Email List Hygiene: What Does Clean Really Mean?

How Clean Is Your Email List?

You might think your email list is clean if your last email campaign didn’t generate any hard bounces.. Well, that’s a start. But a “clean” email list is more than one that has correctly formatted addresses, and “cleaning a list” involves much more than just removing undeliverable addresses.

You might think, for example, that your email service provider or IT staff cleans your list every time you send because they remove hard-bouncing addresses. But that’s like vacuuming a rug and calling it clean. You’ve removed obvious problems but haven’t tackled underlying problems that reduce your email database’s effectiveness.

A good rug shampoo attacks allergens and stains hidden deep in the fibers. In the same way, true email list hygiene goes deep into your database to make sure it continues to deliver maximum value for your email-marketing program.

Email List Hygiene Fallacy: ‘My ESP Cleans My List for Me’

Yes, your ESP should be removing hard-bouncing (permanently undeliverable) addresses every time it sends messages using your email address list, but, as you’ll see later, they don’t tackle the bigger problem of junk addresses (deliverable but problematic).

Also, ESPs sometimes remove too many addresses because they lack sophisticated tools that can distinguish between different types of problems. If, say, you run into a blocking problem with Gmail, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every Gmail address on your list is bad. Even so, your ESP might remove all of them anyway.

The Basics of Email Deliverability

Seems so simple but worth repeating: An email address has four necessary working parts:

  • The user or mailbox name: johnsmith
  • The @ symbol
  • The email server name: XYZ
  • The top level domain: .com

Put all four those together to get a structurally valid email address: johnsmith@gmail.com. An email address missing any of those parts, even the period between the email server name and the TLD, is structurally invalid and undeliverable. Each part also must be spelled correctly.

TIP: Setting up email validation on your web forms catches and corrects incorrectly formatted email addresses before they hit your database.

Where the going gets rough…

Now, here’s where email list hygiene gets more complicated: Even if the address is structurally valid and therefore deliverable, that doesn’t guarantee your email will reach the inbox of a person who really wants to receive your messages. True email list hygiene also looks at the quality of your email addresses.

Later this week, we’ll take a look at the 3 levels of email list hygiene and 3 tips for preventing bad email addresses from entering your database. In the meantime, check out our whitepaper on growing your email list while keeping it clean. 

Related Posts:

Email List Hygiene White Paper

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