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10 Steps for Handling Unsubscribes

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handling unsubscribes

Finding new readers to subscribe to your newsletter or email marketing campaign is a top goal for any company, but it’s important to remember that keeping those subscribers happy and keeping them subscribed is your next big step. Unfortunately, unsubscribing is something you’re also going to have to deal with as a marketer, so it’s important to know how to optimize the unsubscribe process so that you’re learning something about your audience and can reduce your number of unsubscribes in the future.

Below is a list of 10 different ways that you can optimize your unsubscribe process to help your company make changes:

Ask Questions

The easiest way to find out why people are leaving is to ask. When a reader selects “unsubscribe,” make sure you provide a comments section. Not everyone will leave a comment, but creating this section greatly increases the odds that you’ll get some good feedback.

To encourage readers to participate in this, try to avoid only using a blank field. This is OK to have at the bottom, but you should also ask multiple-choice questions. These are easier and less time consuming, which means more people will answer them. The example below is one option that you can use or can help get you started:

I am unsubscribing because:

  1. I received too many emails
  2. I didn’t find the information interesting
  3. I never subscribed for these emails

Giving users the option to select more than one answer will only enhance the feedback you receive. It’s quick and easy, so there really is no reason someone won’t respond. Keep in mind, however, never ask more than five questions because then you risk frustrating the user. Below is a great example of this from ZipRecruiter:



Provide Options

Some readers may unsubscribe because they feel overwhelmed with the number of updates they are receiving. Give users an option to receive less frequent updates and they may choose to stick with you. Once a week is a good benchmark for how often a typical user can tolerate new information. If you are sending emails to a niche group, twice a week (or even more often) may also work. Again, have options so that your unsubscribers may choose to stay subscribed just not as often. Some is better than none, right? Below is an example of the page you see when you try and unsubscribe from MarketingProfs:


Simplify the User Experience: Make the Link Easy to Find

How many times have you tried to unsubscribe from an email only to get lost in the footer? Don’t make people dig; clearly indicate in the footer of an email how people can unsubscribe. Equally important is to make sure you use the actual word “unsubscribe.” This is not the place to use creative copy writing — stick to something simple or risk confusing people. Below is a great example from Mention. They make the button easy to find, but they position it just below their social links!


Let Them Choose Texts

Some people may unsubscribe from emails simply because they dislike a cluttered inbox — they may actually be very interested in what you have to say. Give users options to receive information via text and you may be able to retain some subscribers.

Keep Your Information Relevant

You may be able to spend less time worrying about your unsubscribe process if you are able to keep your unsubscribe rates low. Re-focus energy on making sure users are receiving relevant information. Depending on the email client you use, you may be able to create different groups that are targeted with different information. Reach out to your email tool representative for more details on the system you use.

Capture Users Elsewhere

You may still be able to communicate with users even if they choose to unsubscribe from emails. Advertise your social media sites and other relevant websites on the unsubscribe confirmation page. All users digest information in different ways, so someone who doesn’t like emails may love an Instagram or Twitter update. Your social media needs will vary depending on your product or service, but at least one of these should be relevant and you may get a Follow out of it if the option is available.

Offer a Friendly Reminder

The page a user is directed to once they click “unsubscribe” should offer a few reminders of why your emails are important. Stick to three or four — the goal is to offer something that a user can quickly read and process without becoming annoyed. A few good examples are:

  • Don’t forget, you can receive exclusive discounts through email!
  • Stay subscribed and be the first to know about free events.
  • Keep up to date with the newest trends in your industry!

The example below is from UberEats and gives viewers options about frequency of emails (the tactic discussed above), but it also adds a small blurb about what eat will offer so that you are reminded of what you’re getting:


Stop All Emails

Never send additional emails after a user has unsubscribed — even a confirmation email. Have a confirmation page instead. Additional emails after someone actively clicks “unsubscribe” will be annoying and may cause a complaint or negative feedback about your company somewhere online (and if you don’t know how important reviews are even for your SEO, visit here).

Extra: Comply with the Law

It sounds crazy, but this is actually a big one that many companies forget. Be sure to review spam laws for countries where your subscribers live. Even if you are based in the United States, your emails must be compliant with the laws in the country you are sending updates to. Good resources for this include CAN-SPAM and CASL.

Failing to comply with national and international laws can create an unnecessary headache. Double and triple check your compliance to avoid dealing with complaints to the government.

You Can’t Win Them All

It’s nearly impossible for any company to retain a 100 percent subscriber rate; someone will always unsubscribe, sometimes for reasons beyond your control. Make sure the last thing an unsubscriber sees from you is something friendly. Include a message on the confirmation page that invites them to come back at any time. You might even want to include an incentive, like a coupon code if that’s relevant to your business. Below is an example from The Coffee Bean that does just that:


Do you have any ideas about optimizing the unsubscribe process, either from the standpoint of a small business or a consumer? Let us know in the comments below.

Rusty Mailbox Photo via Shutterstock

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HigherVisibility HigherVisibility is part of the Small Business Trends Publisher Channel, offering a full range of professional interactive marketing services. The mission of HigherVisibility is to provide clients “Valuable Solutions with Visible Results.” HigherVisibility works with companies of all sizes, offering advice on topics ranging from keyword research to algorithm updates.

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  1. Incorporating video into the email marketing campaign can increase your Click Through Rates and the decrease in Number of Unscribers

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