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How to Improve Email Open Rates by Cleaning Your Dead Email List?

January 19, 2015

Last Updated on - January 25, 2015  

minutes read


Okay! How much are you paying for your autoresponder services?

What if I could help you reduce your auto responder service costs by almost 50%?

One of the biggest expenses in an internet marketing business is on auto responder services. While you might get services that might charge you cheap, but that will be at the cost of deliverability and flexibility. We use Aweber for our autoresponder services and we settled with them after using many others like GetResponse and iContact.

We pay close to around $250 per month only for our auto responders. How much do you pay?

Have you ever evaluated the ROI on this investment? What are your email open rates? What is your subscribers worth?

SO, if that sounds like too many questions, then I can assure you that you are wasting a lot of money on your autoresponder services. Because you are not studying your stats and evaluating it. And when you don’t do it, you are not getting the best ROI on your investments.

Here is the result of an experiment we did to one of our email list at Aweber which has about 2000 subscribers and literally no action.

improve email open rates

The objective of the experiment was to see if we can improve our email open rates. And in the above image you can see, we almost tripled our email open rates. So what did we do exactly to get these results.

Improve Email Open Rates – Identifying the Problem

Before we could do anything to our email list or, think about the steps to improve email open rates, we had to identify the problem. So we went about digging a little deeper into the subscriber list and do a little maths.

We were paying close to $29.00 per month as our autoresponder costs for about 2000 subscribers. While the open rates were about 3% which meant about 60 people were opening our emails, our CTR was only about 1.5%, meaning about 30 people were clicking on the links in the email.

This meant that about 1940 people in the list were not even opening the emails. What could be the problem?

There could only be 2 reasons that they were not opening the emails – first, they had marked it as spam and all our emails were being moved into the SPAM folder and second, our email headlines were not enough to make them open it.

We had a solution for the second problem, but what do we do with the first problem?

Another thing that we did not know was if these subscribers were good enough to be kept on our list and will they ever act on any of the emails.

So we took a 2 prong approach to solve this problem.

FIRST – we sent and email to the entire list with the subject line mentioning, “FREE Download – xxxxxx”. The objective was to entice the readers to open the emails. And what better than something “FREE” to do it. We knew most people will open it if, the email did not go to their SPAM box.

And we were right.. The open rates improved from a 3% to a 17%. We were able to stimulate some sort of action in the list.

SECOND – We segmented the list based on the opens on the last email with the “FREE Download”. We changed the “From Email Address” in our account (Aweber lets you do that) and sent another email with a similar subject line. We got about 8% opens on that email.

This proved that people had marked our earlier email address as “SPAM” and since we changed our FROM email address, the emails landed straight into their inbox and they opened the emails.

You can see the below image for the results!

email deliverability

That made us infer the following on the problems that we had –

  • Our email subject lines were not too compelling to force people to open them
  • Our original email address was marked as “SPAM” by the subscribers and consequently the emails were not reaching them.

So we were left with a question – if we really needed the subscribers who fell into the second category. But we could only decide on that once we had marketed to them.

But there was an even bigger problem that we had to resolve. What were we to do with the 1800 subscribers who did not open our emails in both the above cases?

Cleaning a Dead Email List – Saving Autoresponder Costs

Most auto responders have a tier system in pricing. Your monthly cost depends upon the number of subscribers you have in your list. While with some like Aweber, the charge is on 500, 2500, 5000 and so, other email providers will have a different pricing system.

Hence, your auto responder costs are straight way governed by the number of subscribers you have on your list. And if your list is full of non-responsive subscribers like our list in question here, then you are paying for carrying dead baggage.

With our email list, we were paying for storing 2000 subscribers which was the 2nd slab. Hence there was not too much that we could save but your case may be entirely different.

Whatever that was, we figured out one thing – we had to clean out email list.

Here is how we did it –

STEP – 1 : We added 2 filters to our subscribers.

  1. The first was all subscribers who did not open any emails before a specific date. I would recommend a date at least 4 months before.
  2. All the subscribers who were added before the above date.

While the first filter was to find subscribers who were not opening our emails (and our experiment above meant that only those subscribers who had not opened any emails since the last 4 months were selected), the 2nd filter was to ensure that we only select subscribers who joined our list before that specific date.

The below is how it looked after adding these 2 filters..

list cleaning

Once you get the list of subscribers who fit the above 2 filters, just export the list and save it as a CSV, just in case you might need it. Follow the below screenshot to see how it is done.

export the lists

Now that you have exported the list, it is time to clean up. Select all the subscribers and click on the RED “Delete” button. You can see the below screenshot for more details.

list cleaning

So, that deletes all the subscribers who have not opened any of your emails since the last 4 months.

Now you might want to repeat this with all of the lists in your auto responder account.

When we finished the process, we were left with about 600 subscribers and a 15-17% open rates. This in turn meant a better ROI. We were able to make about $697 of sales from this tiny list of 600 subscribers, once we took them through our email sequence and the funnel.

Save on your AR Costs

When did you last clean your email lists?

Cleaning your lists is extremely important to improve email open rates. You might also be able to save on a lot of money that you are otherwise wasting on auto responders. Better open rates, better monitoring and better ROI are all by-products of cleansing your email lists of dead baggage.

So, go ahead and clean your email list today itself!

If you enjoy watching video, the below video shows you everything that we discussed in this post.

Don’t forget to let me know your thoughts about this post by commenting below. Also do share it by clicking one of the buttons below, if you enjoyed it.

About the author

My name is Dilip. I am a fan of the internet and love the many opportunities that the world wide web provides. If used constructively , the internet can give you an opportunity to lead a life free of the 9-5 treadmill and will be able to give more time to your family members.
Read about internet entrepreneurship at my blog.

  • Dilip simple and actionable explanation. Thanks so much for the insightful article. No doubt that cleaning up ones email list is a cost saving tactics. Thanks once again

    • Thanks for visiting and commenting Peter. In fact, if done right and regularly it can save you a lot of money. We just implemented the same technique on a client who was paying about $80 for his AR services. His costs came down to about $29.

  • Dilip – I agree cleaning and validating your email list is extremely important but it seems you made it overly complicated with the process you’ve described. Email Answers offers 2 much simpler options to clean your email list – using Purelist – or to clean and validate your email list using their email validation service. Both options are available on Email Answers website and provide a full explanation of the service,

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