Why I Deleted 400 Subscribers from My List

Ok, just last week I did a super secret launch to my email list.Unsubscribe

I launched my flagship ecourse ‘GET 500 SUBSCRIBERS’ and it was a huge success.

Thanks so much to you – my loyal subscriber – for encouraging me, opening my emails and most of all signing up. Your support truly means a lot. I am truly humbled.

This course will relaunch again in 4+ months time, maybe a bit longer, and I hope to include results, success stories and testimonials from this original group of founding members. Also make more materials available. If you are curious, you can have a sneak peek here.

Now the premise of this course is something that I have come to believe in with all my heart. That you don’t need a huge email list to have a successful online business. It has taken me almost 3 years of blogging to understand what it means to blog for business and that popularity should never be the ultimate goal.

I have written about the difference between being a popular blogger and a successful one (this post). I don’t plan to write about this over and over again for the fear that people might start calling it a case of sour grapes. Worth mentioning here.

You don’t need need a huge email list to have a successful online business – just a highly targetted one. I will tackle this one next. And this is what I will continue to focus on.

So what better way to show that I mean what I say by cleaning my own list?

Cleaning my email list

What do I mean by cleaning my list? I want to send emails to those people only who are interested in hearing from me. Who have opened at least an email or two in the past few months and maybe clicked through one to read a blog post. Makes sense, right?

Actually, this happened entirely by accident. I never set out to do this. I have been analysing my launch reaults, what went brilliantly and what didn’t do well. What were the big wins and flops (another upcoming post) and I was dismayed to see the number of people who had never opened a single email of mine for a long, long time.

So I decided to let these people go.

These are my reasons why I deleted 400 people from my email list.

My blog is no longer the same

The biggest reason for this could be that my blog has evolved ..

When I started blogging at Marya Writes, it was my personal blog. And I had no idea of what things will look like in a year, let alone a few months. I approached this hobby like a childlike enthusiasm. I was blogging about various interestes of mine. I had no goals.

I didn’t read many blogs at that time. I didn’t know blogging could be an income generating tool or a tool to market your business. I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to attract any readers.

But a stream readers kept trickling in. They loved to my view as a beginning blogger.

Along the way, this started to change. Initially everything was all over the place. I was talking about happiness, success, books, kids and what not. Within a year, I had started Writing Happiness.

People tell you not to start a blogging blog – it’s so … desperatish .. like you don’t have anything else to write about.

I get it. But I wasn’t going to listen to them. I was in love with this medium. I had a long affiliation with business writing and teaching, and I was smitten by blogging. Why should I listen to anyone else but myself.

I started with freelance blogging in a highly specialised field. Now I teach Blogging for Business and Blogging for Fun short courses locally. I also coach clients and write blog reviews. . My goal is to help small businesses add 1k subscribers to their list.

And all of this means that my content is no longer relevant to many people who subscribed to my blog in late 2010/11. And that’s that totally fine. Most of them have probably unsubscribed by now anyway.

Another Reason: Unwanted Costs

I send my emails via Mailchimp. Mailchimp is free for first 2,000 subscribers. After that you have to pay a monthly fee.

Up to 2,500 subscribers, you pay $30 a month and after that number you pay $50.

From the end of last year, I have been paying $50 per month (which amounts to $600) per year. Now, if all of these people are interested in what I have to say, open some of my emails and click through and I have got nothing to complain, right?

As it turns out, many people don’t.

So then why I should I pay all that money for nothing, it just doesn’t make any sense.

This is why I deleted so many people. For four painful days, I went through a quarter of my list, starting from day 1, 200 subscribers at a time, going through all the 2star subscribers. (Think it took me 40 minutes or so a day)

unsubscribed by admin

And I unsubscribed anyone who has a 0.0% open rate, and they joined prior to March 2012 (so not those people who are new subscribers). 

There were people on my list who have never opened a single email of mine. Shocking? Hardly. Many people just get on a list to get their hands on the freebie alone. Often they sign up with an email they never open or create a dummy one. Now, I can spot these with 90% accuracy. They often won’t give out their first name, use an initial or a weird name. Their email address is often really long and quite bizzarre.


Out they go. Good riddance. (I am just saying this to make myself feel better. The truth is that these people would never know anything is changed since THEY NEVER EVEN OPENED A SINGLE EMAIL OF MINE.)

I also unsubscribed those who have a less than 5% open rate and 0.0% click rate and joined prior to Dec 2012. Meaning They opened some of my emails but never, ever clicked on any of the links. Meaning they either opened by mistake or never interested in any of my content.

I wanted to delete another group of people but I resisted. These people have really high open rates, like over 80%. They are opening most of my emails but they have zero clickthroughs. I am truly baffled by this group behaviour. Why do they stay? Why do they open but never click?

The biggest lesson

Numbers don’t matter. Quality does.

By quality I mean people who are truly interested in what you have to say. The easist way to fix that is to offer a highly targetted freebie for opt-in, to attract only those who fit your ideal reader profile. This reduces the chances of attracting anyone who is remotely interested but not a good fit for you.

Also, don’t feel like you need to grow your list to few thousand people before you could monetize. The truth is your blog is probably no longer a fit for them as you both evolve. I actually wished I had launched my course sooner!

Get clear on what you are offering from day 1. Attract the right kind of person. Others won’t matter one bit.

(This is what I am teaching in the first module of my course – sign up here if you are interested in being notified when it opens for enrollment next).

Leave a comment. How big your list needs to be before you would monetize? As a small business owner, how many people do you want on your list?

Have you taken my 3-minute Client Attraction Quiz? Check it out now, it’s awesome! 🙂


  1. Saintly
    Posted on July 22, 2013 at 3:12 am

    Brilliant thought! Quality is always better than quantity.

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on July 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

      Thanks, Saintly. Glad you approve! 🙂

  2. Felicity Kent
    Posted on July 22, 2013 at 5:30 am

    Why waste precious time and energy on people who aren’t tuned in to what you have to say. What we all need is a network of like minded people.

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on July 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

      That’s exactly right, Felicity. And why pay to keep them on your list? – is what I say. Thanks for your comment! 🙂

  3. Arthur
    Posted on July 22, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Wow. The Internet never fails to amaze me! I never realised that you could check how many times someone opened your blog, or “clicked Thru”. For me, as an 80 year old pensioner, it has proved an excellent life sustainer to be able to just read what others have to say. I open new blogs and if I’m not impressed, unsubscribe from them simply to avoid the opposite, a drain on life, reading stuff of no interest. So thank you for helping to keep life interesting.

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on July 22, 2013 at 10:07 am

      Yes, Arthur. This amazes me, as well. 🙂 But you have the right idea – unsubscribe if you don’t connect with the blogger. Why stay on?

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Appreciate it! 🙂

  4. Lucille Ossai Says :
    Posted on July 22, 2013 at 10:59 am

    Well done Marya!

    I had needed to block more than 20 Twitter followers because of a similar reason – and given that at the time, I only had 80+, that was significant for me. Those people hardly ever posted a tweet or commented in any way so frankly I couldn’t ascertain their worth. I definitely wasn’t learning from them!

    So kudos to you for taking that move.

    By the way, be social – kindly follow me on Twitter as well- @LucilleOssai.


    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on July 23, 2013 at 1:22 am

      Hey Lucille, thanks for dropping by. Initially, it did really hurt to delete so many people but to be really honest, they were not really there, were they? In the end, I am glad I did it. Cheers!

  5. Victoria @ My Daily Cuppa Says :
    Posted on July 22, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Congrats on the purging of your list.

    I have a possible reason for that group who open your emails but have 0% click through.

    It could be to do with the way they have their email set up. They could have the preview setting, which means that as they are clicking through their emails, they have read the one before yours and once they take action, for example, delete that one, the cursor automatically opens the next mail. This registers as an open rate in your records but that person might have had no intention of opening the mail and they simply delete without reading it or bothering to scroll down to unsubscribe.

    This possibility was pointed out to me via a forum on a this very question. Not sure if it is right or wrong though. What do you think?

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on July 23, 2013 at 1:21 am

      I know exactly what you mean, Victoria. For instance, I subscribe to a few blogs and open my emails via Outlook. Every time I delete one, it automically opens the one below, which I will usually read. That could very well be the reason. In that case, why not just unsubscribe? It is truly baffling. Thanks for your helpful comment. Appreciate it! 🙂

  6. Ron Slaughter Says :
    Posted on July 22, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    Nice article. It’s good to be reminded to focus on the future and move toward it. I LOVE your course so far. It’s starting to make a difference for us over here. Keep up the great work!

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on July 23, 2013 at 1:18 am

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Ron. I admit, every time I upload new lessons, I get a little nervous. So really appreciate your feedback. 🙂

  7. Sue | Life Coach Says :
    Posted on July 23, 2013 at 12:25 am

    makes a lot of sense. spare those extra spaces for people who communicates back. I do that once a week too.

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on July 23, 2013 at 1:17 am

      I agree, Sue. We need to prune our list as well.

  8. Vinod Says :
    Posted on July 25, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Can you please tell me what tools we can use to monitor the number of emails OPENED and the number of CLICKS we have got from the mails sent out?

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on August 1, 2013 at 11:54 pm

      Any email provider service like Mailchimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, Infusionsoft will do this for you. You need to look at your subscriber activity.

      • Vinod Says :
        Posted on August 2, 2013 at 5:24 am

        Thanks. Most of my subscribers forget to click ‘activate’ link. May be they forget. Because of this, I lose several interested subscribers. What should I do to minimize this loss?

  9. Man And Van Guildford Says :
    Posted on July 30, 2013 at 7:33 am

    Quality matters rather than quantity, good approach 🙂

  10. Farnoosh Says :
    Posted on August 1, 2013 at 3:31 pm

    Marya, darling, I came here to link to a great post on writing but had to comment: Deleting subs. You do realize there is an error rate on open rates of just about all email services, right? I have struggled with this and that’s why I hesitate to delete subscribers. The systems such as Aweber do not for a fact know whether someone opened the email especially if they download it to another email reader. So you may have deleted people who are indeed reading your emails. I know this for a fact because when I sent a not asking people why they haven’t opened my email in x months and if they wish to stay on, I got replies whereas my system said they hadn’t opened it. Ya know? How to decide on this!

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on August 1, 2013 at 11:51 pm


      Thanks for letting me know so I’d think twice before doing it again. However, like I said in my post (maybe I didn’t make it clear?), most of the poeple I deleted joined in 2011/early 2012 and had a zero percent open rate till now. I find it hard to believe that they have been opening and the email provider failed to record it. I am not saying this is not possible but for such a long period of time (2 years), some of their opens/clicks should have been registered. Some I deleted who had been opening prior to 2013, (a very low less than 5% open rate) and then no activity in the past year. Since my blog has changed direction substantially, I am thinking they moved on too.

      But extremely useful info. Next time, I decide to clean my list, I will sure to segment and ask these people FIRST who seem to be not interested.

      Thanks for linking to the other post, Farnoosh. Hope you are having a great day! 🙂

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on August 1, 2013 at 11:57 pm

      Sheesh. I went back and see that I said I deleted subscribers prior to March 2013, it should have read 2012. Facepalm. You are the only one who picked up on that, I think!

      • Farnoosh Says :
        Posted on August 2, 2013 at 5:30 pm

        Hi darling, that makes a lot more sense. If they haven’t engaged in THAT long AND no activity on the list plus you changed direction. I hope it didn’t feel like I was arguing … 😉 this is just a topic I’ve been looking for an answer/direction for a while and I am interested how my fellow blogger friends are handling it.
        Thanks again and sending you a big hug, Marya.

  11. Denise Says :
    Posted on August 1, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I understand the reason for the sub purging, but I agree with Farnoosh…errors abound on the net. Perhaps a *last chance* post with a time-limit to respond, would yield more accurate results AND prevent deleting subs who ARE interested?

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on August 1, 2013 at 11:53 pm

      Denise, what Farnoosh said has been duly noted and will be acted upon the next time I decide to clean my list (see my response to her). Thanks for dropping by! 🙂

  12. Henrique Vieira
    Posted on August 2, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Marya, that´s a great learning you brought to us. And it was told very clearly showing that if you manage it seriously passionate it can start that “real engagement”. Not that engagement lots of people/brands SAY they´re doing but, in fact, they´re really “numbering” ratther than “qualitying”. (ouch! sorry if sounded weird.)

    I´m still rehearsing to start my blog and hope to do so soon.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Henrique Vieira

    • Marya Jan Says :
      Posted on August 3, 2013 at 9:54 am

      Qualitifying? I like that! 🙂

      Let me know if I can motivate you in starting your blog sooner rather than later. And welcome, Henrique!


  13. Lisa Says :
    Posted on August 5, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    Hi Marya,

    If your subscribers read your emails without downloading the images, the mail services like MailChimp, etc. won’t register the email as read. Just something to think about. I almost never download images when I’m reading my email. Of course, if those folks suddenly notice they’ve stopped getting your emails, they may choose to subscribe again.


  14. Case study: How I launched my first e-course and made over 5 grand – from a tiny list : @ProBlogger Says :
    Posted on September 29, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    […] People who opened course notification emails (announcement, early access + official open) made up for 35% of my list, on average. Over 500 people never opened a single email of time. After the launch, I actually deleted and moved to an old people list. I wrote about this process on this post – Why I Deleted 400 Subscribers from My List. […]

  15. Ahmad Khoirul Azmi Says :
    Posted on March 20, 2014 at 6:24 am

    Hi, Marya. Great insights, thanks a lot.

    I never really thought about it before. I have 600 plus email subscribers, yet only about 65-70% active.
    BTW, this GET 500 SUBSCRIBERS https://maryajan.com/get-500-subscribers-early-bird/ returns 404.


  16. Matt Says :
    Posted on April 24, 2014 at 1:42 am

    Couldn’t agree more that quality reigns over quality with email lists. 100 quality emails could be worth more than 100,000 bad ones