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Pruning Your Email List

Recently we decided to prune our list of email subscribers. We had been noticing a drop in response rates to our mail outs and wondered what was going on. Last month we sent out 44,754 newsletters with 24% either viewing or clicking on a link. A year ago we sent 29,255 and had a 30% activity rate.

We use Ezine Director to manage our email list. Here's a review.

Ezine Director keeps track of lots of useful stuff. Basically, every mail out has statistics that include who clicked on something. Not only that but you can search a subscriber's information including when they signed up, what mail outs they received, and whether they clicked on anything. We suspected we had a large number of email addresses that were being sent, but no one was receiving them.

Unfortunately, Ezine Director doesn't make this really easy to check. Although you can export your email list, you can't include matching mail out information, like what was the last date of any activity by that subscriber. But it is possible with a bit of work.

I started by exporting all our subscribers with their signup dates. I could then exclude anyone who signed up within the past year. My next step was to download three lists of emails ids that Ezine Director maintains for each mail out. These lists include who viewed the letter (based upon a hidden image, so it's not totally accurate), the other two lists relate to whether they clicked on a link in the newsletter.

I then loaded all this data into an Access database where I could start to merge the lists of subscribers with activity into one list. I could then write a SQL query that lists all older subscribers with no matching activity. It turned out we had just over 10,000 subscribers who had no recorded activity for 11 months of mail outs.

I was able to upload this list to Ezine Director. I used this list to purge the master list. We then sent a one time notice to this list to let them know they needed to re-subscribe if they still wanted our newsletter.

I was a bit surprised at the level of activity on the one time list. We ended up with a 3.5% overall activity rate (either viewed the newsletter, or clicked on a link). That's a bit higher than I expected. I wonder if they had in the past marked the newsletter as spam so they did see subsequent newsletters, but the one time note made it through.

One thing we decided to do was update the landing page that new subscribers see to advise them to add our From: email id to their 'White List' or whatever they need to do to let our emails through their spam filters.

In the end it looks like out of 10,176 old email ids, that 95 decided to re-subscribe. I checked this by comparing our current list of subscribers, back to the list that was used to purge, to find out how many had re-subscribed.

Ezine Director is a paid service, so we will save about $10 per month by removing 10,000 subscribers. In some ways, that's hardly worth the few hours this took. On the other hand $10 per month adds up. The whole point of our newsletter is to get people to come visit the website. If they're not visiting there's no point sending the letter.

© 2016 Mike Silversides


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