I, like many others (yourself included, I’m sure) love seeing my email list numbers grow. I’ll get random emails from Mailchimp saying one or two people subscribed to my email list and it doesn’t seem like a big deal… until I realize I’ve got about 100 more subscribers than I expected!
Talk about an awesome feeling, right?
And yet, every four months or so, I go through my email list and clean it out. I find subscribers who aren’t opening my emails and unsubscribe them from my email list.
Here’s why it’s a good habit to get into, and how you can clean out your email list as well!
Why You Should Clean Out Your Email List
So, why on earth would you want to remove people from your email list after you’ve spent so much time and effort to get them there in the first place? Well, here are just a few reasons…
1 | You’re paying per subscriber.
First of all, you’re paying for your email service per subscriber. Sure, Mailchimp is free for your first 2,000 subscribers.
But if you start paying for things like automation, you start to get charged more after just 500 subscribers.
So, if the amount of money you’re spending is directly related to how many people are on your email list, don’t you want to make sure they’re actually interested in your content? I do!
2 | You get a better idea of your actual readership.
Let’s say money isn’t a factor. If you’re gauging your readership off of the size of your email list, but more than half of the people on your list aren’t opening your emails, you’ve got a pretty skewed perspective.
Cleaning out your email list means you’ve only got people on your list who genuinely want to read your content. You can see which newsletters do best and which do worst while actually being confident that this is what your target audience is interested.
3 | Your open rates and click-through rates will go up.
And finally, your open rates and click-through rates will go up. This shouldn’t be your number one priority, but it’s still worth a mention! If you’ve got 100 people on your list but only 10 people opening your emails, you’ve got a 10% open rate.
Now let’s say we took out the active subscribers and your list went down to 25 people, but the same 10 people have opened your newsletter. Now your open rate is 40%, and you didn’t even have more people open your emails!
How to Clean Out Your Email List
So, now that we know why we should be cleaning out our email lists, how do we actually do it?
The big thing to keep in mind is that we don’t want to unsubscribe people willy-nilly. We want to make sure they really don’t want to be on your email list. So here’s how we make sure we’re only unsubscribing the people who aren’t reading our emails.
1 | Open your list and create a segment.
First, find the list you want to clean out. In Mailchimp, go to Lists at the top of the screen and click on the appropriate list.
Next, we want to create a segment of your list. To do this, click on Manage Subscribers and go to Segments. On the next screen, click on Create Segment.
There are a couple different ways you can make your segment, but I recommend doing it the same way each time.
I personally choose:
Campaign activity: Did not open all of the last 5 emails
This is selecting any subscriber who didn’t open your last 5 emails.
Choosing “any of the last 5 emails” means they might have opened four of them, but they haven’t opened the one you sent out this morning, or they were on vacation four weeks ago and didn’t open the email you sent that week. That’s why I like to choose all of the last five emails.
I choose five because I send out content weekly; five weeks is plenty of time in my book. If you send out content more frequently, though, you might want to do your last 10 or 20 emails instead.
Next, hit Preview Segment.
Now, try not to freak out if it’s a lot of your subscribers. For full transparency, I’m working on cleaning out my email list right now, and 164 of my 388 subscribers are currently in this segment.
Just remember why we’re doing this: we only want the people who genuinely crave your content to be on your email list! You shouldn’t be doing this just for the numbers.
3 | Export & save the segment.
Next, we want to export the segment. To do this, simply click Export Segment under your list menu.
Now, go back to the segment (you can either click the Back button on your browser and click Preview Segment again, or re-run the segment since it’s not too complicated). In the grey menu, you’ll see the option to Save as Segment. Click that button
Save the segment with today’s date. I like to do No Opens 11/15, but choose something that’s easiest for you to remember.
Important: uncheck the Auto-Update box. It’s critical that you do this, or it’s going to auto-update your segment before you send out any emails. We want this to be static: the people who haven’t opened the last five emails as of today’s date. That way we can compare these segments in the future.
Once it’s done generating the segment, we’re good to move onto the next step!
4 | Send an email to the segment.
Now we want to send an email to the segment asking if they really want to be unsubscribed. Again, what if they’ve just been on a hiatus or maternity leave or a really really long vacation? (Must be nice…)
When you’re viewing the segment, click on More and choose Send Campaign to Segment.
So we’re going to let them know we’re planning on unsubscribing them, but allow them the opportunity to stop us before we do.
Create a campaign explaining that you noticed they haven’t opened your emails in a while, and that you’ll be unsubscribing them in a week. However, if they click a certain link, you’ll keep them on the list! (I like to make a landing page thanking them for staying on the list, using the idea from the Fake Leadpages tutorial I shared a while back.)
I used to make them reply to the email, but that’s a bit too personal for me. It’s making them admit to your
face inbox that they haven’t felt the need to read your content. Awkward. Clicking a link is less invasive and they’re more likely to stick around.
PS Don’t want to have to write your own content for the email? Download the script below!
5 | Unsubscribe those you don’t hear from.
Now we want to set a reminder for yourself in a week’s time so you remember to make good on the promise to unsubscribe those that don’t click on the link.
Open up your exported segment list in Excel. In Mailchimp, open the report from your previous email by going to Reports and finding your campaign from the list of your most recent campaigns. Click View Report.
Next, find your click rate and click on the percentage. This will show you what links people clicked on, as well as how many people clicked on them. Find the link you designated as the “please don’t unsubscribe me” link, and click on the number under Unique Clicks. This will give you the email addresses of the people who clicked on those links.
Now, open up your Excel spreadsheet and find those email addresses and delete them from the list.
Next, go back to Mailchimp and go to Lists > the list you’re cleaning out > Manage Subscribers > Unsubscribe addresses. It’s going to display a big text box for you to paste email addresses to unsubscribe.
Once you’re sure you’ve removed the email addresses of everyone who clicked on the link in your email, copy the entire Email Address column from the Excel spreadsheet into the text box in Mailchimp, ensuring there’s one email address per line. Click Unsubscribe.
6 | Repeat.
Now, you want to repeat! I put a reminder in my calendar for every four months so I never forget to clean out my email list.
Sure, that wasn’t the easiest task in the world, but I promise it’s worth it! We want to make sure you’re only reaching your target audience, and that you’re not paying for subscribers who don’t actually read your content.