Marketing trends come and go, but email marketing has stood the test of time – and it seems it’s here to stay.

Boasting an ROI of 4,400%, or $44 for every $1 spent, email marketing remains the go-to channel for leading organizations.

But, no matter how detailed or personalized your email campaigns are, they’ll inevitably fail if you don’t take the appropriate steps to clean your email lists. In fact – emailing bad contacts is the fastest way to get marked as spam and ruin your email reputation.

Email hygiene is a crucial, yet often overlooked, element of email marketing. Today’s blog post explains why email hygiene is so important, and the steps you can take to maintain your email lists.

Why is email hygiene important?

It’s this simple: Your sender reputation hinges on the cleanliness of your email list. A company’s email sender reputation is a key factor in the deliverability of campaigns. Develop a poor email sender reputation and your company’s emails will end up in spam folders rather than inboxes – or worse, they won’t get delivered at all.

There are three main factors that contribute to a bad email reputation:

  • High bounce rates: An email “bounce” means that the message was not delivered, usually signaling an invalid email address.
  • Poor engagement: A large number of recipients do not open or click your emails.
  • Spam complaints: Email recipients report your emails as spam.

Internet service providers (ISPs) work diligently to block out spam and they take email reputation very seriously.  As a result, companies that don’t prioritize email list hygiene are at risk of having their email marketing programs shut down.

Best Practices for Email Hygiene

The only way to ensure your marketing emails reach the appropriate inboxes is to maintain clean, accurate email lists. Today we explain the best ways to achieve this. Keep reading.

1. Implement email validation.

Let’s start at the beginning– the moment a prospect fills out a form on your website. If your signup forms accept any old email address, regardless of inaccuracies or format issues, you will inevitably find invalid contacts in your email lists.

Whether a person intentionally provides a fake email address or makes an unintentional error—we recommend you take steps to prevent these invalid email addresses from entering your CRM. Check out these examples:

Automatic email verification: Optimize your signup forms so that a lead receives an error message if they provide an invalid email address.

Double opt-in: After sign-up, send the person an email to confirm that the email provided is active and accurate. Only after a person confirms, will they enter your email list.

Reject non-business addresses: In some instances, it may be in your best interest to prevent free-mails—Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.—from entering your CRM. This is particularly helpful for B2B companies who work exclusively with other businesses.

Remember, it’s important to be proactive about data collection. Although it’s possible to clean up your email lists after collecting a person’s information, it’s much easier and efficient to collect accurate information the first time around.

Validate an Email for Free with our Partner NeverBounce

2. Manage bounce rate.

The more bounces you receive, the more damage your sender reputation incurs. Here’s why: A high bounce rate informs ISPs that you may be a spammer—and if your bounce rate gets high enough, it can impact long-term email deliverability.

Here’s how to combat high bounce rates: Monitor email sends closely, establish a bounce rate threshold, and then purge any email addresses that exceed this threshold. A single bounce might mean the recipient has a full inbox or their server experienced technical problems– but several bounces almost always indicates an email address is no longer valid.

3. Filter out unengaged recipients.

Keep track of how often each recipient engages with your emails. If a lead hasn’t opened an email within a set time-frame– let’s say, 6 months– then we recommend moving them to a separate list. That way, you can keep their contact information for future reference but you won’t continue to damage your open rates.

4. Don’t make it difficult to unsubscribe.

Although unsubscribes aren’t ideal,  it’s better than the alternative– i.e. ignored emails or spam reports. For this reason, it’s important not to hide your unsubscribe link.

Rather than hide the “unsubscribe” button, offer unsubscribers an incentive to stick around– like a discount or an exclusive piece of content. Or, instead of an unsubscribe page, offer multiple options through a preference center—less frequent emails or only a specific category of emails. If they still want to unsubscribe, remove them from your list.

5. Invest in ongoing data maintenance.

Contact data decays rapidly, email addresses included. So, even if you start with a clean email list, it will start to decay immediately. Consider these statistics (source):

  • 40% of email users change their email address at least once every two years.
  • 15% of email users change their email address one or more times a year.
  • 25-33% of email addressed become outdated every year.

As marketers, we can’t change the speed at which data decays. But, we can stay on top of this problem by performing ongoing data maintenance. An occasional database audit isn’t going to cut it. If you only audit your data when you notice errors, it will be too late.

If you’re ready to take data hygiene seriously, we recommend enlisting the help of a data provider to help you perform ongoing data maintenance. With a data provider, you can automate the data maintenance process and feel confident in the quality of your email lists.

Final Thoughts about Email Hygiene

There you have it, your guide to maintaining a clean email list. We don’t have to tell you, executing a successful email marketing campaign isn’t simple. Make sure you don’t waste time and effort by neglecting your email lists.

If you want to improve the quality of your email lists, contact ZoomInfo today. Our expansive B2B database will provide you with a wealth of accurate contact information and improve your email campaigns for optimal delivery and response rates.

About the author

Ryan Hadfield

Ryan Hadfield is a content marketing director at ZoomInfo, the leading B2B contact data solution.

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