How and When to Clean Your Email List

It’s not uncommon that when we talk to a group of niche publishing professionals, and we end up in a big discussion about cleaning your email lists.

When we meet with a group of publishing and marketing professionals, we often find ourselves in a deep discussion about the right and wrong way to maintain a vibrant email subscriber list.

But sanitizing your email list became a fairly large topic of discussion in this group, and we were able to balance two different perspectives from attendees in the room.

First, the consumer driven publications, who can clearly see the benefit of cleaning their list. First, they’ll spend less to email to a smaller list, and they’ll also see their open rates and click-through rates improve when they remove inactive subscribers.

Second, the sponsor-driven publications who are, for good reason, scared to death of cleaning their list, because list size is all advertisers want to know these days.

The concern of making your email list smaller through email list sanitizing is a valid concern. However, the best way to combat this, is to become a trusted ally to your advertisers. A clean list will always have higher open rates and click through rates. Challenge your advertiser to ask your competitors for those numbers, because most likely they’ll come back with data that is only a fraction of yours. Do advertisers want to send to a big list, or an engaged list? Some don’t know any better, and they will rarely ask, so it’s your duty to educate them.

But how often should you clean a list and purge inactive subscribers? This was another big question.

Our recommendation is at least 180 days. Most publishers we work with use that as a baseline.

Those who clean their list at 90 days typically have a dedicated, numbers-driven direct marketer on the team who’s focused on getting the most accurate open and click through rates.

However some do wait a full 365 days, and those are typically ad-driven publishers who, as mentioned earlier, worry about ad revenues. And in all honesty, most advertisers don’t look at open and click-through rates, so you have an opportunity to become a trusted partner by opening their eyes to this data.

Another discussion we had during the event was about re-engaging those lost subscribers who get cleaned from the list—the ones who signed up but stopped opening emails. Some publishers said they’re having great luck with re-engagement campaigns on Facebook, where they use Facebook’s ad platform and upload the list of emails and serve new ads to them to get them back on the site. The consensus on trying to use email to re-engage lost email subscribers was that feedback was fairly dismal, which makes sense because if they weren’t opening your emails before, for a full 180 days, why would they start now?

Ultimately, a clean list costs less to deliver content to, but it also gives you accurate data about how your emails are performing. Inflating your true numbers for advertisers is not only crossing an ethical line, but will also draw new standards for publishers to share more metrics in the future, so you should be first in line to offer transparency.

Want a system that attracts new visitors, turns them into email subscribers, engages them through email, then follows all the above best practices for keeping or cleaning them based on their engagement?

Mequoda is the only provider in the market that specifically transforms magazines into multiplatform publishers. We have built our own Haven CXMS, a state-of-the-art SaaS tool built, owned and maintained by Mequoda to enable all the functionality that multi-platform publishing businesses need to be successful and profitable.

We provide these services under one roof, so publishers can focus on increasing revenues and executing on the strategic plan we devised together during the business planning process. What’s more, we also come at a price significantly lower than outsourcing to another development team, or hiring a team of tech professionals in-house. Schedule a 30-minute call with our consulting team to ask your most pressing questions.


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