There are three types of lists that need to be scrubbed:

  1. A list you are actively using to send email
  2. An old list that you want to start using again
  3. An email list you just started building and want to grow more

What does “scrubbing your list” even mean?

Scrubbing your list is removing people who are not going to receive your emails or never ever open them. This is going to cut down on the size of your list, but it will improve it’s over-all success.  In this case, less is actually more.

These could be emails that don’t exist or don’t work anymore, or just people who never open your emails.

Note:  I will refer to these terms a lot in this email.

  • Open Rate: The percentage of emails that are opened compared to how many you sent. If you send 100 emails and 10 get opened, that’s a 10% open rate.
  • Click Through Rate / Click Thru Rate (CTR): All of these variations mean how many people clicked a link in your email compared to how many you sent.  If you sent 100 emails and only 4 people clicked a link in those emails, your click through rate or CTR will be 4%.
  • Bounce: If an email doesn’t get delivered it “bounces” back and will have an error message about why it failed, such as “bad domain” or “user does not exist”


Why Scrub My List?

There are three reasons to scrub your list.

  1. Staying out of the spam folder
  2. Reducing costs
  3. Accurate reporting

Engagement is the New Spam Filtering

It is a little known fact that in 2015-2016 most of the large email carriers, such as GMail, Hotmail, Yahoo, etc., moved to a new spam control system based on email engagement. When they get the same email sent a lot of users, they don’t deliver it all, they only deliver some of it.  Then they see if people are opening it, deleting it, clicking on links in it, or marking it as spam.

If too many people delete it without opening it or mark it as spam, they deliver the rest of the emails you sent to your subscribers to their spam folders. And we all know how many times we look through the spam folder hoping to find an email from a company…

Reducing Cost

If your list gets large enough that you are paying for a service based on the number of subscribers you have, you want to clean out all the emails that you are paying for that aren’t doing you any good.

Accurate Reporting

If 10% of your list is dead emails, how do accurately tell how many people are opening them?  And if your list is slowly filling up with old emails that no longer work or aren’t active for whatever reason, your open rates and click through rates are going to drop every month too.


How To Scrub Your List

Different Email Providers have different options.

For example, Constant Contact can automatically unsubscribe emails that bounce from domains that no longer exist.

MailChimp will tell you who bounced from your list (in Reports) and then you can click on the bounce reason.

If a bounce reason is “domain no longer exists” then you can unsubscribe that person. It is very unlikely that email address will ever work again. If the email bounce is because the user doesn’t exist, it’s usually a safe bet they don’t work at that place anymore or they have deleted that email account.

Any reasons where the email might continue trying to send the email, such as “domain temporarily unavailable” or “user mailbox full” are probably fine to keep sending to as those issues can be corrected and your email will be delivered later.

What If They Never Open My Email

If people never open your emails, what good are they to your business?


If you are trying to re-engage your old email list, you should leave these people on the list until you send a few more out, but once you have a plan in place for more email engagement with your subscribers, and they still don’t open your emails, get rid of them, or move them to a “cold” list that you can try to re-engage with another time.  For now, they are of no real value to you.

Most email list providers will give you a ranking or a way to know who is opening your emails.  You should be able to generate a report or just go to “View Subscribers” and sort by the “Member Rating” or click-through rate, depending on the data your email provider provides.

If you know or have personal contact with people who don’t open you emails, engage with them on social media or in person.  Ask them why they aren’t opening your emails.  Maybe they want them and they gave you an old email address they don’t use anymore.

Never assume they don’t want your emails.

If your email has real value and things people can use, they want that information, it just has to be good enough for them to want to open them.

Learn Why and How to Scrub Your Email List Click To Tweet


So scrub your list.  It’s just like spring cleaning – it’s a good time to clean everything up once in a while and do all those “clean above eye level” tasks you never get around too.  Except this task can help you save money, engage with your subscribers, and build a better business.

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