Improve Your Email Marketing With a Clean Prospect List

by Christina Gillick

Last updated on January 10th, 2018

cleanIf you’re a regular reader of CrazyEgg, you already know the importance of building an email prospect list. But, did you know your list needs cleaning occasionally?

It’s true, a clean list means fewer complaints, a better return on your marketing dollars, higher engagement from your list, and even a better brand image for your company.

(If you have a website and no list, please go here to find out why you should start building your list today.)

Before I get into how to clean your email prospect list, let’s make sure we’re on the same page…

What do I mean by a “clean” list?

I’m talking about removing the people on your prospect list who no longer read your emails. If you’re trying to build a list, it may seem odd to remove anyone, but hear me out.

4 Reasons Why You Should Clean Your List

clean3The quality of your prospects is more important than the quantity of prospects for many reasons. Quality prospects on your list mean:

  1. Better results! Because a higher percentage of your list is interested in your company, a higher percentage will click on your offers.
  2. Lower email marketing costs since many email service providers charge customers based on the size of their list.
  3. You’ll get fewer complaints because people receiving your emails want to receive them.
  4. A better connection with the remaining leads because it’s easier to understand customers who engage with you.

Now that you know the importance of a clean prospect list, let’s go on…

When To Clean Your List

calendarWhen you should clean your list depends on several factors, like size, creation date, date of last contact, and more.

If you purchased a list—or your list is older than a few months—it’s due for a cleaning.

Clean your list often—even as much as once a month—if you:

  • Have a massive list – especially if you purchased it.
  • Get a ton of new leads every day – The faster your list grows, the more often you need to clean it. Think of it like pruning a tree.
  • You offer the coolest opt-in you know of. If this is the case, good for you! But, keep in mind that people may opt-in just to get your offer. These can add up fast so you might need to clean your list more often.
  • Use “free” as a tool to get email addresses. (Unqualified leads are attracted to ads with the word “free.” Avoid it to avoid freebie-seekers.)

Otherwise, cleaning your list a few times a year is good enough.

Start With A Clean Prospect List

clean2The best way to keep your list clean is to start clean. Here are four ways to make sure you’re building a clean list:

  1. Don’t buy a list or add people to your list. Instead, make sure they actually want to be on your list by offering a killer offer. They give you their email address; you give them a PDF, a report, or access to your newsletter.
  2. Require a double opt-in. To make sure people on your list really want to hear from you, send an email after they opt-in asking them to confirm their subscription. Note: Many email service providers already require this or offer it as an option.
  3. Give away something relevant. When creating your opt-in offer, spend some time considering your target market. If you’re selling lotion, you wouldn’t want to give away a report about how to sell lotion. You’d only attract competitors who want to learn how to sell their own lotion! Instead, you’d want to give away something your potential CUSTOMER finds valuable.
  4. Value your list. Create and follow a schedule for sending emails so your readers know what to expect. Make sure your emails provide value, not just a sales pitch. Also, send from a real person’s email address, NOT from your company or someone named “info.”

How to Clean Your List

Once you have everything set up and your list is growing, it’s time to start cleaning. Here are some great ways to clean up that list:

Manually Remove Stale Email Addresses

One way of cleaning your list is to go through it and remove “bad” emails manually. These could be duplicates or improperly formatted email addresses. They might also be email addresses beginning with words like, “spam,” “junk,” “info,” or “support.”

This process is time consuming, but many email service providers offer tools to help with the process.

Or you could try a reactivation campaign…

Separate Your Qualified Leads

No autoresponder series goes on forever, so what happens to prospects who reach the “end” of your campaign? Do you consider them “not-interested”? What if they just didn’t like your first offer but do want to hear from you and may buy something else?

There’s only one way to find out. Ask them!

Send an email asking your readers to click if they are still interested in hearing from you. Be sure to tell them who you are and how they got on your list. Also, mention what’s in it for them if they stick with you.

The people who respond are likely highly qualified prospects! Engage with them more often and offer them other products or services they need.

For the remaining names, keep them for now. Try other offers periodically to see if you can get them to take interest. If they don’t respond after six months, give one last “get off the fence” push and then let them go.

Survey Your Prospect List

surveyEmail prospects stick around because you give them something of value—usually information. But, how can you provide this value if you don’t know what they want?

Again, the best method here is to ask them. Set up a survey or prompt them to reply directly to you.

Try asking, “What is your biggest question about ____?” (The blank should be your topic.)

Look forward to finding out what your readers want to read about, but also what you can sell them! If the majority of your readers have the same question, why not create an information product answering it in great detail?

Promote Unsubscribes

This technique may seem dramatic, but if someone doesn’t open and read your emails, they’re not likely to buy anyway. Remove them from your list by sending a “last chance” email.

Some marketers use subject lines like, “Ignore this email and you’ll never hear from me again.”

Here’s a sample “unsubscribe request” from Ramit Sethi, the author of “I Will Teach You To Be Rich.”


The positive side to sending an email like this is you’ll find out who’s serious and who isn’t. However, people always want what they can’t have so you may have some people who stick around just because you ask them to leave. Either way, they’re likely to open your emails to see what outrageous thing you’ll do next!

With a clean email list you’ll have a better understanding of your audience, more engagement, impressive results, and higher profits. And, now you know how to build a clean email list—and keep it that way.

Your turn! Did I leave anything out? What other techniques do you use to clean up your email list?



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Christina Gillick

Christina Gillick is a direct-response copywriter. She helps her clients create loyal customers and raving fans through relationship building copy and marketing. She is also an entrepreneur and founder of ComfyEarrings – The Most Comfortable Earrings on Earth.


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  1. Anonymous says:
    November 24, 2015 at 4:04 am

    Manually removing stale email addresses from a large database can be time consuming. It is better to use an email validation solution that helps you get on top of your email data quality – validates existing email addresses to purge bad records and appends missing email addresses with valid ones, and delivers a marketing database that is complete and accurate for email campaigns.

  2. November 26, 2014 at 1:32 am

    Our email validation service at MailboxValidator might be useful if you have a large list and need to automate the cleaning. We do not send out email when doing the validation.

  3. Laura says:
    December 11, 2013 at 3:51 am

    Hi Christina, first of all I wnat to thank you for this valuable post. An email list is the most important factor that affects most to email marketing results. A high quality email list gives you better revenue than having a low quality email list.

  4. wendy says:
    November 17, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Really great article and an important strategy for list building and email marketing. Wendy

  5. Betsy says:
    November 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Wow! Talk about a relevant post. Have just composed my “please unsubscribe” email to my most unwieldy marketing list. (confession: I’ve never cleaned up my list in 4 years and it was waaaaaay past due.) You can bet that I’ll be tackling this task on a much more frequent basis. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Christina Gillick says:
      November 16, 2013 at 7:02 pm

      I’m glad you found it useful! Please share your results once they’re in. 🙂

  6. Sunday says:
    October 28, 2013 at 2:50 am

    Hi Christina,
    I agree with you that from time to time the email list should be cleaned up. This promotes a healthy and quality list that can increase leads and shares.

    Your ideas are relevant and practical in that just about any blogger or marketer ( newbie or expert) can apply them. Thanks for sharing this post. Its very helpful 🙂

    I have shared this comment after reading your post in, the Internet marketing social bookmarking site.

    Sunday – contributor

    • Christina Gillick says:
      October 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Thank you for commenting Sunday!

  7. October 27, 2013 at 8:56 am

    You haven’t left anything out Christina.  These tips are terrific! I can see now the purpose of why you should often clean your email list! So much for the information, Thanks for posting another good tips to think about. LOL!
    I found and “kingged” this on the Internet marketing social site –

    • Christina Gillick says:
      October 28, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Thank you for your comments floriefe!

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