What does clean email mean? A marketer’s guide
If you work in business or anywhere close to the email marketing space, you’ve likely heard the phrase “clean email”. Other phrase variations might include cleaning emails, scrubbing emails, or cleaning email lists.
But why does anyone need clean email, and what is the importance of email list cleaning?
This guide will detail why every company and marketer requires clean email lists. We’ll also show you how ZeroBounce helps you clean emails reliably so that you can quickly improve your email marketing performance.
What is clean email?
Clean email includes any email address that is valid and in use by an actual person. If you send an email to a clean, valid email, you can expect your email to deliver successfully.
Logic follows that an “unclean email” is invalid. An invalid email is a nonexistent address, and sending an email to one will prompt your message to bounce.
However, there are many other email types that we also consider do not consider clean. These emails either have a solid potential for a bounce or can cause further damage to your email marketing campaigns.
Learn more about risky emails
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Why do I need a clean email list?
According to our Email Decay Report for 2023, out of more than six billion email addresses, 20.19% were invalid. That’s not including the additional catch-alls, abuse emails, and disposable emails we caught on customer email lists
To put this in perspective, let’s look at what might be lurking in your email database:
That’s 2,019 email bounces that you could prevent with email list cleaning.
Failure to clean email leads to bounces
An invalid email address does not exist. If there’s no valid destination for your email message, it will bounce back to you. In our above example, we have 2,019 invalid contacts. That translates to 2,019 email bounces caused by unclean emails.
Bounces are problematic for email marketers for two primary reasons.
First, bounced emails will never reach a prospective client or customer. Most email service providers (ESP) charge you on the volume of emails. Thus, sending bounced emails will devastate your email marketing ROI.
Second, internet service providers (ISP) have a low tolerance for email bounces. The benchmark bounce rate for all industries is about 2%. Exceeding this can prompt ISPs to question legitimacy of your emails. Particular recipients may reject your emails.
Poor performance hurts your sender reputation and email deliverability
If you don’t keep up with your email list cleaning, your email marketing performance will nosedive.
These metrics tell a story about your email domain, negatively affecting your sender reputation. Not only will invalid emails cause your bounce rate to climb, but your engagement numbers will also decline. If people don’t receive your content, they can’t open, click or forward it.
Every domain has a sender reputation. This is a numerical score assigned to you by ISPs that help them determine the trustworthiness and quality of your email content.
Domains with low bounce rates and high engagement rates have higher sender scores. These metrics show ISPs that the domain owner uses clean email practices and delivers content that their subscribers enjoy.
Conversely, domains with high bounce rates and low engagement will have lower sender scores. ISPs infer that you do not practice regular email list cleaning, email invalid or toxic addresses, and deliver low-quality or spammy content.
As your sender reputation declines, so too will your email deliverability. That equates to more bounced messages, spam placement, and lower email marketing ROI.
High-risk emails can jeopardize your email domain
Invalid emails make up the bulk of bad addresses when you don’t have clean email.
However, other high-risk email types can cause additional damage to your email domain and sender reputation.
Use email verification to spot spam traps
One of these that email verification can identify is a spam trap. Public and private blacklist service providers use spam trap emails to catch irresponsible or malicious persons from using bad or illegal email practices. You can easily pick up a spam trap by purchasing emailing lists or scraping websites for emails to add to your database.
Once you email a spam trap, your email domain ends up on one or more associated blacklists. ISPs use these blacklists to identify incoming emails that are untrustworthy quickly and automatically block them. Getting blacklisted can also prompt some ESPs to suspend your account until you take action to improve your email hygiene.
Other high-risk email types like catch-alls, abuse emails, and disposable emails are trickier to identify. These emails are valid, and sent emails will show as “delivered.” However, these are great examples of why you shouldn’t take the “delivered” notification for granted.
Disposable emails are valid - until they’re not
Disposable emails work on a timer. They act and present as real, valid emails for a set period - usually about thirty minutes. After the timer expires, the address self-destructs and is no longer valid. While your initial email to this address will show positive signs, later attempts to email the address will result in bounces.
Abuse emails are constant complainers
Abuse emails also belong to valid email users and may read as “delivered.” However, these account owners habitually mark everything as spam even when they willingly subscribe to your email list. Your spam complaint rate is another metric that factors into your sender reputation, which is why it's best to use email verification and part ways with abuse emails immediately.
The problem with catch-all domains
Finally, there are catch-all addresses that are the trickiest to handle. Catch-all emails are valid; companies use them to capture incoming emails otherwise sent to invalid users on the same domain. While catch-alls seem like a great way to reach someone at a company, they’re often little more than spam havens.
Spammers and bad actors use the catch-all address to get their content in an inbox. Unless the company has someone regularly addressing the catch-all inbox and delegating messages to the correct person, it’s more likely your emails will never see engagement.
Clean email is essential for all of the above reasons. Now that you understand what email list cleaning will address, you must know how to use an email list cleaner to improve your database.
Don’t ignore email bounces.
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How ZeroBounce serves as an email cleaner
ZeroBounce serves as an accurate and reliable way to clean emails found on your list. Here are all the ways our platform helps you identify the above email types and resolves any issues that can negatively impact your email marketing performance.
Begin your email list cleaning with email validation
Our email validation and verification tool allows you to enter single email addresses or your entire list to identify the status of each email address.
Once it identifies your valid, invalid, and high-risk emails, it automatically removes those addresses that negatively impact your email deliverability. It detects any email that can increase your bounce rate with 99% accuracy, making it the most precise way to maintain clean email lists.
Only you can see the data you upload; a unique encryption key protects your results. We automatically delete your email data after 30 days for your protection.
Then, you can import your new email list into your email CRM. You can confidently begin your next email campaign knowing that your clean email list contains valid, active subscribers.
An email cleaner with catch-all domain detection
When you clean emails with ZeroBounce, you’ll be able to detect any catch-all domains lurking on your list quickly.
Identifying catch-all domains is half the battle. Many email validation services merely identify catch-alls so that you can take action to remove them from your list.
However, not all catch-all emails are harmful. It costs money to obtain those email addresses, so you don’t want to dispose of one that’s active and healthy prematurely.
After you identify your catch-alls, you can score them with ZeroBounce AI to measure the current activity levels for each. They’ll get a score from 0-10, with the upper limit showing higher levels of engagement. This way, you can make more informed decisions on whether or not it’s worth adding that catch-all email to your mailing list.
Improve email deliverability with spam and abuse email detection
Many email verification tools identify valid and invalid emails, but very few can successfully identify spam traps and abuse emails.
Though these emails generally make up a smaller percentage of contacts, all it takes is one spam trap to hurt your reputation. Likewise, a few chronic complainers can spike your spam complaint rate for no reason.
ZeroBounce automatically identifies these email types simultaneously when you submit your list to our email cleaner.
Email verification for disposable email addresses
Being able to identify a disposable email domain helps prevent additional email decay.
Usually, the disposable email would eventually expire, turning into an invalid email address that causes a bounce. When you begin your email list cleaning with ZeroBounce, the email validation tool will identify disposable email addresses automatically.
This way, you can proactively identify disposable domains and remove them before they can impact your bounce rate.
Don’t just clean email - get new subscriber insights
A reliable way to clean email is invaluable, but gaining vital data about those contacts is even better.
In addition to identifying and removing invalid and risky emails, our email verification service can provide additional subscriber insights when available. Submit your database to our email list cleaner and gain additional appended data, including
- IP information
- Creation date
After cleaning your emails, you can use the additional insights to assist with further list segmentation. Segmenting your email list is one of the best ways to drive engagement and ensure you deliver relevant, high-quality emails to your subscribers.
Identify more harmful emails with 99% accuracy guaranteed
A step-by-step guide to email list cleaning
If you want clean email now, here’s how to get started with email validation.
First, sign up today to get your free ZeroBounce account. You’ll need this to try out the email validation tool and upload your list. We make it effortless to try by giving you 100 credits at no charge to start cleaning emails.
Next, follow this step-by-step guide to clean emails with ZeroBounce.
Single email validation guide
- After logging in, look for the email validation tool on the Dashboard. You can also find it by clicking the Validate link on the left.
- To use the email list cleaner for a single email, enter the address in the field that reads “Single Email Validation.” Then, click Go.
- Immediately see your results pop up on the same page.
The Status informs you of the type of email. This includes all the above statuses, such as valid, invalid, abuse email, etc.
Likewise, the Sub-status can further describe the email when applicable. For example, a disposable email falls under the do_not_mail status and would appear in the sub-status field when appropriate.
Your report will provide other valuable insights, such as freemail domains, the user account, domain info, SMTP provider, MX information, and the name.
Bulk email list cleaning guide
For most, you’ll want to use our email cleaner for your entire list. Here’s how to do it.
- Click on Validate New List.
You have multiple options to upload your email database.
First, you can export your email list from your email provider as a file. Then, upload it to ZeroBounce using the drag-and-drop area. You can use CSV, TXT, XLS, and XLSX files.
If you need help setting up your email list file, we provide <a href='/docs/email-list-validation'>handy documentation</a> to walk you through it.
But managing files can be a pain. That’s why numerous official, third-party, and Zapier integrations are available within the menu. Just find your preferred integration, click on it, and follow the setup process.
After uploading your email list for cleaning, you’ll see your file in the queue. The time it takes to clean emails depends upon your number of contacts.
But no need to stand by and wait. We’ll notify you by email when your email list cleaning is complete.
Once the email validation process finishes, you’ll see a Download button to the right of your list. You can select which data you want to append to your results page.
Your results come in an encrypted .zip file along with a unique password for your protection. Only you can access and view your email verification information.
After you obtain your list of clean emails, just import the data back into your preferred email platform, and you’re all set!
Clean email in real time with the API
Regular email list cleaning is essential, and we recommend performing it roughly once a quarter (every three months).
However, it’s even better to identify harmful emails and block them from your list in real time. Here’s how to make this happen with ZeroBounce.
Obtain the single email validation API code from our website. Note that our API requires that your website have SSL.
- Within the API code, insert your unique ZeroBounce API key. You can find this by logging in and clicking on API from your dashboard.
- Once you have the API code along with your API key, you can add this code to your favorite websites, landing pages, or anywhere else you collect email signups.
Anytime a new user enters their email address, the API will automatically call our email validation and provide the email’s status in real time. If it’s an invalid email, we’ll block it and let the user know it is invalid. With that, you’re all set!
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How you can benefit from clean email
Email list cleaning reduces email bounce rates
If there’s one reason why everyone wants a reliable email cleaner, it’s to eliminate email bounces.
If your email bounce rate starts to climb above that 2% benchmark, looking for invalid emails is a great place to start. Regularly using an email cleaner can fight off that email list decay (remember, just over 20% of emails become invalid yearly).
Improved email deliverability and sender reputation
A low bounce rate is an excellent metric for your email domain. When you successfully deliver more emails, ISPs know they can trust your domain.
And when your emails reach subscribers, you can expect other metrics to improve. Your sender reputation improves when bounces are low, and engagement is up.
A high, positive sender reputation will ensure that you successfully deliver more emails and that they land in the inbox - not the spam folder.
Clean email offers improved engagement
The best way to drive engagement is to ensure every email hits the inbox. Subscribers can’t open or click if they never receive your emails.
When you use email verification to trim the fat off your email list, you will see more opens, clicks, and forwards, as you won’t have inaccurate data skewing your performance. The people left on your list willingly subscribed, so you will see your engagement improve immediately.
Enhanced data quality and better targeting
Because you cleaned your emails and got rid of the bad data, you’ll now understand your email performance properly.
You doom your campaign if your list has many invalid contacts and abuse complainers. Expect high bounce rates, low opens, and numerous spam complaints.
When you have a clean email list, you eliminate the skewed data and understand how your subscribers view your email content. You can then start making more educated decisions on improving and better targeting your segmented lists.
Improve your email marketing ROI
ESPs seldom charge by your number of contacts but by the number of emails you send.
That means every email you send to an invalid, spammy contact is wasted revenue.
You can immediately improve your email marketing ROI by practicing email list cleaning and eliminating invalid addresses and uninterested subscribers. Make sure each message counts by practicing clean email habits.
Every brand needs clean email - get started today
No matter how prominent or prolific your company is, no brand is safe from email decay.
The more signups and emails you obtain, the greater likelihood you’re receiving bad data if you’re not using email validation.
Once that bounce rate starts climbing over 2%, your email deliverability problems will multiply. More spam placement, spam complaints, bounced emails, or worse.
Thankfully for you, email list cleaning couldn’t be easier. It’s affordable, reliable, and the best way to improve your email marketing performance.
Try it today for free!
Create your free ZeroBounce account and get 100 free email verification credits instantly.
Frequently asked questions about clean email
You can get a clean email list using an email validation and verification service.
All you need to do is upload your list of email contacts and allow the tool to clean your emails. It will identify invalid addresses, correct typos when possible, and eliminate high-risk emails like disposable emails, spam traps, and abuse emails.
Keeping a clean email list provides the following benefits:
- Reduced email bounce rate
- Fewer spam complaints
- Better email deliverability
- Improved sender reputation
- Improved campaign performance
- Better email marketing ROI
ZeroBounce offers free email verification to all users. Sign up for a free account and get 100 email validation credits deposited into your account monthly.
Users can add more credits to their plan or subscribe to a monthly plan at any time. Free credits are always available and never expire.
You should delete any of the following email addresses from your email list:
- Invalid emails
- Disposable emails
- Spam traps
- Abuse emails
- Do-not-mail addresses
- Toxic domains
Eliminating these from your list will help reduce your email bounces and protect your sender reputation.
You should clean your email list at least once a quarter (every three months). This includes uploading your entire list to an email verification tool and allowing it to remove all invalid and high-risk emails.
You can keep your email list clean and reduce the need for frequent cleaning by using a real-time email verification API. Add the API to your registration forms, and it will automatically block any unwanted email addresses.