Maintaining a good reputation for your recipient list is key to ensuring your emails reach the elusive Inbox. Think of a good deliverability rating like your credit score—consistency is key. Just as missed payments can bring you down, through consistent experiences with your recipient list (similar to consistent, on-time payments), you can improve and get back to where you want to be.

Setting expectations with your recipients and staying the course is crucial to a good relationship with your customers. One of the top 4 expectations for senders is to honor unsubscribes and spam reports. Of course a perfect score is desired, but super difficult to attain. A spam report rate at or below 0.08% is optimal. In order to keep this SPAM rate low, you want to follow the rules of email engagement such as ensuring your recipients are properly opted in to your email list. However inevitably, someone is going to want to opt-out. When the time has come for them to say goodbye and unsubscribe–make it easy for them.

Best Practice: One-click Unsubscribe

As a self-confessed travel addict, I’m always on the lookout for a killer travel deal and one of my favorite weekly email digests is Travelzoo’s “Top 20” email list. Aside from showing sweet discounts from all over the web, the subscription management options in the footer of their emails are on point:

A clear, concise explanation of why I’m receiving this email as well as the email management options are easily found in the email footer.

Clicking on the unsubscribe link takes me here:


From here I have a few options:

  1. Update the location to ensure the deals are customized to my zip code, likely a top reason people unsubscribe.
  2. Reduce subscriptions to simply receive one email/week (with one click).
  3. Most importantly–a one-click option to unsubscribe completely.

As a sender, you have to acknowledge and accept that your recipients probably receive a LOT of email, so providing options to reduce email frequency is great. What I love about this specific page is that while there are options, you don’t have to hunt or scroll to find the “complete unsubscribe” option.

A general rule for unsubscribe links: require less than 2 clicks for a complete unsubscribe and please, please, PLEASE—do not require anyone to log in to update their email preferences. If someone has to rack their brain to remember a password, their next stop is to probably return to the inbox and mark that email as SPAM.


Best Practice: Keep it Simple

Lastly, when you’re explaining email newsletters to your recipients, speak in their language, not yours.

Case and point: I recently received an email from Thirty-One, a brand focused on customized bags where products are only sold through consultant events (think Tupperware or Pampered Chef parties). I attended a friend’s gathering back in June 2013, didn’t sign up for emails, but yet I received an email from them a few weeks ago (sidebar: whoever cued up this send should not have included such an old email address).

I scrolled down to the bottom of the email and clicked the “Unsubscribe” link:


In this case, the destination URLs for “Email Preferences” and “Unsubscribe” are actually the same; clicking on the unsubscribe link took me here:


Popped in my email address and then was told an email would be sent my way:

I assume this is for security, to ensure I have access to the email for which I’m requesting. Sure enough, the email arrives momentarily:


As an optimization, I would recommend that this link be included in the footer of the original email rather than have someone click, enter email, click, check email, click again. Anyhow, I’m finally here—it is time for me to unsubscribe from all email. But wait a tick—there are a lot of words at the top of this page:

This is a lot of explanation for an email newsletter. As someone who has been involved in email marketing for years,  I understand the difference between transactional and marketing emails, but this level of detail could cause confusion to most recipients.

What’s more interesting is when I scroll down the page, I’m not actually subscribed to any email:

With that confusing process, I clicked the “Remove me I no longer with to receive any emails” link and went on my way.

Keep in mind, I’m fairly savvy with email and it took 6 steps for me to unsubscribe to an errant email. I checked my archives and I’ve never received an email from Thirty-One before. This email address must have been collected over three years ago and was never emailed before. A best practice is to email your recipients semi-frequently so they know to expect email messages from you, and to scrub your email list of people who aren’t engaged.

This is a prime example of how not to handle your email list:

  • Do not use a stale email list
  • Do not make it difficult for your recipients to unsubscribe
  • Do not make it complicated for recipients to understand what their email options are.

We know you’re sad to lose them as a subscriber but the best thing you can do now is to kindly show them the door. Learn more about best practices for managing your unsubscribes. 

Honoring unsubscribes along with making it easy for people to opt-out of your emails is just one of the Top 4 rules of sender engagement. To find out about the remaining 3 rules and additional deliverability tips, tune in for a webinar with yours truly and Luke Martinez of SendGrid on November 30th.  Click here to register.  If you can’t attend, don’t worry, we’ll be sending out a link to the recording.

Expert advice and insight about all things email including best practices tips, examples, and advice for marketers, developers, and everyone in between.