Why Is My Email List Losing Subscribers?

Building an email list can be an emotional roller coaster. You’re excited to see your list growing – until it stops growing. You notice a decline in your stats, and you’re losing subscribers. People are leaving your list. They don’t want to receive any more emails from you. Ouch.

“Hey! What gives!? Why is my email list losing subscribers? Why are they leaving!?”

It’s frustrating. I’ve been there. Any list builder has. The key is to diagnose what’s causing the dip. Why are people unsubscribing? Was it something you said?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Before you panic, I need you to understand this simple fact: It’s normal to lose subscribers. Full stop. Seriously. It is. That’s just part of building an email list. People will come and go. I know it sucks. You want a constant upward trend, but that’s not how it happens usually.

On one hand, this can be a good thing. You actually don’t want people on your list who don’t want to be there. It is good for them to leave should they feel the need or lack interest.

On the other hand, it’s discouraging to see your subscribers walking away. Let’s look at a few reasons why someone might choose to unsubscribe, and you find yourself losing subscribers.

Your subject lines suck

Any email you send to your subscriber had better be great content. But there’s something that comes first – something that’s just as important. The subject line.

This is your first and best chance to catch your subscriber’s attention. You know how it is. You scroll through your list of email. You glance at a subject line here or there, and you open the message with an interesting or relevant sounding title. Up to this point, you haven’t read any email content yet. Just subject lines. As your brain sifts through the dozens or thousands of emails you receive on a daily basis, think about what interests you in any given missive.

This is why it’s critical to have a carefully-constructed subject line that grabs your subscriber’s attention.

But this is where it gets messy.

In an effort to create eye-catching, engaging subject lines that get emails opened, it’s easy to err on the side of being spammy. There’s a fine line between a catchy subject line and one that looks spammy. If people think your emails are spam, what do you think they’ll do next?


Nobody wants that kind of junk in his life. Expect to be losing subscribers if you can’t write decent subject lines.

They’re freebie seekers

Giving away free stuff is a great way to build a list. In fact, it’s a solid plan. But it also presents a problem. Inevitably, some people will join your list just to get your free opt-in. They don’t want to hear from you. They only want the goods.


Understandable, but annoying.

It’s not uncommon for these folks to join a list, maybe read an email or two and then leave. They sign up, download an ebook or product and then disappear.

They don’t want what I’m teaching. They don’t want to learn. Coaching is out of the question. Any additional content from me is simply an annoyance. Cool.

A while back I launched a massive ebook that teaches product creation. Ironically, many of those who joined my list for my product didn’t actually want any further contact. They simply wanted the freebie.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon.

This is one of the biggest reasons you need to start building a relationship with your subscribers from day one. Otherwise, you’ll start losing subscribers like a bucket full of holes loses water.

You email too often

Have you ever had a friend that talks too much? How did you react? I don’t know. Maybe you love talking your head off too. But for the rest of us, it can be pretty annoying.

You can annoy your subscribers into unsubscribing if you email too often.

In general, I don’t recommend emailing your list every day. This is for a couple of reasons:

  1. Daily emails are easy to miss. Even your most loyal subscriber probably isn’t glued to his email. He’s living his life. Allow some time between emails to give your readers a chance to get caught up.
  2. It’s annoying.

Frequent emails can work well for a period of time. At least one of my bootcamps is an email course. You get one email a day with a lesson. But that’d be pretty annoying if it kept going forever, wouldn’t it? Sooner or later you would get tired of the constant barrage and unsubscribe.

Don’t annoy your subscribers like that.

Unless you have a great reason, don’t email more than a couple of times a week. This gives your subscriber time to read your previous email without being that obsessive, annoying pest.

You email too infrequently

“But you just said not to email too often!” Yes. I did.

“What do you mean I’m emailing too infrequently? I don’t want to be annoying.” Good.

Yes, it’s possible to email too much. Some people go to the other extreme and hardly email their lists at all, though. That’s almost as bad.


People are forgetful.

If you don’t keep yourself in your subscribers’ minds, you’ll be forgotten in no time. Let’s face it. You and I aren’t that important. Our subscribers have lives outside of reading our content.

Why is this a problem? Perception.

Imagine George signs up for my email list in April. I send him a few relevant emails and then go silent. May, June, July, and August all go by. Nothing from me. George is living his life. I’ve said nothing to him. Then, one day in October, I send an email asking my subscribers to buy one of my new products. How do you think George is going to react? Is he likely to buy? No.

Now, if George has a pretty good memory, he may remember me, and he may remember signing up for my list.

But, the odds are he won’t. He’ll see my message in October and wonder who I am and how he got on my list. “I never signed up for this!” he thinks to himself and promptly unsubscribes.

Even worse, he could report me as a spammer. Ouch.

All of this could have been avoided if I had just been more consistent with my emails.

I’m not saying you have to email like clockwork. But, it’s a good idea to set a schedule and stick to it – only abandoning the schedule rarely. I suggest emailing at least weekly and at most a couple of times a week unless you have a very good reason to do otherwise.

If you don’t email enough, your subscribers won’t be engaged and will eventually forget you.

Your content is irrelevant

Think about your subscribers. What do they want? How did they get on your list? If you have a list full of people who subscribed for a cookbook, do you think your subscribers will appreciate it if you send them pet care articles?

Probably not.

Keep your content relevant for your subscribers. You could be providing value – but not value that they care about. Put yourself in their shoes. What do they want? What questions do they heave? What problems can you solve? What kind of content would they find helpful? Entertaining? Engaging? That’s what you need to send.

Content that’s not relevant will drive your subscribers away like the plague.

You’re not providing value

Value is the heart of business. I don’t care what you do or what you sell. If you’re not providing value, you’re going to fail. Every email you send needs to provide value to your subscribers. Teach something. Give something. Show something. Even promoting a good product that will help them is providing value.

Make this one of your main goals.

If you don’t provide value, forget about building or maintaining a list. Remember this: Your subscribers are real people with real needs. Help them.

Don’t panic. Losing subscribers is normal.

People will unsubscribe. That’s a normal part of building a list. In fact, you want some people to unsubscribe. When you see your numbers start to dip, step back and honestly evaluate your strategy. Make sure your subject lines are appropriate. Find a good emailing schedule that works for your subscribers – not too often, but don’t let ages pass without emailing. Ensure you’re providing value, but understand that some people are just freebie seekers, and it’s better for everyone if they unsubscribe.

But above all, dear reader, don’t panic. I don’t want you to be glued to stats. Yes, you should monitor the overall direction of your list, but understand that you will have ups and downs. People will come and go. Do your part to build a happy email list, and don’t sweat it when people leave. They probably wouldn’t ever buy what you’re selling anyway.

Losing subscribers is frustrating. But, fortunately it’s not the end of the world. If we can understand why people choose to leave, we can do our part to ensure the subscribers we keep are happy and engaged.