Best Practices for Lists

MailChimp helps you keep your lists clean by managing bounces and unsubscribes, and offers targeting options to make sure your content reaches the right people.

In this article, you'll find some general best practices to help you better manage your lists.

List Permission

  • All recipients need to opt-in to your list.
    MailChimp is a permission-based newsletter delivery service. This means that no purchased, rented, or scraped lists can be used in MailChimp even if these addresses are for people in your industry, trade association, etc. These lists are notorious for providing bad addresses that can cause high bounce rates and lead to blacklisting. If you have a list of prospects, send them an invitation through your personal or business email account that asks them to join your email marketing list through your MailChimp signup form. You could also publicize the invitation through social media outlets as a way to get subscribers.
  • Use double opt-in for your signup forms.
    Subscribers complete the double opt-in process by filling out your signup form first and then confirming subscription to your list. This tells you they are certain they want to receive your emails, and ensures that the email address they sign up with is valid. 
  • Permission goes stale.
    When someone opts in to your list, it's a good idea to send to them on a semi-regular basis. Permission tends to go stale after about six months. If the last time you sent to your list was more than six months ago, reconfirm your list to use it in MailChimp.
  • Add an extra layer of security.
    To stop spambots from submitting false information to your list, enable reCAPTCHA in your embedded form options. Our hosted signup forms automatically include reCAPTCHA to prevent fake signups.

List Management

  • Keep your list clean of bounces and unsubscribes.
    We'll automatically remove bounces and unsubscribers from your list as long as you are uploading onto the same list in your account. However, because all lists in MailChimp are independent of each other and share no information, there's no overall account suppression list. Bounces and unsubscribes are managed on a per-list basis only.
  • Maintain a single list per client or organization in your account.
    In your MailChimp account, each list is distinctly separate and independent from all other lists. We encourage you to use a single list and keep it updated, instead of uploading a new list. If you want to target specific sections of a single list, you can build groups in your list. Using groups can reduce billing rates, since subscribers in multiple groups of the same list get counted only as one subscriber in a list.
  • Don't store redundant data for subscribers.
    Consider using groups or segments to tailor content to your audiences, rather than managing multiple lists that have many of the same subscribers on them. A subscriber can update their information or preferences at any time, and it's safer to keep that data in one list than several. If they update their email address or preferences on one of your lists, but not another, that could lower their engagement with you or worse, increase your bounce rate.
  • Don't delete lists unless necessary.
    When you delete a list, the entire list history is lost, including unsubscribes, abuse complaints and bounces. When that information is gone, you could add back people who previously unsubscribed or bounced. If that occurs, it can lead to increased hard bounces and abuse complaints which may prompt a sending suspension and compliance review. To update a list with new subscriber information, use the auto-update feature instead of deleting a list and reuploading subscribers.
  • Delete and unsubscribe are different.
    When a subscriber unsubscribes, they will no longer receive campaigns, and they won't appear in your active list. You can search for their subscriber profile, which will say "unsubscribed," and their addresses can never be reimported.
    Delete completely removes the subscriber from your list. If you delete someone, you could accidentally reimport them to your list as a new subscriber.
  • Verify the list import.
    When you upload a list to MailChimp, we'll show you the import results either on the screen, in your notifications pane, or via email. If you encounter a problem with your import, check our our troubleshooting guide for list imports
  • View the list rating.
    On the Lists page in your account, we'll display a star rating for each list. We use a lot of metrics to create a list rating, some of which you can directly influence through your content. The score goes up when subscribers open and click your campaign, and it goes down when someone bounces, unsubscribes, or files an abuse complaint. Each list rating is also compared to all of the other lists on the system and given a relative score. 

Email Content and Delivery

  • Send relevant content.
    Relevancy is an important aspect of email marketing. If your content resembles spam or doesn't hold a subscriber's interest, you risk getting spam complaints.
  • Display a permission reminder and postal address on all emails. 
    As an email service provider, we have to enforce spam laws, which require that both of these elements are included on all campaigns sent through MailChimp. Permission reminders are editable and are located in the footer of your campaign. They tell subscribers why they are receiving email from you, while a postal address provides verifiable contact information to your subscribers.
  • Ask subscribers to add your email address to their address book.
    It's a good idea to ask subscribers to  add your reply-to email address to their address book. This "whitelists" your address to help keep your campaigns out of their spam folder.
  • Include our unsubscribe link.
    Anti-spam laws also require you to include an unsubscribe link in every campaign. Since sending an email to someone who has previously unsubscribed is a violation of CAN-SPAM, we have to make sure the unsubscribe process is being handled automatically for all of our users. Because of this, our Terms of Use require that our link be used in all MailChimp campaigns.
  • Include an update profile link.
    An update profile link allows your recipients to update their subscription preferences, sort themselves into interest groups, and make any other changes to their subscription information they may need to. This way, a person could choose to be in a different group rather than being unsubscribed from a list completely.
  • Don't send too often.
    Email inbox fatigue is a concern—you don't want to overwhelm your subscribers. Instead of sending a ton of general campaigns to your whole list, use groups to send targeted emails to specific subscribers in your list. Using list segmentation can also help you to send relevant content to the right people.
  • Use a relevant From email address.
    When choosing the From email address for your campaigns and list emails, be sure that you or someone in your organization has access to the email's inbox.
  • Avoid spam filters.
    When you send an email campaign to your recipients, your messages have to get past their ISP spam filters and their email application spam filters. It's a lot easier than you think for an innocent, legitimate email to be mistaken as spam. Try our tools to check your campaign's likelihood to end up in spam folders.

Was this article helpful?
What can we do to improve articles like this?