How are subscribers organised in ConvertKit?

In ConvertKit, a ‘subscriber’ is a unique person with a unique email address. Each ConvertKit account has a big database of subscribers, each one starting with an email and can contain any other fields you may want to add (first name, last name, address, shoe size, whatever!) 

Subscribers are added when they sign up using one of your forms or when you import them. You can also ‘subscribe’ your visitors or customers using the ConvertKit API.

One of the things that makes ConvertKit so attractive when it comes to subscribers is that each subscriber is added only ONCE in your account and therefore only counts towards your quota or plan, once! Unlike other list-centric email service providers out there, subscribers in ConvertKit are not organised in ‘lists’ and if a visitor wants to opt into two or more forms, they are not duplicated.

One of my clients had 20 different business locations across the country and each one of them had a mailing list in MailChimp for each shop. We had a certain number of customers who were signing up to different lists and when we were sending a newsletter to all the shops, these people were receiving an identical email multiple times. Because they didn’t know why they were always getting duplicate messages from us, they would either unsubscribe or complain. That was not good for our deliverability stats! You could not send one campaign to multiple lists at the same time and therefore there was no deduplication.

In your ConvertKit subscribers' list, you see the name and email, the subscription date and their status. 


Single vs. double opt-in

There are a few different statuses that subscribers can have in your database, so it’s better to explain them, but first a quick explanation of the difference between ‘Single opt-in’ and ‘Double opt-in’:

  • When a subscribe form is ‘single opt-in’, that means that the person typing their email address in your subscribe form becomes a ‘Confirmed’ subscriber as soon as they press ‘Subscribe’. There is no need for them to click the confirmation link in the message they receive. 
  • A double opt-in, on the other hand, requires a person to also check their email after they type it in your form, and click a ‘confirmation’ link before they are fully ‘subscribed’, or ‘opted-in’.

A double opt-in is better because of two reasons: 

  1. You have 100% certainty that the email address that was added is a real, valid mailbox, and it ensures it has been typed correctly - if the confirmation email doesn’t arrive, the person cannot confirm and therefore you don’t load your mailing list with fake addresses.
  2. You have a legal justification when you are challenged or when customers complain, that they have indeed opted into your list themselves, and you didn’t add them manually or harvested their address on the internet. This can constitute proof that you are not a spammer since the confirmation was given by the person themselves when they clicked the link.

A downside to the double opt-in though, is that if for some reason the subscriber doesn’t check their email straight away, or they ignore your confirmation email, they never become fully subscribed and ConvertKit keeps them on the ‘Unconfirmed Subscribers’ status.

ConvertKit also doesn’t allow you to re-send the confirmation email so if that person really wants to subscribe, they would have to add their email in your subscribe form again and confirm by clicking the link.

This protects you AND the subscriber - you don’t have liability because of people who complain and the subscribers only receive emails they really want. Win-win!

The double opt-in can be turned off in ConvertKit on a per-form basis (we cover that in the Forms section), by turning off ‘Send incentive / double opt-in email’ AND checking the box ‘Auto-confirm new members’ in each form’s ‘Settings > Incentive’ area.


ConvertKit Subscriber Statuses

Your subscribers can have one of 6 statuses:

Confirmed subscribers

Those who have subscribed via one of your forms (with either single opt-in or double opt-in and have confirmed using the link), or you have imported them yourself. If you migrate from a different email service provider and you import subscribers, please note that you won’t have the ‘double opt-in proof’ and therefore you might get in trouble if say, you have a very high rate of bounces or complaints after you send your emails. That’s one of the reasons why if you import a list when you migrate to ConvertKit, before they allow you to send emails for real, they run a little ‘approval’ process in which you may be asked for some statistics from your old provider just to make sure there are no red flags.

Unconfirmed subscribers

...are those who have initiated a subscription via one of your forms, but you had a double opt-in email in which they did not click the confirmation link. This means they exist in your database but you are not able to email them because, well, they have not confirmed. In other platforms, you can’t see these users. That doesn’t mean you should contact them and ask them to confirm since that would defeat the purpose of the ‘double opt-in’. These subscribers do not count towards your account plan.

Cancelled subscribers

These subscribers have unsubscribed from your whole account and therefore you can’t email them anymore. This is almost the same as a ‘complaint’ or ‘bounce’, which also unsubscribe that email from your list - with the exception that there is no ‘complaint’ and no liability for you. However, a very high number of unsubscribes after your first broadcast could still raise some red flags as to the quality of your list or cast doubt upon your subscription promises and what you actually deliver in your messages. It always pays to be honest upfront. In a different section, I show you how to create a custom unsubscribe link to include in your messages so that if a subscriber wants to opt-out of just one specific sequence or series of emails, they can still remain subscribed to your other stuff and you don’t lose them for good. They also do not count towards your account plan.

Complained subscribers

...are those who have marked one of your messages as spam. When a subscriber reports your email as spam, they are immediately unsubscribed and no longer count towards your account plan. Here are some things you can do to make sure you minimise the risk of complaints.

Bounced subscribers

Emails where the message could not be successfully delivered and can fall into two categories: Hard bounce (the address or domain name no longer exists) and Soft bounce (there may be a temporary problem, such as inbox is full or other connectivity issues). Hard bounces are automatically unsubscribed and do not count towards your quota, while soft bounces are not removed, but a red dot is added next to the individual email that bounced.

Cold subscribers

Those who have been inactive for more than 90 days - by ‘inactive’ we mean that they have not opened any of your messages nor clicked any of your links in that interval. While they still count towards your quota, this status is a bit of a guess due to the way an ‘open’ is tracked. If the subscriber has images turned off, not only do they not see images you may send in your emails but also the tracking ‘pixel’ won’t load. This pixel is a transparent, one-pixel image, used to notify ConvertKit when an email is viewed). In a future section, we will look at how to reach to these subscribers and ask them if they’d like to stay subscribed or not. This will give them a chance to reaffirm their desire to hear from you - pretty much like one of those millions of GDPR emails you’ve been getting around May 2018!

Diagram time!

For your quick reference, here’s a quick list of subscriber statuses and the main things you should know:

Subscriber status Automatically removed? Counts towards your quota?
Confirmed NO YES
Unconfirmed YES NO
Cancelled YES NO
Complained YES NO
Bounced Hard: YES Soft: NO Hard: NO Soft: YES
Cold NO YES