Creating and building an email list can be tedious. You do the work and spend the time gathering new subscribers only to find out you need to then continuously maintain an email list. What does it even mean to maintain an email list? Things like weeding out inactive contacts and sending unsubscribe campaigns are really important to the health of your subscriber list. Let’s explore some easy ways to keep your subscribers attentive, active, and responsive. 

Why do I need to maintain my email list?

Email marketing is all about making sure your emails are first delivered to the right people and then opened, read, and clicked through. To do this, you’ll need to make sure anything that prevents this from happening is stopped. Even “dead” contacts should be deleted to make room for more subscribers and so that they are not affecting your open rate, deliverability or even your email subscription plan. 

Some email servers, like Mailchimp, limit the number of subscribers they will house in a certain plan. You want to maximize the number of subscribers allowed within the plan you selected and budgeted for! You don’t want to build an email list for the sake of numbers. You’ll be disappointed by the metrics you’re getting if that is your drive. 

Having a stagnant email list is almost worse than not having one at all. (I see you, don’t hate me!) Once you have established solid ways of building your email list and you have a continuous flow of new subscribers coming in, you need to set up some practices for keeping it squeaky clean. 

Did you know that email servers like Gmail have gotten so good at identifying junk that it’s really easy to be marked as spam by the server based on how you maintain your email list? This is something known as your IP Score or IP Reputation. You can get a general idea of your score from places like senderscore.org. Basically, things like being inconsistent in the number of emails you send, sending bad quality content, or buying email lists all negatively impact your IP Score. 

how to maintain an email list

Three ways to effectively maintain an email list

First impressions are everything. That also holds true in the cyber world. A welcome email is your #1 priority because it sets the stage for future communication. According to a study done by GetResponse, the average open rate for welcome emails is >80%


Ways you can make a good first impression would be:

  • Greet the subscriber by name. Chances are you’ve asked for a first name in your opt-in forms or when gathering your email addresses in the first place. This is the best time to use that data!
  • Offer a welcome gift. A percentage off a first purchase can motivate subscribers to make the purchase you’re hoping they will. 
  • Talk about what’s next. Setting expectations for your subscriber from the very beginning is important. You should let them know what types of content they can expect to see from you and how frequently you’re going to show up in their inbox. This is also the best time to place value on your services and promote how subscribers are going to benefit from getting emails from you.
  • Ask subscribers how you can help. You want to supply your subscribers with content that is helpful to them. This is key in not having your contacts unsubscribe. You want them excited to hear from you. By asking how you can help, this conveys a message that you value and care about them.
  • Ask subscribers to approve you as a sender. Different email servers do this differently, but with Gmail, you simply hit the star next to the email when it comes in. This lets the server know “Hey, I want to hear from this sender. Do not mark it as spam.”
how to maintain an email list

Keep your email list clean. Sometimes referred to as “scrubbing”, running some filters on your email list every couple months is absolutely invaluable. Some examples of running a filter would be: searching for anyone who hasn’t opened the last 3 campaigns, or email addresses that don’t allow your email to go through etc. This is important because:

  • Helps maintain a healthy email deliverability standing and reduce bounce rate. A bounce means the email never officially made it to the recipient. A hard bounce happens because the email address is no longer valid – the subscriber left that job, or there is a misspelling in the email address itself. A soft bounce is when your message is too large, subscribers have tight spam filters, or the inbox is full. Most of the time, your email platform will automatically delete hard bounce results which does some of the work for you. If you have a high bounce rate, you’re at risk for being blacklisted by email service providers (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook etc) for being a repeat offender. This will then affect the deliverability of any of your emails to future subscribers with these providers. (Not good!)
  • Reduces sending costs. As I mentioned earlier, you may have picked a plan that only allows a maximum subscriber list of 500 or 1000 to keep marketing costs low. You don’t want 50% of that to be people you’re not actually reaching or people who are no longer opening your emails. Some email platforms are pay-as-you-send – again, to maximize your budget, you want to make sure your emails are making it to their destination. 

Re-engage dead subscribers. Sometimes people will flat out ignore you. Sometimes you’ll be filtered to spam. Maybe you were given a secondary email address the subscribers don’t check often. Regardless, your communication efforts are falling on deaf ears and you need to re-engage your subscribers. This is your last chance before you must delete them from your subscriber list.

  • Segment your subscriber list. Do this by seeing what they have purchased, checking out their demographics, etc. You can offer exclusives to different segments to help them feel more a part of something. 
  • Make your subject lines irresistible. This is your one chance to grab your subscribers attention and entice them to open the email. Saying something like “Giveaway inside!” leaves their curiosity piqued while a subject line that reads “Our monthly newsletter enclosed” falls flat.
  • Entice with a gift or discount.
  • Run an unsubscribe campaign. Again, getting rid of dead weight is really important, and there is nothing wrong with letting subscribers know you’re going to drop them from your list unless they respond by a certain date. Then, when that date arrives, you can confidently unsubscribe them.

Maintain your email for optimal results

Managing your email lists is an absolute must-do for organizations and businesses alike. 

Doing so gives you an organized database for easy segmentation, which, in turn, lets you create engaging, personalized email marketing campaigns tailored to your readers’ needs. As we discussed, keeping your lists clean also improves email deliverability, protects your reputation, and saves you valuable time and money.

how to maintain an email list