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Why We Secretly Hate Your Emails (And What You Can Do About It)

Justin Cooke Updated on February 29, 2020

Why We Secretly Hate Your Emails (And What You Can Do About It)

Ok, I admit it…I’ve been a militant emailer for years.  Whether it was requiring updates from employees, discussing strategy with partners, ordering from vendors, etc.  I considered my emails as THE way to communicate and get things done, especially when working remotely.  I’d get frustrated when emails were ignored or not comprehended and couldn’t understand why other professionals would take them so lightly.  Yes, I’d read Tim Ferriss’s 4HWWand knew that some people were trying to cut back on their email consumption, limiting their time responding/sending emails, etc…but they shouldn’t do that to ME, I thought.  What I didn’t realize was that some people loathed getting emails from me (It’s ok, CL…no hard feelings!) and their poor response rate was a secret rebellion in protest.

Others have been writing about this as well, including such well-known bloggers as Seth Godinand Chris Andersongiving us email checklists and setting out to create an email charter.  We’ve recently begun to build our list of subscribers through Aweber and in doing so, I’ve signed up for quite a few email lists to get an idea as to what kind of information is provided, how often they sell products or services to me, etc.  What I’ve found is that over 95% of the emails I receive through their lists are junk.  It’s not just that they don’t apply to me or help me out specifically…it’s that they could hardly be considered helpful to ANYONE.  I’ve secretly come to despise several of these unnamed sources…especially those who I haven’t yet taken the time to unsubscribe from and it’s hurting their brand much more than it’s helping.

I’m still a little militant about email and I DEFINITELY haven’t got down to checking my email once a week like Tim Ferriss, but I’ve found a strategy of rules I can follow without unintentionally building up a network of people who secretly hate my emails:

  • Would you want the email yourself?

No, not will sending the email potentially make you money…would the person you’re sending this to find it to be valuable information.  If it’s someone with whom you’re looking to do business have you considered what they get out of it and would it be a good deal if you were in their shoes?  If it’s to your list, would you really find the information useful or is it just another excuse to promote a product, affiliate program, etc.  Be honest with yourself.

  • Are you including people on the email that don’t need to be included?

Does your boss, co-worker, employee, partner really need to have a copy of that email in their inbox?  I’m cc’d on so many emails that I currently don’t even need to know about.  This problem alone literally eats up 20-30 minutes of my day, minimum.  This is especially useful for subscribers and lists…that email that took you twenty minutes to write and are sending out to a 2,500 strong subscriber base could literally be eating up 800 hours of people’s time or more

  • Are any attachments or links relevant, useful, and necessary?

Expanding on the previous point, it may only take an extra 30 seconds to include a few extra links to videos and articles, but how much time are you asking of your recipients to spend researching that information.  (2,500 hours worth in the above example if it takes an hour to digest)  Is it really worth it?  A few weeks ago I sent a video and associated article to my employees and asked them all to read, watch, and respond with any thoughts they had and told them to do this on the clock, because I knew it was important.  Would you be willing to go as far as paying for the time your readers spend reviewing your attachments and links? If not, don’t send it.

So I can’t say I’m down to checking my emails once a week or that everything I send out is award-winning or always useful, but I’ve gotten much more respectful of others’ time.  It can become infinitely more difficult to keep up the more successful you become, so remember that the next time you have a business proposition or question for someone that’s doing well and be strategic about it.  If they’re respectful of you, they’ll respond…but it doesn’t mean they don’t secretly wish you would have been more succinct and appreciative of their limited time.

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  • Tipjar says:

    Hey guys,

    have a couple questions:

    1. When I create my sites, I find they get ranked in Google for a little while, then get sandboxed. I had a site the other day go from ranking #2 to ranking #109 within a day. This site has fluctuated like this for a while, and I have another site that does this as well. How do you solidify your ranking at the top?

    2. What do you do for backlinking to your sites? Outsource it? Do it yourself? Use any software like SEnuke or Scrapebox?

    • jwcooke says:


      1. If this is within the first 2 to even 3 months, that’s not surprising. It doesn’t happen to all of our sites, but it does happen to some. They usually bounce back within a couple of weeks.

      2. We use a few tools and do a little bit of manual backlinking. We own SEnuke X but feel it’s a bit overkill for these sites, honestly.

    • Nicole says:

      This happens to mine too. They are all still very young sites at less than a month though. It’s so disheartening when you have a site get ranked high and then move down. I had a site that was only a few days old get ranked at #4 and the adsense money was great. I was so happy and thinking wow, this is really working! Then the next day I got up and it dove to #14 with no traffic. It’s now at #9 and its been about 3 weeks since it was at #4. I just keep building backlinks and hope for the best. On the other hand, two days ago I created a site with three articles (wrote them myself) and after I submitted my sitemap to google, the entire site was indexed in a few hours and ranked at #2 for my main keyword. I have never had this happen to me before, not within hours after I made the site! This is the third day and its still stable and earning well. I’m so nervous it’s going to fall like my other site though!

      • jwcooke says:

        Nice! We’ve noticed that this tends to happen with our higher search volume niches…the lower search volume stuff seems a bit more stable, but not sure why that is.

  • peter says:

    I agree with you but the last email you sent about the motivational speakers was not really my cup of tea and I kind of considered it as spam. But then again, I can’t be always receiving things for free that wouldn’t be fair i guess 🙂

    • jwcooke says:

      Hey Peter,

      Which email are you talking about? Is it the one about Derek Sivers and being inspired? If that’s the email you’re referring to, there’s no compensation on our part and he doesn’t sell anything on his site (or in his emails…I’m on his list) I’m just a huge fan and wanted to point people towards someone I really look up to.

      Anyway, he’s a great example of someone who doesn’t sell something, engages his readers, and provides valuable content. Do please let me know the email you’re referring to and, if you could, let me know any feedback you have about what made it feel a bit off to you and I’ll change it in the future!

      • Nicole says:

        Huh? I thought that was a valuable email and not spammish(?) at all!! If that’s the email he’s referring too. Please don’t stop sharing stuff like that!

        • jwcooke says:

          Lol, Nicole..we won’t, I promise!

          I really loved that video and much of his content. I actually emailed him just to let him know I thought it was inspiring and emailed me back and forth a few times. This guy’s pretty amazing…he spoke at TED which, to me, is just fantastic…I’d love to go see the talks live someday.

          I’m thinking Peter might have confused our email with someone else’s perhaps?

  • peter says:

    I was actually about to unsubscribe from your mailing list but that’s when I received that awesome fiver report. My point being, all these IM optin’s spam me to death and I usually unsubscribe within a week. I hope I can stay subscribed to yours, please don’t let me down 😉

    • jwcooke says:

      Thanks, Peter! Yes, I feel the same way…being inundated with sales offers is not a good way to endear yourself to your audience. I’m much less interested in what you have to say if you’re constantly selling me on the latest and greatest offers.

      In fact, I often recommend people to NOT keep buying stuff. I run across quite a few readers that have bought so many info products, efficiency tools, etc. and hardly use any of them. The best thing you can do is learn the fundamentals for FREE…and then determine which of the tools and what information will actually help make your life easier. There are no magic bullets…but once you know how to make something work there is value in using tools and moving forward with information that speeds up the process.

  • Halfdan says:

    I find myself spending way too much time responding on emails. However, emails are such an essential part of my job as a danish articlewriter, that cutting down the time would eventually equal less assignments as I’d seem rude.
    I’ve come to accept that at least 20 minutes in the morning and 20 in the night is reserved for emailing.

    • jwcooke says:

      Wow…that’s still way better than me…I wish that’s all the time it took! I need to set better filters I think…that would help me out quite a bit.

  • Nicole says:

    Great post! I’m just actually realizing myself how much time I spend every day weeding through useless emails. I would literally be way more productive if I spent this time on something else. I have a tendency to sign up for lists without thinking too much about it because I’m curious as to what they have to offer and I know I can just unsubscribe. Well unsubscribing is exactly what I’ve been doing a lot of lately! I must say that out of all of the email lists I’m on (probably 30 or 40), AdsenseFlippers and one or two other people regularly send me anything useful. Those are really sad statistics!

    • jwcooke says:

      We’re glad to hear you find our information useful! It’s unfortunate there’s so much junk out there being rehashed and recycled by IMers. We’re fans of the guy who created It’s an interesting service…give it a look as it may help you.

      • Nicole says:

        Great, thanks, I’ll try it! There’s one particular IM’er that I bought a WSO from a while back and he bombards me with useless stuff constantly. I’ve already unsubscribed twice and I’m still getting his emails! Kind of suspicious so I’m going to go ahead and try this service on him.

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