Unsubscribing is the process by which recipients voluntarily remove themselves from your email list. When a person decides they no longer want to hear from you, it’s your job as a sender to make sure the removal process is swift and easy.

The CAN-SPAM ACT of 2003 specifically addresses the issue of unsubscribe. Because of the nature of transactional email, especially relative to that of marketing email, it is exempt to the guidelines of the CAN-SPAM Act.  Specifically when sending transactional emails, a company is not required to include a physical postal address or include an email unsubscribe link. Despite that exemption, we believe it is important, regardless of the type of email send, to comply with the basics.

Focus on ensuring that the recipient doesn’t have to jump through hoops to get off your list. Best practice is to provide a “one-click” unsubscribe function that simply requires your user to input their email address (if not already pre-populated) and hit the unsubscribe button. Even though this law has been in effect for over 10 years, there are still some companies that are not in compliance. Are you?

Take a look at the two emails below that show how not providing an easy unsubscribe not only breaks the law, but also creates a poor customer experience.

Example #1: Weekly Job Listing Newsletter

To get this weekly email, a career counselor must sign you up. Unfortunately, it also requires that a career counselor remove you as well. Why add an additional step and additional friction with your users? If you really want to know why a subscriber is leaving your list, give them an option to provide feedback when they unsubscribe, but don’t force a conversation on them. Learn more about best practices for unsubscribe messaging. 


Example #2: Association Announcement Mailing List

The New York chapter of this Internet association sort of got it right by providing recipients a way to unsubscribe, but look at where that link takes you. It may not be obvious, but in order to unsubscribe you have to log in first. This is another big “no-no.” Recipients should be able to click the unsubscribe button located in the second section without taking any extra steps. Whether by design or by error, it is the sender’s job to ensure their unsubscribe functionality works and complies with the law.

We understand that your goal is to acquire new users, and unsubscribes are not a pleasant metric, but attrition happens. You should expect it and plan for it. Analyze your attrition rates and make plans to counter it, whether it be by acquiring replacement users or by trying to reduce the number of unsubscribes over a given period.

Also, consider the alternative. There is nothing worse than trying unsuccessfully to unsubscribe from email and continuing to receive messages.  Users will become upset and report your email as spam, which will eventually cause your emails to end up in the spam folder, or worse, on a blacklist. A clear unsubscribe button or link, and honoring the unsubscribe faster than the 10 day requirement, can be your best bet in earning respect from your users and getting delivered.

For more tips to get you to the inbox, download our guide, Tips and Tricks to Stay Out of the Spam Folder.

Carly Brantz
With more than 15 years of experience, Carly Brantz is an email deliverability and inbound marketing veteran. As the VP of Revenue Marketing at SendGrid, Carly empowers her team to transform marketing from a cost center to a revenue generator. With a key focus on funnel optimization, Carly leads the team responsible for content creation, lead nurturing, SEO/SEM, and website optimization. An accomplished speaker, Carly shares her email delivery and revenue marketing tactics as a headline speaker on SendGrid’s international roadshow as well as other Marketing conferences.