “Hey there!”? Personally, I’d rather receive an email with no salutation over one with a generic opening.
  • Does the message actually get your name wrong? For example, I’ve filled out online forms too quickly without realizing that I’ve inadvertently entered my name incorrectly (oops!) and received an email later addressing me with my spelling error!

C.) Correct audience targeting: Avoid being placed in the spam folder.  

I cannot stress this enough. I, for instance, live in Texas and speak Spanish (and English, obviously). I won’t open an email that’s written in German, French or another language I don’t speak. I’m sure you’d do the same.  The email immediately goes into my “junk” folder.

Frankly, it’s much better to NOT sent an email than to send it to the wrong target audience. There’s no excuse for incorrect targeting. It’s irresponsible and a waste of a company’s valuable resources. The company’s reputation IS at stake — and, if the company received their data from an outside vendor — so is theirs!  

4.) If necessary, purchase email lists from trusted sources

Whether you’re looking for B2B or B2C data, if you must purchase email lists from an outside provider, take the time to ensure the data is customized to target your intended audience, not to mention that it’s also current and accurate. Learn how to spot dubious data providers.

5.) Lastly, know when to consult an outside expert

When a company is unable or it simply doesn’t make fiscal sense to update their data in-house, no worries. Many companies exist today that sell email lists, as well as offer affordable hygiene and append services.   

Remember, many of these same companies also offer a full range of marketing services to manage the campaign — from planning and defining audiences to handling creative, deployment and analytics.   

Clean Data Makes Campaigns More Effective!

Whether your focus is B2B marketing or B2C marketing, in the end, cleaning and freshening your data just means making your email list more thorough and accurate. Enhancing your data can make campaigns more effective, increase sales and, ultimately, ROI.

Not only will you be better able to effectively reach your customers (deliverability), but you’ll also have greater insight into who they are, which can only increase customer engagement with your brand’s messaging.

About the author

Stirista began as an ambitious project from an apartment in San Francisco. But as office space expanded, so did our client base. After a few short years, we have worked with the largest healthcare insurance provider in the world, the biggest telecommunication company in the US, and some of the most prestigious universities in the country. We are on the preferred vendor list for a handful of Fortune 500 companies, with three of the ten largest companies in the world turning to us for...


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