ActiveCampaign Forum

Beginner 101: One Master List or Multiple Lists?

So I am setting up AC for my new biz. I will have a newsletter (of course :wink:) that I want everyone to sign up for. And I will also offer content upgrades to get more subscribers. I will ultimately offer courses, ebooks, etc. and will have webinars to educate my subscribers, etc.

So the big question for me right now is how many lists do I set up.

I read a great thread How many lists in this forum.

But then I went over to MailChimp and read:

Maintain a single list per client or organization in your account.
In your MailChimp account, each list is distinctly separate and independent from all other lists. We encourage you to use a single list and keep it updated, instead of uploading a new list. If you want to target specific sections of a single list, you can build groups in your list. Using groups can reduce billing rates, since subscribers in multiple groups of the same list get counted only as one subscriber in a list.

So I’m assuming that AC segments = MailChimp groups?

So is it better to have several different lists or one master list with segments? I really don’t want to manage what could be several lists but I don’t want to risk someone unsubscribing from everything when they only wanted to unsubscribe from one thing.

Maybe I’m overthinking this…:confused:

You are correct. Depending on different automations, lead magnets, etc, having just one master list is a disaster.

As you say, unsubscribing from a single automation will remove them from everything when they possibly just wanted to stop receiving a particular series of emails.

Depending on your setup, several parent master lists branched out based on closely-related tag/segments maybe the way to go.

My advice is based on personal experience and work with clients since 1996. One master list (regardless of setup) could vary well be the worst advice ever given to ActiveCampaign users.



Thanks so much for the quick reply, I really appreciate it.

If you don’t mind sharing, how exactly do you set up your lists? You must have a lot of lists, so how do you manage it all?

I do like your suggestion of master lists,
So some examples would be a:

  1. Master List (receives every signup on my site)

  2. Newsletter signup list

  3. Content Upgrade list (which would opt you into the newsletter subscription)

  4. Webinar signup list
    a. Webinar Series A (this would be a segment)
    b. Webinar Series B (this would be a segment)

  5. Customers who purchased from me list
    a. E-book purchases (this would be a segment)
    b. E-course purchases (this would be a segment)
    c. Membership, etc. (this would be a segment)

Am I on the right track with this or totally missing the point?


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Too much to share here, but on “Customers”, I personally create a different list for every product and even product type. Same reason as before… I want to give them the option to stop receiving emails on particular products, etc and not accidentally removing themselves from all updates.

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Check out

Should answer most of your questions of how to set up ActiveCampaign :smile:


I’m migrating from MailChimp and feel I can talk directly to these points.

  1. Mailchimp charges per email per list. Therefore if the same person is on two lists, that counts as two subscribers. It’s a business model which is different than activecampaign (AC). When I had multiple web sites with lists, mailchimp was great for having one account but dealling with multiple domains. AC can do that but from what I have seen and read, it’s more single-domain oriented.

  2. The AC master list exists without building one…sort of. If you use tagging, tagging is at the email level, not the list level. Therefore, if you add a tag when a user subscribes, that tag value shows up in every list where they occur. You can still have a master list for a separate newsletter but if you are tagging emails and they unsubscribe from a list, those tags are not lost.


Thanks so much for this information, tigergreenproduction. The tagging system seems like a pretty awesome feature of ActiveCampaign. I’m excited to start setting everything up using the tags.

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Hi. I am a newbie. I have been using AC for about a week. I have been reading, exploring, and asking newbie questions.

I work for school and we have several thousand alumni and several hundred parents. Probably going to set up multiple list.

I would like a main list of all alumni, friends and parents. I want to be able to see who is in it. We will create a few other lists. For example, we have a monthly email newsletter that goes out to several thousand alumni. We also have a weekly email newsletter that goes out to several hundred parents. Some people get both email newsletters. We may also create a prospective donor list. If someone unsubscribes from our prospective donor list, I don’t want them to come off the other lists that they are on, e.g., the monthly email newsletter or the main list.

Here is my question: If I start by importing contacts and creating three lists, how do I get all three on one master list that I can see? Alternatively, if I start by importing everyone to a master list, how do I parse them into three separate lists?

Any advice would be appreciated.

It would probably be better to upload each list and then add all the contacts onto a master list.

I would create all the lists you need. Then upload each list individually. Once you’ve added all your lists and contacts, click “Edit” then select “All.” This will open the Bulk editor. You can then add all those contacts onto your master list.

Here’s a short video demonstrating where to find the Edit button and how to use the Bulk Editor to add contacts to a list:


Thank you. I feel like a lightbulb just turned on, which is a good feeling. :slight_smile:


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Webinar signup list
a. Webinar Series A (this would be a segment)
b. Webinar Series B (this would be a segment)

Along these lines, AC wants us to have a specific “you are receiving this email because…”
I like the idea of a “Webinars” list with tags/segments, but doesn’t that violate the goal of AC which wants me to say for each different segment:

“you are receiving this email…signed u for webinar seres A”
“you are receiving this email…signed u for webinar seres B”

They implied that "“you are receiving this email…signed u for one of our webinars” was a bad approach.

Does anyone have any insight?

Since this is one of our more popular threads, I thought I’d add some resources for anyone interested in this topic.

We invited ActiveCampaign experts (some from this thread!) to give their opinion on how to organize lists and contacts:

Lists vs Tags: The ActiveCampaign Experts Weigh In

We have an in-depth guide in our Education Center on Lists versus Tags.

And we have a series of podcasts that covers this in depth:

Custom fields

I also work in schools marketing and have loved Active Campaign, let me know if you have any questions and Ill happily help.

I would keep seperate lists for parents and Alumni, you can search and see all contacts by using the contacts tab…

Do you use it for prospective families too?

I have experience in a variety of ESP’s (HubSpot, Eloqua, etc.) but this idea of having multiple lists is throwing me for a loop. In short, is it better to create lists based on email types/products (newsletter, webinar, etc.) or by types of contacts (leads, owners, dealers)?

We just migrated to AC, and did not previously have email types/preferences. If you unsubscribed from one email, you were unsubscribed from everything altogether. We currently segment our emails based on the type of contact that you are. We send leads these emails, we send owners those emails, etc. I am wondering if it makes more sense for us to then create lists based on types of contacts? A few other things:

  • We don’t send emails all that frequently- perhaps one to two push emails a month.
  • Someone can be an owner, and they can also be a dealer.