Cleaning Your Email List - Yes or No?

author tips Apr 06, 2020

Hey, friend! Let’s talk about the age old question…

Should I purge inactive subscribers from my list?

Most newsletter providers offer many stats and ways to group people on your list including the option to group people who have not opened the last X number of emails. This makes it easy to find out if you have some subscribers who just aren’t opening (or maybe aren’t seeing) your emails anymore.
I think it can be good idea to clean up your list every so often. How often really depends on the size of your list and how quickly you’re gaining subscribers. If you have a list of over 20k and you’re gaining 100 subscribers a week, you might need to clean it more often than someone with a list of 500.
Cleaning your list is also a choice you have to make based on how you got your subscribers. Did you get most of them organically (website sign ups, backmatter of your books, email signature line)? Or did you get most of them from giveaways? I’m going to cover the topic of subscribers from giveaways in another post, but suffice it to say that they do not tend to be highly engaged subscribers.

So you’ve decided to clean your list? Here are the steps:


1. Find out who isn’t opening your emails.

Use your mailing list provider to pull a list of people who haven’t opened any of your emails for the time period of your choosing. You’ll have to use your best judgment here because the number is going to depend on how often you’re sending your newsletter. For example, this newsletter comes out every week, so the last 3 newsletters is only a period of 3 weeks. I wouldn’t want to purge anyone that’s just been on a long vacation.


2. Email that group of people.

Send a newsletter to that group of people ONLY (not your whole list) and ask them if they want to remain on your list. Here’s some “swipe copy” for you. (Meaning: I don’t mind if you swipe it and use it for yourself.)
Subject: Do you still want to hear from me?


I hope you're doing well!

The tech gods tells me you haven’t been opening my emails. I just want to check in and confirm that you still want to be on my mailing list. If you want to stay, please reply to this email and let me know. If you no longer want to be on my list, that’s no problem at all! If you don’t reply, I’ll go ahead and unsubscribe you.


3. Bulk Unsubscribe

Using the list you generated previously, do a mass unsubscribe of the people who DIDN’T reply and say they wanted to stay on your list. If you’re not sure how to do this, search the Help section of your provider.

NOTE: If your list is enormous and you’re looking at 1,000’s of replies, you might want to ask people to click a link to stay subscribed instead of replying. I used Kajabi for my list, so I would create a link that goes to a generic thank you page on my website. (Like this:


4. Send an Unsubscribe Confirmation from YOUR EMAIL

Send one final email to everyone you just unsubscribed. This is not done through your mailing list provider, but through your own email account. You’ll just use the BCC field to email multiple people privately.
More swipe copy:
Subject: No hard feelings!

Hi! I went ahead an unsubscribed you from my mailing list since you didn’t reply to my last email asking if you wanted to remain a subscriber. I totally understand how busy life can be and I promise there are no hard feelings!

If I made a mistake, you can resubscribe to my list here:


Be Aware

Also, be aware that sometimes stats are wrong. The way mailing list providers track email “opens” is by embedding a very tiny image in your newsletter. When someone opens the email and their server downloads that hidden image, a message is sent back to the mailing list provider telling them that a specific person opened your email.
This is from a MailChimp article on the topic:
“open tracking won't work if your subscribers or their email client have chosen not to display images.”

This means, the list of people that “haven’t opened your last X campaigns” isn’t going to be 100% accurate. You could potentially delete an active subscriber if you don’t send them an email making sure they’re not reading your messages. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend unsubscribing people without reaching out to them first.

I hope that helps!


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