Over the past six months, we’ve heard an awful lot about hygiene. To protect ourselves, and everyone around us from the Coronavirus, we’ve been told that one of the major factors is to wash our hands with antibacterial soap for at least twenty seconds.

Similarly, to maintain healthy email list hygiene, we need to make sure we stick to the best practices of keeping those clean too.

It’s a simple task, but be prepared—it’s going to take a little bit longer than twenty seconds with a bit of handwash to get your databases decontaminated and squeaky clean again.

What is email list hygiene?

List hygiene is the act of making sure that the email addresses that dragged your statistics down in your previous email marketing campaign are removed from the next one, so they can’t cause the same problems all over again.

Generally, it means removing all of the inactive and unengaged recipients, leaving you with a database of people who like to hear from you and pay interest in what you’re saying.

They do this by reading your messages and clicking through to your website, social media, sales pages, or from any of the other calls to action within your email.

Your service providers are watching, and they see the same results that you do

When you deliver an email campaign, you receive a host of data, including everything from open and click rates to bounces and spam complaints. If you can get access to all of these tell-tale facts and figures, well, so can the ESPs (Email Service Providers).

They use the same data as you do to decide whether your messages are a good or a bad bet to land in their customers’ inboxes. If you can see where things aren’t up to scratch, why wouldn’t you do your best to stop the ESPs from seeing those areas too?

How do you know if your lists are in good health, and when should you clean them?

The key component to this is in every one of the subheadings below. Well, apart from the last one—if you spotted that, award yourself a prize for paying the most attention.


It’s not how many people click on your message or read it. It’s how many perform those tasks out of the total number of emails you send. The ESPs use this information to judge the quality of your messages.

One way to improve your rates is to find ways to add additional engaged recipients; another, far easier method, is to remove all of those who aren’t.

Falling open and click rates

If you look at the elements of your campaigns that are judged by their rate, you want to see a healthy progression in a positive direction.

For open and click rates, ideally, that rate should rise, but if it stays reasonably static—as long as it’s an acceptable figure for your industry—then that’s fine too.

If those rates are falling, then something’s amiss, and it’s time to do something about it.

Rising unsubscribe rates

Unlike open and click rates, we want to see our unsubscribe rates as low as possible. A rate between 0.2% and 0.5% is fine, but anything over the 0.5% rate needs attention.

High bounce rates

Bounce rate measures the number of emails that aren’t delivered against those that are. Now, that’s not necessarily your fault; it could be down to a full mailbox, a mistyped address, and address that recently expired, or a range of other reasons.

Bounce rates have a big impact on your email deliverability, though, so if they’re high, it’s time that they weren’t.

Higher rate of spam complaints

Spam complaints don’t always mean that your recipients believe your content is spam. For many, it’s because it’s easier to spam the message than to unsubscribe. Either way, a high spam complaint rate needs attention, and those addresses have got to go.

Poor deliverability

Email deliverability is the measure of how many emails land in your recipients’ inboxes (or their spam folders—just as long as they’re delivered somewhere). ESPs mark you down for poor deliverability.

If your deliverability rate is under 90%, you need to make sure that it isn’t in your next campaign.

Why is list hygiene important for your email marketing?


Fewer spam complaints mean improved deliverability

With fewer spam complaints, your deliverability will rise. Increased deliverability means more of your recipients get to see your emails. Only delivered emails can create interest, engagement, and the opens and clicks that you need.

Improved open and click rates

As open and click rates improve, your statistics grow healthier, and the metrics you need to ensure your best chances of conversions are upheld. Long may that pattern continue!

Lower bounce rates

With a lower bounce rate, you stop being a suspect account to the ESPs and start being one that’s supported by them. The news just keeps on getting better.

Fewer unsubscribes

By monitoring and maintaining good list hygiene, there’s a strong chance that you’ll remove inactive recipients before they unsubscribe themselves. That way your unsubscribe rate drops too.


Superior statistics

The healthier your email marketing statistics are, the better. It doesn’t just protect your deliverability, but if you adhere to best practices—keeping your messages relevant, engaging and driven—they should also lead to higher engagement and boost conversions.

Increased ROI

If you’re paying per unit—for every address that you email to—removing all of those addresses that you know aren’t interested saves you money. Trimming costs doesn’t just save you money, though; it creates a far healthier ROI for the same number of sales.

Email list hygiene best practices

1. Check email deliverability

First things first—make sure your email deliverability isn’t down to something that you’ve done. Filling your messages with spammy text or overdoing the offers and promotional talk will affect your deliverability score.

Test all of your campaigns before you send them out to make sure they’re in the best possible shape for the job. There are plenty of email checkers online that provide marketers with the details where their messages may fall short.

2. Remove inactive subscribers

If subscribers haven’t engaged for over 120 days—which is the magic number according to the ESPs—then give them one last chance with a re-engagement email campaign.

If they still don’t respond, let them go. If they do show interest and ask to stay on your list—keep an eye on them. They could soon slip back into old habits.

3. Remove bounced addresses

Bounced emails aren’t doing anybody any good—so clear them out. There are several reasons why email addresses can bounce, so best to remove such before they will impact your email marketing badly and destroy your email deliverability.

A nightmare on Email Street

Remove hard bounces with Bouncer

4. Remove duplicate and disposable emails

If a subscriber has accidentally applied to your mailing list more than once, they won’t thank you for sending them the same message multiple times. Check for duplicates in your address list and remove them.

Also, if a subscriber used a temporary address to take advantage of an offer or promotion, then those addresses need to go too.

5. Fix any obviously mistyped addresses

It’s incredibly easy to mistype an email address—even when you’ve been typing it for years. Spotting obvious mistakes can bring an account back to life, and provide the sales opportunities you’d hoped for.

Using email validation tools to support list hygiene

Carrying out the above actions is all well and good if your email list contains only a few hundred addresses, but what about if you have thousands to filter through?

Well, that’s why we’re here. Software like ours provides all the email list hygiene services you need.

We scan your lists however big or small to validate addresses, identify problem emails, typos, fake accounts. We provide an automated top-class solution to save you and your marketing team time and money.

So, the next time you’re washing your hands, consider whether it’s time to wash your lists too. Your email hygiene is just as important to your business’s health as your personal hygiene is to yours.

Stay safe!

Email list hygiene with Bouncer is simple!