Why people unsubscribe from email lists (and how it affects email health)
Even though it may sting, not all email unsubscribes are bad. It’s good to refine your email list to contacts who may eventually buy from you and to people who find your content relevant.
To make sure your email list is getting stronger, and you’re not leaking subscribers for any other reason, find out if you have a content issue (e.g. content not relevant to your list) or a subscriber issue (e.g. you’re attracting the wrong subscribers).
Find this out by digging into your email marketing metrics and unsubscribe list:
Examine your open rates, bounce rates and spam complaints to see if they are within industry standards. If these rates aren’t where they should be, you may have a low-quality content issue. When engagement is very low, your sender reputation takes a hit, negatively impacting your email health and preventing your emails from showing up in inboxes.
Look also at your unsubscribe list to determine if they’re contacts that you would have wanted to keep (e.g. potential future leads). If you’re losing these contacts, you might have an irrelevant content issue. If you’re losing contacts who don’t meet your buyer persona, you could just be refining your list.
Before you go into the procedure of resubscribing unsubscribed contacts, understand why people click on the unsubscribe link in the first place. Doing this can give you insights into how you can improve email engagement.
With that in mind, here are the top reasons why people unsubscribe from email lists.
Content isn’t relevant
According to a Consumer Email Tracker 2021 report, 85% of survey respondents claim that less than half of all the email marketing they receive is relevant and useful.
Sending generic content that doesn’t speak to subscribers’ needs, entertain them or offer value in another way can cause them to unsubscribe. Some contacts won’t unsubscribe but will stay inactive (or mildly interested), pulling down your email engagement metrics and hurting your email deliverability.
Here are proven tactics to help you create relevant email content:
Define and enrich your sales and marketing buyer personas. Pull from both qualitative and quantitative data to make your buyer personas as accurate as possible, nailing down the needs they want to be addressed in your emails. Flesh out your personas by digging deep into your customers’ pain points, potential objections, buying motivations, organizational roles, etc.
Tip: Using “hidden fields” in your signup forms can give you specific insights into which marketing and sales activities are working. For example, if a lead registers for a webinar via your online form, hidden fields will connect that lead to a specific segment. This gives you the additional context you need to further personalize your marketing outreach for that segment in your next email campaign.
Your emails are being marked as spam
Your emails can be marked as spam for two reasons: contacts are marking your email as spam or a spam filter has included your email domain in an email blacklist.
Email users flag emails as spam because they don’t want unnecessary emails cluttering up their inboxes. Email providers, such as Gmail, know this and use spam filters to keep unsolicited emails at bay and keep their clients happy.
The filtering process, however, isn’t always accurate, causing legitimate emails to be marked as spam too (as much as 45% of email traffic ends up in the spam folder).
However, even if your email is relevant and recipients have opted into your email list, they may still mark you as spam for the following reasons:
They’re experiencing email fatigue. Users may be tired of your content, especially if you contact them too often.
They forgot they subscribed to your email list. This is common for campaigns that don’t send very often (e.g. a quarterly newsletter). You can prevent this by setting subscription permission reminders.
Your email subject lines are misleading. Avoid making false promises or using “salesy” trigger words like “cheap”, “free”, “win”, etc.
Email volume is too high
Subscribers are tired of receiving too many emails. Send too many and they won’t hesitate to unsubscribe from your email list.
According to a Marketing Sherpa survey, the top reason why contacts unsubscribe from email lists is that they’re receiving too many emails in general (26%). The third most frequent reason was receiving too many emails from a specific company (19%).
Every business is unique, so the right email frequency depends on your niche, target audience and campaign goals.
To combat email fatigue, let your audience know how often they’ll receive an email message from your business at signup. Even better, give them the option to choose their preferred email frequency when they sign up and on your unsubscribe page (more on this later), then segment your email list according to this preferred frequency.
Email volume isn’t consistent so they lose interest
On the other hand, if you’re sending too little, even your most engaged subscribers will lose interest and leave.
If you send them an email every two to three months, for example, they may eventually forget why they signed up in the first place and will unsubscribe as a result.
Send relevant content at a consistent schedule and your recipients won’t forget who you are and what they signed up for, making it less likely they’ll mark you as spam.
To ensure you’re sending timely and relevant emails to your target audience, use an email automation tool to send emails on schedule or based on actions or triggers that recipients take.
They accidentally unsubscribed
Every once in a while, a contact will unsubscribe by mistake and then ask you to be put back on the list.
This happens for a few reasons, including:
To avoid these mistakes, send contacts to a default screen or a landing page that asks if they’re sure about unsubscribing. That way, they have to press twice to confirm their decision.
How to resubscribe an unsubscribed email address while staying GDPR compliant
Whether it was a mistake or they miss your content, you want to help contacts resubscribe to your email list. Here are a few ways you can resubscribe an unsubscribed email address.
1. Resubscribe via a previously sent email
By default, an unsubscribed contact can resubscribe on their own by finding a previously sent marketing email and managing their email preferences.
You can help recipients do this by including a “Manage your preferences” hyperlink in every email footer.
Set this link to bring up a manage preferences form on a landing page that allows them to re-join your email list. You’ll then need to send an email to confirm the resubscription (easy to do with automation).
2. Resubscribe via a signup form
An unsubscribed contact can resubscribe to your email list through any of your signup forms.
Set your form to detect an unsubscribed contact’s email addresses. This way, you can send them to a page with a message confirming their opt-in status, such as “Looks like you’ve opted out of email communication. Click here to get an email and opt back in”.
This will help you segment the subscriber into a specific email flow, so they won’t start at the beginning of your campaign and start receiving the same content again.
You can also invite the contact to update their subscription preferences (e.g., interests, email frequency, etc.), so they’ll be more engaged this time and less likely to unsubscribe again.
3. Make it easy for people to resubscribe themselves
To retain those subscribers who made a mistake or are now ready to engage with your content, make it easy to learn how to resubscribe to an unsubscribed email.
The best place to do this is at the point when they’re unsubscribing. On your unsubscribe landing page or pop-up (usually, this is the one with a “Sorry to see you go” message), be sure to leave instructions on how to resubscribe if they ever wish to do so in the future and a resubscribe button in case it was a mistake.
On this page, include how to:
You may also wish to include this information in your FAQs if you have them.
Additional tips to stay compliant while resubscribing contacts
When resubscribing unsubscribed contacts, take extra precautions to stay compliant and avoid any liability. The following tips ensure you’re being transparent in your email marketing practices and are acting with the best interests of your customers in mind:
Use a double opt-in form. A double opt-in adds an extra confirmation step to verify the email address to be added to your email list. A single opt-in only requires the user to enter their details in a signup form before they can start receiving emails. With a double opt-in, the user also needs to confirm their subscription through a confirmation email link before they get added to the list.
Create a compliant email consent form. Whether users sign up via your website or through social media, make sure to include key information on your opt-in form to remain compliant, including the name of your company, policy and contact information and instructions on how to unsubscribe from emails.
When resubscribing your unsubscribed contacts, meeting GDPR’s consent standards is paramount. By following specific guidelines, you’re not only avoiding any risk of liability, but you’re also generating a high level of trust among your customers.
When your email practices are dictated by transparency and providing high-value email content, you’re in a much better position to win unsubscribed contacts back.