How to accidentally lose your AWeber account

I have sent many million e-mails over the last 18 years.

I haven’t kept count, but this month alone with my various Internet properties, it adds up to close to 5 million.

As you can imagine, we’re keen to keep my accounts and relationship with my mailing vendor AWeber in good order. Besides the fact that we’ve been using them for years and years, they also happen to have a very easy-to-use interface, a very useful set of built-in tools, and a very affordable service.

So how can you screw that up?

The first answer is by doing something wrong like spamming. That can and will – and should –  get you shut down in a flash.

But can you get your account shut down by accident?

To paraphrase the current rent-free occupant of the White House…Yes you can.

Here are two absolutely innocent ways to go wrong:

Method #1. You see a website you’re really like and you want to tell your subscribers about it. Unbeknownst to you, the owners of the domain the website runs on have managed to terminally piss off AWeber at some point.

When you send your first test e-mail (and you do send test e-mails I hope before you blast your entire list!), the AWeber system will detect that you are mailing on behalf of a domain they consider a bad player and they will take note.

Method #2. Let’s say new hire a new writer/editor for one of your sites and he is new to aweber.

He notes the signature and the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the e-mails your publication sends. So far so good.

Because he is diligent, he manually appends the signature and the unsubscribe link of the last e-mail he received from the last issue on the end of the e-mails he sends out on your behalf.

How big a problem could that be?

Answer: A HUGE problem.

Here’s why…AWeber creates a unique unsubscribe URL for every individual subscriber to your list. That way, when subscribers click on the unsubscribe, they are taken straight to their own personal control panel where they can either change their subscription or unsubscribe entirely.

What happens if there are TWO unsubscribe links and one of them, inconveniently the one that appears first, is the one your newly hired writer/editor copied and pasted from an e-mail sent to him?

Can you see the problem? People who want to unsubscribe will click on the  wrong link, think they have unsubscribed, then continue to get e-mails they, for whatever reason, no longer want to receive.

And no matter how often they click on that link and no matter how many e-mails they receive and click on the link, they will never be able to unsubscribe.

This is a near perfect recipe for pissing off a subscriber… Actually LOTS of subscribers. And that is not a good thing to do.

To make matters worse, no matter how many times your writer/editor re-subscribes to the publication he’s writing for, he will always be unsubscribed by somebody or other within minutes of sending out the latest mailing and will never see the problem.

Get it?

Here’s the rub:  e-mail scammers sometimes try to abuse systems like aweber by signing up for an account and DELIBERATELY inserting a bogus unsubscribe link.

Whether you do this by accident or as part of a nefarious scheme, aweber has no choice but to shut your account down to protect their sterling fourteen year record of being a reliable source of  legitimate e-mail broadcasts.

It’s something I’ve never  experienced personally or even heard about in 18 years of sending e-mails, but as the old saying goes, there’s a first time for everything – and guess who learned this one the hard way  🙂

But all’s well that ends well.

Fortunately, I have a long, deep and very public track record so we were able to sort things out once we got to the bottom of what happened, but for someone newer, without an established record, this might have been a very difficult thing to resolve.

Moral of the story: Pay attention to your outgoing e-mail, even if it looks OK on first glance.

P.S.  We discuss important, but non-glamorous, issues like this every month on our private Tech Talk call for members of the System Club.

If you think about it, it’s actually very hard to find detailed, comprehensive, unbiased conversations about the realities of the tools and technology that Internet businesses run on.

Everyone wants to ram the latest sure-fire, gee-whiz, gotta-have-it mystery tool down your throat in this month’s latest “Launch.”

In contrast, few want to take the time to talk about the mechanical realities of Internet marketing and the universe of effective tools that not only greatly out-power the hyped ones, but often cost far less.

P.P.S. It’s easy to take a service like AWeber for granted, but go out there and try to replicate what they do at the price they do it. Not so easy. They’re one of the best values in the business.

For information about The System Club and the Tech Talk program for System Club members, click here.

– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.

Keep giving simple
Steve Jobs and the entrepreneurial revolution

21 Responses to How to accidentally lose your AWeber account

  1. Orestes October 16, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    Thanks Ken for learning something new from you. I know now why I´ve gotten
    sometimes emails like that where I coundn´t unsubscribe and it really
    always keep us sharp and aware.

    Wish you a great Sunday!


  2. Jenny Dunham October 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    Wow, Ken! I had no idea this type of scamming was going on. What will they think of next? I think this may help to explain why sometimes I unsubscribe from a list but continue to get emails from them anyway. One more thing to keep an eye out for, I guess.


  3. Wes Hopper October 16, 2011 at 1:28 pm #

    Completely agree with you about aWeber. I’ve used them for years and love their service. Thanks for sharing a great story of how things can sometimes go wrong even with the best of intentions.

  4. Mark Henderson October 16, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    If Vince Lombardi was alive today, I’m pretty sure he’d be a long-time subscriber to your newsletter. Thanks for echoing his ‘fundamentals’ mantra as it relates to the lowly auto-responder – something you’ll never hear from peddlers of the next “shiny new object” in Internet marketing.

  5. Matthew Meyer October 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm #

    Aweber is very touchy. There are many ways to accidentally lose your Aweber account. JThey will delete accounts quick quickly and without recourse. I have seen many examples of this unfortunately. I prefer to sleep at night so I have chosen to work with more business friendly companies.

  6. Neil Williams October 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm #

    Great story Ken. Thanks for sharing.


  7. Shirley Price October 16, 2011 at 5:27 pm #

    Thanks for making us aware and explaining this so well Ken.
    I can see how this could be a real problem and one that you might never resolve or even know about without this type of information from you. I have also had a number of spam emails that I’ve unsubscribe from but continued to receive them now I know why. Thanks again!

  8. Robert Laughlin October 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm #

    Aweber seems to be stricter than most email services, which is why I cannot use them. As they explained to me, the only legitimate way to collect names and addresses if from an opt in web form on the internet. But most of my leads come from a pass around sign up sheet at live events. Totally opt in. Totally legitimate. But it conflicts with aweber policy. And I have no control or contact with the registration process, so I can’t ask for that information any other way.

    Fortunately there are other services with looser policies.

  9. James October 16, 2011 at 6:47 pm #


    Thank you for the heads up but let me tell you I had a similar problem back in 2008 and they weren’t very nice with me, of course you are a celebrity among us, but what normal or average marketers like us can do if we go into a similar situation?

    Let me extend my situation a bit more I got so angry at them that I decided to create my own email system and I did and now I can send as many emails as I want without being afraid of being banned for a silly mistake.

    One thing take you to another one and in my case adversity and losing almost 64,000 subscribers really hit me bad… but I didn’t give up, I’ve found a better solution, a solution I own and that I control… If you allow me I can add more information about my site, let me know,

    Thanks Ken,



  10. Matt October 16, 2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Timely post. Thanks for the in-depth breakdown. I suspected some type of tracking in the unsubscribe links, but didn’t think about how this could get screwed up.

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. Suzy Weiss October 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    Thanks Ken!

    Gives new meaning to the old phrase, “Who’s Minding The Store?”.

    Only these days the ‘store’ has a lot more complexity.

    Suzy Weiss

  12. Suzy Weiss October 16, 2011 at 8:30 pm #

    Thanks Ken!

    Gives new meaning to the old phrase, “Who’s Minding The Store?”.

    Only these days the ‘store’ has a lot more complexity.

    Suzy Weiss

  13. Etienne Juneau October 17, 2011 at 3:28 am #

    Hi Ken,

    Yes, Aweber is super strict about it’s spam rules, I learned that the semi-hard way too.

    (They wouldn’t let me upload a list of emails I collected myself offline through direct mail.)

    Good luck with them in the future,


  14. John Rodriguez October 17, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    I have used for a number of years for incidents like the one you described.

    My procedure is to initially to unsubscribe from a newsletter, if they have an unsubscribe link. If I receive another email from the vendor/supplier, say in a week, then I use They seem to have a good policy about spam emails. At least I am not bothered by an incessant inflow of unwanted emails after I use them.

  15. Dave October 17, 2011 at 6:47 am #

    Many have left Aweber for various reasons — not the least is that they continue to count and charge for un-subscribes. There are much better choices where you don’t have to live with a hard-ass threat to your biz.

  16. Graham in UK October 17, 2011 at 1:52 pm #

    Hi Ken
    “Here’s the rub: e-mail scammers sometimes try to abuse systems like aweber by signing up for an account and DELIBERATELY inserting a bogus unsubscribe link.”

    This happens so many times it beggars belief!
    (and not just with aweber either)

    You do need a good email service with a well run spam filter.
    P.S. I hate those email marketers that pass on your email address to their ‘cronies’ so they too can bombard your email in-box.

  17. June October 17, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    Thanks for the very detailed, clear information.

    This information alone could cost someone their business.

    Thanks for sharing ths with us Ken.

    I have emails that I have collected from various sources (not opt in web) therefore I cannot use them with aweber – I am interested in the email solution that James has created (message dated October 16th, 6:47 pm) – would it be possible to share James’s details with us?
    Thanks again,

  18. Ken McCarthy October 19, 2011 at 4:50 am #

    AWeber is pretty clear about what it allows and disallows and their rules are designed to protect their customers as well as their own reputation.

    You may not necessarily want to use a service that’s “looser” because a service that’s “looser” is almost certainly going to have reputation and thus delivery problems.

    If you have legitimate e-mails subscribers from sources other than online opt-in, you can always manage those lists using a different means. There’s no law against using different services for different purposes, but remember the reputation of your domain is a valuable asset so you don’t want to do something that’s going to tarnish it.

    As one writer commented, I too wish that people who are using other services would name them. That would be a big help to everyone.

    Thanks for all the comments.

  19. Donavan October 20, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Have been thinking of signing up for Aweber but did not know about their policy that you cannot use e-mail address obtained from a source like a trade show.

    What alternate autoresponder companies would you recommend?

  20. Donavan October 20, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    Ken a question.

    See some comments have a picture and some do not. How did the pictures get there?

    Thanks Ken

  21. Tim October 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    I’m pretty sure aweber will let you import email addresses from other sources – they just send a confirmation email to those people. As long as the confirmation link is then clicked, they’re on the list. If those people won’t click the confirmation link, do they really want to be on your list anyway?
    Thanks for the tips!

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