The Value of an Engaged Email Audience

Are your subscribers this excited about your list?

How many times since you started learning to make money online have you heard, “the money is in the list”? Likely many, many times. The challenge with this statement is that it implies LIST = $$$. Here’s a simple example why this frankly isn’t true.

Imagine two websites in the same niche who are both actively building an email marketing list. Website A incentivizes new visitors to join its list with a “Free Ebook” offer. They use a single opt-in procedure and immediately begin aggressive daily promotional offers to the list.

Website B has a different approach. They ask their readers to join their list for the “Latest Updates” without any other incentive. They use a double opt-in procedure and send 90% high-quality, valuable email content to their readers without any sales pitch. The other 10% of emails are exclusive offers their subscribers receive as a benefit of their continued support.

If each website has a mailing list of 10,000 subscribers, which one do you feel is most valuable? Likely Website B right? So, what is the difference here? It boils down to one word…engagement.

Adjust your equation from LIST = $$$ to ENGAGED LIST = $$$.

Case Study: The Power Of An Engaged List

Here’s a real life, before and after example of the power of an engaged list from two Flippa listings of the same website.

Original Sale of

View the listing here

  • 4,500 Email Subscribers
  • 15 to 20 New Subscribers Per Day

If you take a look at the original sale of, you’ll see a quality list which was built by developing a strong relationship with the subscribers by sending regular high quality exclusive newsletters with very few if any offers embedded in them.

Re-sale Listing of

View the listing here

  • 6315 Email Subscribers
  • 20 to 40 New Subscribers Per Day

After the new owner purchased the site, they aggressively promoted to the list using time sensitive exclusive offers. The result? Every time they sent an email they would earn about .25-.50 per subscriber.

That’s like getting paid $1,000 every time you like to click the “send” button. Not bad right? That’s the power of an engaged list.

For more details on the author’s experience with this site, check out the full case study.

Measure Success Building Lists With Engagement Metrics Rather Than Size Metrics

Whether you’re performing due diligence on a potential website purchase or building your audience on one of your websites, you’ll likely find measuring engagement more helpful than simply measuring the size of your list.

The simplest way to measure list engagement is by measuring the traffic to your website which originated from your lists. Here’s how to set it up in Google Analytics.

1Build a custom Analytics URL for each of your list-based traffic sources and use it for links back to your website in emails, tweets, facebook posts, etc.

2In your analytics reports, click on “Traffic Sources” – “All Traffic”

3Divide the total reach (i.e. number of emails sent) by the number of unique visits from the traffic source to get your engagement percentage.

There are other metrics you can use to help you measure engagement with different channels. Here are a few examples to get your started:


  • Insights engagement metric
  • People Talking About This (PTAT) metric
  • Number of likes or shares on a post


  • Number of retweets
  • Number of favorite clicks


  • Open Rate
  • Click Through Rate


  • Number of clicks on in-content links
  • Number of comments on a post

For a more in depth look at key metrics with social media and other lists, read this great post by Avinash Kaushik.

Back To The Bottom Line

Ultimately the value of a list lies in its ability to generate repeat conversions. For an Adsense site, that might be getting people back to the site to click on ads. For an Ecommerce site, it might be to get people to buy complementary products. For a non-profit, it could be getting volunteers out to their next event.

In all of these cases, Lists drive engagement. Engagement drives traffic. Traffic drives conversions. Conversions drive economic  impact.

The best part? You’re not stuck clamoring for the next “tactic” to drive new visitors to your site. You’re getting better results from what you’ve already got.

Interested in buying and selling websites? Signups are open for the Internet Investment Summit, happening on October 18 – 20 2013 in Boise, Idaho. I’m one of the organizers of the event. 

Thanks to Antoine Gady for the photo!

  • John Gibb

    hi Chris

    I agree that repeat conversions is key with any email list building… there’s no good to have a million leads/subscribers/customers that only make you $ once, and never hear from them again…

    I always use a double opt-in process via Aweber for my email marketing, and recommend all my niche site affiliate students do the same. It’s better to protect yourself, and at the same time, secure loyal subscribers and clients, isn’t it?

    John Gibb

  • Chris Yates

    John. From all the research I’ve seen, double opt-in lists have much higher open rates (engagement). Great call on recommending double opt-in.

    • Hi Chris,

      I agree with John on having a double opt-in. It works so much better in the long-run because then you truly get to the people who want to hear from you. Now some internet marketers may protest loudly against double opt-ins, but the way I see it, if you don’t get a subscriber to confirm the opt-in, you don’t have them in the first place. And if that’s the case, they’re actually doing you a favour.

      Thanks for reminding us that we must build strong relationships with our audience. I’ve created a free e-class (an autoresponder made up of 10 lessons that I drop out over time) for my audience, and that has certainly helped my level of engagement. You’re building that trust and people begin to associate your emails with quality, value, and above all, a friendly voice who’s there to help them solve their pressing problems. I usually give away the quick, easy solutions, but once the problem gets more difficult, I provide them with paid services and products to help them overcome that step.

      It’s a work in progress, but so far it has worked well for me!

      Thanks again for a great post!


      • Chris Yates


        You hit on something that I’ve been doing a lot lately too. My autoresponders are written in a way to sound like I’m talking to a friend. I think that’s a great approach to build trust and keep people engaged.