Cleaning my newsletter

I have an email newsletter. You can sign up here. When you are subscribed, I email every week about what I’m working on, the new posts I wrote on the blog, and anything I have in the pipeline that week.

I’ve started this newsletter in June 2017. It’s been almost 4 years. Over time, I’ve used a lot of different tools to host this newsletter: TinyLetter, ButtonDown, ConvertKit, now I use Sendy.

How is the newsletter going? It’s going great. Over time a lot of people signed up to it.

Each week I get a good amount of people that sign up.

Now I have a little problem. Some people signed up 2, 3, 4 years ago and… are they still reading it? Did someone use a throwaway email and I’m sending an email into the void every week?

It’s not clear.

This is why I’m preparing a big cleanup of the email list.

Cleaning the email list is a controversial topic in the email newsletters world. Some people are more aggressive than others in cleaning it up. But email subscribers count is a vanity metric that’s easy to get attached to.

It sort of defines your audience size, like Twitter followers or YouTube subscribers. No one goes around deleting them, right? So I never bothered cleaning up the newsletter.

The main problem is generally money. If you use a platform like ConvertKit or Mailchimp or Drip or any of those popular tools, the cost of using them quickly grows with the subscribers count.

I use Sendy which means I just pay the AWS bill for sending emails which is very, very low compared to using those tools.

Any time I send an email I have a little number that tells me how many people opened the email. This is another controversial topic, tracking. Some people track opens and clicks on any link in the email. I only track opens, and I do because that’s an indication very important to me: are the emails actually being delivered?

With email there’s no other way (other than counting the replies you get).

This number also tells me that many people do not open my emails.

This metric is not 100% accurate. This kind of tracking is done through an invisible email and some clients do not show images by default. So I can’t trust it. From past experiences you can’t just assume that no openings in your stats means no openings in real life.

But what I’m planning to do is this. Once I reach a threshold I have in mind, a couple months from now hopefully, I’m going to act on a cleanup plan.

I will send 3 emails, over the span of 2 weeks, to email subscribers that haven’t opened my email for the past 12+ months, and ask them to confirm their membership.

If they don’t confirm any of those 3 emails, they will be removed from the newsletter.

I will do this gradually, of course. I have this threshold count in mind. Every week I’ll see how many people I can drop from the email, based on this amount, and I will act accordingly.

The goal of this process is simple.

I want to avoid spending money and energy to send emails to people that are not reading my emails.

Open rates will go up. This is always a good signal, and since 95% of my subscribers use Gmail, I want to be, in the long term, viewed by Gmail as a person that people want to read from, rather than a person 50% or the receivers ignore.

I will also spend less to send emails. After some point this comes into consideration, although it’s a business expense.

Ideally reaching a 50%+ open rate is my goal. Today it’s lower, because the last time I cleaned my email list was too long ago and I haven’t done that recently.

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