Why I Removed 2,200 Email Subscribers from My List (and How to Clean Your Email List)

Welcome back to the show. Today we’ll talk about email marketing.

Lately I’m taking more radical action in my business and am sharing more of what goes behind the scenes. So today’s big move is cleaning my email list, and removing half of my subscribers.

Tune in below:

Show Notes:

  • What are cold subscribers and how they hurt your business
  • Why clean your email list
  • Why people join your list but don’t open emails
  • What I found out when I cleaned my email list
  • How to determine who’s a cold subscriber
  • How to send a re-engagement campaign



Removing half of your subscribers might sound crazy to some of you. Maybe you’re scared to remove anyone from your list, even if they haven’t engaged with your emails, because maybe one day they will. Or maybe one day they will even buy your course or work 1:1 with you.

That shows you’re trying to please everyone and you’re willing to have an audience of people who aren’t interested in what you have to say or sell, and yet you wanna keep entertaining them.

What’s more, you wanna keep them on your precious email list where you form close connections with people, and you wanna pay for them, as email marketing tools aren’t cheap.

In fact, the annual payment for my provider is one of the biggest expenses in my business. Now that I did an email list cleanup it’s less.

What are cold subscribers?

If you’re wondering what a cleanup is, that simply means removing the so called cold subscribers from your list, the ones who haven’t opened your emails for a long time, or ever.

Some might be bots, others might be people who don’t use that email address anymore, or aren’t interested. It can also be people who never received the email. These are called email bounces and some reasons might be a full inbox or a changed address.

In an ideal world, they would all manually unsubscribe from our list. But the reality is different. People sign up to all kinds of newsletters only to remain inactive. And we keep sending them emails and providing value but no one is there to receive it.

There’s more to that, though. This can actually negatively affect our business. We can get spam complaints.

If people keep getting emails from you, don’t know how to unsubscribe or don’t even wanna open them and are annoyed, they can mark them as spam. Providers like Gmail take that into consideration and if you get many of these complains, they will start sending your emails to everyone’s spam folder.

That means many of your engaged subscribers will either miss out on them, or if they find them, they might not trust you and your business anymore.

Why clean your email list?

There are many reasons to regularly clean your email list. You don’t know these inactive subscribers, you don’t wanna pay for them, and you don’t want any bounces or spam complaints.

Once you remove them, tracking your current metrics will be much more accurate. What if your email open and click through rates were low because of too many cold subscribers? Once they are gone, you’ll be able to tell what’s actually going on with your email list.

You might want to send inactive people a re-engagement campaign. That’s simply an email where you ask them if they wanna stay on your list. If some show interest, keep them and remove the rest. I’m doing that and in a bit, I’ll share how it works.

Without a re-engagement email, cleaning your list is pretty easy, at least for the most inactive subscribers. I’m using ConvertKit and there’s an option in the dropdown menu when you go to the Subscribers section that lets you see the cold subscribers.

I manually checked many of them and there was no doubt these were inactive people. Deleting them one by one, or page by page or all together is easy.

If you’re using another tool and don’t know how to do that, do a Google search or contact support. It must be easy.

Why people join your list but don’t open emails

Let’s discuss the behavior of email subscribers. You might be wondering why some people join your list but don’t open emails.

They show interest in the beginning, maybe open the first email and grab your freebie, maybe even a second email or something else a month later, but then totally ignore anything else you send them.

That happens.

Let’s not forget that most people online are excited to make a change in their life. With your business, you must be solving a problem or offering them some kind of potential result they desire. So they go for it, they are excited and determined to learn, hear anything you have to say, follow the steps you recommend, read your blog posts or listen to your podcast and look forward to your weekly newsletter.

But that initial excitement goes away quickly, much like with new year’s resolutions. So when that person is back to their old way of thinking and back to their usual daily routine, your emails and content might only remind them of what they haven’t achieved yet and of the fact that they aren’t putting in the work to get there either. That’s pretty unpleasant. So they ignore those emails, or even ditch that whole inbox as everything there is similar.

You can’t just wait for those people to change their mind and be excited again. You can’t have them on your list for years or even months if they aren’t active with it. It’s not good for you and your business, it’s not fair to your engaged subscribers, and it’s not necessary for the inactive ones either. So it’s our job to remove them from the list.

It could also be that someone signed up to many newsletters at once, or does this all the time, and their inbox is full of emails. It’s overwhelming so they don’t open any of them, or at least not many. 

Maybe other subscribers were engaging with your content in the beginning but then stopped for a while because life got in the way. And by the time they were back, they forgot who you are, what you teach and how they can benefit from it. So they stopped opening the emails and became a cold subscriber.

There are so many reasons and different scenarios why that can happen. Know it’s totally normal, and that’s it’s happening to any creator whether we like it or not. And because it’s happening, the email list cleanup is also necessary. Now, let me talk about mine and what I found out.

What I found out when I cleaned my email list

When I manually checked some of these people’s activity, here’s what I found out:

Some only opened 1 email out of 30.

Some grabbed a freebie in the beginning but didn’t even open all the emails from the welcome sequence I set up with that freebie. Then they ghosted every weekly email after that. That shows the typical behavior of freebie seekers, the once who grab checklists, guides, PDF files or anything else for free online and don’t do anything else after that. 

I’m happy that they stopped by my website, liked the lead magnet and got access to it, but these aren’t the people I want on my email list. 

I want the ones who are serious about doing the work. Building a business requires consistency and a whole new mindset and activities, so if they can’t commit to opening emails and learning about it, that’s fine. 

It could also be that I’m not the right person for them, and they can just move to other sources of information. There’s plenty of people teaching that online.

Course students from bundles

I’ve often mentioned that I participate in bundles with other course creators a few times every year. That’s a wonderful opportunity to share your program with a bigger audience, earn affiliate revenue, collaborate, and give more people a chance to get access to many business programs at a reduced price. 

I’ve also connected my course platform – Teachable, to my email marketing tool – ConvertKit. So every new person who enrolls in one of my courses is automatically added to my email list and tagged with the course name so I know how they got here. 

I add a couple hundred new people to my list this way every year. After reviewing the cold email subscribers, I saw something that didn’t surprise me. Many of the students who joined through these bundles didn’t open any or many emails after that.

I understand them because I’ve purchased bundles like that too and know how it goes. There can be 30, 50 or even 100 courses inside, you sign up manually to each using a discount code and you need to give your email address to create the profile for each course. 

Most of them get an email notification about joining the course right away, another welcome email from the creator and are often even added to a welcome sequence. That can mean hundreds of new emails in your inbox over the next couple of weeks from people you don’t know, when you’ve already enrolled in more courses than you have the time to go through. 

So you gotta remove the clutter and unsubscribe from all of these so you can focus on the actual programs. Or people just give an email address they use only in cases like that and don’t even open that inbox.  

I can definitely serve them, many would enjoy the content in my newsletters and might even be interested in joining my other programs one day. But they won’t get to hear about it because they just wanted access to the bundle, not to get to know 50 new course creators and get weekly emails from them.

Determining your cold subscribers 

Opening emails is just one factor. You might find people on your list who open some every now and then but never clicked anything. These also aren’t active and can be removed.

You can decide what your criteria is. That depends on how long you’ve had your list. If you’re just starting out, you better not do any cleaning.

If your list is growing a lot all the time, you can do it even a few times a year.

ConvertKit defines a cold subscriber as someone who hasn’t opened or clicked an email in the last 90 days. If someone signs up, confirms but never engages with a single email in the first 30 days after that, they are marked as cold too. 

But it’s also possible that there are people in that list that are tagged by mistake for different technical reasons. That’s why a re-engagement campaign is a good idea before you actually delete them.

Re-engagement campaign

I did that inside ConvertKit by going to the list of cold subscribers and creating a tag for all of them.

Then I prepared a short email and sent it only to that group of people. There was a link inside the email leading to a simple page on my website confirming that they are staying on my list. And the link itself can say ‘Yes, I wanna stay on your list’ or something like ‘Don’t delete me.’

Before sending the email, I created an Automation Rule, this is probably called differently in your dashboard if you’re using another provider. This rule makes sure that anyone who clicks that link in the email won’t be tagged as a cold subscriber anymore.

A week or two later, I deleted the people left in that group who are the actual cold subscribers.

So, when I initially checked my cold subscribers they were nearly half of my list. During the re-engagement campaign, 10 people clicked. I ended up removing over 2,200 subscribers.

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions. The end of the year is a great time to clean up your list as well as many other aspects of your business.