A Better Unsubscribe Process for Better Results

Without a real unsubscribe process in place, you’re potentially putting your IP reputation and the overall effectiveness of your existing lists are at stake. Although you might think that by not having a clear and straightforward way to opt out of your mails is a smart tactic for retaining an audience; it's not. Subscribers won’t even think twice about marking your mails as spam - they’re going to stop you from sending to them one way or another. So let's face it, having a seamless unsubscribe procedure in place is in everyone’s best interest.

Avoid being marked as spam

Allowing people to opt-out effortlessly is simply best practice - reducing or eliminating the likelihood of a spam complaint.  Bad unsubscribe practices on the other hand, could lead to a higher chance of spam complaints, giving ISPs reason to filter your messages effecting delivery of your campaigns, as well as your reputation. Some of these bad practices include:

  • Not having an ‘unsubscribe from emails’ link in the message at all This is a violation of this Act and At TotalSend, it’s mandatory for all senders to provide an unsubscribe link in their email.  Subscribers who wish to be removed from a mailer’s list are automatically added to a Suppression List within the sender’s account, a digital documentation of suppressed email addresses that exists in accordance with the CAN-SPAM Act of 2013.
  • Small, hidden or hard to read unsubscribe links it’s important to note that hiding this link simply isn't going to stop them from leaving; but it is guaranteed to annoy them. Avoid making this link something that might be difficult to interpret such as tiny font or a colour that blends in with its surroundings. Some even suggest placing the link at the top in addition to the bottom of each message, avoiding any unnecessary frustration.
  • Complicated unsubscribe steps Avoid requiring users to log in or type in their email address to confirm their un-subscription. A one-click process is ideal, but an additional button confirming your opt-out choice within the browser is actually fine too as it eliminates the chance of subscribers unsubscribing by accident. However, any more steps in the unsubscribe process is only adding to subscriber frustration and potentially hurting your reputation in the long run.

Members of your subscriber list need to be aware that they can easily remove themselves from a list. TotalSend automatically adds an unsubscribe link to the footer of all outgoing email messages, which not only guarantees a policy of fairness to your subscribers, but also ensures credibility. These footers also include options to whitelist the sender, view online, forward to a friend and report as spam.

Optimisation and retaining your audience

Having an available and visible unsubscribe link doesn't necessarily mean you’ll have more subscribers opting out of your mail. There are other ways to try coax a parting subscriber to stay on board. Having the unsubscribe link redirect to an optimised landing page with content relevant to the customer, can entice them to hang around a while longer, rather than unsubscribing all together. TotalSend allows users the option to have a unique landing page too, which subscribers can be redirected to through the unsubscribe process. Some great landing page ideas include:

  • Reminding a customer of why they subscribed in the first place may also be a great retention strategy. A landing page that subtly showcases services, promotions, or unique products, reminding them why they signed up in the first place, can indeed make someone think twice about unsubscribing.
  • Another option would be to encourage them to follow your social media profiles instead (if they haven’t already) or try offering the option to modify the frequency of correspondence. Being made aware of the option to receive messages once a month instead of once a week may convince a user to continue receiving your mail instead of opting out completely.
  • If it is the content of the email they take issue with and you are perhaps sending out various mailers with different content, then perhaps give them the option to choose which emails they’d like to receive. Some customers may want product/ service updates where as others may only be interested in special discounts and promotions. Enabling them to modify their preferences could help you retain a subscriber too.

Testing the process yourself to be sure it’s seamless and painless is a must. Go through the steps of subscribing and unsubscribing to make sure what you think you’ve set up is actually what the customer experiences, ensuring customers aren't unsubscribing or marking your mail as junk because of a minor technical or similar oversight. Additional unsubscribe options to consider are:

  • To allow users to change the frequency of their mail
  • To allow users to select which list they’d like to be on
  • Provide a global unsubscribe option – where they can unsubscribe from all lists simultaneously.
  • Remind your audience that they can re-subscribe and allow for a subscribe option on the same the same page.
  • Avoid sending automated follow-up emails after they have unsubscribed. The action of unsubscribing is a clear indication that no further correspondence is desired.


To really understand your audience, and optimise your campaigns accordingly, you may want to also provide subscribers with an option to give a reason for unsubscribing. This can greatly help you to measure the overall effectiveness of your current campaigns. For example, if your subscribers increasingly say they would like to receive mail less frequently, perhaps it is a sign to dial back the number of messages being sent. This type of monitoring is a great way to maintain a healthy list of engaged customers. Noting trends in feedback can give you a pretty good indication of how customers feel about the communication going out or even the product.

A reactionary approach to handling unsubscribes properly and efficiently is just as important to the process as the sign up process, as it can provide vital information about the product, the campaign, and the behaviours of subscribers and potentially be key to finding new and improved ways of marketing to your subscriber base and increasing your overall engagement.