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The Importance of Scrubbing Your Email List

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

Now more than ever, washing your hands is an absolute necessity. The same goes for your email lists. Every so often, email lists need a good scrubbing to ensure the “health” of your audience. It ensures that you are engaging and converting subscribers who are active, and getting rid of those inactive subscribers who are damaging your email results.

Email marketing seems easy from the outside. Simply write an awesome email, add in some eye-catching images, fire it off, and watch the customers/revenues roll in. But email filters have become more and more sophisticated. Therefore, the step most often overlooked is the art of getting it into subscriber’s inboxes. There are lots of moving parts involved in that, but one of the most important is the reputation of the email sender.

When to Scrub

Email remains an effective way to reach prospects and customers, but if your marketing emails are receiving low engagement results, then it’s time to start scrubbing! Internet service providers (ISP’s) like Gmail, Yahoo and others keep tabs on email senders. When they notice larger numbers of spam complaints, or unsubscribes, they can send your emails straight to the spam or junk folders.

If that happens, then even emails to those customers who do click and open your emails will go into their spam filters. Therefore, it’s important to keep a tidy list to ensure ISP’s see you as a responsible and engaging email marketer. Scrubbing an email list is not a one and done thing. It needs to be done regularly, preferably at least quarterly.

Email Marketing Statistics

How do you know if you are due for a scrub? Start by logging into your email marketing platform and looking at your email marketing statistics. Look for patterns of reduced open and click-through rates, increased unsubscribes, increased spam complaints and increased bounces. These are all warning signs that you have a problem and that an email scrub is necessary.

Open and click-through rates are figured as a percentage of the total number of emails sent. Those numbers can become skewed if your email list is full of email addresses that are either old and not checked or those that are going directly to spam boxes.


Like spam complaints, too many bounces will also hurt email deliverability. There are two different types of bounced emails. A soft bounce is when an email address is temporarily unreachable, like when a server is down. Conversely, a hard bounce is when the email address is always unreachable, like when someone leaves a company, or if the email address is misspelled. Emails addresses that produced soft bounces do not need to be removed unless the bounce continues over the next few weeks. Those with hard bounces should be removed unless the email address can be fixed (ie fix a misspelling).

It’s important to note that some email platforms such as MailChimp will automatically remove addresses from your audience that hard bounce. Others, like Constant Contact, will mark these bounces “recommended for removal”, so that you can go in and easily remove them from your list yourself.

Re-engagement Campaigns

When evaluating your email list, you may find valid email addresses who have not opened or clicked on your emails in 6 months or so. Those email addresses, while they may be valid, can also hurt your email marketing statistics. So, what do you do? Don’t just delete them. Try to win them back with a re-engagement strategy! After all, it’s less expensive to generate business from a current contact vs trying to find a new one. So, before you write them off, give them a chance to re-engage!

There are various strategies in which to do this. But the most compelling re-engagement campaigns are those which provide an enticing incentive. For example, if you have an online store, offer exclusive coupons or discount codes. Another strategy is to ask subscribers to complete a poll or survey and send them a free gift or promo code when they complete. Using this strategy can provide an added benefit in that asking the right questions can help you identify what inactive subscribers ARE interested in so that you can target future communications accordingly. Another option is to host an online competition using contests, giveaways or raffles to generate engagement.

Re-engagement isn’t a one and done either. Set up a series of re-engagement emails to inactive subscribers over time. Most email platforms also allow you to automatically unsubscribe people after they finish the automated series and don’t click. Automation like this helps improve productivity.

Duplicates, Spam & Role Addresses

Whether the email address are duplicates or there are duplicate names with different addresses, be on the watch for duplicates and remove those from your list. Same with spam email addresses which can be identified by an odd letter or number combination. Also, make sure to clean out role emails such as “hello@” or “info@”.

Engaging Subscribers

The best way to not have to scrub your list so hard is to make sure your subscribers are engaged. When a new subscriber joins your list, send a welcome email thanking them for joining. This gives them the chance to also opt-out immediately instead of dragging down your email list over time. Also, to keep subscribers engaged, send regular emails! Ensure that you have interesting content, offers, graphics and updates. Finally, segment your email list to make sure that people will get content that is relevant to them. Segments can be by location, past purchases, merchandise or service type, or total sales. This is where having a VIP list with access to exclusive offers and events pays off!


Top marketing agencies know that when it comes to email lists, quality, not quantity is most important. Creating and keeping a clean list with happy, engaged subscribers will help lower bounce rates, raise open rates, and keep ISPs on your good side. You want to make sure that only those subscribers that are interested in your emails will receive them.

To make it easy, Thompson Marketing Partners can manage your email marketing program! We specialize in email marketing and know the ins and outs of email scrubbing with features like email list validation and verification, correcting typos and analyzing email marketing statistics.

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