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5 reasons your cold subscribers look warm

by Patty Ryan Lee

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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, The Fiery Well will receive a small commission. There is no charge or increase in price for you.

We’ve looked at 10 reasons why your subscribers look cold, but may not actually be so. Now, let’s look at the flip side: subscribers that are cold, but don’t look like it. You’ll notice nothing in email marketing is black and white or straightforward! (Unfortunately!)

As with the rest of this series, we’re looking at this through the lens of email open rates.

Judging by open rates alone, here are 5 reasons your subscribers look warm, but may actually be ice cold

1. SPAM & Network Bots

Emails opened immediately after they arrive aren’t always a good thing. You may have a very engaged subscriber that is waiting for your email to arrive, sure. Or, more than likely, a bot opened the email, or it was a false positive (notorious in Gmail). People, universities, & companies that take SPAM seriously can set up filters through their email provider or local program that opens, scans, and filters the content of the emails before delivering it to the recipient (your subscriber). While the email is open, did the human you sent it open it for themselves? Unknown.

2. Preview Windows & Reading Panes

If your subscriber has set up their Outlook to use Reading Panes, or if they use Gmail’s Preview mode, it loads the email, and thus the image tracking pixel. This doesn’t mean the person is actually reading your emails, only that they are opening them.

3. Inbox Zero.

Avid misinterpretation of the inbox zero method (myself previously included) will have people opening emails and then sorting them away “for later” only … later never comes. Yes, your emails are being opened by your subscriber. But are they being read? No idea.

4. Filters

Your emails are being automatically opened and sorted for later consumption, and they are getting lost in the subscriber’s web of email folders. Your emails are arriving, perhaps even being opened, but the tool is keeping them from their view. Gmail is notorious for hiding emails away from view due to their priority inbox rules.

5. Cold Subscriber Re-engagement Sequences

Congratulations! They opened one of your engagement emails; they are no longer a cold subscriber according to services like ConvertKit. Opening a single email resets the clock on determining a cold subscriber.

Bonus: Auto-clicking – just for funsies – a non-open-rate metric!

Just because your subscribers are clicking on links, does not necessarily mean that they are the ones actually doing the clicking! When you see that a subscriber consistently clicks on every. single. link. in an email, you can make two assumptions: 1) every link you send is worth clicking on or 2) a bot did it. Again, due to SPAM and phishing attempts, many companies set up strict SPAM protocols, which include following links in an email to ensure they are safe for the recipient, or the subscriber, to click on when they read it. But when did the subscriber click on it for themselves? Unless your email marketing service shows you how many times a specific subscriber clicked a link, there’s no real way of making educated guesses.

Can you see why The Fiery Well does not like open rates as the only metric for determining the health of your list? So what’s an email marketer to do?

How to know if a subscriber really is cold

Honestly, it’s a lot of educated guesswork and assumptions you’ll have to make to determine if your subscriber has gone cold or not. This can amount to a lot of “busy work” when you begin investigating.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when starting this whole thing:

  1. Have a large enough list, and send enough emails that your data is statistically significant and can help you make data-informed decisions going forward.
  2. Know your email marketing strategy and how your emails fit in with your overall marketing and product ecosystem. Know what outcome you are expecting from email marketing.
  3. Take a detailed look at your current subscribers:
    1. When are they opening?
    2. What is their average time between email send and email open?
      1. If it’s instant… that’s a sign it’s likely a bot opening their emails!
      2. If it’s a day or two later, that’s likely them catching up on emails!
    3. What emails are they opening vs not?
    4. What emails are they clicking on?
    5. What emails are they buying from?
    6. What emails are they unsubscribing from or opting out of?
  4. Define what a “cold” subscriber is for yourself!
    1. Never opens – If they signed up for a freebie and never opened another email again… they are probably cold and worth removing.
    2. Never clicks – If you have lots of links in your emails and a subscriber never clicks on any of them, it’s worth considering if that subscriber is just not interested and needs to be removed.
    3. Never replies – If you are someone that really values engagement via email and there is a subscriber that has never replied when asked, it’s worth considering if that subscriber is not a fit for your business or style of newsletter.
    4. Never buys – If you only send “buy now” emails and subscribers aren’t buying this could highlight several issues, but if you have had subscribers on your list for years and they never purchase, it’s worth considering removing them. Now, if your emails are your free content and you consider your newsletter as part as your overall business offering, then ignore this.

Tags: affiliate-link, convertkit,

Patty Ryan Lee is the site, systems, and spacious productivity witch behind The Fiery Well, the original tech and business support space just for service-based witches. Read more about her and The Fiery Well journey.
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