We used to advertise on our site that we had over 75,000 subscribers on our email list. While that was true, we had a nagging deliverability issue where we were getting stuck in spam folders a lot. While 75,000 subscribers look great when you're seeking email sponsors, it's absolutely terrible when email professionals let you know they weren't getting your email because it was getting stuck in the junk folder.
It's a weird spot to be in and I hated it. Not to mention the fact that we have two different email experts as sponsors – 250ok and Neverbounce. I even took some ribbing from expert Greg Kraios in a recent interview where he called me out as a spammer.
Core at my dilemma was the fact that advertisers look for big lists. Email lists sponsors don't pay by click-through-rate, they pay by list size. As a result, I knew that if I purged my list, I was going to take a bath on advertising revenue. At the same time, while promoting a big list would attract advertisers, it wasn't keeping advertisers who expected more engagement.
If I wished to be a good marketer and example for my audience, it was time to do some cleanup on our daily and weekly newsletter lists:
- I removed all email addresses from my lists that had been on the list for greater than one year but never opened nor clicked on the email. I selected one year as the test in the event that there was some seasonality where folks may stay subscribed, but were waiting for their season to monitor the newsletter for relevant articles.
- I ran the remaining list through Neverbounce to remove problematic email addresses from my lists – bounces, disposables, and catchall email addresses.
Knowing that I was going to knock my subscriber count down significantly was scary, but resulted in some tremendous results after 2 weeks of sending our newsletters:
- We removed over 43,000 email subscribers that we had accumulated over the last decade and we're now left with a list of 32,000.
- Our inbox placement rate increased by a whopping 25.3%! I would never have imagined how much dead email addresses were dragging us down – I'm glad that Greg clubbed me over the head in that interview.
- Because we were now in the inbox, the open rate increased by 163.2% and our click-through rate by 183.5%!
Now, before you say… well, Douglas you just divided by the new denominator and that's why you got that increase. Nope. This was the delta between my old open rate and new open rate, and old CTR versus new CTR. The problem with our list was absolutely that there were so many dormant subscribers with no activity.
We still have a couple of problematic ISPs that aren't putting us in the Inbox, but it's light years ahead of where we once were! We're now contemplating building a rule in our email service that automatically does this purge on a nightly basis. We also added an optional flag for our seed lists to ensure they never get purged, since they never actually open or click on an email.