Close | X
Blog Profits Blueprint

The Report That Changed Blogging.

Join My Newsletter And Download The "Blog Profits Blueprint"

Why I Deleted Half My Email List

By Yaro Starak
33 Comments

Picture this. You’re logged into your AWeber control panel looking at your different email lists. You’ve spent years building up nearly 80,000 subscribers, but you’re about to do something that seems drastic…

You’re about to delete half of them.

Since I was about to delete so many subscribers at once I had to work with AWeber support because they would do the final cull for me. Without back-end help, I would have to spend hours deleting subscribers a page at a time.

Why was I taking such extreme measures?

Because my list needed cleaning. Not only did I have one huge bill from AWeber (approaching $700 a month), I knew that a lot of the emails on my list were “dead”, no longer active. They just sat in my database costing me money, but never opened an email.

Despite knowing that I needed to do this, I was scared. I could never be 100% sure I wasn’t deleting people who were still interested in my content. Maybe they hadn’t checked that email address in a while or they were filing my messages away for later.

My newsletter is responsible for the greatest chunk of my income, so when you’re about to perform major surgery on your cash cow, you get worried.

I managed to work up the courage, did the filtering at my end to highlight which emails I was deleting for the AWeber guys, told them I was ready, and waited.

Delete.

Looking at my AWeber control panel I see numbers that I haven’t seen in several years. My main list has gone from 65,000 down to about 35,000.

Then I freak out. Did I just potentially halve the size of my business with just one action?

I start to doubt the filtering choices I made when deciding what emails to delete. Did I go too far? Did I cut too many out at once? Shouldn’t I be doing this more gradually!

Within minutes I’m submitting a support ticket back to AWeber.

UNDO UNDO UNDO

I’m confident they can reverse what they just did, and they can.

Within a few hours my lists are back to where they were… phew. I decide I’ll do this later. I need to think about it some more.

I Was So Young

I first started my email newsletter back in 2006. I had a basic WordPress theme called “pool” (it was blue!) and I was doing all the design changes myself.

After a year of blogging I finally got the hint that email newsletters were important. I signed up for AWeber after seeing most of my peers in blogging and internet marketing recommend and use their service.

I couldn’t get the email opt-in form into my blog design neatly myself, it was beyond my skills, so I hired a designer to put the form into my theme placing it in the top right area above the fold (not a bad spot for my first newsletter).

My first ever blog opt-in box – and it even included audio!

I immediately had about 10 subscribers sign up per day. That was the start of a beautiful relationship with email marketing.

Since that time I have done launches, created many different email lists to cater to different projects, some that became hit products, some that never saw the light of day.

Six years is a long time. No doubt many people who subscribed to my list no longer are interested in what they originally came to me for. Some have moved on, some became too advanced, some changed email addresses and some used test email accounts.

The point is that there are email addresses on my list that a human being no longer reads. They are dead (the email, not the person, in most cases anyway I hope!). It’s these dead emails I want to delete.

What I Considered Before Deleting My Subscribers

Before deleting my subscribers I had a few important considerations to take into account.

Your social proof counters drop… a lot.

I grew up in an era when blogging was all about the RSS feed counter and how big the number is. Later your email subscription count started to matter too.

Bloggers get obsessed with these social proof metrics. While much of it is good old fashioned competition and bragging rights, there’s also a marketing justification for it.

People subscribe to blogs that other people subscribe to. If you see a blog has 10,000, 20K, 30K subscribers, you can’t help but follow the wisdom of the crowd. There must be something good about this blog if so many other people follow it, right?

The same goes for marketing materials. If you are a teacher of how to build up an audience, it sounds a lot better to say you have 100,000 subscribers as proof of your skills.

It might be a vanity metric in many ways, but it is still something I thought about before doing the big chop to my email list.

You may delete the wrong people.

This one is serious. You are going to delete some subscribers you don’t want to delete. Since you don’t have perfect knowledge about the person behind an email address, you can’t be sure whether they really are inactive and need to be deleted or not.

This is just something you have to live with unfortunately.

Your ego can’t handle it… but your wallet can.

As with the social proof concerns, the simple idea that you are going to reduce something you are probably proud of, means you take a hit to the ego. Sure you can tell yourself it makes sense strategically, but at the end of the day we are all obsessed with numbers that we wear proudly as badges. The bigger the number, the more of a rockstar you think you are. No one likes to see numbers go backwards.

While your ego may not like it, your wallet certainly benefits from the reduction in cost. I went from almost $700 a month down to less than $300 a month in AWeber fees after I finally made the cut (and yes I did eventually get the courage to do it). That’s a saving of over $4,000 a year.

It improves your response rates.

While your social proof might hurt publicly, your open and click through rates on your email broadcasts will improve. At least they improve as a percentage of the whole.

If you delete the total number of subscribers without taking away too many of the active ones, the proportion of those who open and click emails compared to the total number of subscribers improves. The reality is that the raw number of people doesn’t change, but since we are talking vanity metrics, your open and click through rates count too.

You have to figure out what criteria you want to base your delete filters on.

When doing a mass cull like this you have to decide what time frames to use for deleting subscribers.

You could say that you want to delete anyone who hasn’t responded in a year, or six months, or two years.

When I say responded, I mean opened an email, but you can play with the variables. Maybe you only want the really responsive people, so if someone hasn’t clicked any links in a year, despite opening emails, you can delete them all… mwahaha.

Just don’t get carried away. Going from 20,000 to 1,000 subscribers in one big swoop might be too much to handle.

I Finally Got The Balls To Do It

Although I did a big back-track after my first attempt at a cull, on my second I handled it okay.

I was cautious this time, starting with a wide window of 18 months. This meant that I only deleted subscribers if there was no action from them for over a year and a half. Even if they had just opened one email last year, they would stay on my list, at least they should, if the filters worked.

My first cull was gentle, I only lost about 25% of my subscribers and didn’t cut from every list I had. After doing this I monitored my open and click numbers and noticed that roughly the same number of people were active. That was a relief, I had achieved my goal of not deleting active people and my list was still as valuable to me as before.

Just last month I went in and did another cull, an even more aggressive one.

With so many changes going on to my list in terms of what I offered and the way I presented my offers, I had grown an entirely new newsletter of about 10,000 people. My old lists were still there and I mailed to them, but in terms of new opt-ins, I was guiding everyone to the new list.

I decided to really clean house. Since 2013 I am realigning my autoresponder sequence to a new strategy I want to make sure that the people on my list today were active this year.

My culling criteria was anyone who had not shown activity in 2012. If you didn’t open my messages sometime since January 1st, then you are out.

That’s pretty aggressive. It means if someone was clicking and opening my emails in 2011, but stopped in 2012, you are off my lists.

I went through and defined the variables, generated the numbers and saw that I’d drop down to just under half of what my list was at in it’s peak. From about 80,000 down to 35,000.

Theoretically, if I do this right, I shouldn’t cut too many active people because I was still keeping everyone who responded to my work during 2012. These are my fans, the people I want to support and stay in touch with, who want to support and stay in touch with me.

I told the AWeber guys to make the deletions, and they did.

For my next few broadcasts I carefully compared the open and click numbers. They were down slightly compared to before the cull, but still very close. The cleaning process was a success.

How To Carefully Mass-Delete Subscribers From AWeber

If you are thinking about cleaning house in your email list AWeber has some detailed instructions to help you, including screenshots. You can find them here -

How Can I Remove Inactive Subscribers From My List

The two important variables are what date to cut from using the “No Opens” variable (meaning they haven’t opened an email since that date) and to make sure you don’t get anyone who only just subscribed, which uses the “Date Added” variable.

Once you run this filter, if you have pages and pages of results, you will need to save it as a segment, then contact AWeber support and ask them to delete that segment.

If you are not an AWeber user, you will have to look at what options you have for mass-deleting your subscribers if you think it’s time to do so.

I recommend if you have been building your list for more than a year it’s potentially time to look at cleaning things up. It will give you a realistic view of how active your newsletter is and potentially save you some money too.

Other Important House Cleaning Tasks

On a more regular basis you might also want to delete the unsubscribes from your lists. These are the email addresses from people who have unsubscribed from your email list by clicking the link at the end of each email you send, stopping their subscription.

They have told you that no, they don’t want your emails anymore. Hence they are prime candidates for deletion.

Even though a person has unsubscribed doesn’t actually delete them from your database. If you want to properly remove them (hence reducing your bill), you need to delete the unsubscribes too. I generally do it once every six months.

Aweber provides instructions on how to do this here, which is fine if you have only a few unsubscribes to delete -

How Do I Delete My Unsubscribes?

However if you have too many to do manually, you can get AWeber to do it for you.

Look at your “unsubscribed” column on your main AWeber control panel and you can see the numbers for each list. Then all you have to do is email AWeber support and tell them which lists you want the unsubscribes deleted from.

I generally do a delete once it reaches 500 to 1,000 unsubscribes in two or three of my lists.

Consolidate Old Lists

Before I did the deletions I sent emails to most of my lists telling them that they should opt-in for my main newsletter (that’s the one on every page of this blog).

I did this a couple of times to give people a chance to both join my new newsletter and also show that they are active subscribers who still want my advice and stories.

When I did the culling I deleted a few old lists. They weren’t huge lists, but I wasn’t updating them anymore and were full of inactive subscribers. I actually deleted my first ever email list when I did this, the Blog Taffic King newsletter. I had a bit of a moment when I hit the delete link on that one.

While you may not want to necessary invite people on to a brand new email list when you go through this process, it makes sense to at least send one email telling people what you are doing. Use a powerful email subject line like…

This Newsletter Is Going To Be Deleted

…Which is bound to get the attention of any human who is at least paying some attention to your emails. By opening your email they ensure that their subscription won’t be deleted when you start the culling process.

Are You building A Healthy List?

Before I end this article, I should state the obvious – if you are not building a list and watching how your subscribers interact with you, then you’re missing out a very powerful tool for online business and relationship building.

Go check out AWeber, I’ve been using them for almost seven years now and full recommend them as a good choice for your email newsletter provider.

Yaro Starak
Deleting

About Yaro Starak

Yaro Starak is the author of the Blog Profits Blueprint, a report you can download instantly to learn how to make $10,000 a month, from only blogging 2 hours per day. You can find Yaro on Facebook, Twitter and .

Follow Yaro

View Yaro Starak's profile on LinkedIn
Follow us on Instagram

Share This Article


Categories:

Email Marketing

33 Comments

  • Scary stuff this deleting business Yaro (shudder). I was on your Blog Traffic King list originally and that led to Blog Mastermind. I did a cull a couple of years ago when I set up a new list with a different offering. It was a good opportunity to engage with the more active members of my old list which I hadn’t been active with for over a year (I took a blog sebattical). It was scary walking away from all those email addresses but it was definitely a good thing to do as otherwise I would have been fooling myself about the real size of my current audience.

    • Yeah it sucks! After a few years, even as your list grows and grows, half of them stop opening your emails and next thing you know, the other half don’t even login to their email accounts!

  • I have been meeting these hard decisions every other week or month when i decide to change something & 2 times out of 10 i have ended up like you said: “instant undo”.

  • Sam

    Great Article especially for those with a big email list. I’ll keep this article for reference hopefully some day in the future I’ll have to do some deleting.
    Thanks Yaro!
    :)

  • Hi Yaro. I was wondering if you’ve ever experimented with Getresponse and if you’ve found them more capable than Aweber or the other way around? Just had to ask because I use Getresponse.

    It seems to me that Aweber’s opt-in forms load immediately while Getresponse’s optin forms are slow. If you check out my website, you’re going to see that my form loads slower. What’s your opinion on it? Thanks.

    Fonzy

  • I do this from time to time as well but then someone warned me that if a reader has your email in preview pane it can count as unopened but the person might still be reading (altho not clicking thro). I thought the opposite… Just wondered if you had investigated this?

  • What about people who don’t have javascript enabled and thus Aweber doesn’t count them as opened emails?

  • I read your articles eagerly when I get the chance, but I can see where you would save big on deleting a good amount of your list. I have not made a purchase from you as such and if that warrants me to be cut, so be it, but I would miss your articles.
    I have one question: what is a good spam bot blocker? I am using askismet but it’s not doing the job I want.
    The reason I’m asking you is because I’m sure you have been through it with spam.
    Thanks for the article Yaro take care and have a Merry Christmas.

  • Hope i have that problem one day-nice post Yaro!

  • Great post as usual, Yaro. I just realized how much we can save on the cost of autoresponder by removing junk subscribers.

    Thanks again for this great post.:)

  • A couple months ago I deleted 2 entire subscriptions to keep my Aweber costs down. I was only at the $69 or $79 per month price, but I hated paying that much so I just dropped a couple of them.

  • Very interesting article, Yaro. And not something one often reads about on blogs. I’ve been using Aweber for about 18 months and have been very happy with it.
    Thanks for the insight and tips.

  • @Yaro: You could have put them in a seprate list. Send an email with a realy tempting subject line and waited for a week or two to see if they open. Then purge them.

  • Dave Tong

    a few months ago,i remembered getting an email, I believe from Laura Roeder. The email simply mentioned that shed like to make sure I’m still around and interested with the content she’s providing and if you do, click a link….

  • Does a click also count as an open with Aweber? I block images in my email reader by default – you know, to avoid all that irritating tracking that marketers like to do ;-). So opens alone don’t register for some.

    P.S. You need to get someone in again for that opt-in form Yaro – it doesn’t display correctly in Firefox. Critically it chops off most of the submit button!

  • Shaun

    I stopped reading as many guides on your site when you had other writers, now you’re writing yourself again a lot more of the guides are relevant and what I’m into.

  • So, this is the reason why I am no longer getting emails from you.

  • $4000 a year is a good saving, that is a lot of money to be spending on people who do nothing. A very brave thing to do, so many marketers think the size of their email lists is the online equivalent to the size of their…. well you know what I am saying!

    I for one do not understand why you would pay so much to hold on to dead wood. Good move Yaro

  • This is the first time I’ve done this. What also makes interesting reading is if you export your unsubscribers first you can also see which emails they generally unsubscribe from – at least on Aweber.

    From here you can make a decision to either delete the email or tweak and test it.

  • Yaro, you brought back scary memories from when I deleted 14,000 subscribers from my list some time in 2002. In retrospect, it was the best decision in my email marketing experience! Have practiced culling lists ever since, and a LOT more aggressively than you :)

  • Hi Yaro,
    I’m just glad I’m still on your list.

    Thanks.
    Maree

  • Just did it !
    Speed of implementation :)

    Thank you Yaro !

    - Alexis

  • Hello Yaro
    I wish I had the same kind of decisions to take here :-)
    Anyway, feel happy I did open every one of your e-mails- I’m still on the list

  • Wow Yaro! It would scare me to death to go delete almost half my list! Not something I need to worry about right at the moment but it’s definitely something to keep in the back of my mind in the future. Thanks for the tip!

  • Yaro, you should check out Jack Born’s “AW Pro Tools”, mate.

    Just search for it on Google and you’ll find it. Don’t want to post links in your comments area.

    It allows you to do “tagging” with AWeber, and moving/copying of people between lists by just clicking a link.

    The tagging feature will allow you to do some funky stuff related to “list cleaning”. If you want to know more just hit me up.

    Andre

    • Sounds good Andre, I know you are on top of these things. Now that I think about it, AWeber must have some plugin/add-ons out there that do cool things, the service has been around for years.

  • Hey Yaro and Andre

    Yaro – timing couldn’t be better – I just had a run in with Aweber and they wanted me to do this, and I admit – I was petrified (probably mostly about my ego!), but my good buddy Olivier (the French version of yourself) pointed me to your article and hurrah, I don’t feel so bad all of a sudden :)

    Andre – your ARM course rocks man, love it! And from first glance at AW Pro Tools I’m blown away – thanks for sharing that with everyone!

    Cheers guys – happy new year
    Ross

  • Jay

    I’ve tested what Yaro described in his article, it works… Let me add up that I’ve been looking for resources all over the internet to automate this process and found some good (and also no so good) ones. Among the good I want to share one that impressed me the most as it works very well and it’s a real FREE open source. Yes, FREE… the reason being is that they seem to be sponsored by advertisers. Its website URL is http://www.freeemailverifier.com. It doesn’t do ALL the work but helps me lots saving valuable time (and money of course). Each time I use them, which is quite often, I want to tip them (no way to do it though), thus I visit one or sometimes a couple of their advertisers posted there (impressive ones I should say such as Adobe, Groupon, Symantec, just to mention a few). On top of that for the international reader this email verifier site is multilingual!

  • [...] You can read Yaro’s adventures in email list purging here Why I Deleted Half My Email List [...]

  • Great read dude.

    For me it was about flushing lists, not just subscribers. I got rid of a lot of garbage and consolidated the rest.

  • Improved email followup is what I provide to my clients. Many of my clients use auto-reponder emails and this software tailors the experience to each user based on what they click, what pages they visit, and what videos they watch.

    Personally here’s how I use autoresponder emails.

    I have educational material I offer for free in return for a name and an email. When an interested prospect registers to receive the information, I send additional follow up emails to help them get the most out of the PDF download I give them. By giving quick additional examples that provide depth and examples to the lessons in my educational material, they come to trust me and understand that I have a solution for their business. I share stories that bring the lessons to life and give my subscribers a sense that they know me through these anecdotes.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Blog Profits BlueprintLearn How To Make $10,000 Per Month Blogging 2 Hours A Day

Enter your email to join my newsletter and download the Blog Profits Blueprint Exclusive Report

Follow Yaro: Email | RSS | Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

Don't show again | X

Follow Yaro On Facebook

And learn how to build a better blog.

Follow Yaro Starak Facebook