How to Reawaken Your List From the Dead (with Steps)


Shortly after i wrote, “How to win an argument with Google,” and after winning the argument with my doctor by proving i had a bladder infection…

i ended up in the hospital to treat said infection.

One thing led to another, 20 days of hospitalization and two surgeries later, they found a tumour in my bladder and i was ultimately diagnosed with stage 3 bladder cancer.

I’m ok, i’m getting treated and i’m working through the pain.

in case you haven’t noticed this email and others have been sent some time after they were written so the timeline sometimes appears to distort somewhat. I’ll explain to you why in this message. It’s pretty cool really.

i was presented with a problem, while building my new email platform, which i think you would benefit from.

Particularly if you have previously built a large email list (as i did)…

…didn’t email them for a really long time (as i shamefully did)…

…and now you’re thinking to start emailing again (as i now am doing).

If you kept your Aweber subscription active, the instinct is to just start emailing. Otherwise, if you managed to export / backup your contacts, the instinct is to import them into a new email provider and start emailing.

Please don’t do either thing.

Here’s why…

When you send emails, the ip address of the sender is associated with a reputation. If you have been absent for a while or you change email marketing provider, that reputation no longer exists.

Meaning, complaints and bounces can seriously impact your ability to land in inboxes than they would impact a sender who has millions of (recent) email sends under their belt and has the occasional burst of complaints or bounces.

Let’s pause to define “bounce” and “complaint” so we’re on the same page.
Bounce, in the context of email, is an instance of a message sent to a recipient, but is for some reason undeliverable.

There are different types of bounces–some are permanent and others are temporary.

A temporary bounce can be caused by the recipient’s mailbox being full or the server being valid but temporarily unreachable. This is not a problem for the sender to worry about.

A permanent bounce, on the other hand, is typically caused by trying to send to a non-existent (1) domain or (2) mailbox.

The simple case is when a subscriber types a fake email address, either on a valid or invalid domain to bypass your optin page.

Another example, suppose your recipient had their own domain (eg, johndoe dotCOM) which they setup to receive or forward mail for them, subscribed to your list with this valid email, and then after a while they let the domain expire. When you next send after a long pause, their mail server domain is invalid / unreachable.

This could happen to any sender, any time, of course, even if you’ve been mailing consistently. However, if you’ve been absent a while, the probability of having LOTS of subscribers with expired domains at the same time would be significantly higher.

Each unreachable domain causes the message to “bounce” and your email marketing platform will count it against you. Lots of undeliverable mail is a good indicator your email list is out of date. 

Another way you could get a permanent bounce is if your subscriber was once a user, for example, of AOL, hotmail, Gmail, or some other public mail provider, they subscribed with that address, and then later, during your lengthy absence, their account was cancelled. The domain is valid and reachable still, but their mailbox no longer exists.

Or, your subscriber was once employed in a company which provided them with a business mail address, or they attended a university or school that provided its students an address. If they subscribed while still at that company or school, then later they left, and you emailed after a lengthy absence, it’s likely the company or school domain is still reachable, but the mailbox is no longer valid.

In these cases, the subscriber’s mail domain is reachable and will reject receiving the message (because it has no mailbox to route to). Your email marketing platform is subsequently notified, so it counts the permanent bounce against you.

Additionally, the domain you sent to (eg, Gmail) will count the bounce too. If you send to a lot of users on the same domain with expired / non-existent mailboxes, your sending domain can get blacklisted from sending to that domain in future.

Even if you were mailing consistently (without a long break), this can happen with several email addresses on your list on ANY given day. It would not normally be a big issue. But when you’re sending after a long break, the probability of having hundreds or thousands of these type of bounces is extremely high and then it’s a problem.

When a sender sends too many messages that bounce, it indicates their email list is out of date and does not have currently engaged recipients. Too many bounces and a sender can get blacklisted. Blacklists are often shared across multiple email clients and they are cross-checked when determining if an email should land in spam or inboxes.
Complaint, on the other hand, is when a recipient gets a message and then manually marks the email as “spam” or specifically hits a “complain” button in their email program to indicate the message is unwanted.

Note this is NOT the same as clicking “unsubscribe”. Even if it is done using the email platform’s own unsubscribe button (some email providers give the option to unsubscribe from the mail header).

Unsubscribes DO NOT count against your sender reputation.

In the case of complaints / reporting spam, the email server of the recipient will note the message was not desired, and will send a report back to the sender to stop further emailing. If the sender does not comply, the email program will add the sender to a blacklist which will affect the deliverability of future messages.

However, complaints, whether you comply or do not comply to stop emailing, they still count against your reputation.

Bounces and complaints are NOT usually an issue IF:
    1. you collect emails correctly using opt in forms with proper disclaimers,
    2. you make it easy to opt-out,
    3. you build up your subscriber list progressively and naturally,
    4. and, you regularly email your subscribers
If you do 1, 2, and 3 correctly but not (4) and you stop emailing your list for a long time then resumed again, you appear, with no reputation, to be sending a LOT of emails…

Which would be fine if no emails bounced and no users complained…

But the longer you are absent from your list, the more likely your contacts are to be outdated and the more likely those who were once interested in hearing from you have no recollection of ever subscribing to you.

So how have i been handling these issues of reawakening my email list, and how can you do the same?

Here’s four easy steps to follow…
To start, before even writing a word of email, i crafted an opt-out message to appear at the bottom of all my emails that included as much data as i had on the user’s original subscription. This is to prove they genuinely and deliberately subscribed for emails from me.

I included:
   * A timestamp of their original subscribe date,

   * the url of the page from which they subscribed,

   * the ip of the device they used to subscribe,

   * and the geographic location their device was in when they subscribed
Most email providers store this information for you automatically, so you can do this too. Just use the relevant merge codes to show the information.
this may seem redundant, but the first email you send when reawakening your list is the most crucial. You must RE-INTRODUCE yourself to your subscribers. Truthfully, you’re probably not that important to be remembered after years of absence. Even if they remember you, your reintroduction reminds them why they used to want to hear from you.

Remind them why they subscribed to you and remind them who you are and why you’re reaching out to them now.

Check if they’re still interested. Early on, present them the opportunity to opt-out if they are no longer interested. This is critical because many will not give you the chance to read the entire message or look for the opt-out link at the end. You want to avoid them hitting the complain button and to prefer the unsubscribe one instead. Remember complaints count against you while unsubscribe don’t.

So present an unsubscribe link early in the message, but not too early so you can appeal to their interest to try and remember who you are.
There are a number of services that will check an email list for you (for a cost).

Service levels range from checking domains only and checking domains AND email boxes. The latter is usually a more expensive service and will probably get you a few false negatives (reporting an email as invalid when it is valid). Weigh both options up and consider price. I personally prefer the domain-only check but it isn’t necessarily the best choice for everyone.

Keep in mind list cleaning services are not completely foolproof and will not eliminate all bounces in and of itself. However, doing this step will save you from sending to many inactive/non-existent email addresses.

I recommend investing into at least a basic list cleaning service.
This is probably the hardest step of all but is extremely important. I started in March 2020 and completed it in June 2020. So i know it works.

The objective is to simulate the “slow and steady” buildup of your list, while monitoring your reputation. Depending on the size of your list, i’d recommend dividing it into smaller pieces. For example, if you have 15,000 subscribers, perhaps divide it into 15 segments of 1,000 subscribers. If you have 1,000 subscribers, divide into 10 segments of 100 subscribers.

Write your first email and send it to the first segment. Monitor your bounce and complaint rate over the next 24-48 hours.

If it is acceptable, send that same email to the second segment, and reiterate.

If, on the other hand, your complaint or bounce rate rises to an unacceptable level, you need to hold off on emailing a new segment. Instead, write a second email and send it to the FIRST segment only.

Don’t worry, you can reuse that same email with the other segments later…but don’t email any new segment yet.

The objective is to dilute your overall complaint and bounce rates by using progressively cleaner sublists of your original list.

So if a segment has already been emailed once, presumably anyone who wants to unsubscribe has already unsubscribed. Anyone who wants to complain has already complained. And any email address that needed to bounce has already bounced.

This is not always entirely the case, but the probability of a bounce or complaint is reduced the more times you email a segment.

Your email marketing provider will automatically not email bounced or complaining addresses the next time you hit the same segment. So this gets you more sends under your belt with lower probability of complaints and bounces.

You can send a third and fourth email to the same segment until you have reduced your complaint and bounce rates to a level you’re happy with.

Only then can you move onto one of the subsequent segments. Repeat. In the beginning it may take 7-10 emails before you can start mailing a new segment, but each time you reiterate, you get more clean segments which more quickly dilutes the bounces and complaints of new uncleaned segments.

It took me a total of 22 emails to safely clean my list
and i lost more than 20% in bounces and unsubscribes.

What is an acceptable bounce/complaint rate?

I’d suggest checking with your email marketing software what they allow. I try to shoot for less than 5% bounce and 0.1% complaint rate calculated against ALL emails sent. That is:
 Bounce Rate = 100 x total bounces / (total recipients x emails sent) < 5%
 Complaint Rate = 100 x total complaints / (total recipients x emails sent) < 0.1%
This is the basic strategy i’ve been using and why there may be a longer or shorter delay between when you get messages from me. And why the time lines seem stretched or squished.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to get ideas and write engaging emails that sell while reawakening your subscribers, check out the Super Traffic Machine DIY Kit at the link below:

See you soon,


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Jim Yaghi

Jim Yaghi

Foremost Home Business traffic expert, Jim Yaghi is a Computer Scientist and Mathematician who used to build search engines for a living. At 16 he created a mildly popular social network and has been an online entrepreneur for over 15 years. In 2006 he rose to the #1 Affiliate rank in many Home Business programs (most notably Magnetic Sponsoring). Today he's best known for hatching the first industry-wide viral campaign to reach all major social networks, for hosting a top-10 Internet radio show for entrepreneurs, and for shattering industry sales records with his best-selling, easy-to-follow online marketing courses PPC Domination, PPC Supremacy, and Traffic KickStart.


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