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Clean Up Email Lists. Start With 4 Types of Email Addresses!

Updated: Aug 18, 2019

How to Clean Up Email Lists

With email marketing it is important to keep your database up to date and to guarantee a high quality. The better the quality of the database, the more positive this is for the deliverability of your e-mails. Cleaning your database is one of the actions needed to improve or guarantee quality.

With your e-mails you want to reach as many people as possible who are interested in your message. But your database also contains addresses that are not waiting for your message.

When you have a lot of problems with that, it is important to clean up quickly. They are a big factor in causing the delivery quality to be reduced, so that the people who are waiting for your message are no longer reached.

In this article I put the 4 types of email addresses for you in a row to which you actually have to say goodbye as soon as possible.

Non-valid email addresses

These are not mailable addresses that do not have an email account associated with them. Sometimes these addresses end up in the database due to typing errors of those who signed up.

In addition, it can happen that someone gives an e-mail address that is not correct, because they find it annoying that they had to pass an e-mail address, for example For the customer a smart and simple way to bypass the email, for the marketer a certain hard bounce.

It is important to prevent this hard bounce in advance. Email marketing software providers often have restrictions on the maximum bounce rate and inbox providers can use the bounce rate to block your e-mails or place them in the spam box. In short: pre-filtering out these addresses pays off!

Spam traps

One of the methods that Inbox providers use (Hotmail, Gmail, etc.) to find out if someone is spamming is creating so-called spam traps. These may be former email addresses that have been reactivated.

An example would be an email account that was registered a few years ago and there has been no activity ever since. Companies that still mail to it, would lead to the reasoning that their database management is not in order because there has been no activity at the email address for a long time. In short: it is important to distinguish between active and inactive email addresses in your database.

Active email addresses are records whose recipient has, for example, shown activity at least once in the last six months (open or click). By making a distinction in your database in this way, you ensure that you do not end up in a spam trap.

Role-based email addresses

E-mail addresses like info @ or sales @ also need to be purged from your mailing list. These are often addresses that answer questions from customers, they are not addresses where newsletters generally come in. And if newsletters come into it, it's a repository. And there is never one person associated with it. Personalizing and being relevant to such email addresses is a difficult matter.

Often you also see that such email addresses are managed by several people. You run the risk that one person finds the emails not interesting, but annoying and marks them as spam.

Info @ addresses are also widely used on websites by spammers to register or send forms. By e-mailing a high ratio of these addresses, the inbox providers get suspicious about the quality of your database if you continue to mail these records.

Inactive addresses

There are actually two types of inactives, namely the "never-active" and the "chronic-inactive". The "never-active" are people who have registered, but have never shown any

activity since then. By activity we mean in this case, a newsletter opened or clicked.

The "chronic-inactives" have been active for a while after signing up and regularly

opened newsletters, but they have not shown any activity for quite some time.

We know that inbox providers check certain measured values, such as open ratio and the level of engagement. If they stay idle in your database for a long time and you keep mailing them, this will have negative consequences for your engagement figures that the inbox provider observes.

When these numbers decrease for a longer period of time, inbox providers place your e-mails in the spam folder. You have to prevent that at all times.

The inactives do not necessarily have to be thrown outright. It is good to set up a separate win-back strategy for each group. Of course you first have to find out which email addresses can be classified in which group.

With the "never-active" you can approach them with a challenging email asking them to re-enrol, adding a button confirming their re-enrolment. Only the people who click on this button will remain in your e-mail list.

The "chronic-inactives" need a more campaign-based approach. You do not want to keep these records in your list for too long, because if you mail more than once a week, mailing to these records that do not open mails within a year will result in declining delivery ratios for the inbox providers.

To re-engage them you will have to send them a number of re-activation e-mails. You can think of things like: "Are your data still correct?" Or "There is a Free gift waiting for you", where you can work with a personal discount. When you get this group active, you will have to ask them about their preferences in terms of frequency and content.


It is wise to implement the above-mentioned email list cleanup process step by step, starting with the simplest measures to improve your database.

Now you will think; my database is shrinking because of these things. Well, that's right! But the benefits far outweigh the reduction in the size of your email list. Often you see after these actions that the quality of your database ensures better delivery at inbox providers and a higher open rate. You also get the opportunity to reactivate inactive records and contact your target group. This can also result in additional visits to your website.

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