Don't clean up your email list based on engagement

By Ilana Davis

Many email marketers will tell you to segment your emails and only email those who engage with your campaigns. If they open or click the email, keep sending emails to them. If they don’t open, don’t send them emails, and remove them from your list.

You may find this crazy, but I do not track open or click rates for my email marketing. At all. Ever.

Email providers recommend you segment and clean your list based on engagement. “It improves deliverability,” they say.

I disagree.

Segmenting and purging make your analytics look good and makes you feel better.

I tested deliverability before and after segmenting based on engagement. Both resulted in 99% deliverability rates.

Don’t just take it from me though. This article was published on Mailchimp’s blog back in 2016!

My advice is to send it to everyone, don’t segment based on engagement, and don’t purge your lists. (If they unsubscribe, purge them eventually to keep costs down).

When I shared that sentiment with email marketers, you would have thought I had two heads or something.

I was told I “couldn’t be an effective email marketer if I didn’t care about metrics”.

Let me be very clear.

Open rates and click rates are vanity metrics. Neither of which are indicative of the health of your list. If they want to unsubscribe then they will.

These metrics are up there with how many likes one gets on a social post.

Likes don’t make sales.

A subscriber opening an email doesn’t mean they buy.

Long before email privacy laws became more prominent, subscribers had the ability to hide if they opened the email or not.

A subscriber can prevent you from seeing if they’ve opened the email by not allowing images to automatically load when they open the email. That’s how most email providers know when an email has been opened. A tiny image is added to all emails even if you don’t see it. When images are blocked, that tiny image never appears, and you’ll never know if that subscriber opened the email.

Do I look at deliverability? Sometimes.

Deliverability is important, but it’s not a metric that will tell you if the campaign was successful.

Instead, focus on the end goal.

For example, is that sales, attendance to an event, or page views to a landing page? The goal is whatever you want it to be and you can use UTM codes to effectively track your campaigns.

If you clean your email list based on engagement, that subscriber who doesn’t want to be tracked would be removed. But what if they do buy from you or plan to buy in the future?

Inactive subscribers, a subscriber who hasn’t opened an email in a specified amount of time, are still subscribers. An inactive subscriber is a better customer than a non-subscriber.


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