Keeping good email hygiene is vital to your email marketing success. But how do you know when your email list needs a scrub? Here are five signs your contacts may be outdated and sabotaging your performance.
What is email list scrubbing
Scrubbing your email list means running it through an email verifier to weed out old, bad, and ugly email addresses. These are invalid, abandoned, catch-all, or abuse emails that prevent you from reaching the inbox and cause you to land in spam instead. Sometimes, poor email hygiene will even get you blacklisted, which means your messages will not be delivered at all.
Cleaning your list of these risky types of contacts can take only minutes and bring you tangible benefits: a better sending reputation, higher open rates, more traffic to your landing pages, and more conversions.
Now, let’s get into some of the most common signs that you need to give your email list a good scrub. They’ll help you diagnose poor list hygiene sooner so you can take action right away.
Is your bounce rate higher than 2%?
According to MailChimp, email bounce rates average between 0.40% and 0.58% across all industries. As you can see, it’s not unusual to get a few bounces. Some addresses may have become invalid overnight (literally), so you get a hard bounce. Also, certain mailboxes – such as catch-all emails – may be full and your email service provider will notify you of a soft bounce.
Related: Check out this email validation glossary to learn the difference between a soft and a hard bounce.
What’s problematic, though, is to allow your bounce rate to exceed the email industry standard of 2%. Anything above this threshold puts your sending reputation at risk and affects your email deliverability.
So, pull up your email marketing reports from the past six months: what does your bounce rate look like? Are your most recent campaigns getting to fewer people?
Fortunately, you don’t need to do much research to figure out whether your bounce rate is too high. Keep this 2% benchmark in mind and don’t allow yourself to exceed it before you scrub your email list.
Are you hearing crickets?
You just wrote your best email yet: the subject line, body, and call-to-action would gather a round of applause from your favorite copywriters. So you hit Send confidently – you’ve worked hard and can’t wait to get this email out there.
And then, silence. You keep refreshing your reports, hoping to see those open and click rates go up. Crickets, crickets, crickets!
Before you call it a day and say that email marketing isn’t for you, forget about your content for a second. While great content makes great marketing, the reason for your low email engagement may be your list.
When was the last time you pruned it? If it’s been more than six months, stop reading this article and go clean it right now.
Even if you’ve validated it three months ago, some of your contacts may have become invalid in the meantime. Also, certain addresses may have been abandoned, and unengaged contacts affect your inbox placement.
Moreover, you may have added catch-all or role-based emails to your contacts. They don’t help you boost engagement either. On the contrary, they cause your metrics to sink.
So, no matter how compelling your content is, many of your active subscribers won’t see it because of all the poor-quality contacts that are dragging you down.
How many spam complaints are you getting?
It’s important to pay attention to all your email marketing metrics, including spam complaints. Just like open and click rates, they give internet service providers (ISPs) recipient feedback on your content – and that feedback reflects in your deliverability.
How many people open your emails and click through your content? The higher the number, the more ISPs will think you belong in the inbox.
Are there many people complaining about your emails? ISPs notice that and the next time you send an email, they may divert it to the junk folder. So, every time you send an email, keep an eye on this crucial metric.
The average spam complaint rate, according to several studies, is 0.1%. If you notice your emails getting more than that, it may be time for an email list scrub.
On top of that, consider using an email verification API to make sure you collect only valid and safe email addresses. Our API is easy to install and it automatically rejects bad contacts – including abuse emails (email users who usually flag messages as spam).
Finally, you may want to reassess your content strategy. Maybe you’re sending way too many emails – by the way, this is the number one reason people unsubscribe. Or perhaps your content is over-promotional and switching to an inbound marketing strategy will help.
How to scrub an email list
It’s easy like Sunday morning: you can either do it in bulk or in real time, depending on your current list quality. While they work differently, both email cleaning methods are fast and accomplish the same goal: keeping your database fresh and productive.
Scrubbing your email list in bulk
If you already have an email list, you want to begin by validating it entirely and get rid of bad contacts first.
Once you’ve found a good email verification service, upload your list on the platform. With ZeroBounce, it takes about 45 minutes to prune a list of 100,000 addresses. Larger lists can take longer, but not more than a few hours.
Then, download your results and you’re good to go: it’s now safe to email your list!
If your email validation platform integrates with your email service provider (ESP), cleaning your list is even easier. All you have to do is import it, let the system validate it, then export it back into your ESP.
Using a real-time email scrubbing API
Now that you’ve removed risky contacts, you want your list to stay clean for as long as possible. However, that won’t happen unless you protect its quality. One of the best ways of doing that is to add an API to your signup and registration forms.
Just like the bulk email verifier, the API detects bad contacts, but instead of removing them all at once, it rejects them as they’re trying to sign up. So your list won’t spoil so quickly thanks to this real-time email validation method.
How do you get an API? Every reliable email checker will provide you with an API key. This is a piece of code you’ll copy and paste onto your website. As soon as you install it, the API will start working, verifying every new subscriber’s email address instantly, for accuracy and safety.
How to test your email server and inbox placement
Let’s say you’ve scrubbed your list in bulk and you’ve also installed the API to ensure you gather only valid and active contacts. Maybe you’ve also used an email scoring system to get more insight into your list quality and further validate catch-all emails. You’re already three steps ahead of your competitors and on your way to better email marketing results!
Nonetheless, using a great email list is only one piece of your email marketing puzzle. Apart from that, there are other aspects that go into deploying a successful campaign.
Check if your email server is set up correctly
One crucial factor that influences your deliverability is how well your email server is configured. You may have the most convincing email series ready to go, but if there are any issues with your mail server, your subscribers may never see you in their inboxes.
So, before you send, take advantage of our email server tester – you get one test for free, every month, so you can fix any problems ahead of time.
See if your email will land in inbox or spam
Once you’ve made sure your email server is in good shape, you can go even further and test your deliverability. Where’s your email going to land – inbox or spam? What if it won’t get delivered at all? You can get the answers to these questions by using our inbox placement tester – one test is free, every month!
This tool gives you an idea of where your email will land with popular email providers around the world. If the test returns any “spam” results, you can double-check your campaign and adjust it for the best deliverability.
Related: Read more about the ZeroBounce email deliverability toolkit
Need to scrub your email list for free?
You can do that! Apart from the two deliverability testers you can use at no charge, ZeroBounce also has a free email scrubbing service. Whenever you use it, you get access to the same accurate service as our paying customers.
Of course, if your email list has thousands of email addresses, checking them manually would take too much of your time, so you may want to try our bulk email validation system. Once you create an account, you can validate 100 email addresses for free – every single month.