How to Measure the Health of Your Email Lists

The health of your email lists is important for improving your marketing outreach. Email already has a history of cutting through the digital noise of other competitors and encouraging your best leads to talk about new business. But finding and verifying those leads may be difficult, and there’s always the risk that the data you have can become unusable — either because you purchased an old lead list, or because of the recent “job shuffle” from the Great Resignation. So how exactly do you measure the health of your email lists, and what do you do when it starts to diminish?

Email Campaign Statistics

If you’re reaching out to a wide range of contacts, you’re probably using email campaigns that are delivered using automation. The automation platform you’ve selected should be tracking relevant statistics during those campaigns, including open rates, click rates, webpage visits, unsubscribe requests, and hard bounces. While it’s true that all of these can be used to measure the success of your email campaign, we want to focus here on which of these influence the health of your email lists. With that in mind, we’ll touch on open rates to a certain degree, but our main considerations will be hard bounces and unsubscribe rates.

Open Rates

Open rates are important because, as the name suggests, the higher they are, the more people are looking at your emails. It’s also a good indication that your list is still relevant and has the right leads to target. Generally speaking, open rates between 12 and 20 percent can be considered successful email campaigns, but you can see much lower rates and still have a healthy email list. What’s important is learning whether that lower percentage is due to who you’re sending to, how long they’ve been in your database, what you’re sending them, or when you’re sending it — all of which requires some trial and error. In turn, that helps you determine whether it’s time to replace old, unengaged contacts with new data that’s more targeted, change up your messaging, or both.

Note: You can compare open rates in your email campaigns with recorded web traffic. If you see spikes in your analytics on the days that you’re sending (either for direct or organic sources), you’ll have a more complete picture of how well those emails are performing.

Hard Bounces

Hard bounces refer to those email addresses that your automation platform is unable to reach. Often this is because those addresses no longer exist. You’ll need to keep an eye on these bounces because the higher their rate, the more damage it can do to your sender reputation. Spammers often send blanket emails without regard for the accuracy of their targets, so service providers may interpret your email as doing the same. If you ignore hard bounces for too long, not only can you be labeled as spam — you can be blacklisted, and have this spill over to your website’s reputation.


Unsubscribe requests are a valuable metric for a few reasons. They can mean that recipients aren’t interested in your content or that you’re contacting the wrong people, on top of influencing how healthy your email lists appear. Unsubscribes are comparable to hard bounces in that you don’t want them to get too high, or your sender reputation may become more scrutinized. You must honor all unsubscribe requests as part of CAN-SPAM law.

Warning Signs

Some email automation platforms are designed to warn you when your email lists become unhealthy, either by limiting your ability to send or requiring your emails to be manually reviewed. You may even be barred from sending to those contacts entirely. While this may be a frustrating process, the goal of these restrictions is ultimately meant for your benefit to protect your reputation and encourage you to find data of the right leads to contact.

Improving Email List Health

When your email lists are no longer healthy, it’s time to refresh your data. Finding and verifying updated contact information for your best leads doesn’t require purchasing expensive, potentially unreliable lists of email addresses. As long as you have the names of the people you want to contact, the names of their companies, and those companies’ websites, you can use prospecting automation to identify their email addresses and reach out to them — all while protecting your sender reputation.  

Your Next Email Campaign

Would you like guidance on building a database of verified contacts, maintaining healthy email lists, and managing your email campaigns? Let’s talk about it! Click the link below to schedule some time for a free marketing consultation.

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