Email list scrubbing

Understanding the Importance of your Email Sender and IP Reputation.

Do you ever wonder why when sending an email marketing campaign, or receiving an email from another company, some emails end up in the inbox while others find their way directly to the junk or spam folder?

The most important factor in determining whether your email is marked as spam, and ends up in the junk folder, or goes to your subscriber’s inbox is directly related to your sender and IP reputation. While there are other factors, your IP reputation is inevitably the most important. Sender reputation is directly associated with the IP address of the email server you are using to send your email campaigns. ISP’s (Internet Service Provider) score a sender’s IP address or reputation by assigning a value or score, weighing various factors related to email marketing activity. They then use their own algorithm or scoring metrics to determine your reputation and if your emails will be destined for the inbox, junk folder or simply rejected. In essence, your sender or IP reputation indicates to an ISP the trustworthiness of the source of the email that is being delivered. What constitutes a trustworthy sender will vary from ISP to ISP, so in order to build a strong sender or IP reputation you’ll need to understand all of the factors that ISP’s look at when determining a score and how or if to deliver your email marketing messages at all.

A sender or IP reputation is built over time. Simply setting up a new IP address and sending your emails from it won’t guarantee that your emails will make it to the inbox. Oftentimes clients don’t understand why emails being sent from a brand new IP address would land in the spam or junk folder. Their rational is usually, “This is a brand new IP. The IP reputation can’t be bad. Why would they send all of our emails to the junk folder?”  A brand new IP with no history of email activity is normally regarded as suspicious by the ISP, because they do not know anything about the IP address that is being used to send the emails. You can think about it the same way banks use credit scores. If you have no credit, payment history or credit score, a bank is less likely to give you credit or loan you money. While if you have a good credit history of paying your bills on time and being diligent about your finances, banks are more likely to lend you money or extend you the credit you’re asking for.

What factors are used in determining your sender and IP reputation?

  1. Spam Complaints – How many users click the spam or junk button when receiving your emails? What percentage of recipients complain about the emails they receive from you and your ever so important IP address?
  2. Clean Email Address – Having a list of email addresses that are valid and deliverable are also a key factor in scoring your IP reputation. A quality email list, will in most cases, allow you to deliver your emails to the user’s inbox. Email List Cleaning is extremely important because it stops you from sending to invalid and unwanted emails. Having a high percentage of hard bounces (bad or undeliverable email addresses) is a sure way to let the ISP’s know your list is either old, scrapped, purchased, not optin or simply not maintained. While validating your email list is extremely important, cleaning your email list is equally critical. Sending to spamtraps is a sure way to ensure, even if you did before, you’ll no longer be able to deliver your emails to the users inbox.
  3. Volume of Email being sent – If you normally send to a list of 3,000 emails twice weekly and then decide to buy a list and start sending to 300,000, you’ll normally find out pretty quickly that your emails are being rejected or being sent to the spam folder.
  4. IP Blacklists – Most ISP’s will use some type of external blacklist to see if your IP address is negatively listed for either sending to spam seeds or complaining recipients.
  5. Valid DNS – Ensuring that the DNS is correctly setup for your sending domain and the IP address is validated to allow you to send from it is critical in delivering your emails without any problems. The main DNS records that need to be correctly configured are: A, MX, SPF, Domain Keys (DKIM), and Reverse DNS
  6. Email Content – While the content or keywords in your email is important, most industry experts will agree that it only accounts for approximately 20% of the score determining if an ISP will accept and deliver your email to the inbox or spam folder or outright reject the email being sent.

Conclusion – Delivering your Email Marketing to the Inbox

If you have your domain and IP configured properly in DNS, clean and validate your email lists regularly, send to only optin email addresses of your customers or people who have signed up to receive emails from you and don’t send spammy looking emails that will entice a recipient to click the spam button, you should be OK. Following these basic rules is the framework of any responsible email marketer.

Since email list cleaning is a big part of our business and a service Email Answers offers, as you might imagine, we see a whole bunch of email data and occasionally have some interesting surprises when validating it.

This week we had a customer who sent us a list of approximately 300,000 email records. After cleaning and validating the list, it had been reduced by over 70%, which was the first sign of a problem and things to come. Since the average loss, after validating a decent optin email list, is between 3% – 10%, this usually means two things. Firstly, the list is very old and secondly, the list was probably purchased. Hence, the reason you should never waste your time or money buying an email list.

After returning the list to the customer, he found an ESP that would allow him to send an email campaign to the list and the results were dismal. Although he was only given a short leash and allowed to test 10,000 of the list, the results weren’t surprising, based on the age and type of list it was. Of the 10k emails sent, he had 54 opens, which translates to an open rate of 0.54%. The interesting thing was that the majority of the emails were delivered, but delivered to whom? This is the big question.

We then dug a little deeper into the list. We found a large percentage of emails were from In the early years of the Internet, (starting circa 1995), Bigfoot provided an email forwarding service, which most of us thought had vanished with the Dot-Com Bubble Burst of 2000. The interesting fact is that they still, to this day, provide this forwarding service. So the email account you had with Bigfoot in 1997 is still forwarding email to the other email account you haven’t had since 2001.

Hold on a minute, it gets better.

When Bigfoot accepts email and then forwards it on to the email it was setup to forward to, even if it doesn’t exist, Bigfoot never responds and informs the sender that the email is invalid or bounced. Sort of like a big black hole that exists at Yahoo on occasion.

Are you totally confused yet?

Since part of our email validation process involves connecting to the email server, of the email address being tested, to see if it will accept email, without ever sending an email to the end user, this makes it much more difficult and virtually impossible for the “final destination email” to be validated.

Let me attempt to confuse-simplify this for you.

If accepts every single email sent to it and forwards it to, but is a non-existent email address or is no longer valid, and never replies telling you that isn’t a valid email, how are you supposed to know? Better yet, since is valid and accepts email, we have to mark this email as valid, even though it is not valid, because it accepts email.

Now you know how a “Valid and Deliverable Email is Neither Valid nor Deliverable”.


Email marketing is a powerful tool for businesses to connect with their audience, build brand awareness, and drive conversions. However, maintaining a healthy and engaged email marketing list is crucial for achieving success in this digital marketing strategy. One of the key challenges marketers face is the presence of spam seeds, complainers, and dead emails on their lists. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of cleaning your email marketing list and provide actionable tips on how to remove these unwanted elements.

The Consequences of Neglect:

Allowing spam seeds, complainers, and dead emails to linger on your marketing list can have detrimental effects on your email campaigns. Here’s a breakdown of the potential consequences:

  1. Deliverability Issues: Spam seeds, also known as seed emails, are typically used by ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and spam filters to monitor the deliverability of emails. If your list contains spam seeds, it could trigger spam filters, causing your legitimate emails to be flagged as spam and reducing overall deliverability.
  2. Reputation Damage: Complainers, or subscribers who mark your emails as spam, can harm your sender reputation. A poor sender reputation makes it more likely that your future emails will be marked as spam or, in extreme cases, completely blocked by ISPs.
  3. Wasted Resources: Dead emails, or inactive subscribers, are essentially dead weight on your email list. Continuously sending emails to inactive subscribers not only wastes your resources but also negatively impacts your engagement metrics, as these subscribers are unlikely to open or interact with your emails.

Identifying and Removing Spam Seeds:

Spam seeds are often used by email marketers to monitor the delivery and appearance of their emails. However, if they end up on your subscriber list, they can skew your analytics and trigger spam filters. Here’s how you can identify and remove spam seeds:

  1. Regularly Audit Your List: Conduct regular audits of your email marketing list to identify any suspicious or unfamiliar email addresses. Spam seeds often have distinct patterns in their email addresses, such as specific domains or formats.
  2. Use Email Verification Services: Employ email verification services to check the validity of email addresses on your list. These services can identify and flag spam seeds, ensuring that you maintain a clean and accurate list.
  3. Monitor Engagement Metrics: Track engagement metrics, such as open rates and click-through rates, for unusual patterns. Spam seeds often behave differently from genuine subscribers, so monitoring these metrics can help you spot and remove them from your list.

Dealing with Complainers:

Complainers pose a significant threat to your sender reputation, but addressing their concerns promptly can mitigate the damage. Here’s how you can handle complainers effectively:

  1. Segment Your List: Segment your email list to identify complainers and isolate them from your main subscriber base. This allows you to tailor your communication strategy for this segment.
  2. Implement Preference Centers: Provide subscribers with the option to customize their email preferences through a preference center. This enables complainers to choose the type and frequency of emails they receive, reducing the likelihood of them marking your messages as spam.
  3. Send Re-engagement Campaigns: Before removing emails from your list, attempt to re-engage them through targeted campaigns. Offer incentives, exclusive content, or discounts to entice subscribers back into active engagement.

Eliminating Dead Emails:

Inactive subscribers can drag down your email marketing performance, but with a strategic approach, you can re-engage or remove them from your list:

  1. Set Inactivity Thresholds: Establish specific criteria for identifying inactive subscribers, such as a lack of engagement over a defined period. Once you’ve set thresholds, regularly review and segment your list based on these criteria.
  2. Send Re-engagement Campaigns: Similar to dealing with non-responders, launch re-engagement campaigns to win back inactive subscribers. Craft compelling messages and offers that encourage them to re-engage with your content.
  3. Implement a Sunset Policy: Consider implementing a sunset policy, where subscribers who remain inactive for an extended period are automatically removed from your list. This ensures that your list is consistently populated with engaged and interested subscribers.


Maintaining a clean and engaged email marketing list is essential for the success of your campaigns. By actively addressing spam seeds, complainers, and dead emails, you can improve deliverability, protect your sender reputation, and maximize the impact of your email marketing efforts. Regularly audit your list, utilize email verification services, and implement targeted re-engagement strategies to keep your list healthy and your email marketing campaigns thriving.

If you are considering investing in email marketing to promote your services and drive traffic to your website, email deliverability should be your primary and utmost concern. Realistically, how could you expect a bull run of sales leads when your emails are being blocked and are not even being delivered to your prospective consumers? And, if I tell you that there are companies out there that guarantee 100% deliverability if you subscribe to the services they offer, does that surprise you? I sure hope not.

We are all guilty at one point or another of believing what we read, hear, and see, especially if it puts a few extra bucks in our pockets. It’s often tempting to take shortcuts in life and pay less for services that promise 100% when in actuality, companies are telling you what you want to hear in order to rake in your business. When salespeople have you on the phone, sometimes that little devil on their left shoulder overrides the angel on their right. All of the sudden, the word “commission” takes priority over your business goals and objectives and common sense goes out the window.

Email deliverability is not as black and white as it may seem. There is no formula or algorithm that spells out exactly what you need to do to ensure that every single email you send will reach the inbox of your target market. Sure, there are certain services that may help improve deliverability, but there are no guarantees.

Email list cleaning is a service that will definitely help in maximizing deliverability. However, if you stumble upon a company that promises that a small investment in email verification services is the only component involved in ensuring 100% deliverability, I suggest you run for the hills. The truth is, if you have the best data, but a terrible IP reputation, you can kiss the money you spent on your email marketing campaign goodbye.

The answer lies in finding the right Email Service Provider (ESP) that has experience in managing the reputation of your IP addresses and in guiding you through the industry “best practices.” Among other things, a good ESP will configure your mail server and DNS correctly to enable you to deliver email in bulk, will provide free technical support, will clean and validate your email database, and will give you advice on sending out successful email campaigns.

Disregard the little voice in your head that says you can do this entirely by yourself without a hitch. Swallow your pride. I can assure you that, as a beginner to email marketing, you will drive yourself into the ground with the unnecessary hassle.

Contact the experienced email marketing professionals at Email Answers, and let us become your partners in success.

Successful small business owners — whether they’re new or just niche entrepreneurs — are usually hands-on kinds of people; when they see some task that needs to be completed to operate or grow their company, they tend to roll up their sleeves and get it done. That does not, importantly, mean they do it all themselves; knowing when you can handle something yourself and when you need to call in a professional is a critical part of successful time management.

Many of these “do it myself or hire it out” kinds of decisions are easy; we’re not all master plumbers, for example. But while it’s tempting to believe there’s nothing more to anemail marketing campaign than downloading a template you found online somewhere, filling in the details of your doubtless irresistible upcoming sale, buying an inexpensive list of email addresses, and hitting “send,” the reality is quite different. By jumping head first into the deep end of this particularly sensitive marketing pool, you may set yourself up to cause more damage than the money saved could hope to offset. Email marketing can be a powerful tool to capture customers, drive sales, and increase your reach — but it’s not for the weekend dabbler, either.

Email marketing campaigns that work well all share several qualities, but perhaps the most important is they are well-targeted, and carefully tailored. One size rarely fits all, and this is no exception. The people at the other end must be receiving a message that makes sense for them to be reading — either demographically, geographically, or simply by virtue of knowing their interests and needs ahead of time. Professional email marketing partners build email lists not just by volume, but by quality — and the ability to segment their lists to create useful subsets of differentiated groups that can help a particular campaign be successful.

The importance of the quality of these lists cannot be overstated; in email marketing, the oldest of clichés is absolutely true: you never, ever get a second chance to make a first impression. If the message you’ve sent goes to the wrong place, you’ve labeled yourself and your company as spammers. And once you’ve found your way into someone’s spam folder, there’s a lot of work to be done to dig yourself out of it. Using a high-quality list of email addresses — with recipients that are reliably interested in the sort of things your business has to offer in the first place — is much easier and less expensive in the long run.

And these lists aren’t static; interests change, addresses change, trends change. Professionals know that building a list is the first tiny step toward having a list. It needs to be curated, updated, and maintained; the email addresses need to be checked and scrubbed regularly, with an eye to keeping a group of addresses together that will give the biggest ROI. There’s more to email address deliverability than simply whether it exists, and professional email marketers use multiple methods to ensure your message will always get through to the people who need to see it.

Finally, successful targeting and tailoring means keeping your messages fresh and relevant to whichever part of the market you’re gunning for. And while you might be up on the latest in your field, successful online marketing trends emerge, shift and fall into irrelevance faster than you might believe possible. What worked to reach and build customer groups last month is almost certainly less effective this month; email marketing professionals are already laying ground work for the campaigns of tomorrow.