It’s a sensitive topic… No one wants to admit that they’re old. But, when you have a list… *ahem* of a certain age, you do have to work a little harder to take good care of it.

Let’s say you’ve been collecting names for a long time, but haven’t sent to them yet (this is a bad idea, more on this later) or you have a ton of hand-written names that you’ve had typed up and are ready to import into your email database. Before you upload, you should take a couple precautions to ensure that bad addresses don’t wreck your sender reputation and make you look like a Spammer:

  1. Correct grammar errors. If you have a few dozen email addresses to add, you could probably do this manually. If you have a few thousand email addresses, professional list cleansing services (like Fresh Address, for example) can help sort through the potential errors.
  2. While you’re at it, use the list cleanse service to update email addresses based on known changes in email address, using the Email Change of Address list, kind of like the National Change of Address list for direct mail.
  3. Break up sends to brand new contacts into groups of 10,000 contacts or smaller. We had a client come to us once, excited to finally get started with their email marketing program now that they had collected 80,000 email addresses… over two years! We knew we were going to see a very high bounce rate, so we sent to segments of 10,000 per day, watching for delivery issues each day. In the end, they saw a 25%+ bounce rate (!) and we had do to do a little fancy work to make sure that Yahoo! or AOL didn’t just block them as spammers for sending to so many bad addresses.

Bad email addresses are fairly common, but especially in a list full of new subscribers you haven’t sent to before. Our pals at ReturnPath estimate that as much as a third of your email list “goes bad” every year, so don’t let your list age. If you have 50 email addresses, start sending!

After sending even the most relevant, targeted email campaigns for a few years, some of your list will simply be made up of bad addresses. In the emfluence Platform, we call those “Held” contacts, those emails that have hard bounced or that have soft bounced too many times. (A soft bounce could be anything from “Server Temporarily Unavailable” to an Out of Office reply.)

If a large portion of your email list is Held, try reaching back out to them to re-engage hard bounces using a few tips from last year’s blog post.


  1. Nice post! It’s always good to think about ways you can get your list up-to-date. Another good thing to do is to remember to routinely check in with addresses that have been on your list for a while to make sure you’re still serving their needs. One way to do this is to reach out to make sure they have updated their preference center.

    DJ Waldow has a great post on this topic:

    Thanks again for a great post!

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