Why You Should Delete a Bunch of Your Email Subscribers Right Now

Want to run a successful marketing campaign? Then it’s time to clean house.

You built up your list of subscribers. Now it’s time to remove a bunch of them.

Cleaning your email list can improve three key metrics: deliverability, open rates and click rates. The better these metrics, the more successful your email marketing campaign will be.

That’s because a smaller list of engaged subscribers — people who actively read and interact with your content and brand — are more valuable than a larger list of subscribers who never open your content.

In fact, lists with numerous inactive email addresses typically have higher rates of bounces, spam complaints and unsubscribes than ones that don’t.

Plus, when you continue to send emails to people who don’t open them, internet service providers — like Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo — penalize you. Do this often enough, and your emails may end up in their spam folders, which decreases deliverability to people who actually want to read your content.

So how often should you clean your email list? It’ll vary from list to list, but a good rule of thumb is every six months — and definitely not longer than a year.

But wait! Before you delete, do this . . .

Try a re-engagement campaign to win back inactive subscribers before you clean your email list. It’s a lot less work to reach out to a current subscriber than it is to add a new one. Fourteen percent of subscribers who receive win-back emails open them, according to a survey conducted by ReturnPath, an email deliverability company. That number jumps up to 45 percent for subsequent messages.

(Check out examples of successful re-engagement campaigns here.)

The great news: AWeber just launched an Open Automations tool. You can tag subscribers who don’t open your messages, and then automatically trigger a re-engagement campaign.

Get a full rundown on how to use Open Automations in this video from AWeber’s Product Marketing Manager, Tom Tate:

How to clean your email list

If your inactive subscribers still aren’t biting after a re-engagement campaign, it’s time to say goodbye. Here’s a step-by-step tutorial on how to delete inactive subscribers for all AWeber customers.

(Not an AWeber customer yet? Create your FREE account today!)

1. Hover over the Subscribers tab and click Manage Subscribers.

2. Click the Select Field drop-down menu.

3. Click No Opens from the select field options.

4. Now, click the blank field to the right of No Opens and choose the date you’d like to search by. This will allow you to find all your subscribers who have not opened a message since that date. For instance, if you want to see who hasn’t opened your message in the last 30 days, choose a date 30 days ago.

Be sure to include another search term by clicking the + button. Choose Date Added, and
date is before. Then pick the same date. This will ensure that newer subscribers who may not have gotten to your messages yet won’t be lumped together with the rest of the long-time inactives.

5. Click the Search button, then scroll down to see the list of subscribers who haven’t opened your messages since the date you chose.

6. To delete these subscribers, check the Erase box in the upper left of the list of subscribers to mark them all to be deleted, then click Delete to remove them from your list permanently.

7. If you have multiple pages of subscribers, you can repeat this process to remove them all.

Make a mistake? Don’t worry: AWeber’s award-winning customer service team can restore deleted addresses within 30 days. But you should always download your original list into a CSV ahead of time just to keep a record.

Start cleaning out your email list today. Log into your AWeber account now.


  1. Danielle

    11/30/2017 4:27 pm

    I have a question about this. At one point I was going to delete the accounts that said they hadn’t opened any of my emails since X date. First, though, I sent a sort of “reengagement” message asking them if they wanted to continue to hear from me and didn’t want to be removed. I was surprised to get many emails from people whose subscriber accounts in Aweber looked like they hadn’t looked at an email from me for quite some time, but who stated they did read all my stuff and emphatically wished to remain on my list. I’ve noticed engagement across all platforms is down for everyone (not just me). It’s hard to get people to comment on blog posts or even Facebook posts anymore. It’s like all they want to do is click and not make any more effort or have any input, ideas or opinion than that. You often feel like you’re talking to a brick wall. So, I was really confused about why those folks’ accounts look like they aren’t opening or reading anything, yet when I basically let them know if I didn’t hear from them they would be removed, they jumped up and down asking not to be. I discovered in some instances, the email they were subscribed under was forwarding to another email address. Could that explain why it appears they aren’t opening/reading messages in the Aweber control panel? Are there other instances where their engagement might not accurately show in the admin panel? I want to get rid of the dead weight, but after that experience, I’m not really sure who actually isn’t engaged and who only appears to not be engaging with my content. I do still get a lot of buyers, but actually getting people to open their mouths and make their presence known is another story. Thoughts? Advice?

  2. Liz Willits

    12/5/2017 4:21 pm

    Hi Danielle,

    Thanks for reading! A member of our Customer Solutions team is going to email you to get more information and walk you through solving this.

  3. mat mathias

    12/6/2017 9:03 am

    Some good advice there. It is always good to try and reengage the lead before deleting. We often get bogged down by list size rather than list quality. I have a small list generating $1.21 per lead per month and another large list that is virtually dead.

  4. Thea Westra

    12/12/2017 10:58 pm

    Danielle and Liz, was reading what you wrote and agree.
    I feel that I cannot trust the ‘unopens’ stats because I too have known subscribers to have opened an email yet have shown up in the ‘unopens’ search.
    When they do not have images enabled in the HTML version too, the Aweber pixel cannot ‘read’ that they have opened a message.
    It’s also possible that they have their email client setup to display PlainText versions of the messages, rather than HTML (the default).
    So I think that always finding a way to be certain is best and that’s why the Open Automations tool should be very useful.

  5. Liz Willits

    12/13/2017 8:54 am

    Hi Thea!

    I definitely agree. It’s always good to make sure and Open Automations should really help with that. With an automated re-engagement campaign, you can ask subscribers to click on a call to action in your email to confirm that they still want to be subscribed. This helps alleviate the concern of unsubscribing the wrong people.