Email List Cleaning: Clean Your List Without Losing Conversions

Is it just me, or does your email list look a little bit dirty? Email list cleaning scares a lot of marketers because it involves — gasp! — potentially removing email addresses from that list, but I’m going to talk you through this. You’ll be alright.

How to Build an Email List from Scratch

Email marketing statistics reveal a few interesting truths about how this process works. For one thing, the average open rate is just under 25 percent, and fewer than 5 percent click through on the offer in a marketing email.

What do these facts tell you? Email marketing is a numbers game.

Before email list cleaning even comes into the conversation, you need a healthy email list. Learn as much as you can about how to build an email list so you have leads to work with.

It’s easy to learn how to build an email list from scratch. You start with a lead generation tool like Hello Bar.

Create a top bar to invite people to sign up for your email list. It might look something like this:

How to Build an Email List from Scratch

People can sign up for your email list in exchange for your lead magnet. You could use a discount, as I’ve advertised here, or something else, such as a checklist or cheatsheet.

You’ll start collecting email addresses like crazy. Then comes the email list cleaning.

What Does it Mean to Clean or Scrub an Email List?

What Does it Mean to Clean or Scrub an Email List?

Email list cleaning involves removing inactive and inaccurate data from your email database. You might scrub your email list of anyone who hasn’t engaged with one of your emails in 90 days, for instance.

It’s also the chance to remove anyone who has actively unsubscribed from your list. I recommend doing this immediately, but if you’ve procrastinated, it’s time to get rid of those emails.

You can either clean your email database manually or automatically. I prefer the latter because it’s much faster and neater, but more on that later.

What Are the Risks of Not Cleaning Your Email List?

If you don’t clean your email list regularly, it becomes bloated — and sometimes toxic.

Your goal is to get your emails into the hands of your target audience. Several things can prevent you from doing this.

For instance, if email clients like Gmail think you’re sending spam, they’ll automatically junk your emails. This happens a lot when people who don’t want to hear from you send your emails to their own spam folders. Gmail says, “Hmm…this must be junk.”

That’s the last thing you want.

Additionally, you risk irritating the very people to whom you’re marketing. If someone doesn’t want to hear from you, why would you continue sending them mail?

What Are the Best Benefits of Email List Cleaning?

There are several benefits of email list cleaning that I want to explore. Let’s look at them in detail.

Email Scrubbing Will Reduce Your Email Marketing Costs and Increase Your ROI

Email service providers often charge based on the size of your database. You’ll pay more to email 50,000 people than you would to email 5,000 people.

Therefore, it makes sense to clean your email list from a cost perspective. There’s no reason to pay to email people who aren’t actively engaging with your messages.

As a result, you get an ROI boost. Since you’re only sending email to people who are interested in what you have to say, you’ll get more opens and click-throughs. It’s a win-win strategy.

It Will Reduce Your Spam Complaints

You do not want your business associated with the word “spam.” Trust me.

Spam complaints get you send to the email blacklist. It’s a hard thing to recover from, and it’s far more effective to avoid it altogether.

If you’re scrubbing your email list regularly, you can rest assured that your chances of getting spam complaints are fairly low. This means that your messages will find their way to where they belong: Leads’ inboxes.

It Will Increase Your Open Rates as Well as Your Click Through Rates

As I mentioned above, your overall metrics will improve after cleaning your email list.

Let’s say your current database holds 5,000 email addresses and you have a 20 percent open rate. That’s not bad.

But then you clean your email list. It reduces your database to 4,200 email addresses, but your open rate shoots up to 30 percent. Much better!

How Do You Know It’s Time to Scrub Your List?

How Do You Know It’s Time to Scrub Your List?

My business partner, Neil Patel, scrubs his email list every single week. He also has a huge list. Weekly email scrubbing has become a necessity.

You probably won’t have to clean your list as often.

I recommend cleaning your email list every three months to start. Think of it as your quarterly cleaning. As your list gets bigger, shorten the intervals between scrubbings to keep up with the increase in volume.

Warning Signs You Should Clean Your Email List

In addition to setting specific timeframes for email list cleaning, you should also watch out for red flags that indicate your list is getting a bit bloated. Following are three major warning signs to signal a scrubbing.

Your Open Rates Are Lower Than Ever

Some businesses don’t even track open rates. I hope you’re not one of them.

A low open rate suggests that lots of your subscribers don’t want to read your marketing messages. They might have gone with a competitor, already bought your product, or phased out of the need for your service.

The reason doesn’t matter because you can’t control it. However, you can eliminate any fallout by cleaning your email list.

Your Emails’ CTR (Click-Through Rate) Is Also Much Lower Than Usual

Click-through rate measures the percentage of subscribers who click on the CTA in your email. If your CTR falls precipitously, you’re walking a dangerous line.

As I mentioned above, CTR will almost always be much lower than open rate. People often read emails without further engaging with them.

However, if you see a big drop, that’s a red flag. Email list cleaning could bring up your CTR and improve engagement.

Your Are Getting a Lot of Spam Complaints and Your Bounce Rate Is Also High

Consumers can do two things with an unwanted email: trash it or spam it. The latter is the most dangerous for your business and brand.

When your subscribers send your emails to spam, they’re sending a message to their email clients: “This message is unwanted and unsolicited.”

The email client pays attention to spam complaints. If you reach a certain threshold, your emails will automatically get sent to spam.

Pay careful attention to bounces, too. If an email comes back as undelivered, there’s likely a problem with the address itself or with the owner’s email client.

How Often Should I Clean My Email Lists?

The real answer is: As often as you need to.

I suggested starting at three months, but if you have a large list and you’ve never done an email list cleaning, now’s the time to start one.

The faster your list grows, the more frequently you need to clean it.

Before You Start Cleaning Your List, Check for Hard and Soft Bounces

There are two types of bounces in email marketing: soft and hard. A soft bounce indicates a temporary deliverability issue. Your email service should attempt to send the email again, and it will most likely go through.

Hard bounces, however, are bounces that never go through. The email address is wrong, the domain no longer exists, or the email server has blocked delivery.

Many email services will automatically clean hard bounces. Others force you to initiate email list cleaning to get rid of addresses.

Send a Re-engagement Email Campaign Targeting Inactive Subscribers

Before an email list cleaning, you can segment out any subscribers who have become inactive. They aren’t opening or engaging with your emails, but they did at one time.

Send them a re-engagement email drip campaign to bring them back. In the first email, ask if they still want to hear from you. Giving them the option to click one of two buttons — yes or no — makes the process simpler.

If they click “no,” they get removed.

For those who click “yes,” entice them back to your business with valuable information, incentives, and discounts. Nurture them back into the funnel so they’re more likely to convert later.

Best Tips to Clean or Scrub an Email List

Best Tips to Clean or Scrub an Email List

If you’ve never tried email list cleaning, there’s no time like the present. I’ve compiled my best tips for making sure you do a thorough job.

1. Start Scrubbing Your Most Active Email Lists – But Do Not Forget Your Other Lists

Always begin with your active lists — the ones that hear from you regularly. If you’ve taken our advice and segmented your list, you might have several distinct lists, so work through them systematically.

2. Start Cleaning Duplicate Email Addresses

People often forget they’ve signed up for an email list. Then, upon encountering the website again in the future, they sign up for a second time.

Remember what I said about ROI? Duplicate email addresses reduce yours. Remove the duplicates so you’re not sending double messages and your email list doesn’t remain bloated.

3. Find “Spammy” Email Addresses and Remove Them from Your Email List

You probably know how to identify a spammy email address by now. Even as a consumer, you likely receive a lot of emails from nonsense addresses.

The following examples — taken from my own imagination — offer some insight:


You don’t have to do this manually, though, as I’ll discuss later. Automatically removing spammy or fake email addresses can make email list cleaning far more efficient.

4. Remove People Who Unsubscribe from Your Email List

This is a biggie. If someone tells you they don’t want to hear from you, honor that request. ASAP.

It’s like those annoying telemarketing calls. You’ve told them you don’t want them to call, but they do it anyway.

Will you ever buy a product associated with that telemarketing call? Absolutely not. Even if you decide you’d love the product and would pay millions of dollars for it, your principles might keep you from putting down money.

People feel the same way about emails that come unsolicited from a business.

5. Correct Obvious Typos

You can often find typos manually in your email list if it’s short enough. For instance, correcting to is simple enough. Same for to

How to Manage and Engage Your Cleaned Email List

How to Manage and Engage Your Cleaned Email List

Now that you know why email list cleaning is important, let’s discuss how to run a clean email list from the beginning. The harder you work from the outset, the cleaner your list becomes.

Use Hello Bar + an Awesome Lead Magnet to Turn Your Website Visitors Into New Engaged Leads

Begin with an excellent lead generation strategy. Bring in people who legitimately want to hear from you by presenting an obvious offer and making it compelling.

Use Hello Bar to create an exit intent popup — also called a page takeover. It takes less than five minutes to set one up.

Add your lead magnet to the headline and include a positive, exciting CTA.

Use Hello Bar + an Awesome Lead Magnet to Turn Your Website Visitors Into New Engaged Leads

This is a great way to engage exiting visitors who might want to hear from you in the future — and download your awesome lead magnet. If you already have a sizeable list, mention it as social proof.

Always Send Welcome Emails to Your New Email List Subscribers

You’re in the honeymoon phase with your new subscribers. Everything is shiny and new.

Take advantage of it by sending welcome emails that make your subscribers feel safe and appreciative. Consider adding an incentive.

Most importantly, open the lines of communication. Invite the subscriber to reply to your email, follow you on social, and visit your blog for great information.

Use the Right Email Copywriting Techniques to Keep Your Email List Engaged

Email copywriting is underrated. People think they can slap a bunch of text speak into their emails and get good responses from subscribers.

It doesn’t work that way.

In fact, your emails might be the first impression your leads get of your business. Sure, they visited your website and signed up, but that might have been days before they open the email. Now they’re looking at you with fresh — and critical — eyes.

Don’t disappoint them. Write in complete sentences, use the active voice, and keep your messages short and sweet.

Do Not Overlook Your Email Subject Lines – Use Catchy Email Subject Lines

The best email subject lines compel your subscribers to open your emails. They leave little choice because they’re so inviting.

You have to get creative.

Use unusual language, active verbs, and hints of incentives to get people to open your emails. Test different subject lines by segmenting your lists and comparing open rates. You might be surprised by the results.

Create Awesome Automated Email Drip Campaigns to Nurture Your Email Leads

It’s also a good idea to funnel your new subscribers into email drip campaigns. Focus on pinpointing their position in the sales funnel so you send them messages that resonate with what they need.

Want to Use an Email List Cleaning Services to Make it Faster for You?

Manual work is so 1998. We’re halfway through 2018, so you should probably be using some sort of automated system for email list cleaning.

For one thing, it’s more accurate. It’s also faster and more efficient, which means you have more time to focus on the things you need to do to grow your business.

There are several benefits you’ll gain from using an email list cleaning service.

Email Validation

The service will validate emails as soon as someone signs up to make sure they’re not fake or incorrect. This is a great way to avoid email list bloat from the very beginning.

Fix Common Typos

An email list cleaning service can also identify common typos and correct them automatically. This is especially true of misspellings of common email clients, such as Gmail, Yahoo!, AOL, and Outlook.

Bulk Email Verification

It’s easy for email list cleaning services to verify emails in bulk. Their customers often have the same subscribers, which makes the process even more efficient.

Block Potential Fake Emails

Fake email addresses screw up the entire process. They add needless bulk to your list and confuse your metrics. Using an email list cleaning service helps block those addresses from ever getting on your list.

3 Email Verification Services

An email validation service automatically cleans every subscriber who provides you with an email address. This is a great way to get started on the right foot and to make email list cleaning easier in the future. Following are three services you might consider.

Mailget List Cleaning

Claiming 98 percent accuracy, Mailget List Cleaning allows you to upload your list and get it cleaned and verified by clicking a single button.

The cost varies based on the size of your list. At the time of this writing, a list containing 1,000 subscribers will cost just $4 to verify. The scale goes all the way up to 10 million, which costs nearly $3,000.


I like Xverify because it’s intensely security-focused. It wants to protect its customers and produce clean, problem-free email lists. Email list cleaning costs anywhere from $5 for 500 email addresses to $2,500 for 2.5 million addresses.

The company doesn’t impose any minimum requirements or setup fees, which is definitely a plus. It also has lots of trust badges and testimonials, which suggests customers are happy with the service.


This one is a little different. Theoretically, you can use QuickEmailVerification for free. You just have to verify your email list in 100-address chunks every day. But if you want to verify your whole list, you’ll pay anywhere from $4 to $3,500.

However, the company operates on a credit basis. In other words, you buy credits to use toward email list cleaning. Your credits carry over if you don’t use them all, and you can buy one-time or daily credits, depending on your needs.


email list cleaning

Let’s face it: Email lead generation is just the start of the game. After you’ve collected email addresses, you want to keep your email list healthy.

That’s where email list cleaning comes in.

This doesn’t mean you should stop evolving your lead generation strategies. In fact, you should continue ramping them up. You’ll scrub emails off your list and add new ones. That’s how the game is played.

Email list cleaning gives you the best chance for success by removing addresses that are no longer valuable to your business. Don’t think of losing addresses. Think of gaining marketing health.

How often do you scrub your email list?


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