How (and Why) to Clean Up Your Email List

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A lot of people get into spring cleaning. I get the itch in the fall. I think it's all the new school supplies lining the aisles of every store. I loved picking a fresh new box of crayons and a new backpack – so this fall isn't much different. 
But the cleaning I'm talking about today is a little different. It's about cleaning up your email list. Fall is a great time clean up your email list, before you start promoting for the holiday season.
So in this episode, I’m going to talk about WHY you should clean your list, and then HOW to do it. 

What is Email List Cleaning?

Email list cleaning is simply getting rid of inactive, unengaged subscribers. That’s right – you’re going to *remove* people from your email list. People that you spent time and energy to get to sign up in the first place.

Why You Should Clean Your Email List

You should clean your list because you only really want to be sending messages to people who want to hear from you. Plus, with a nice clean list, you’re going to get better deliverability. ESPs and inboxes share information. The more emails that you send out that don’t get opened, the higher the likelihood is that your emails will get marked as “promotions” – or even worse – Junk. 
Plus, a cleaner list means you’ll have better statistics. Who wouldn’t love seeing their open rate goes from 25% to 50%? Plus when you take out the people who aren’t opening your content anyway, you’ll be able to interpret your data and see more about what your readers are actually responding to. 
And finally, you’ll have lower email marketing costs. Email services providers charge based on your list size, so if you’re only paying for your engaged subscribers – not the dead weight, then you may save yourself a little bit of money. 

How to Clean Your Email List

First, let’s make sure it's a good time to do a list cleaning. If you just did a launch, then wait at least a month before you start to clean up your email list. The launch does a bit of cleaning itself. 
Otherwise, if you’ve been seeing your open rates and click rates go down, or your unsubscribe and spam complaints go up, then it’s a good time for a cleanse. 
Start cleaning with your most active list, then go through your less active or less frequently used lists. 
First, you’ll need to decide what you consider an “active” subscriber. A general rule is that someone is inactive if they haven’t opened one of your last 6 emails. The timing may be different if you’re emailing frequently. Make sure you’ve been on a regular mailing schedule before you start segmenting. 
Next, you’ll need to create a new segment in your email service provider (like ActiveCampaign) for people who you’ve identified as inactive. 
Once you have the new segment, create a new campaign that only sends to this new segment. Your messaging should let them know that you noticed they haven’t been reading your messages lately, and ask them to click to stay. 
Based on your business, you may want to offer an incentive to stay, like a coupon or a new lead magnet. Many of these emails use some sort of a cute puppy (or kitten) or pleading face to try to encourage someone to stay – with something like “was it something we said?” Craft your message in a way that feels authentic to your brand.
After 3-5 days, create a new segment for people who received the unengaged message and didn’t open it (or click) and send a “last chance” email. Offer the same incentive to stay on the list.
3-5 days after the second email send, you can safely remove/clean/unsubscribe people from your list. 
You should plan on cleaning your email list a couple of times a year to keep your deliverability high and your list running at peak performance. 
The first time you clean your list, it’s going to feel a lot like the first time you KonMari your house. You’ll take truckloads of people off your list. Future cleanings will be smaller. 

Keeping Your Email List Clean

The best way to keep your list clean is to follow email marketing best practices: 
  • Use double opt-ins to make sure that you’re only emailing people who really want your content. 
  • Send a welcome email (or better yet, a welcome series) to engage subscribers right away. 
  • Tell people how to whitelist your emails so they appear in their inbox (not just the spam folder). 
  • Only market your business to your ideal customers – keep your messaging on-track and on-brand.
  • Provide unsubscribe links on every email so when someone does decide they don’t want your message.
There's a checklist for how to clean your email list in the free resource library. Sign up below!

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How to Clean Up Your Email List - With Free Checklist
How to Clean Up Your Email List