List cleaning

Update Neglected Data with 5 Easy Steps for Email List Cleaning

Laura Noll Blog, Compliance

Sending email marketing campaigns to old or stale lists can result in high numbers of spam complaints, bounces and unsubscribes. All three can flag your account and IP as a sender of spam — eventually blocking your messages from the inbox. Add in that most email service providers have strict compliance standards designed to protect you as a sender and their service as a whole and you could be looking at being stopped from mailing all together if your list performance doesn’t make the cut.

Because so much is on the line when you send a message — your sender reputation, future deliverability, engagement success, etc. — it’s important to take the necessary steps to eliminate potential issues caused by your list. Email list cleaning not only helps to maintain list health and deliverability, it can also open the doors to improved segmentation, targeting and performance. If your list is old, recycled and poorly maintained — a good scrub may be exactly what it needs to get back into shape.

1. Identify Your Data Sources

To begin, start where your subscribers make first contact with your list. Identify your data sources — landing pages, forms, in-person meetings, etc. Ensure that you’re collecting data consistently. Do all of your forms have the same fields available? Is data being consistently imported into your database? If you collect data from trade shows or meetings, are you being clear that the provided information will be subscribed to an email list? Ask these fundamental questions while reviewing each touch point and make the necessary changes to provide consistency across the board. This will help to ensure that data collected in the future requires less clean up.

2. Merge Your Data

If multiple data-collection points are involved, ensure that all of your data is collecting in the same database or list. Should you find multiple lists or areas in which data is stored, consider which makes the most sense. Then, reconfigure your data-collectors to point to the collective database and take the necessary steps to export data from other locations and import it into your preferred platform. Most email service providers will automatically check imported data for duplicates, but if yours does not, keep it in mind when you begin cleaning the compiled list.

3. Complete Profiles

Where possible, make an effort to complete user profiles as much as possible. If you intend to use variables for personalization or customization of your messages — having as much data as possible for each subscriber will be imperative. Manually updating a very large list could be wildly impractical, so this would be a great opportunity to employ a list cleaning service or lead/data solution to ensure you have the most complete database possible.

4. Take Out the Trash

To further improve your list performance, invalid emails, opt-outs, bounces and complainers should be blacklisted or removed completely. Especially when you’re cleaning up and old, stale list — the amount of trash could be significant. Keep in mind that there is absolutely no value to keeping poor performers in your list. While you may think you’re extending your reach — you’re actually doing a ton of harm to your sender reputation which could eventually halt your reach entirely.

Purging crummy data also provides an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the solutions provided by a list cleaning or data verification service. Most are paid services that require you to upload your list for comparison to their database. Then, they scrub inactive, non-existent and frequently troublesome addresses from your list to ensure you only contact addresses that can help to improve your sender reputation.

5. Reengage Your Subscribers

After you’ve done your own clean up and maintenance, sending a simple reengagement message can help to fill in data gaps and wrap up your list cleaning efforts. Simple calls-to-action such as “Update Your Profile” or “Set Your Preferences” can not only encourage subscribers to give you more complete data, but will also confirm that they’re still interested in the content you intend to send them. Your subscribers can easily become your greatest allies in data monetization maintenance if you schedule regular engagement campaigns a few times each year.

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About the Author
Laura Noll

Laura Noll


Laura is a seasoned marketer with passion for user experience, design, development and snowboarding. Using her knowledge of ad technology and the digital space, she starts conversations — like this one. Join in: @AdStationbyAdk.