We deleted 202,837 subscribers from our email list

How big is your email list?

Well, it’s smaller than you think.

I used to be blown away whenever any of my fellow entrepreneurs told me about their 100k+ email lists. 100k subscribers? This guy made it! He clearly owns a fleet of private jets.

4 years later we decided to delete 202,837 subscribers from our email list at DOYOUYOGA.COM.

Why would anyone in their right mind do that?

Well… couple of things.

If you’ve been growing your email list for more than a year and haven’t deleted any of your subscribers, you’re an idiot. Believe me, I know, I was that idiot for the past 4 years.

Let me ‘splain it.

I know that letting go of your hard earned subscribers might seem odd, but the truth is that your subscriber count doesn’t matter what so ever.

The only thing that matters is the amount (or percentage) of people that perform whatever call-to-action you send them. Most likely we’re talking about clicks here. On rare occasions it could also be responding to your emails.

Now, we don’t want to be too harsh to ourselves and even though the real goal is an action, let’s just say that simply opening an email would be enough for us to assume that this subscriber will click at some point in the future.

Okay, so let me rephrase that question I asked at the beginning of this post. Since we don’t care about list size. How high is your open rate?

If your answer is less than 100% and your email list is older than six months AND you haven’t deleted any of your subscribers yet, you’re making a mistake.

Let’s me tell you a story that makes clear why…

We use Mailchimp for email marketing (not a fan, by the way).

Three years ago the open rate for the weekly DOYOUYOGA newsletter was above 40%. Two years ago we were getting a solid 35% open rate, which is still insanely high, considering that we had over 200k subscribers back then.

By late 2016 our open rate had dropped down to 25% without us ever having changed any major variables in our email marketing. Minus 10%. WTF?

We get 2 spam complaints per 100k emails, so we knew that wasn’t the problem.

We started digging into this. We surveyed hundreds of subscribers, asking them why they didn’t open our newsletters anymore and if there’s anything we could do better.

The result of our survey was a massive surprise to me.

Almost everyone who responded said that they loved our newsletter. They’d love to open it. But they couldn’t, because they stoped receiving it.

What. The. Fudge?

So I talked to my buddy Brian Dean during a game of Magic the Gathering. He told me that he removes over 30% of his subscribers within a few months if they don’t open any of his emails. If you don’t open his emails, he basically punishes you by removing you from his list.

I was pretty stunned.

It took me a few months of messing around with our email deliverability to realize that Brian is not only handsome as fuck, but also 100% right about this whole email thing.

If you don’t keep your email ist clean, you’re actually getting fucked two ways.

Every subscriber that rides along on your list without ever opening any of your emails lowers your overall email list deliverability. The reputation of your email list dwindles with every in-active subscriber.

So not only do you not get opens from the people who are in-active, but more and more of those who would actually love to see your emails stop seeing them because your email list is on the shit list of more and more email providers (like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, …).

If you have 5,000 subscribers that probably doesn’t really matter, but as your list grows this aspect becomes very relevant.

And that’s how we ended up deleting over 200k subscribers from our list.

I’m gonna add one more thing.

Many of those who clean up their lists on a regular basis run re-engagement campaigns to try and get those lost subscribers back. It might be worth trying this with subscribers as they flake out, but if you’re considering to run a big re-engagement campaign with 50k subscribers that have accumulated over the past years, you probably won’t see much of an effect.

Instead, you could consider automatically adding everyone who hasn’t opened the last 4-5 emails to a separate list, then try to re-engage those a bit more aggressively. This second list will serve as a layer between active and deleted subscribers.

Happy cleaning.

By the way, once you’ve cleaned up the list, I highly recommend checking out G-Lock and SendForensics (I’m not affiliated with them what so ever), which are both killer tools to help you figure out if and why your emails don’t make it into your subscribers’ inbox.