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Email List Hygiene is Key to High Deliverability. Here’s Why.


Email marketing is a people business. It’s all about making connections and nurturing them to create long-lasting relationships that bear fruit for both the customer and your brand. In this way, it is not unlike other forms of marketing.

However, email marketing stands alone in its absolute reliance on trust. After all, email is notably less personal than other more traditional forms of marketing communication, so your brand must be able to trade on its reputation in order to effectively generate engagement and achieve success in this way.

These principles of trust and reputation don’t apply exclusively to brand-consumer relationships, either. In reality, they also pertain to your relationship with mailbox providers (MBPs). These organizations act as gatekeepers between you and your target audience, and your deliverability – your ability to get mail delivered to subscriber inboxes – is subject to their screening processes.

To consistently reach your subscribers and generate revenue through email marketing, you must maintain high deliverability by staying in the good graces of MBPs. In this regard, good email list hygiene is an absolute prerequisite for success.

What is email list hygiene?

Email list hygiene refers to the practice of keeping your email mailing lists in good order. It is one of the most fundamental aspects of modern email marketing and a foundational element of what constitutes ethical and regulation-compliant marketing.

There are many practices that play a role in achieving good email list hygiene. Most commonly, however, it is associated with the process of email list cleaning. This involves the systematic deletion of inactive and invalid user addresses from email lists at regular intervals, usually twice annually, although this can vary depending on your business model and sending patterns.

How does email list hygiene affect deliverability?

Email list hygiene is pivotal to achieving high deliverability. This is largely due to the fact that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and MBPs assign reputation scores to senders, with low-scoring senders having their emails blocked or sent to recipient spam folders.

Your sender score is assigned based on your sending history, with instances of negative email events like bounces and spam reports bringing your final score down. This is where poor email list hygiene can be costly for your brand.

If your email lists are replete with invalid addresses or those of inactive users, you will likely experience a high rate of negative email events. Addresses that become invalid over time are often converted into spam traps, which will cause your emails to bounce. Meanwhile, inactive users will ignore your messages, causing you to perform poorly in important metrics or even report you as spam, damaging your reputation and lowering your deliverability.

Needless to say, these are issues that you will want to avoid, so it’s essential that you keep your email lists in pristine condition.

How to keep an email list clean?

Aside from regular list cleaning, there are a number of best practices that you can follow to maintain good email list hygiene. These include the following:

  • Employ a double opt-in

First and foremost, you must acquire your lists through permission-based means. That means avoiding bought lists and using an opt-in method, with the double opt-in being the safest bet.

A double opt-in asks two-step process to obtain definitive permission from users via a confirmation email. This eliminates any possibility that mistypes addresses will end up on your list and cause your emails to bounce.

Moreover, it ensures that the users who subscribe to your messages are keen on your brand, meaning your campaigns will perform better in key engagement metrics, yielding higher deliverability.

  • Give subscribers a clear opt-out mechanism

While you may want to hold on to all of your subscribers, it’s important to cut your losses once users have made up their minds. Brands that make it difficult for people to unsubscribe are typically repaid with a spam report, and this is something you want to avoid.

Providing a clear unsubscribe button will allow users to easily remove themselves from your lists so that they never resort to reporting you. Additionally, this will also benefit key metrics such as open rate, which can affect deliverability.

  • Segment your subscribers

No matter how meticulous you are about list acquisition, there will always be a need for list cleaning. Email lists degrade because users often stop using their addresses, causing them to be converted into spam traps. Segmentation can help you to avoid hitting on those traps.

By segmenting your subscribers according to their level of engagement, you can easily identify which users are disengaged and which addresses are falling into inactivity. This can inform your list-cleaning process, enabling you to determine the optimal moment to remove such addresses from your lists.


In order to reach your subscribers consistently and gain real traction online, you need to have high deliverability. That means keeping your reputation high by only sending messages to the most active and engaged subscribers. By conducting list cleaning and following email list hygiene best practices, you can maintain maximal deliverability and achieve high levels of success with your email campaigns.

Published: February 9, 2023

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Efrat Vulfsons

Efrat Vulfsons is the Co-Founder of PR Soprano and a data-driven marketing enthusiast, parallel to her soprano opera singing career. Efrat holds a B.F.A from the Jerusalem Music Academy in Opera Performance.

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