When to clean your email list

In my last post, I talked about why it’s risky to avoid cleaning your email list.

Email list cleaning involves deleting subscribers who aren’t engaged members of your list. When you’re struggling to grow your email list, removing subscribers who haven’t unsubscribed on their own can seem like a crazy thing to do.

But for reasons I discussed in my previous post, NOT cleaning your email list can harm your business’s email reputation (yup, that’s a real thing). And it can make it harder to reach, engage, and convert the subscribers who really do want to hear from you.

So how do you know it’s time to give your email list a good scrub? Here are 4 signs that it’s time to clean your email list.

 

 

Want a high-quality email list that’s full of engaged subscribers?
Send a welcome email series to new subscribers when they join.
Download my swipe file with a full welcome email series copy template.

 

1. Your open rate is lower than usual (or lower than the industry average)

The open rate for an email is the number of subscribers who opened the email divided by the number of subscribers you sent the email to. So if you sent an email to 1000 subscribers and 300 people opened it, your open rate is 30%.

The open rate that’s considered a “good” open rate varies across industries. But in general, you want to aim for an open rate of 20-30%.

It’s normal for your open rate to fluctuate up and down with each email you send. After all, some of your emails may have more engaging subject lines than others do. And people are just more likely to open emails on certain days of the week and at certain times of the day.

But if you notice that your average email open rate has been dropping consistently lately, it’s time to clean your email list. I also recommend giving your email list a good scrub if your email open rate is far below the average open rate for your industry. In both cases, your list probably contains lots of subscribers who aren’t actually your ideal customer. Prevent them from putting your list at risk by deleting them.

Note that if you’re just starting out with list building, your list might contain lots of people you know personally and your open rate may be impressively high. In this case, it’s normal for your open rate to drop as you gain subscribers who didn’t know you until they came across your brand. So don’t sweat it if your open rate declines from 50% to 30%. A drop is normal as long as it doesn’t take you below the average open rate for your industry.

Related: 10 effective ways to increase your email open rate + 63 free email subject line templates

 

Email in inbox

 

2. Your click through rate is lower than usual (or lower than the industry average)

The click through rate for an email is the number of subscribers who clicked a link in the email divided by the number of subscribers you sent the email to. So if you sent an email to 1000 subscribers and 40 people clicked on a link it contains, your click through rate is 4%.

Like open rates, “good” click through rates differ by industry. But in general, industry averages fall in the 1.06–4.78% range.

Just as open rates differ from one email to the next, your click through rates will differ for each email that you send to your subscribers. This is because some of your emails do a better job at encouraging subscribers to click through than others do. And there are also days of the week or times of the day when your subscribers may have more time or more motivation to click through on your emails. For example, people may be more likely to click through to a post about “10 fun places to take your kids this weekend” if they’re reading the email on a Friday than on a Tuesday.

But if your average email click through rate has been plunging or is below the industry average, it’s time to start scrubbing. Low click through rates are a sign that a good chunk of the people on your email list may not be interested in what you have to offer. Clean your email list as a way of letting these disengaged subscribers go so you can focus on the people who love what you’ve got to share.

Related: 10 expert tips for writing marketing emails that convert + 63 email subject line templates

 

Email links to click

 

 

 

Want a high-quality email list that’s full of engaged subscribers?
Send a welcome email series to new subscribers when they join.
Download my swipe file with a full welcome email series copy template.

Send me the free template

 

 

3. Your unsubscribe rate is higher than usual

Even if you’ve been growing your email list for a while, an unsubscribe can hurt (psychologically). After all, an unsubscribe is essentially a rejection. And research shows that being rejected socially can hurt not just emotionally but also physically (it’s true!).

But as much as you might hate looking at the unsubscribe count for an email you send, it’s important to keep an eye on it. It’s not an issue if a few people leave your list every time you send an email (as long as you’re gaining more subscribers than you’re losing). In fact, because some people will inevitably sign up just to get a lead magnet or content upgrade on your blog or website, you’re bound to get unsubscribes on a regular basis.

If you start to consistently get more unsubscribes than usual, though, it’s a sign that there’s a problem. It tells you that you may have more disengaged subscribers on your list than you normally do. And that’s a clue that it’s time to clean your email list.

Related: 7 email copy mistakes that are destroying your conversions + 63 free email subject line templates

 

 

Email unsubscribe link

 

4. Your spam complaint rate is higher than usual

When you’re focused on growing your email list, you may not pay as much attention to your spam complaint rate as you do to your unsubscribe rate. But the reality is that spam complaints can make email providers send your emails straight to subscribers’ spam folders. So they can hurt your business much more than unsubscribes can.

Receiving a spam complaint here and there probably won’t affect the deliverability of your emails. But if you find that your spam complaint rate is higher than usual, it’s probably time to clean your email list. About 8.9% of people report emails as spam when they no longer want to receive emails from a particular brand. So removing disengaged subscribers from your list can help to reduce spam complaints.

 

Reporting email spam

 

How often should you clean your email list?

In general, you should clean your email list as often as you need to. Monitor the 4 metrics I mentioned above regularly. If they suggest that your email list could be bloated, it may be time for a good scrub.

Otherwise, start by cleaning your email list every 3–6 months. The quicker your list grows, the more frequently you’ll have to clean it. Are you finding that you can’t make it to your next scheduled clean before your open and click through rates plummet or your unsubscribe or spam complaint rates rise? Shorten your cleaning interval.

 

 

 

Want a high-quality email list that’s full of engaged subscribers?
Send a welcome email series to new subscribers when they join.
Download my swipe file with a full welcome email series copy template.

Send me the free template

 

 

 

 

 

 

When to clean your email list

When to clean your email list: 4 signs that it’s time + free welcome email series swipe file
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