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How Long Should You Keep Inactive Email Subscribers Before Purging?

Removing inactive email subscribers from your marketing lists will improve the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. Inactive email subscribers reduce your open rates, which is the percentage of recipients who open your messages. They also increase spam complaints, which can land your sending email address in hot water.

Follow this 3-step recommendation to identify how frequently you should remove inactive email subscribers from your list. It will make email marketing more effective for your small business.

When to Purge Inactive Email Subscribers

In the course of running my last business, MailerMailer (email marketing software – acquired by j2 Global Nasdaq:JCOM), I’ve seen many companies refuse to purge lists, maintaining the thought that bigger is better. However, sending just for the sake of sending reduces open rates and increases spam complaints, which together erode the ability for a list to be effective.

How much you should purge varies based on your relationship with your list members. If you don’t have any contact with them outside of online engagement, such as website visits, then 12–18 months is about the longest you should consider for them to be active.

Some companies use much shorter time frames, like 3 months, as their marker. They send an email to the inactive member asking if they still want to receive emails. Otherwise, they are removed.

Trimming the dead wood off of your email list also saves you money, since most email marketing services charge by the number of active subscribers you have. There’s no point in wasting money to send emails to people who never open them.

How to Find the Optimal Email List Purging Frequency

Your inactive list members may respond differently than others so it’s important to test your purging frequency to reach an optimal time frame.

Use this process to find the right list purging frequency for your inactive email subscribers:

  1. Purge the list of inactive addresses who haven’t engaged in 18 months. This means that they have not opened any of your email marketing campaigns.
  2. Monitor your metrics to see if it makes sense to trim further, say 12 months.
  3. Repeat till you’ve found the sweet spot for your list.

Doing this purge keeps your list filled with only active members who want to get your messages. Your open rates will be high. Interestingly, your absolute numbers should remain steady because your loyal readers will continue to open and click.

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