• Best Practices

He's Just Not That Into You: Disengaged Mailing List Subscribers

Kate Nowrouzi
5 min read

Imagine that you have been on that great first date—everything went beautifully and you think you’ve found the partner of your dreams. Now, you’ve been waiting for their call for the past two weeks. You added them on Facebook, followed them on Instagram where they are posting daily pictures of their very charming life, dining at trendy new restaurants in the neighborhood, and attending fun happy hours with coworkers. But still, no phone call. You even sent him a heart-eyes emojis on Messenger, which shows as “read” but still no reply. Maybe… he's just not that into you.

The same principle goes for your daily marketing campaigns. If your welcome message is not opened, and your many follow up emails with promotions and attractive discounts do not seem to make your subscribers engage with your emails, maybe it is time to give up. Maybe, they just aren’t that into you.

Why do people sign up for marketing lists?

People join marketing mailing lists for many reasons. They may like your brand, your products or services, or it could simply be that the 20% instant discount code you offered at the checkout was a good enough incentive to give up their email address. You want to grow this initial relationship through positive engagement, and avoid negative engagement.

  • Positive engagement: opening your emails, clicking on links, responding to your messages

  • Negative engagement: reporting mail as spam, putting it in the junk folder, or not even opening it

Remember... just because they signed up doesn’t mean that they’ll want to stay signed up.

When should you remove users who aren’t that into you from your mailing list?

If a user hasn’t opened your emails in 90 days, then maybe they’re not the user of your dreams. In that case, it’s time to remove them from your mailing list. Disengaged subscribers can be the root of many problems, including:


Disengaged users who don’t want to receive your mail may report complaints. Too many complaints can have a negative impact on your IP and domain reputations, as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) track how subscribers engage with emails. An increase in negative engagement could spell trouble.

Spam traps

Sometimes, inactive user email addresses and other credentials are used as spam traps to catch spammers and other malicious senders. If you get caught in one (or more), you risk damaging your reputation.

Hard bounces

A hard bounce will indicate that your email was unable to be delivered for a permanent reason, such as a nonexistent email address. Too many hard bounces give the impression that a large portion of your mailing list is fake or inactive, which will get you negative attention from ISPs.

What are some good practices to ensure you are cultivating positive engagement and making sure your users are into you?

There are several good practices that help you minimize negative engagement and maximize positive engagement. These practices will help ensure the good health of your email program and make it so that you’re not waiting by the phone for would-be recipients to respond to you.

Email validations

Email validation is a quick and easy way to scan your mailing list and take note of any addresses that are inactive, nonexistent, or otherwise deadweight on your list. This way, you can keep your list clean and focus on the addresses who want you.

Double opt-in (email verification)

This practice is also pretty easy, and it’s a great way for you and your subscriber to do a double check. Basically, with double opt-in, you have your subscriber type in their email address a second time to confirm their subscription. Through verification, you and they can ensure that their address is correct and going to the right place.

Re-engagement campaigns

If you notice that some of your subscribers are no longer engaging with you, create a quick re-engagement campaign that lets them know you miss them and invites them to stay connected. If they don’t respond, you know that it is safe to remove them from your list. If they do respond, great! You’ve successfully re-engaged a subscriber.

Find the perfect match

There is no one quick fix or universal approach when it comes to keeping your mailing list clean and unengaged contacts out of your hair. However, taking note of best practices and tracking your subscribers’ positive and negative engagement will ensure that you have a list of contacts that is just that into you. And that’s a great match. Happy sending, Kate

Last updated on May 04, 2021

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