Why you should clean up your email list — and how!

A couple months ago I cleaned up my email list — and lost about a third of my subscribers. Hitting the delete button wasn’t easy, but my open rates have gone up since then, meaning the people left on my list are the ones who are truly interested in my brand.

So why is it important to clean up your email subscribers? For me, it comes down to money. Before cleaning my list, I was very close to being bumped up to the next subscription level — which is more money out of my bank account. It doesn’t make sense to pay for people who aren’t engaging with my emails to begin with.

Why you should clean up your email list and how from elembee.com

But how do you identify your inactive subscribers and remove them? Here’s what I recommend:

Create a new segment

In Mailchimp, open your list, and you’ll see a drop down for segments where you can create a new one. Then you can choose conditions for your segment. In this case, you want to select subscribers based on campaign activity, and choose those who have not opened any of the last 5 campaigns.

My preferred email list provider, Campaign Monitor, doesn’t offer this option. But any email list provider you choose should have the option to add multiple conditions and select your specific campaigns. In this case you would need to add a condition for each of your most recent campaigns and make sure your subscriber list meets all conditions (meaning they have not opened any of the campaigns you’ve chosen).

Here's a step-by-step guide to cleaning up your inactive email subscribers.Click To Tweet

Email your segment

I like to give subscribers one last opportunity to engage before removing them, especially since email list providers can’t show you who’s opening your campaigns with 100% accuracy. In fact, when I emailed my inactive list, I received a few responses from people saying they actually had been opening my previous emails.

Send your segment an email to let them know you’re cleaning up your list, include a link to your website in the email, and ask them to click the link by a certain date if they want to stay subscribed. I just created a page on my website that said thanks for staying subscribed, but you can link anywhere. The point is to have a link so you can track their click, which can be measured accurately.

Give inactive subscribers one last opportunity to engage by letting them know.Click To Tweet

Create a new segment for removal

Next you’ll need to create another segment to track the people who haven’t clicked on the link to resubscribe so you can remove them from your list. This time you only need one condition — people who did not click the campaign you sent about cleaning up your list. As people click on your link, they will automatically be removed from the segment, so by your removal date, this segment will only have people who have not engaged with the past 5 emails and have not chosen to stay subscribed.

Export your removal segment

On the deadline you gave to inactive subscribers, export your removal segment. It will download a CSV file. Then you can copy the email addresses, open your list, and enter them in the unsubscribe box under the manage subscribers menu. Your cleanup is done!

P.S. For more tips on setting up your email list and creating content for it, check out my book Get Your Email List Together.


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Meet the author

Hello! I’m Lisa M. Butler, and I help people build better websites. As a WordPress developer, I’ve built more than 100 websites on WordPress. I help my clients take their websites to the next level and teach them how to take control of their online presence. Through my blog, weekly emails, and club, I share that same advice with online creative entrepreneurs and publishers just like you.