Website Design, Strategy, Social Networking, SEO, Susan Pomeroy, Ph.D.

What Every Website Owner Needs to Know about Choosing an Email List Manager

by Susan Pomeroy

email list managers guide for website owners

Imagine that you’ve collected email addresses for years. And you’re sick of sending mass email announcement via your AOL account. So at last you fork over $20 or $30 a month to a popular list-management service and import your entire list. And then one of two things happens.

OPTION 1. The list management software tells you that every single name you’ve imported will be receiving an “opt-in” email. The company you’re using can’t afford to have people exploiting their software to send spam, so this makes sense. But the upshot is that every person now on your list will have to click a confirmation link in the opt-in email in order to remain on the list.

Typically, the opt-in rate from an old list is about 10%. You may be fine with that if your list is old and you’d just as soon weed out all the non-responders anyway.

OPTION 2. But let’s say your list is a good one and you don’t want to subject those folks to having to do anything at all in order to keep hearing from you. So you select an email list management service that does not require opt-in for imported addresses. And then you send out your first mass mailing.

And a big red warning sign appears on the screen of your list manager. Your account has been blocked… for spamming!

Now, depending on which list manager you’re using, you’ve got to either (a) purge your list of “dead” addresses OUTSIDE of the list management software—which means manually sending your own “opt-in” emails via your AOL account—or (b), you’ll need to use the tools provided by the list management program itself to weed out all of the no-good addresses.

I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt… you’d rather choose option (b) and save yourself a lot of tedious work. But only one of the major email list managers allows you to use its tools, which include automatic purging of bad addresses, to weed your list without having to send everyone an opt-in email.

So, if you’ve already got an email list, and you cannot provide documented proof of “double opt-in” (initial sign-up plus clicking a confirmation link), you’ll want to choose your list provider carefully, because at the time I’m writing, only one of the “Big Four” will allow you to import your old list without requiring automatic opt-in… AND provide you with the tools to clean it up.

Here’s a quick run-down of the Big Four list management providers.

Email List Management Tools


I recommend Aweber for businesses with multiple sites or multiple lists. It’s complex to master but offers huge versatility. It does require all imported list members to opt in. If you’re importing a mailing list, be prepared to see it shrink significantly during the mandatory opt-in process.


The 1shoppingcart email list manager is fully integrated with the cart and purchasing system. It does require opt-in for imported members. Again, prepare  to see your pre-existing list shrink during the mandatory opt-in process.

Constant Contact

Constant Contact is particularly easy to use for non-techies, and for people with just one email list. They do not require opt-in for imported clients. But: if your list is old and your first outgoing message returns a lot of undeliverable addresses, for any reason… Constant Contact’s “by the book” response is to disallow your entire list until you weed it by hand, without benefit of their tools. Even if you’re a great talker, don’t expect to be able to talk them around this requirement. Not recommended for people with pre-existing non-verified lists.


Mailchimp does not require opt-in for imported lists. This is the only professional-level program among the Big Four that allows you to import a list without opt-in, and then use the program’s tools to weed it of non-working addresses. In fact, they even offer detailed instructions on how to do so.

At this time, the only Big Four program I recommend for folks with older lists who want to keep as many names as possible is Mailchimp.

But I can hear you asking… what if I want to use Aweber anyway? And what if it’s better to get a good, verified opt-in list even if I lose a ton of people? These are both valid considerations. Many people decide that they’d prefer to have a squeaky-clean, totally verified list. Others prefer to use a particular tool, for whatever reason.

But if you have an older list and this is your first venture into list management software, I don’t want you to end up feeling cheated or trapped. These are tools that can help grow our businesses tremendously—if we know enough to choose the right one for the job.


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