4 Reasons Email Unsubscribes Can Actually Be a Good Thing

It’s a common recommendation in email marketing to make unsubscribing from your emails easy. It seems a bit counter-intuitive. Why would you want to facilitate people leaving your mailing lists?

First off, it’s because we have to – at least to some degree. Marketers who work in the US are well aware of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003. An important piece of this legislation is the requirement for marketers to offer recipients an unrestricted option to opt-out.

There’s a big difference between offering an option to opt-out and enabling it, however. While the FTC does recommend opt-out options are “clear and conspicuous” in their compliance guide, there are far from any hard requirements to these ends. So, the question remains, what makes email marketers choose to be so accommodating?

As it turns out, it’s because enabling unsubscribes is good marketing. It benefits the marketers, as well as the recipients. We’ll look at four different reasons email unsubscribes can be beneficial.

1. Unsubscribes Can Help Your Email Deliverability

(Disclaimer) Obviously, huge unsubscribe numbers are not going to be good for your deliverability. A high rate of unsubscribes is rightfully viewed as a sign of spam. However, in moderation, unsubscribes can be a good thing for deliverability.

First, unsubscribes can be beneficial because they curb spam complaints. Generally, people will unsubscribe before they make a spam complaint. On a one-to-one basis, unsubscribes are much less damaging to your sender reputation. That’s a big reason it’s recommended to have a visible unsubscribe option to take care of any disinterested users (before they become spam complaints).

The other advantage of unsubscribes in relation to deliverability is they remove unengaged contacts from your list. Someone who dislikes messages enough to unsubscribe is very unlikely to positively interact with future emails. Removing this type of contact from your list lowers the total number of sends and betters your engagement rates, both of which benefit deliverability.

2. Unsubscribes Improve the Quality of Your Lists

Along the same lines, unsubscribes clean your lists by purging contacts that are unlikely to convert. As much as we enjoy building an audience, educating, and being a thought leader, writing on behalf of a business is ultimately done with the objective of driving sales. No reason to lose sleep over a contact that won’t advance in the funnel.

An unsubscribe is preferable to a long-term inactive in a couple of ways. A recipient who ignores your messages, puts them into a spam folder, or no longer uses the given email address is going to waste a seat in your automation system, drive down engagement rates, and dilute your analytics. Opt-outs prevent all three of these problems.

3. Unsubscribes Let You Know About Problems with Your Messages

Unsubscribes are obviously an indication that recipients were dissatisfied with your messages. This could because you simply sent to an audience too frequently or due to more specific problems with the email or the audience.

Comparing opt-outs from various segments of an audience can yield interesting insights. For example, if a certain persona is opting out a much higher rate, it could be an indication that that offering isn’t well-suited to the persona. It could also mean a piece of personalization isn’t functioning for those recipients. In any case, it let you know to look into that particular subgroup.

The same applies to technology. If there a particularly high percentage of opt-outs from the users of a given device or email client, it’s likely an indication that your email isn’t displaying correctly for these users. Pay special attention to any such devices/clients in your compatibility testing software.

4. Unsubscribe are an Opportunity for More Information

When better to survey a recipient than right before they unsubscribe?

Though it sounds a little strange, this step can be a valuable source of feedback.

Naturally, you want to keep this form short and simple to fill out. Recipients looking to unsubscribe aren’t likely to have the patience for answering several questions or filling in short answer questions.

Rather than the default “Click here to confirm unsubscribe” page, use this as an opportunity to ask people why they’re leaving. A single multiple-choice question with a fillable “Other” option is the best approach. This approach offers great insight into what’s causing your unsubscribes.

In addition to asking why users are unsubscribing, be sure to offer them the option to unsubscribe from different threads of email communication independently. A user might enjoy your deals and discounts email, but be tired of your newsletter. Separating these threads allows the recipient to receive only the emails they want and marketers to get additional information on which communications are driving unsubscribes.

The Bottom Line

In marketing, “Dislikes” can be just as telling as Likes. Unsubscribes offer insights into your email messaging, sending frequency, technological compatibility, and marketing in general, all for the price of an unengaged contact. Not to mention, unsubscribes naturally filter contacts with a low chance of conversion, which positively impacts both your metrics and deliverability. All in all, unsubscribes might initially feel bad, but there’s a lot to be gain when they are managed correctly.


Let us know what you think:

  • Are you concerned about your unsubscribe rates?
  • What insights do you take away from your unsubscribes?
  • Would you add any advantages/disadvantages of unsubscribes?


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Comments (1)

[…] So have I led you to cross over to the other side? It is most definitely okay to have a smaller list due to the reasons listed above. Not all subscribers are the same, so having to deal with a smaller list will help you be able to personalize your message and build a stronger list. […]

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