This Thanksgiving we’re looking forward to a table stocked with all the fixings: Stuffing, cranberry sauce, a juicy turkey and pumpkin pie topped with a dollop of whipped cream (is anyone else getting hungry?). Of course what’s sitting on our plates is only as good as how delicious it tastes. Most of us would probably rather have a single, yet perfectly-prepared, mouth-watering dish than a table brimming with cold, flavorless plates of food.

Quality vs. quantity is an age-old comparison, and in most cases quality will win out. Your email database is no exception.

Sure, the more people you can hit with your emails the better, but only if those people are quality leads for whom any given message is relevant. If we had a choice between sending an email to 500 leads knowing that the majority of people on that list either have outdated information or no connection to the message or 100 up to date, on-target leads, we’d choose the latter every time. You could have the best emails in the world, but if they’re not going to the right people, it doesn’t much matter.

So what can you do to keep your email database clean? We recommend honing in on data quality, duplicate data and inactive contacts. As you do so, follow these three steps to get your database clean and keep it that way:

1. Confirm the Quality of Your Data

First, you need to look at the quality of your data, especially as it pertains to the validity of email addresses. If you send emails to invalid addresses, your emails will bounce, and the higher your bounce rate, the worse your sender reputation. Therefore, you need to ensure that all of the email addresses on your list are valid. In some cases people who filled out a form might have made a typo, in other cases a once valid email address might have gone inactive and in other cases you might actually have a risky email address, such as one that belongs to a bot, on your list. You need to account for all of these cases.

Fortunately, there are many solutions that can help you go through your database and confirm the quality of your data. For example, BriteVerify helps you verify email addresses quickly and automatically unsubscribe any invalid or risky addresses.

In addition to confirming validity of email addresses, you’ll also want to be sure any other information (e.g. job title, location) is accurate and up to date.

2. Find & Eliminate Duplicate Records

Second, you need to ensure that each lead only appears once in your database. Having duplicate records is an all too common problem that can wreak havoc by falsely inflating your numbers (leading to inaccurate reports as a result), hindering lead scoring capabilities and creating confusion when reviewing things like engagement history.

Often times duplicates crop up when database users don’t follow a standard method for inputting data or when leads have multiple email aliases. Whatever the case may be, you need to scrub your database to identify any duplicates and implement a deduping tool to prevent duplicates from cropping up in the future.

3. Try Re-engaging (Then Removing) Any Inactive Contacts

Finally, you need to consider any inactive contacts. While some people who have decided to stop engaging will “let you know” by unsubscribing to your emails, that won’t always be the case. Once you identify any inactive contacts (i.e. those who aren’t opening or reading your emails but whose email addresses are still valid), you’ll want to include them in your cleanup process as well.

However, before you remove them from your database, try re-engaging first. If you still don’t see any activity, then you should remove them from your database. We know what you’re thinking: What if they decide to start engaging again? Well, that’s why you test the waters first with some re-engagement efforts. If they don’t bite though, you’ll want to remove them because those contacts are more likely to mark your emails as spam at some point, which can hurt your sender reputation.

Carving Out the Fat from Your Database

Back to Thanksgiving (because who isn’t dreaming about taking a post-meal, turkey-induced nap later this week?), cleaning out your database isn’t that different than preparing a turkey. First you’ll want to stuff it, but it can’t stay that way forever — you have to carve it in order for it to serve its purpose (dinner, in the case of the Turkey; converting leads, in the case of your email database). And when you carve a turkey, your goal is to set aside the best parts from the bones and fat you won’t eat. When you clean your email database, your goal is to separate the valid, active and quality leads from those who don’t exist, might pose a risk or have simply stopped engaging. Doing so will ultimately help make your email campaigns more effective. The biggest difference? Thanksgiving only comes once a year, but you should revisit your database and each of these three factors on a regular basis.