Low email open rate and low Click-Through Rate…

They significantly hurt your email deliverability.

Meaning, less of your emails end up in subscribers’ inbox.

This basically tells email clients like Gmail “hey, people aren’t engaging with the emails sent from this IP address. Maybe they’re bad” – and so your emails end up in the Spam folder.

Hard bounces and high complaint/un-subscription rate are other reasons that hurt inbox placement and dismantle your email marketing campaigns.

These require you to clean your email list on a routine basis.

Get rid of those addresses that are bad seeds and maintain a healthy email list.

How do I clean my email list – would naturally be the next question.

How To Clean Email List for Free

Best Way To Clean An Email List

You can do this two ways: manually and automatically.

There are many email list cleaning software and solution providers. They would clean your email list automatically in a beat. Xverify and Zerobounce are reliable names.

But, of course, such solutions would cost you money. It could be anywhere between $5 and $2,000 depending on the size of your email list.

You can also clean email list for free. It includes some manual work and a proper system, which I am going to explain here.

As a general rule, if you’re a blogger or marketer who doesn’t have a big email list, it’s usually good to do the manual work and clean email list for free.

But if you run an e-commerce business and have a list of hundreds of thousands of subscribers, you’re better spending some bucks on the automated tools and services.

Now coming to…

How To Clean Email List For Free?

Here are the first 5 quick steps:

1. Clean the hard (and soft) bounces

How To Clean Email List for Free

When an email cannot be delivered to an address due to a permanent reason, it’s called a hard bounce.

There are several reasons why this happens.

Maybe the email address is wrong; maybe the domain doesn’t exist; maybe the email server of the recipient has blocked the delivery.

Soft bounce, on the other hand, is when the email fails to be delivered for some temporary reason, like the recipient email server is down, their mailbox quota is full, and more.

Generally, many email solution providers would automatically clean away the hard bounced email addresses.

However, there might be times when you may have to do it manually.

Just keep your eyes on the bounce rate; delete addresses whenever they hard bounce and do not get cleaned automatically.

Also, make sure to monitor your soft bounces too.

If an email has soft-bounced three times, it’s good to get rid of that email address.

2. Check for spam-like email addresses

How To Clean Email List for Free

Sdsd445@juaomd(dot)com... 222222@ujalpd(dot)com… mymymymy@gmail(dot)com...

These addresses quite clearly look spam.

Your email list will have many of them that look non-sense.

Browse through the list and delete those that look suspicious.

It’s okay if you delete even some authentic addresses. Maintaining good health of your email list is of foremost priority here.

3. Get rid of those who unsubscribed

How To Clean Email List for Free

Respect people’s choice of not wanting to receive your emails anymore.

Even after they have unsubscribed and you’re sending them emails – it will significantly hurt your IP and reputation.

So, stop! Get rid of these people’s email addresses.

Many email service providers get rid of unsubscribed email addresses automatically; they basically put them in another folder.

If yours don’t, do it manually.

Delete the unsubscribed addresses from your database permanently.

4. Correct the misspelling

How To Clean Email List for Free

Some of the misspellings are obvious.

Like someone may have typed “…gamil(at)com” instead of “…gmail(at)com”.

Give your email list a basic go-through. If you see any misspelling that’s quite obvious, fix them.

5. Delete the duplicate email addresses

How To Clean Email List for Free

This is a common problem if you have multiple landing pages and are running several lead generation campaigns.

To get your different lead magnets, people would give you their email addresses multiple times.

So, your database would include many duplicate signups. Get rid of them!

Now that you’ve got rid of all the “bad seeds” from your email list following these steps...

Your list is less bloated. Kudos!

Time to make it better.

Optimize Your Email List Health

Create three segments of the email list:

#1. A segment of subscribers who actively engage with your emails. They are your core fans. (If you’re a blogger, these are the people who will make you the most money!)

#2. A segment of subscribers who occasionally engage with your emails – likely those with an open rate between 20-60 percent.

#3. A segment of the remaining subscribers – those who hardly engage with your emails. They never even open your emails, let alone clicking on the links.

How To Clean Email List for Free

First segment

Keep doing whatever you’re doing right now with these subscribers.

Of course, there’s always room to improve.

But for now, you’re on the right track with these people.

Second segment

They engage only occasionally.

Clearly, your existing email marketing campaign isn’t working with them.

So, you definitely need to give your current strategy a hard look and make the necessary improvements.

Here are a few tips you can follow:
  • Test with the number of emails you send them.

  • Test with the time of the day you send them emails.

  • Change the format of your email copies.

  • Ask them to add your email address in their address book. Maybe many of your emails are ending up in their Spam or Promotion tab.

  • Ask them directly how you can help them – what they are looking for.

  • Strike more friendly conversations with them on email and social media. They will recognize and trust your brand better then.
The key goal here is to increase your open rate and CTR – and funnel subscribers from this second segment to the first one.

With proper nurturing strategy this isn’t difficult, given all the automation, A/B testing, and analytic options many email marketing solutions now offer.

Third Segment

They hardly engage with your emails.

There could be two reasons behind that:

  1. Your emails are ending in their Spam folder

  2. They just don’t care about you
If your emails are ending in the Spam folder, that’s a whole different topic altogether.

You need to figure out what and how you can fix that. Maybe you’re using a shared IP address that’s known to spam. Maybe you’re sending very promotional emails. The reason could be plenty.

OptinMonsters has a good post on why emails go in the spam box. Read it here.

More often than not, your subscribers wouldn’t care about engaging with your email.

Maybe they subscribed to get your free e-book. And once they got that, they don’t want to read your emails. It happens quite a lot.

Here, you have two options:

(i) To spend your time, energy and money in nurturing these subscribers to take them to your second and first segments.

(ii) Get them out of your email list.

I suggest you go with the second option.

Inform them that you’re deleting their name from your email list. Give them a chance to stay subscribed.

Send them an email like…


I see you haven’t engaged with any of my emails lately. I am sorry if I am not sending you exactly what you are looking for. :(

That said, I don’t really want to bother you much.

In the best interest of both of us, I am going to delete your address from my email list on [insert a date].

So, you won’t be getting any emails from me anymore.

BUT in case if you still want to be in my list and receive emails, you can reply to this email with an emoji, maybe – so that I know!

While you’re replying, I would appreciate much if you can give me an idea of what kind of emails you’re looking from me – or how exactly I can help you. Such feedback would mean a lot to me.

In any case – whatever you choose – I wish you nothing but the best.

All the best with whatever you’re up to!

Thank you for being a part of my community.

[Your name]”

If they respond, they are clearly interested. Run a relevant drip campaign against them and funnel them to segment two and segment one.

If they don’t, delete them from your email list.

A Healthy (And Happier) Email List

If you have followed the above five steps to clean email list for free…

And then used the 3-segment system for better optimization…

You will now have a healthy email list that’s going to bring you a much better email marketing ROI.

How To Clean Email List for Free

Importance of a Clean Email List

  • It increases your average open rate.

  • It improves your average click-through rate.

  • It protects your IP and domain reputation.

  • It reduces your bounce rate.

  • Better open rate, CTR, reputation and bounce rate boost deliverability or inbox placement rate.

  • It saves you a lot of money in your email marketing spending. Given, almost every email marketing solution provider charges based on the size of your email list (how many subscribers you have and how many emails you’re sending), you will be able to save significantly after cleaning your email list.

  • It improves the average conversion rate. This is important especially if you’re working for a client and need to show good numbers in your reports.

Do it Now

I hope this post answered you adequately how to clean up your email list.

As for “how often” should you do it…

The answer is as often as you can.

But you should definitely clean your email list at least once every 3 months.

Now go and do it.

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Asif Ali

The guy behind Spell Out Marketing. A certified content marketer and professional blogger with 5+ years experience in the domain. Find me on Medium here. Let's talk about inbound marketing, business and side-hustle on Twitter. (And oh, if you're on LinkedIn, let's connect!)

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