Email unsubscribes can be discouraging, there’s no way around it. The good news is, they can also help your email list in the long term.
In this article, we’ll explain why you need an unsubscribe link in emails you send out, how and why to create a pleasant unsubscribe experience, why unsubscribes aren’t always a bad thing and how to lower your unsubscribe rate.
Why you need to add an unsubscribe link
There are several reasons why you should include an unsubscribe option in your business’s email communications contact list.
To obey the law
The first one is simple. If you’re going to send emails as a business, the law requires it. According to the CAN-SPAM Act, all commercial emails must let recipients know how they can opt out of future emails. Europe enacted a similar version of this piece of legislation in 2018 called the GDPR with the same rules.
Spammers are constantly working on ways to outmaneuver email service providers (ESPs) with strict spam filters, such as Gmail, Outlook and Yahoo. Unfortunately, they often succeed. These anti-spam laws help protect against these things by holding people accountable for unwanted emails, scams, malware installation and phishing attempts to steal email recipients’ personal and financial data.
To respect your recipients
The second reason is that it’s just good manners. Think of your email list as a never-ending party you’re throwing – you would never force someone to stay at your party if they weren’t having fun. The same goes for your email contact list.
To maintain good deliverability
Cold or bulk email campaigns can evoke negative responses from people. If you don’t include an unsubscribe link in emails, they may choose to click the “report as spam” button to stop receiving your messages.
Losing a subscriber is preferable to this. Recipients telling their ESPs that your emails are spam impacts your domain health, which impacts your email deliverability. You won’t just be banned from that person’s inbox, you’ll have trouble sending to people who do want to receive your emails as well.
How to create a pleasant unsubscribe experience
Consent of any kind is never final. Just because someone joined your email list doesn’t mean they want to stay on it forever. Conversely, just because someone unsubscribed, doesn’t mean they’ll never come back.
Drawn out unsubscribe experiences leave a bad taste in people’s mouth. Here’s how to make unsubscribing as painless as possible.
Use the word unsubscribe in the link text
Now is not the time to try to be clever with your copy. Remember, losing a subscriber is a small price to pay compared to getting your domain flagged by spam filters. If you have segmented lists and want to give people the option to unsubscribe just from certain ones, you can also add a “manage your email preferences” link as well.
Place your unsubscribe link prominently
Place your unsubscribe link or unsubscribe button at the bottom of your emails, as that’s where people expect to see it. You want your unsubscribe link to be easy to find since hiding it is against the law and can result in fines. Make sure your unsubscribe process is just one step. When a user clicks the unsubscribe link in emails, it should take them to a web page confirming that they’re unsubscribed.
If you’re worried about someone accidentally hitting the link (this can be easy to do on mobile because the screen size is smaller), you can add a signup link for them to rejoin on this unsubscribe confirmation page.
Feel free to ask for feedback as to why they’re unsubscribing, but don’t make it required to get off your list. While not everybody will take the time to provide feedback, those who do will send helpful insights your way that can help you improve your email marketing experience.
How to mass unsubscribe from emails
Whatever you do, some users will unsubscribe from emails, with a number using a mass unsubscribe tool. You can also mass unsubscribe if you want to reduce the number of emails in your inbox.
To mass unsubscribe from emails, start by utilizing email management tools or services that provide bulk unsubscribe functionality. Alternatively, you can use the search feature in your email client to find and select multiple emails from a specific sender or with similar content, then unsubscribe from them all at once.
Another option is to create filters or rules within your email settings to automatically send unwanted emails to the spam or trash folder, minimizing clutter in your inbox. Remember to exercise caution and review each email before unsubscribing to ensure you don't accidentally unsubscribe from essential communications.
Reframing how you think about unsubscribes
When your goal is to grow and convert your email list as much as possible, it may seem counterintuitive that unsubscribes would help this.
Here are some of the reasons why unsubscribes are not always a bad thing and how they can help your email marketing strategy in the long term.
Unsubscribes help with email hygiene
A clean list means active, engaged subscribers. Good email list hygiene is crucial for domain health, which impacts email deliverability. If you can’t deliver emails, no one can open them and they won’t generate revenue.
Unsubscribes help with open and email rates
The people who unsubscribed (most likely) weren’t going to open or convert anyways, so when they remove themselves, open rates and conversion are likely to increase.
Unsubscribe patterns provide valuable information
Unsubscribe trends can tell you if a certain email didn’t resonate, if you’re sending too many or that it’s time to start segmenting your list. Ignore the inevitable handful of unsubscribes that come with each send and focus on overarching patterns.
Unsubscribes don’t always mean disinterest
Some people prefer different platforms for staying in touch with companies. Just because they unsubscribed from your emails doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you or engage with your business. They could be staying in the loop through other marketing channels.
How to lower your unsubscribe rate
You can’t control people’s behavior when it comes to your emails. However, there are steps you can take to lower the chances of people unsubscribing.
Improve your targeting
For cold email campaigns, do your best to narrow down your outreach list. Only target people who you know could directly benefit from your products and services.
Your list will be smaller, but conversions will be higher and unsubscribes will be lower. A 2,500 person list with a 5% conversion rate means 125 people are taking action, whereas a 5,000 with a 1% conversion rate means only 50 are. The more genuinely relevant your emails are to people, the less likely they are to get reported as spam by recipients as well.
Set clear expectations
Setting clear expectations helps to reduce the chance of unsubscribes after people sign up for your email list.
When people go to opt in or subscribe, make it clear what they can expect from your emails on your email landing page. Your confirmation email is another opportunity to explain the benefits of subscription.
Send high-quality content
No matter the type of emails you’re sending for your company, the most effective way to decrease the number of unsubscribes is to create high-quality email content.
This is going to look different for every business. At the core of high-quality content is extensive knowledge of your customers and audience. When you know your email subscribers’ pain points and problems, it’s easier to create emails that people want to open.
An exciting email subject line or a beautifully designed email template won’t matter if you don't have a deep understanding of what your email subscribers are excited to read.
Unsubscribe links are an important component of all types of email marketing, from cold email campaigns to monthly newsletters. Making sure subscribers can easily remove themselves from your list is crucial to remaining in good standing with them and avoiding getting your emails sent to the spam folder.
While it can feel discouraging to see people unsubscribing, it can help with email hygiene and email marketing conversion rates and give you important information on how you can improve your email marketing campaigns.