Requirements and Best Practices for Lists

Your email marketing will generate the highest return on investment (ROI) when you take the time to build and maintain an engaged subscriber list. MailChimp lists have built-in tools to help you along the way.

We also have certain list requirements all MailChimp users must follow, and recommend some best practices that can help ensure your subscribers stay invested in your business.

In this article, you'll learn about required and recommended best practices for list collection and maintenance.

Requirements for Lists

As an email service provider (ESP), we're obligated to enforce anti-spam laws. This means we have some requirements you should be aware of in order to remain compliant with our Terms of Use.

Here are the most crucial requirements for lists.


Get Permission

MailChimp is a permission-based ESP. Everyone on your list should have opted in to receive emails from you, and their permission should be express and verifiable. If you use one of our double opt-in signup form options, we track this permission for you, so you have a date and time stamp for each subscriber on your list.

The Importance of Permission

Include an Unsubscribe Link in Campaigns

Federal anti-spam laws require you to give people a way to unsubscribe from your list in every campaign you send. We require you to use our *|UNSUB|* merge tag for this, which inserts a link to your MailChimp-hosted unsubscribe form. It’s against our Terms to use an outside or third-party unsubscribe process.

Why We Require an Unsubscribe Link

The Unsubscribe Merge Tag

Don't Use Third-Party Lists

Third-party lists are prohibited under our Terms. This includes purchased or rented lists, and lists scraped from third-party sources including public websites. Your list should be collected entirely by you, and you should use a proper opt-in method.

To learn more about how to stay compliant, take a look at our article on General Compliance Tips.

Best Practices for Lists

To help keep your list clean, we manage your bounces and unsubscribes on a per-list basis for you, but it takes more than that to build a healthy and compliant list. Poor list maintenance can result in low engagement and compliance issues, which can affect your ability to send or even shut down your account.

In addition to our requirements for lists, you should follow these industry best practices for list collection and maintenance to optimize the health of your list and stay in compliance.

Use a Double Opt-In Signup Form

We strongly recommend you use a double opt-in signup form, which requires subscribers to confirm their signup via email before they're added to your list. This ensures your subscribers are interested in your emails, and keeps invalid email addresses off your list. We make this easy for you with our signup forms, which include double opt-in by default.

Other list collection methods like offline signups or subscribers collected in conjunction with a purchase, can also cause issues if it isn't absolutely clear that by providing their email address, the person has opted in to receive email from you.

The Double Opt-in Process

How the Form Builder Works

Opt-in Methods for Offline Subscribers

About Signup Form Options

Maintain Permission

Permission goes stale if you don't actively send to, and engage with, your subscribers. If you have subscribers who haven't been sent to regularly, we recommend you reconfirm the addresses outside of MailChimp to reduce bounces and abuse complaints.

It's also a good idea to include a permission reminder in each campaign you send. This briefly reminds your subscriber how they got on your list, and why they’re receiving emails from you.

When Email Addresses Go Stale

How to Reconfirm a List

Edit the Permission Reminder

Re-Engage or Remove Inactive Subscribers

We strongly recommend that you periodically re-engage inactive subscribers to confirm their interest in your business or product. If your inactive subscribers don't respond to your re-engagement campaign, it's best to remove them from your list.

About Inactive and Stale Addresses

Re-Engage Inactive Subscribers

Remove Inactive Subscribers

Use a Master List

MailChimp treats all the lists in your account separately, and your Monthly Plan billing is based on your total subscriber count across all your lists. It can be more costly to maintain multiple lists, and you may run into compliance issues if bounced addresses are removed from one list in your account, but still exist in the subscribed section of another.

If you have duplicate subscribers across different lists, consider combining your lists into a master list and using groups to organize your subscribers. This can simplify your list management, and may reduce the cost of your monthly bill.

Ways to Combine Lists in MailChimp

Include an Update Profile Link in Campaigns

An update profile link allows your recipients to update their subscription preferences, sort themselves into interest groups, and make any other subscription changes they want. You might find that subscribers choose to change groups, rather than unsubscribe from your list entirely.

Add an Update Profile Link

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