The Ultimate Email Audit: How to Clean Out Your Email List Like a Pro

Do you ever get that itch to clean house and get everything organized — from your home to your car… and even your email list?

Us, too. 

While we’re not exactly here to help you create a home purge checklist, we can help you clean out your email list.

And if you’re like, “I’ve never once thought about cleaning out my email list,” don’t bounce away just yet. Email list cleans are actually an important strategy in boosting engagement and sales. Because cleaning up your email list is a lot like cleaning out your closet.

Why you need to clean out your email list

Think about your closet for a minute.

You’re intentional about what you put in it, but sometimes you go back in and realize you have five forest green sweaters or a sparkly dress from your clubbing days — and you don’t even like forest green and you’re definitely not a clubber anymore. You might even find some pieces you forgot about.

This happens in business, too. You might look in your “business closet” and realize you’ve got old offers that no longer align with your niche, or old branding that no longer matches your aesthetic. And when you open your email subscriber list… you might realize you’ve got people on your list from that time you thought you were a calligrapher and now you’re a graphic designer. Whoops. 

This is why email list cleaning (at least once a year) is so important. Your email list is your direct line into people’s inboxes — and email marketing can have some serious ROI when done right. In fact, studies show that you can make $36 for every $1 you spend on email… so yeah. Clean out that virtual closet.

If you want to see how you can clean out your email list, we’ve got some tips for you. 

Step #1: Assess the quality of your list

The first thing you want to do is assess the quality of your list. We recommend looking at the following benchmarks:

How are your open rates? 

Low open rates could mean that people may not be jiving with what you’re sending out. Or that you possibly have too many inactive subscribers. Either way, a low open rate on your emails is not so good, but how does yours stack up to these industry averages?

  • Arts and Artists: 26.27%
  • Beauty and Personal Care: 16.65%
  • Business and Finance: 21.56%
  • Consulting: 20.13%
  • Creative Services/Agency: 21.39%
  • Health and Fitness: 21.48%
  • Marketing and Advertising: 17.38% 

How is your click-through rate? 

If your click-through rate is low, that could mean that your audience may be excited to receive an email from you, but the content inside isn’t really resonating with them. Click-through rates can seem pretty low at first glance, but these are the email marketing standards by industry:

  • Arts and Artists: 2.95%
  • Beauty and Personal Care: 1.92%
  • Business and Finance: 2.72%
  • Consulting: 2.49%
  • Creative Services/Agency: 2.66%
  • Health and Fitness: 2.69%
  • Marketing and Advertising: 2.04%

How are your bounce rates?

A high bounce rate could mean that you’re getting too many spam reports. Yikes!

Watch out for this if you:

  • Don’t have double-confirmation opt-ins with your email service provider
  • Automatically integrate contacts from a previously-purchased-from-you list
  • Have incomplete contacts (like forgetting the g in Gmail!) that makes them non-existent

Try to keep your bounce rate no more than 0.7% (which is standard across all industries).

How to clean your email list

Now that you know how to assess the quality, it’s time to get to work and start cleaning house! Below are some of our best tips whenever we work with clients to help them do the same. 

Narrow your email subscribers down to one list

If you have multiple lists, the first thing we do is to try to determine how they can be consolidated — it’s far easier to keep track of one than two or three! However, if you're running two businesses/brands, it may be necessary to keep them separate but still within the same email service provider.  

Assess your tags

Tags are a great way to keep track of particular groups, opt-ins, and interests within your email list, and it’s a great way to keep interest organized within your list for each offer.

But too many can cause confusion and chaos — it turns out…there is such a thing as being too organized. Keeping things too niched down in your email list can make selling harder. 

Custom fields

If your email service provider allows custom fields when opting in, ask yourself what the point of each one of them is. What do they do — and do they really have a purpose? Should they be used as tags instead? 

Check subscriber activity

Are they inactive or just disengaged? If they’re inactive, feel free to remove them. But if you think they may be disengaged, it may be time to refresh their interest. Try to figure out how long they’ve been disengaged, what content and campaigns they’ve been pulling away from, etc. 

Once you do this, place them in a separate group to send campaigns to spark up interest again — they may just be getting a little bored with your content! It could include a discount code, a freebie, etc. 

Remove spam filters

If someone marked you as spam, they’ve gotta go! Spam filters can hurt your deliverability and your reputation with your email service provider

Keep it organized

For organizational cleanup within your email service provider, be sure to export everything before digging in so you have backups in case something goes wrong. And try to stay away from large exports — they don't separate well, and you’ll likely end up spending so much time sorting things out in case it does. No fun!

Instead, try exporting each tag one by one and maintaining multiple CSVs as a backup. It may be more labor intensive, but it’s worth it to be safe!

Take notes

Create documentation about what everything in your email service provider means — every tag, every custom field, every segment, etc. — so you don’t forget! It always helps to have reference material. 

Now it’s time to send some emails!

Once you’ve got your email lists in top shape, it’s time to send some emails out for your next launch! But if you aren’t sure what goes into a good launch sequence, no worries — we’ve got something that can help. 

Our 6-Week Email Launch Plan Templates help you take the guesswork out and give you time back to instead focus on delivering a top-notch experience for your clients and customers during your launch. 

Wondering what’s inside? Here's what you get: 

  • Warm Up, Conversion Event, Launch, Follow Up & Onboarding Email Sequences
  • Templates you can use in Google Docs
  • Lifetime access to all future updates and designs

Get the framework inspired by the custom content we create for our 7-and 8-figure agency clients and get ready to go in just three easy steps. Shop the templates here!

Hey! Check this out.
6 Week Email Launch Plan