When Should You Remove Subscribers From Your Email List?

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How long until you delete old mailing contacts

The question is often asked of when you should remove members off your email marketing list. It is an interesting question.

Email marketing lists are sometimes viewed with pride by the number of addresses you have. This has at times led to business leaders going out and buying email lists. There are many articles out there that will advise against this. A bought list can ruin your marketing opportunity as your mail will get reported as spam, be blocked and essentially your reputation will be hurt.

Although old subscribers are unlikely to report your mail as spam – they are a potential problem. Having too many contacts on your database can slow down the delivery rate of your emails to those who are interested in hearing from you and generally no matter which service you use – more email recipients will often mean more money.

Also a group of people with inactive accounts or who simply delete everything in their email inbox will distort your statistics. This will make it harder for you to determine whether or not your campaigns are working.

So to save costs and be more efficient in your email campaigns you should enforce a strict removal policy. But the question is open as to how long you should wait until you remove someone from your mailing list.

There are many points of view on this but there are probably a few key activities (or lack thereof) which should be good indicators to show when you should do this:

1. They’ve requested it

Sometimes people don’t realise that they can simply click on an unsubscribe button on your email to remove their names from your emailing list or something has gone wrong before and it didn’t work.

Therefore, if someone does send you an email requesting that you remove them from your list – the person in charge of the list should do so immediately.

2. You’ve been in regular contact with them before

Sometimes client – business relationships do not work out. There can be many reasons for this and neither party may be at fault. However, if this does happen it is highly unlikely that your old client is likely to want to hear from you on a regular basis. Therefore the best option would be to remove them from your mailing list. If they do want to keep in contact they can always re-subscribe.

3. They regularly bounce

If you have people on your email list who regularly soft bounce the emails you are sending them it could be an indication they are not looking in their email account anymore. This is not a wonder, 17% of Americans create a new email address every 6 months – therefore if they’re regularly bouncing it might be they have moved on from that address.

4. They hard bounce

Hard bounces are impossible to turn around. If you find that an email address is hard bouncing the emails you are sending, it is best that you cut your losses and delete the contact from your email list.

5. After a year of not opening your email

If you have been sending content regularly to an email address and they are not opening your email for a significant amount of time, then you should consider deleting them from the email list.

Not opening your email is a sign they are no longer interested in what you have to offer. The amount of time which passes before this happens is open for debate depending on your industry and how many emails you send out to your list.

However, the general rule of thumb is about one year.


Your email list is not about how many contacts you have on the list, but the quality of those contacts. By having a list of highly engaged contacts you can ensure the financial efficiency and strong reputation of your brand in your email marketing campaigns.

Take Action:

  • Come up with a group of reasons to delete contacts from your email list.
  • Go through your list and see if any contacts should be removed.

When do you remove subscribers from your emailing list?

Let us know in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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