The Power of List Hygiene

The concept of removing email addresses from a sending list can feel counter-intuitive. There is a human instinct that influences our thinking, leading us to believe that by removing email addresses we’re likely to reach fewer users and ultimately generate fewer sales.

Despite this sense, it’s important to assess the measures of deliverability to understand whether removing select addresses from your sends will actually provide better results. To demonstrate how list hygiene can improve your overall inbox placement, consider the following generalized scenario:


Let’s say our sender has a total email list of 1,000,000 email addresses (this particular case involves nice round numbers, although that is seldom true in reality), and their inbox placement rate is around 70% (see the “Current Deliverability” column). This means that 300,000 emails are currently not reaching the end user. Though there can be additional factors that prevent our sender from reaching the other 30%, we’ll focus on the quality of the email addresses for purposes of this illustration.

As we can see in the “Why 70% Deliverability” column, it’s possible that the sender’s list is comprised of 90% quality email addresses that have decent recency and engagement, while the other 10% of users are likely to complain, are generally inactive, or perhaps are even invalid. It’s this 10% that ISPs identify as hitting up against negative reputation factors, and because these addresses are blocked or bulked, legitimate email addresses may receive the same treatment solely because they’re sent from the same IP/domain or contain similar content.

Applying list hygiene to this sender’s list will improve their overall deliverability. Let’s say our sender removes that poor/questionable 10% from their list, leaving a total of 910,000 email addresses. If you now mail to the entire 910,000 remaining addresses, the email send will incur far fewer hits with respect to negative reputation factors, resulting in an increase in overall deliverability.

In our scenario we projected an increase from 70% to 90% deliverability, and although this can vary, it may prove to be a conservative estimate. The net result in this scenario (“Improved Deliverability” column) is that we’re now reaching 810,000 end users (90% of 900,000) rather than 700,000 (70% of 1,000,000). More is being achieved with a smaller list. And as far as the bottom-line is concerned, how many more sales and dollars could be generated by reaching an additional 110,000 users?

Remember, what matters most to your subscribers is that emails from your brand contain the content they expect and want. Shedding addresses that have shown disinterest will allow a sender to reach more end users with better engagement.  This will not only allow the sender to maintain their relationship with a greater portion of their subscriber base, but will ultimately open the potential for greater sales.

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