You Ask, I Answer: Email Marketing List Cleaning Frequency?

Warning: this content is older than 365 days. It may be out of date and no longer relevant.

You Ask, I Answer: Email Marketing List Cleaning Frequency?

Antonia asks, “How often should I be cleaning my email list?”

Given the volatile nature of the economy and employment situation right now, I would suggest the following schedule for email marketing list cleaning:

  • Clean your email list on submission with good form validation
  • Clean your email list on batch upload
  • Clean your email list and investigate carefully bounces in your system after every send
  • Clean every address that hasn’t opened or clicked in 30 days

You Ask, I Answer: Email Marketing List Cleaning Frequency?

Can’t see anything? Watch it on YouTube here.

Listen to the audio here:

Download the MP3 audio here.

Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for watching the video.

In today’s episode Antonia asks, How often should I be cleaning my email marketing lists? Good question.

Given the volatile nature of the economy and the employment situation, regardless of where you are on the planet, cleaning your list is getting more and more and more important and cleaning it frequently.

Because stuff’s going bad all the time.

So why I mean, take a look at this chart.

This is the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the United States of America, total unemployed, plus everybody who’s being underutilized, and at the peak of whatever we want to call this pandemic, as 120 2% of the workforce, right, we are still seeing large numbers of layoffs every week, no longer a million a week, but still very, very substantial.

And what we’re seeing now as the pandemic drags on, is you’re starting to see this in b2b marketing as well, because obviously, if the b2c marketing supply chain is disrupted, that ripples upstream.

So cleaning list is super important because stuffs going bad all the time, but much faster this year than in previous years.

There’s four points really where email addresses degrade for one reason or another.

The first point of cleaning should be on submission with the form.

So the moment somebody fills out a form and submits it, that list should go through verification, that email should go through verification to check that it’s valid, right, somebody to just put like [email protected] in there.

So that’s point number one.

And there are plenty of services that will do that integrate with various providers and forms and can validate the email at the point of submission.

So that’s, that’s number one.

That’s important, if you don’t have any other validation mechanisms, because you don’t want junk going into your list if you can avoid it.

The second point of cleaning is, depending on your marketing automation system, or email marketing software, is that point of upload.

So if you have a system, I use, for example, Mautic.

And that requires manual upload for some stuff.

And at that point, that’s when you should be doing some cleaning.

So I clean through million verifier on upload every week, when I move data from my website to my marketing automation system, could I automate that? Yes, but then I would have an issue where I’m not sure 100% of the addresses going in are clean.

So I want to make sure that they are.

The third point is, after every send, and need to be taking a very careful look at the bounces.

A lot of email marketing systems software will try to manage bounces for you because it’s kind of a pain.

You know, it is it is definitely not fun scraping through error logs and things.

But what I find is that there are some systems which interpret the different error codes that you get from email marketing.

And they don’t interpret them the same way I would I they classify a software as a hard bounce differently.

Some are overzealous and unsubscribe people that, frankly, shouldn’t be unsubscribed.

Like if you get a soft bounce message like you know user mailboxes folder over quota.

That to me is not an unsubscribe, not immediately.

So that’s the third point is going in and digging around in your email marketing system and your error logs and seeing exactly what has happened.

You should be doing this anyway.

If you depending on your email marketing software, and the service provider you’re using, you may get raw server logs, you may get notifications, I use Amazon SNS, and it gives me bounce reports for every single message I sent.

I obviously don’t need to read the ones that succeeded.

Those just go straight in the trash.

And then the ones that did not succeed, what were they were they a complaint, meaning somebody hit the reporter spam button.

Those go immediately into the unsubscribe bucket? Were they a hard bounce? What kind? What was the code? Was it a temporary failure or permanent failure for a hard bounce? Was it a soft bounce like mailbox full? And again, was it temporary or permanent? So that’s those are sort of the things I need to dig through it every time I send my newsletter so that I’m not sending to people who don’t want it.

And be I’m not saying the addresses that are not working based on my understanding of the different error codes.

And then finally, the fourth cleaning schedule should be cleaning and verifying every address in your database that has not been opened or clicked in 30 days, right if there’s no activity On an account for 30 days, run through a clear make sure that it’s it’s still valid.

Because, again, we don’t know how quickly our databases are going bad.

I do know that my own mailing list in 2020 has turned over about 40%.


So 40% of the addresses that were added there in January one are not there anymore, the list is larger now.

So I managed to, thankfully with folks like you be able to keep my, my overall list size good.

But there has been a tremendous amount of training.

And one of the things I see people do really wrong in email marketing, particularly b2b is they say, you must use your work address, right, you must use cspn.


You can’t use your Gmail address, well, surprise.

This year, with as much turnovers we’re having in companies that gmail address or hotmail address, or whatever, maybe the only way you have to stay in touch with that person.

So if you are overly strict on that policy, I would counsel being a little more flexible, right right now, because if that person is valuable as a human being, give them any way they want to subscribe, let them stay subscribed, right? Because you don’t know that that, you know, manager from a big corporation, that you’re trying to woo, maybe unemployed for a little while, and then may become Director of Marketing at a mid sized business.

And instead of being somebody who’s, you know, low down on the totem pole, they may have suddenly have Signing Authority, but if you disqualified them from subscribing to your stuff, because they didn’t put in there because they put in the Gmail address, you’ve lost that opportunity.

There is no harm in keep letting people communicate with you in the way that they want.

So keep that in mind.

So those are the four phases of claiming on some form submission, on upload to the system, on every send, and then anything that is older than 30 days with no activity.

Doing your cleaning frequently will keep your list in good shape it will reduce complaints or reduce invalid sends it will set off fewer spam traps.

Really, really important to keep your lists as clean as you possibly can.

In terms of services, there’s so many to choose from.

I use one called million verifier I think it’s coming It’s great.

The pricing is good.

There are others zero bounce never bounce.

Melissa Data is taken take a look around do comparisons on pricing and accuracy.

And let’s see, if you want to test a vendor give them a list of addresses and pollute it with 30% bad addresses stuff that you know is bad but doesn’t look obviously bad.

and see which vendor comes back with the best results right? Here’s your hundred email sample and see what percentage comes back if they flag all the bad ones and they and they identify most of the good ones great.

You can measure their accuracy and see how they do if you got follow up questions on this topic, which is a super fun topic.

I love email marketing.

I did it for years.


Leave your questions in the comments box below.

Subscribe to the YouTube channel and the newsletter.

I’ll talk to you soon.

Take care.

want help solving your company’s data analytics and digital marketing problems.

Visit Trust today and let us know how we can help you

You might also enjoy:

Want to read more like this from Christopher Penn? Get updates here:

subscribe to my newsletter here

AI for Marketers Book
Take my Generative AI for Marketers course!

Analytics for Marketers Discussion Group
Join my Analytics for Marketers Slack Group!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This