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5 Virus-Free Symptoms Why Email List Hygiene Matters

The only way to have a powerful email marketing strategy is by having an effective email list. That’s why proactive email list cleaning is an essential part of any successful email marketing strategy.

Which email list should you clean?

As an eCommerce business, you’ll likely have different contacts. For example, your contact database may include:

  • Visitors to your site who want to learn more about your business
  • Leads (people who are likely to become customers)
  • Existing customers
  • Past customers

So don’t wait. Here are the five signs that it’s time to clean your email list.

Falling open and click rates

One of the most obvious is a decline in open and click rates.

Every email marketing service provides stats on what percentage (and how many) of your subscribers opened your emails and clicked on the links,

Email open rate benchmarks vary by industry, but from your perspective what’s most important is whether email open rates are static, improving, or decreasing.

Courtesy of Super Office

Rising unsubscribed rates

Another sign that people don’t want to subscribe in your emails is an increase in the number of them leaving your subscription.

We’ve all unsubscribed from an email list at some point, so seeing people dropping off your list is pretty normal. The thing to look for here is the unsubscribe rate. 

For most email lists, the average unsubscribe rate is between 0.2 percent and 0.5 percent per email sent, so if yours is within this range, there’s no cause for concern. But if your unsubscribe rate is above 0.5 percent, you’ll definitely want to look at leaning your list to get back into the normal range.

Courtesy of Smart Insights

Flying bounce rate

Try to check the bounce report in your email marketing software. That’s where you can see if your emails aren’t delivered because the email address was wrong, the mailbox was full, or a host of other technical reasons.

If your bounce rate is increasing, it means you’ve got a high percentage of bad email addresses and that will affect your open and click rates, too. Ultimately, high bounce rates can hurt your overall email deliverability.

Courtesy of Jilt

Increasing spam complaints

It’s worth looking out for spam complaints. Your email service provider will alert you to these and you want to keep them low.

Note that more spam complaints doesn’t always mean that subscribers see you as a spammer.

Courtesy of Litmus

It’s simply that many will do the easiest thing when they get an email they don’t really want, and clicking the “Spam” button in Gmail is easier than scrolling to the bottom of the email, finding the unsubscribe link, clicking through to your website, and completing the unsubscribe process.

Existing poor deliverability

Email deliverability is about the ability to get your emails into people’s inboxes/

If many people mark your emails as spam, email providers will reject your emails before they reach the recipients. If your deliverability is over 90 percent, that’s a good thing but if it isn’t then you have a problem.

Here’s a brief explainer video on improving email deliverability from Mailjet’s Vice President of Delivery, Lauren Meyer.


Before you panic in cleaning your email list, know that this happens usually in email marketing. At some point, fewer people open your email, fewer people click, and you get the sense that your subscribers feel kind of “meh” when your emails land in their inboxes. 

Thus, it would be best to check the areas where there are signs that you need to clean your email list in order to improve your email marketing campaigns.