A Guide to Email Automation Rules

Sometimes it feels like a hassle to manage subscribers on

Sometimes it feels like a hassle to manage subscribers on more than one email list. How can you make sure that the right customers are getting the right information from the right list?

Let me introduce you to automation rules. When you need to send the same weekly newsletter to more than one list or make sure that your prospects and customers are getting different emails, automation rules can make things easier.

Just like an autoresponder series means less work when following up with a big customer base, automation rules mean less manual work when managing subscribers on several lists.

First we’ll find out how they work, then we’ll see some scenarios where they’ll work in your email marketing campaign.

How They Work

Using automation rules makes it easy to manage which lists your subscribers are on at any time. You select the lists to shuffle your subscribers around to, and the rules take care of the rest. Automation rules can move subscribers from one list to another, add them to more than one list at once or unsubscribe them from two lists at once.

Our Knowledge Base tutorial lists three different kinds of automation rules you can apply to your list:

Subscribe-on-subscribe: You have multiple lists. When someone subscribes to one list, they’re automatically subscribed to one other list as well.

Unsubscribe-on-subscribe: When someone subscribes to one of your lists, they’re automatically unsubscribed from another list.

Unsubscribe-on-unsubscribe: When someone unsubscribes from one of your lists, they’re automatically unsubscribed from another one of your lists.

Keep in mind that for each action a subscriber takes, only one rule can be triggered. For example, if you have a blog email list, you could set up a rule that subscribes readers to either your weekly newsletter or your daily tips email, but not a rule that subscribes them to both.

Now that you know what each rule does, let’s look at some scenarios when you might use them in your campaign.

When To Use Them

Automation rules can make a number of list-management tasks hassle-free:

Several Lists, One Newsletter

Let’s say you’re a software company and you send your customers weekly newsletters about new features and improvements. You also have several free email courses your customers can sign up for to learn how to use your software.

You want the customers who sign up for your courses to also get your newsletter. You could do this by including the course lists when you send a broadcast to your main newsletter list, but maybe you don’t want to add that extra step every week.

Using the subscribe-on-subscribe automation rule for your course lists eliminates the extra step on your weekly broadcasts. When a customer signs up for a free course, they’re automatically added to your weekly newsletter so they won’t miss important updates. Just be sure to make it clear on your web form that your customers are signing up for both a free course and a weekly newsletter.

Customized Welcome Messages

The subscribe-on-subscribe automation rule also works if you want a customized welcome message or follow-up series for a special event.

Suppose you’re at a conference and you get a lot of sign ups for your email list. You want to send a welcome message or some autoresponders referencing the conference.

You could create a new list specifically for the conference subscribers with a tailored welcome message and use a subscribe-on-subscribe rule to add the names to your main list too.

Separating Prospects From Customers

Let’s say you’re a fitness gym and you have two email lists – one for your members and one for non-members. Ultimately, you want non-members to buy a membership, so your emails to them promote the benefits of joining your gym.

What happens when they buy a membership? The emails targeted to your non-member list aren’t relevant to them any more. Use an unsubscribe-on-subscribe automation rule on your non-member list to automatically remove them from the old list when they sign up for a membership and member e-mails.

Unsubscribe-on-subscribe is the most common automation rule because of how it moves subscribers between lists. Once your prospects buy from you and turn into customers, this rule ensures they’ll be on the list with the most relevant emails to follow up their purchase.

Streamlining Your Unsubscribe Process

Let’s say you write a blog. You have two email lists – a monthly newsletter and a bi-weekly blog broadcast. Many of your email subscribers are on both lists.

If a reader unsubscribes from your blog broadcasts, they’re probably not interested in still receiving your newsletter. Using an unsubscribe-on-unsubscribe automation rule will courteously unsubscribe your readers from both lists at once, saving them some hassle.

Do They Work For You?

Automation rules aren’t ideal for every campaign. Sometimes it’s easier to include or exclude additional lists instead, like on a one-time newsletter mailing. Include/exclude also gives you more control per email, letting you target specific lists or send to lists on different days. Automation and finer control both have their own benefits, but which one fits your goals better?

How are you using automation rules in your own campaign?


  1. John

    6/17/2012 10:22 am

    These automation rules are very simplistic in what they offer. Im desperately trying to figure out how to balance the message between multiple lists, based upon subscriber action.

    Is there any chance of adding more advanced features like “if then” or “start at message x” etc????

  2. Rebekah Henson

    6/18/2012 8:25 am

    Hi John,

    It sounds like your issue could either be resolved by letting subscribers choose which list they want to subscribe to when they first sign up, or by segmenting your list for certain broadcasts you’re sending.

    Here’s how you can add a list selection field to your web form: https://www.aweber.com/faq/questions/378/

    And here’s more information on segmenting your list: https://www.aweber.com/faq/questions/81/

    If neither of these solve your problem, feel free to get in touch with our Customer Solutions team by phone, chat or email: https://www.aweber.com/contact-us.htm

  3. RH

    11/26/2012 3:19 pm


    Thanks for informative post. I have (2) related questions:

    1. Is it possible to include a “list selection field” within the opt-in confirmation email, so that subscribers to one list can have the immediate option of subscribing to another?

    2. If so, what is the best way to do this?

    Thanks again.

  4. Vlad

    12/2/2012 11:21 am

    Hey Rebekah,

    thanks for this detailed guide. What is not clear to me is if I do “subscribe-subscribe”, won’t people get 2 welcome messages? That sounds confusing.


  5. Oscar

    8/28/2013 3:30 am

    I’d like to offer a sequence of follow up emails and when they reach the last one, send them another sequence but without the subscriber taking action to subscribe or unsubscribe… is this possible with automation or another feature?

  6. Erno Hannink

    10/22/2013 3:27 am

    I have the same question as Oscar.

  7. scott

    2/6/2014 5:49 pm

    I don’t understand how you move a Prospect to a BUYER list when they buy. First… how do you know they bought anything? It is a good idea too move them once they buy.. or they will keep getting the followup messages which will more than likely piss them off.. and now there unsubscribed. Alot of my offeres are with linkshare.

  8. Amanda Gagnon

    2/10/2014 2:54 pm

    Scott, You’d apply “sales tracking” in your AWeber account to the receipt page on your web site. Then when a subscriber orders and hits that receipt page, the sale is tracked and they are switched to the new list.

  9. scott

    2/10/2014 3:10 pm

    I don’t have a receipt page. My offers are affliate products i don’t have access too the sale pages. : ( I use linkshare… and have 1 that has its own program and i have no access too any receipt pages. I may have too use a whole new program like going through clickbank or something. unless someone knows how too get access too linkshares receipt pages for there products. anyone??

  10. Mario

    2/18/2014 2:02 pm

    Hello All 🙂

    Just want to ask if it is possible to create 1 campaign list with 1 signup form and create a follow up messages varies to a state and that will be sent to a specific subscriber who opted into that form?


    My form consist of the following fields:

    The main idea is to separate the follow up messages to every state in United States.

    Steps are the following:

    Step 1: The user will opted in from the form and say he/she is from California and the other 1 is from Texas
    Step 2: First follow up message will be sent immediately to both Users (Note: 1st Follow up message is a general message)
    Step 3: After 2 Days the second follow up message will be sent but now the message will depends on the State Code in which the first message is for California and the other is for Texas only
    Step 4: Third message is the same in step number 2 but different message contents
    Step 5: Fourth message is the same in step number 3.
    Step 6: So on and so forth and the all the follow up messages are all sent its timely manner

    Please Advise

    Thank you so much.

  11. Rebekah Henson

    2/19/2014 11:48 am

    Hi Mario,

    It sounds like you’re talking about segmenting your follow up series. That’s not a feature we offer at this time, but I’ll pass your request along to our Engineering team!

  12. mario

    2/19/2014 11:53 am

    Yeah. That’s what I want Rebekah.
    Thanks and I’m looking forward for that to happen. 🙂

  13. Rachel

    5/25/2014 10:27 am

    Hi, I am still not sure about something. Basically, I want to separate my customers from my propects. If I use the unsubscribe-subscribe list method, can I apply this method if I do not own the other form. Which means my first first signup form in my blog is mine, but the second one belongs to a merchant from ClickBank. So, how do I use the unsubscribe-subscribe method?

  14. Justin Premick

    5/27/2014 8:54 am

    Hi Rachel,

    In order for you to use the unsubscribe-on-subscribe automation rule, the subscriber needs to join your list, not someone else’s.

  15. Rachel

    5/28/2014 12:42 am

    So, if I integrate aweber with clickbank, will I be able to add my customers to one of the list? Which means they are in one of my prospects list, but when they buy on clickbank, they get into my customers list. Is that possible? The product is not mine, I am just an affiliate. The product is from a clickbank merchant

  16. Justin Premick

    5/28/2014 10:31 am

    You would need to be the merchant, not the affiliate.

  17. Kate

    5/30/2014 6:42 am

    Hi Rebekah / Justin

    Great article. My question is similar to Oscar’s question which didn’t seem to be answered.

    Oscar: I?d like to offer a sequence of follow up emails and when they reach the last one, send them another sequence but without the subscriber taking action to subscribe or unsubscribe? is this possible with automation or another feature?

    I have found that when you have double optin (1st email), the list they are subscribed to (2nd email), then using subscribe/subscribe automation they get a third email as well. It is overkill.

    Question: Is there a way to introduce in aWeber the ability to Set The Interval in the first message of a list? It only seems practical that they have agree to receive emails from you, you should be able to not overwhelm them by setting the frequency from the first email not the second. On some lists I would like to have the first email go out a couple of days later based on the ‘freebie or download’ they have received. Gives them time to digest.

    I would love your feedback after submitting three support tickets with no response.

    Regards Kate

  18. Justin Premick

    5/30/2014 9:27 am

    Hi Kate,

    The first message always goes out immediately and can’t be delayed at this time.

    What you can do, and what I might recommend in your case, is sending a very brief welcome email immediately – just have it be a quick introduction and reminder for them to download/read/get the freebie – and then follow up with something more substantial at the desired interval.

    That way, people know that you’ll be in touch with more information, and they’ll have a contact email for you in the event that they have questions or problems downloading.

    Hi Oscar, sorry for missing your comment earlier. Moving people to another list when they reach the end of your autoresponder sequence isn’t something we offer as a native feature. However, it may be possible to do through this tool that integrates with AWeber via our API.

  19. Jackie Bledsoe

    5/30/2014 3:00 pm

    I’m a new Aweber customer, but I’m liking it so far. I moved over from MC.

    Here is my question(s):

    I have a blog and I contribute to several other large sites on a regular basis. I’ve created a separate email list for a couple of the related sites I contribute to.

    In exchange for their email I am sending them a 5-part auto-responder email series.

    Once that series is up is it possible to create a rule that automatically subscribes them to my main email list, which will send them my blog RSS feed via email anytime I publish something new on my blog?

    So, they sign up through guest site A, and they receive 5 emails, after those emails run their course I don’t want to have to always create broadcast emails. I’d like them to just be on the main list and get automatic email updates.

  20. Jackie Bledsoe

    5/30/2014 3:07 pm

    I guess I should have read Oscar’s question, and Justin’s answer prior to sending my (long) comment/question.

    So, it looks like this is not an option now. Are there any workarounds other than paying $30/mo for AW Pro Tools?

  21. Rachel

    6/1/2014 3:12 am

    Is there anyway that aweber can separate prospects from customers for affiliates of a website?

  22. Justin Premick

    6/3/2014 12:40 pm


    If you or someone you’re working with can create apps, the sort of workaround you’re referring to is something you could potentially create yourself using our open source API. Documentation at http://labs.aweber.com


    I’m not sure I understand your question.

    You can create and set up customer and prospect lists in your AWeber account. However, in order for someone to be added to the appropriate list in your account, s/he would have to either fill out a form, or be imported into the list (by you), or be added via an app that you connect to your account via our API.

    I think you might want to chat with our Customer Solutions Team to discuss your questions in more detail. http://aweber.com/contact-us.htm

  23. Jackie Bledsoe

    6/25/2014 9:04 pm

    Thanks, Justin. I’ll take a look at it.

  24. Soccer Streaks

    7/28/2014 6:03 pm


    Is there any way to automatically unsubscribe subscribers after a certain amount of time. For example, unsubscribe them automatically 7 days after they subscribe?