Email Marketing Term to Know: List Hygiene

What is list hygiene?

Practice list hygiene to better connect with clients and potential customers and ensure your emails to the right inboxes.

You know how important it is to practice good hygiene yourself, but do you know what it means to practice good hygiene online?

In your physical office, perhaps you do a regular cleaning. So, you go through filing cabinets and drawers, unearthing old paperwork and receipts. You also search your phone book and rolodex and thin out contacts that no longer connect. But do you clean your online files as well? That’s list hygiene!

In 2019, one in five emails failed to make it to an inbox. Instead of reaching their intended recipient, they were marked as spam or lost in the ether. It’s not that one of your contacts chose to delete the message or failed to open it. Nope, it’s that the person didn’t even know about the message.

Why is list hygiene important?

Let’s go back to that office cleaning analogy. Imagine you’ve discovered three folders of former clients:

  • Folder A has the contact information and details for someone who can no longer be reached. Their phone number, email address, and mailing address do not work.
  • Folder B has the contact information and details for someone who used to be a dedicated customer, but for some reason hasn’t been in touch with you or responded in a while.
  • Folder C has the contact information and details for someone who you know and love–and they feel the same about you! They love receiving your mail and frequently use whatever promos or deals you throw their way. They are a dedicated, active client.

What do you do with this information?

You consider it as you clean. Folder A ends up in the trash or archived since that person can no longer be contacted. Folder B ends gets placed with a similar group—people you might not want to message weekly but could be intrigued with a good deal or special message. Folder C remains an active contact, and is clearly identified as one of your top fans. (Perhaps it is worth sending them a special invitation to a loyalty program, if you haven’t already.)

List hygiene in the digital world works the same way. You can apply the same strategy to your digital contacts and regularly clean up your list to ensure your messages. Inactive followers will hurt the integrity of your list, landing too many of your emails in spam folders and damaging overall deliverability. Additionally, you may be paying for an email service that charges based on list size, and if you include inactive emails in that list you are simply wasting money.

Make list hygiene a healthy habit. 

If you don’t remember the last time you updated your list, it’s been too long. So, set a calendar reminder for regular list hygiene!

To make list hygiene an easy habit, create a go-to checklist of what to watch. Look for bounces and undeliverable email addresses and get rid of them. Check out open and click-through rates to see who your top fans are and segment your list. Personalize your messages. Some people might want to hear from you more often than others. Do you have a list for insiders, a list for emergency announcements, and a list of folks who you’d like to entice back with special deals? Brainstorm and create as part of your regular list hygiene practice. 

Remember, your list may also change if recipients decide to opt out themselves. As you manage your lists, make sure you are familiar with and following the CAN-SPAM Act

A healthy, clean email list is a happy list!

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