How to Clean Your List and Get Better Open Rates

Email marketing can be an amazing way to connect with clients and prospects. Email helps you build relationships, stay top of mind, and leave the lines of communication open for referrals and repeat transactions.

Of course, you’re only going to get results if people are actually seeing what you send. So many businesses waste their email marketing dollars by using lists full of bad addresses.

This is a problem because bad email addresses affect your IP score—the determining factor in whether your emails show up in your clients’ inboxes or end up in the spam folder.

Follow the steps in this blog to clean your email list and set yourself up for success.

DO NOT buy email lists.

No Purchased Email Lists

This is the first, most important step you can take in terms of building an email list.

First of all, you should only be sending to people you know or who have shown an interest in your business. When you do this, your message is far more likely to resonate—resulting in more business for you.

Another issue with purchased email lists is that there is absolutely no guarantee of quality. Because purchased lists weren’t assembled by you personally, you have no real way of knowing whether or not the contacts are any good.

In many cases, purchased email lists contain junk addresses—including inactive email accounts—that have already been flagged as untrustworthy by all the major email services. Other times, these addresses have been sold to multiple people and are already being aggressively marketed to by many businesses.

When you try to send to these addresses, it negatively affects your IP score, which means the legitimate clients (and would-be clients) on your list won’t see what you send.

Don’t purchase email lists. Seriously … just don’t do it.

Delete customer service addresses.

No Customer Service Addresses

You might be thinking, “My list is rock-solid. It’s just the address book associated with my email address. Surely, all of those addresses are legitimate!”

Believe it or not, the odds are high that you have some bad email addresses mixed in with your legitimate contacts. For example, if you’ve ever interacted with a customer service representative via email, there’s a chance that address was added to your list of contacts.

While these are valid email addresses, they aren’t considered legitimate contacts when it comes to delivering mass emails. As is the case with inactive accounts, when you send to customer service addresses, you’re damaging your IP score and hurting your deliverability. That means lower open rates, less engagement, and more money down the drain.

Manually review your list of contacts for these types of addresses, keeping an eye out for prefixes like “customerservice,” “sales,” and “info.”


You get the picture. Find these addresses and remove them from your email list. Don’t worry: we’ll wait.

Get rid of Craigslist addresses.

No Craigslist Addresses

Welcome back! Now that you’re done removing customer service addresses from your account, it’s time to take care of another common issue affecting email marketers: Craigslist addresses.

If you’ve ever used Craigslist to buy, sell, trade, or barter—yes, I’ll gladly write a blog in exchange for your services as a cobbler—you’ve probably also used the popular website’s email interface. This interface allows users to interact semi-anonymously, with encrypted, single-use addresses masking the actual email addresses of the people involved.

See how a 38% referral rate can change your business.

While this setup works very well for Craigslist, it’s not good for your email list. After an exchange or two, these addresses also have a way of sneaking into your address book and (you guessed it) hurting your IP score.

Look for any addresses associated with Craigslist. If you’ve got your email list open, go ahead and run a search (Ctrl + F on PC, Cmd + F on Mac). Remove those addresses right away.

Beware of other bogus addresses.

No Fake Email Addresses

Here’s a harsh truth: even if you’ve obtained your email addresses legitimately, that doesn’t mean they’re legitimate.

This is especially true if you’re soliciting email addresses through forms on your website or sign-in sheets at events. Here are some examples of what to watch out for:

  • Addresses starting with numbers
  • Incomplete emails
    • Julia@gmail
  • Nonsense strings of characters

In addition to the common culprits listed above, be on the lookout for “joke” email addresses. While would be a great email address, it’s probably not a legitimate contact for one of your clients.

Ultimately, when you’re not sure whether you’re dealing with a real email address, it’s best to err on the side of caution—if something seems fake, it probably is.

Ask for personal email addresses.

Ask for a personal email address

Once you’ve gotten rid of illegitimate addresses, another tip for optimizing your email list is to ask people for their personal email accounts.

Company addresses are often the target of spam—or are even marked as spam themselves. Because of this, they are generally not the best place to send your marketing messages. You’re far more likely to reach your client at their Gmail or Yahoo address than at their work email.

If you’re cleaning your email list and notice some company email addresses, don’t panic: this is actually a great opportunity. If you have your client or prospect’s phone number or social media handle, consider this a chance to reach out and ask for their personal email.

Let them know that this is because you have something awesome to send them, and you want to be sure it actually reaches them.

Send the American Lifestyle digital edition

If you’re looking for something awesome to send your clients and prospects, consider the American Lifestyle digital edition. It’s a monthly digital publication branded around you and your business. Plus, it’s full of great, non-sales content that will have your contacts looking forward to your emails. Click here to view a free sample.

Already sending the American Lifestyle digital edition to your clients? Check out this free success guide, which will help you get the best return on your efforts.

Written by Kevin McElvaney

Zealous wordie and reluctant writer of short bios. I'm dedicated to creating useful and educational content.