The Good the Bad and the Unengaged Emails on Your List

What makes an email address in your email database good or bad? What can you do about them for good list hygiene? We break down the basics for you.

Bad Addresses Versus Unengaged

 When is an address truly a bad address? There are bad addresses you should remove entirely from your list or flag so that you do not continue to mail them. Here are a couple examples:

  • Email addresses that are improperly formatted and can’t be delivered will hard bounce and are bad. For example: is probably a typo and will hard bounce and not be delivered. That email address can be corrected to

  • Email accounts that are no longer in use by the person who opted in. The person has changed email addresses, stopped using the address, or perhaps passed away. These email addresses can not only stop opening, but over time they can be recycled and assigned to someone new. Worse, they can be repurposed not to an individual, but as a honey pot or spam trap. Email accounts are recycled for the purpose of checking if you’re cleaning your lists. Email accounts are reassigned and posted on the web to see if companies are scraping and buying names that have not opted in. Continuing to mail to these addresses who once opted in will hurt your email reputation and delivery.

When is an email address simply unengaged? Here are a few examples:

  • The email address is valid, but they haven’t opened for a long time. Let’s say I sign up to receive emails from a toy store when I’m buying toys for my nephew. I only buy for him twice a year, on his birthday and Christmas. So, I only open 2-4 months of the year. Is my email address bad when I’m not opening? No. I see the toy store’s message in my inbox and that’s good branding keeping the store top of mind. But I’m not opening.

  • The email address is valid, but going to a spam, junk or promotions folder. Let’s say Yahoo decided to deliver the email to me, but filter it to spam. Not everyone checks their spam folder to see if emails they want are in that folder. These are less likely to be opened.

So what can you do about these addresses?

Emailing Unengaged Contacts or Non-Openers

The unengaged addresses should be mailed less frequently and segmented into reactivation campaigns.

Why email less often? Let’s go back to the example of me buying toys for my nephew twice a year.

If the toy store continues to email me twice per week, 52 weeks of the year, Yahoo or Gmail may decide I’m not interested in the toy store and filter these messages to spam or junk. Why does this happen?  The email providers see I am not opening most of the toy store’s emails and decide the messages are not important to me. Their algorithm thinks it is doing me a service by filtering only the emails I’m really interested in to my inbox.

The toy store should email me less often, but keep me on the list. I still want the messages, but I won’t open so many of them. If they recognize my gifting pattern, they should email me reminders for my nephew’s birthday and Christmas. The rest of the year, the toy store should not send emails fewer often to everyone, but send to me less frequently. Periodically it should send me re-engagement campaigns to encourage me to open.

List Cleaning Services– Bad Addresses

You can find out if contacts on your list that have not opened in a long time have become spam traps. You can find email addresses that are spelled wrong with suggestions to correct the spelling. You can even find out if contacts on your list are frequent complainers who have a habit of hitting the “report spam” button on brands they once signed up to receive emails from.

There are list cleaning services that will review your list and check it for these issues, returning corrections and recommendations for updating your database.

ECOA & E-Append Services

ECOA stands for email change of address. You can send your non-openers to a service to check whether the person has changed email addresses. If there is a known new email address for that contact, you can reach out to them through the ECOA service to see if they’d like to receive your emails at their new address.

An E-Append helps find email addresses for your clients and prospects who you don’t have an email address on file for. Let’s say you have a mailing address for a customer, but no email address. You can use an E-Append service to find that contact’s email address and reach out to them to join your email list. E-Appends are very different from list-buying or rental services which can hurt your email reputation. They are carefully managed processes to acquire emails for your existing contacts.


If you haven’t cleaned your list regularly, we can help. Peak Marketing Communications can process your list through our relationships with list service companies. We pass on the low rates we receive from these services to our clients and handle the work for you. We will also set up and manage ECOA and E-Append processes for you with list services.

Reach out via email: or phone (716) 775-7731 for more information.