ReachMail Piece by Piece: List Sweeper

Welcome to the second edition of ReachMail Piece by Piece. If you missed the first installment click here to take a look back (it’s a handy tip about generating follow-up lists for your campaigns).

This week we’re going to talk about List Sweeper. This topic always brings up some best-practices questions so I’ll try to answer some of those today.

A common question the support staff gets is “How do I remove opt-outs or hard bounces from a list?”

Before we get to the answer, a little background on hard bounces and opt-outs. Hard bounces and opt-outs are the inactive records in the list. Either the users have made themselves inactive (opt-out) or the address was determined to be invalid (hard bounce). For the more detailed description of hard bounces, soft bounces, opt-outs and how ReachMail handles them please read this post.

So, to get back to the original question about how to remove hard bounces and opt-outs from a list my answer is usually this: Why do you want to remove them?

I know it’s not polite to answer a question with a question but in this case I think it’s useful to discuss exactly what goal we’re trying to accomplish by culling these records from the list.

As an aside, keep in mind that inactive records are NOT delivered and therefore have no bearing on the volume which is used to calculate your bill.

We always encourage people to leave the inactive records in the list because they provide valuable historical records. When you upload new records to a list the uploaded records are automatically checked against the existing list, any hard bounces and opt-outs will not be added to the list. If the inactive records had been removed that history is lost and any hard-bounces would have to run through the entire bounce process again before they would be marked as inactive.

That said, if you do want to clean your list of any or all inactive records, there’s a tool for that. It’s called List Sweeper and you can find it in the Action menu of any list. Just select List Sweeper, choose what type of inactive records you would like to remove and click the Sweep List button.

If you have any questions or if you’re wondering if List Sweeper is right for you, feel free to contact me a

Next in Piece by Piece: Controlling User Access

Bounces and Opt-Outs

Bounces and Opt-Outs can seem confusing and to some users they’re always a mystery. But they don’t have to be. ReachMail has very simple ways of handling the bounces and opt-outs from your list.

Lets review.


There are two different types of bounces, soft and hard. Hard bounces are the simplest type of undeliverable so lets start with those.

Hard Bounces

A hard bounce occurs when you try to delivery to an email address that doesn’t exist. It’s like the Post Office returning a letter to you because of an unknown address. For example, say you sent an email to Well there’s no bsmith here so that would be a hard bounce. There are two sub-categories to hard bounces, pending and full. Hard bounces with the “pending” status have not yet been mailed to three times. It means that we consider them a likely hard bounce but we will wait for the server to confirm twice more that user indeed does not exist. A full hard bounce has had three consecutive user not found notifications from the recipients’ server and is now an inactive record. It remains in the list for reference purposes but will not be mailed to again.

Soft Bounces

Soft bounces are more ambiguous than hard bounces. There can be a variety of reasons that a recipient soft-bounced. Could be a full in-box. Could be a mail block. Could be a DNS failure. We won’t get into all the possible causes for a soft bounce, the short answer is that ReachMail considers a soft bounce a temporary failure. The record will never become inactive and we will continue to attempt delivery on all subsequent mailings.


An opt-out is a recipient who has chosen to no longer receive your mailings.
Recipients can opt-out using any one of three methods. They can click the link appended to your email, they can call a ReachMail phone number or they can email

Opt-outs are not removed from your list. They are flagged as an opt-out and are never mailed to.

There are two levels at which a user can opt-out, the list level and the account level.

Users who opt-out at the list level are flagged in the list and are not mailed to on any subsequent mailings to that list.

Users who opt-out at the account level are added to the Global Opt-Out list and will not receive any subsequent mailings regardless of their status on any delivery list.

Global Opt Out is on List A and List B. He receives a mailing delivered to List A and elects to opt out at the account level. He will not receive any mailings from your account at all regardless of whatever lists he is added to.

List Level Opt Out is on List A and List B. He receives a mailing delivered to List A and elects to opt out at the list level. He will never receive subsequent mails to List A (regardless of mail content) but will receive mails delivered to List B or any other list his name may appear on in the future.

Since mails and lists exist independently of each other the content of a mailing has no bearing on whether or not a user will receive that mailing. Delivery is entirely subject to opt-out status in the list and the global opt-out list.

Questions? Concerns? Feel free to email me at