Why You Should Delete Inactive Email Subscribers

Martin Zhel
Martin Zhel

Last updated on

April 10, 2023

Why would anyone delete email subscribers from his list?

Even if someone hasn’t opened an email in the last six months, is that a good reason to manually remove him from your list?

A lot of people think so.

Big blogger Yaro Starak from Entrepreneurs-Journey deleted half of his email subscribers, and even HubSpot manually unsubscribed 250,000 people.

These people are proactively thinking about how to remove their inactive subscribers, and you should do the same.

3 Reasons why you should delete inactive email subscribers

Without wasting any more time, here is why you should delete your inactive email subscribers:

You increase email deliverability – having lots of inactive email subscribers can seriously hurt the deliverability of your emails.

Your low engagement rates are enough of a signal that will cause your emails to land straight in the junk folder.

In other words, your inactive email subscribers will hurt the quality of your list even more.

You decrease costs – the bigger your email list, the more you will have to pay to your email service providers.

And having a huge amount of inactive subscribers that will never buy from you can cost you a lot.

Imagine that you have a list of 100,000 subscribers and you’re using GetResponse to send your emails.

In this case, the Pro plan will cost you $480/month, or $5,760 per year.

If it turns out that 50 percent of your subscribers are inactive and you remove them, you’re left with a list of 50,000 subscribers.

Then the Pro plan will cost you $280/month, or $3,360 per year.

In other words, by removing your inactive subscribers, you’re saving $200/month, or $2,400 per year.

This is money that you can use to invest into building your list with quality subscribers, converting them into customers and growing your business.

Engaged subscribers are the only ones who matter – the truth is that inactive subscribers will never buy from you, and the signals for that are clear.

They don’t open your emails, click on your links or visit your website.

If you believe you’re leaving money on the table when you’re deleting them – you’re not.

When you send one email per week to someone who hasn’t opened your emails all year, there is simply no chance he will suddenly start doing so.

In reality, the only ones who matter are your active email subscribers – the ones who are interested in the content you’re sharing.

Only they will open your emails, click on your link, visit your site and buy from you.

Why would you stop yourself from deleting inactive subscribers?

Let’s talk about the real reasons why you don’t want to delete email subscribers, even if you don’t believe they would buy from you:

You still believe they might buy from you – we already covered that, but let me say it once more.

Your inactive subscribers will never buy from you. And I know why you’d like to convince yourself otherwise.

You have spent so much time, effort and resources into building your email list.

Even if they don’t open and read your emails, you believe that at some point they will.

So by deleting them, you believe you will lose revenue.

In reality, keeping them will only cost you money.

It will hurt your ego - having 100,000 subscribers sounds better than having 50,000. It might make you feel better if you have a bigger list.

It also sounds better. A lot of bloggers use that as a social proof.

When they show how many people have subscribed to their blog, others are more likely to join.

Having a bigger list also can make you think you have more opportunities to sell your stuff, but the reality is that this is not the case.

The inactive subscribers are worthless – they won’t buy from you, and they will only cost you money to keep them.

Why do your subscribers become inactive?

There are five main reasons why email subscribers become inactive:

They opted in for the wrong reason – sometimes people might agree to give you their email address, but not because they’d like to receive your great content.

Maybe they opted in just to get your discount, to learn your email address or because they were only interested in your opt-in offer.

Even if they are no longer interested in receiving emails from you, it doesn’t mean that they will unsubscribe from your list.

That way they still receive your emails, but they never really bother to open them.

Bad segmentation – if you don’t segment your email list at all and you send the same email to everyone, you’ll tend to have low engagement rates with your subscribers.

This is also true if you put them in the wrong segment when they’re actually not interested in the topics you’re talking about.

After a while, they will see that you’re not sending them anything that’s interesting to them, so they will stop opening your emails.

They are no longer interested in your content – people change their interests with time.

Maybe when they opted in for your emails they had certain challenges, problems, and goals they wanted to solve and your content was helpful for them.

But a year later this might not be the case.

Maybe they learned all they needed to do was switch to a different strategy, change their career, start a new business, etc.

One of the ways to keep them interested is to track how their interests change with time. Check what content they are engaging with the most, survey them and learn about their goals and challenges.

That way, you can later segment them and adjust your email marketing strategy according to their needs.

Your emails go into the SPAM folder – a very common problem is that instead of landing in the inbox, your emails are going into the SPAM folder. That’s why subscribers are unable to see them and engage with your content.

This happens for avariety of reasons, even if people have opted-in for your newsletter.

One of the most common reasons an email lands in the junk folder is because you are using SPAM trigger words in subject lines.

Other reasons for triggering the SPAM filters are:

  • Using big images and little to no text in your emails.
  • Sending emails to your huge list without breaking it down into segments.
  • Sending attachments in the emails.
  • Using link shorteners in your emails.

Pay attention to these things when sending your email campaigns. But remember – sometimes, no matter how careful you are, you’re going to land in the SPAM folder.

They changed their email address – Around 30 percent of people change their email addresses annually.

This happens for avariety of reasons – they change job positions, start a new business, switch from Gmail to a custom domain, etc.

Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about it when this happens.

You can only hope that people will like your emails so much that they’d like to subscribe to your content with your new email as well.

How to properly delete inactive email subscribers?

Before taking the final step to delete subscribers, you should be sure that these people will never engage with your emails again.

The right way to do that is with a re-engagement campaign to check out if these inactive subscribers are really a lost cause.

Here’s how to do it:

Identify inactive subscribers – inactive subscribers should be ones who haven’t opened a single email for a long period of time.

To identify them, you need to look at three pieces of information:

  • When did they subscribe?
  • When was the last time they opened your emails?
  • How often do you email your email list?

First, you need to look at your old subscribers, the ones who have subscribed to your list for a year or more.

If they haven’t opened an email in the last three months and you have sent a lot of them, this clearly shows you they are not interested in your content.

Then you need to look at the people who have subscribed in the last three to six months to see if they also engage with your list.

If you email people three to four times per week, you can see who your inactive subscribers are from that group.

At the same time, if you email people one to two times per month, you may not be able to get accurate data for that period.

Keep in mind to always compare when someone joins your list. You don’t want to put someone in the inactive subscribers category because he didn’t open an email in six months when he just joined your list a week ago.

Create a new segment for inactive subscribers – once you identify your inactive subscribers, save them as a new segment so you can target them later with a new campaign.

The way you do it will highly depend on the email marketing software you use.

Check out the following guides to learn how to create segments depending on your app:

Mailchimp - Save and Manage Segments

GetResponse – List Segmentation

AWeber - How Do I Create A Segment?

ConstantContact – Segment Contact list

Campaign Monitor - How do I create and use segments?

InfusionSoft - How to Segment Email Lists to Increase Sales

Run a re-engagement campaign – your re-engagement campaign can be as simple as one email or a sequence of emails depending on how much you’d like to complicate things.

If you want to keep it simple, you can send them a single email like this one:

Subject line: I will not send you any more emails (if you don’t open this one)


The reason you’re getting this message is because you haven’t been engaging with my emails for a while, which is totally cool…

But I don’t want to insist if you’re no longer interested.

By opening this email, I understand that YOU DO WANT TO KEEP RECEIVING MY EMAILS…

I truly appreciate that.

But if you opened that by mistake and you are definitely not interested, please take a minute to unsubscribe. The link is at the bottom.

When you send this email, the majority of your inactive subscribers won’t respond.

However, you will see that some people will open your emails and will even reply.

dump your email subscribers response

Analyze results – the first thing is to give people some time to reply. Even 24 hours is not enough.

Sometimes people might be on a vacation, a business trip or doing something else that may prevent them from having access to email.

So it’s good to wait seven days to be able to see who opened and replied to your emails.

Those who responded and read your email should be kept on your list, so remove them from the unsubscribe segment.

Delete inactive subscribers – the last step is to delete your inactive subscribers. It might be hard for you to do it, but it’s worth it.

After that, you will see how much more responsive your list is. This will make you happier.

Check out the following guides for deleting email subscribers based on your email marketing provider:

MailChimp - Remove Inactive Subscribers

GetResponse – How can I manually remove a contact/contacts from my list?

AWeber - How Do I Delete A Segment?

ConstantContact – How to delete contacts that havent opened emails in last few months

Campaign Monitor - How do I remove subscribers from a list?

InfusionSoft - Remove inactive subscribers from Infusionsoft

In conclusion:

Clean up your list at least once per year and delete all inactive email subscribers.

The benefits for this are huge: you will improve your email deliverability, decrease your costs and be able to see what percentage of the people are truly engaged with your content.

This will give you hints on how well you’re doing when it comes to growing and engaging your list. And you might find some ways to improve your strategies.

Have you ever deleted inactive email subscribers from your list? Would you do it? Let us know in the comments below.

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