Email Unsubscribe Best Practices Every Marketer Should Follow

May 21, 2022
Written by
Jillian Smith
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own
Reviewed by
Ayanna Julien
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

Email Unsubscribe Best Practices Every Marketer Should Follow

The email unsubscribe experience is a crucial interaction between the sender and the recipient. If there’s any friction or confusion while a recipient tries to unsubscribe, this could mean trouble for your sender reputation and email delivery rates.

Not to worry. This post will describe how to streamline the unsubscribe process and provide some campaign ideas for recipients you fear might unsubscribe soon. 

What do unsubscribes mean for your email program?

No email marketer likes to see recipients unsubscribe from their list. But the reality is that not every recipient will be interested in your emails, and losing these recipients isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s better to lose a few uninterested recipients than to have them ignore your emails or mark them as spam, which would ultimately affect your engagement metrics and deliverability. 

Average unsubscribe rates vary by industry, but in general, you want to aim for a rate of 1% or lower. If you see your unsubscribe rate climbing above 1%, it’s a good indicator that you need to evaluate your analytics and content to see what could be driving unsubscribes. 

A high unsubscribe rate could indicate the content isn’t relevant to subscribers or you’re not following email marketing best practices. It could also mean that subscribers have email fatigue, so you may want to reconsider your email frequency.  

Learn more in How to Remedy a High Email Unsubscribe Rate

Email unsubscribe best practices

First and foremost, it’s essential to have a clear unsubscribe process in place. Why? Because if a recipient doesn’t know how to opt out of your email messages, they may mark your emails as spam. And that can hurt your deliverability and result in all your emails going into the spam folder (even for those recipients who open and engage all the time!). 

Follow these tips to make unsubscribing painless for recipients. 

1. Understand your local regulations 

Many countries have regulations in place to protect consumers from unwanted commercial emails. In the United States, the Federal Trade Commission enforces the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act. This law sets rules for commercial emails, including giving recipients the right to have you stop emailing them. 

One of the CAN-SPAM requirements states that you should “Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you,” and your emails must have “a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future.” Additionally, the rules state that the opt-out mechanism should work for 30 days after you send the message, and you must honor the opt-out request within 10 days. Violation of the CAN-SPAM Act rules is subject to monetary penalties.  

Below, we offer some tips on how to make your unsubscribe options clear and easy to find, but this isn’t a substitute for legal advice. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the relevant laws in your country and any country where you send emails to ensure you comply. 

2. Make it easy to unsubscribe

The easier your unsubscribe process is, the better for both parties. That means, don’t hide the Unsubscribe button or link, and double-check that the link works before you send the email. Whether you add these buttons or links in the footer or bottom of the email, keep them clear and recognizable. 

Many senders also include an unsubscribe link at the top of the email, right next to the sender’s address, so recipients don’t have to scroll to the bottom to find it. (Learn how to do this using List-Unsubscribe on Twilio SendGrid.)

example of unsubscribe link next to sender's address

Additional tips to make the unsubscribe easy include:
  • Don’t force recipients to log in first. They should be able to unsubscribe without accessing your site.
  • Make it as simple as one click. The more the recipient has to click around, the more irritated they’ll feel. If you autopopulate their email address, all they have to do is select Unsubscribe
  • Don’t wait. Unsubscribe your recipient immediately after they request it. 
  • Avoid sending email confirmations that finalize the unsubscribe. You don’t want to frustrate your recipient by sending them yet another email. Instead, create a confirmation page that pops up after they’ve clicked Unsubscribe
You've Been Unsubscribed

3. Provide alternatives to the unsubscribe

Each recipient engages differently with your email content, so if you provide choices in email frequency and content in a preference center, you’ll likely retain some recipients who would otherwise unsubscribe.

Offer recipients alternatives such as: 
  • Opting “down” to receive fewer emails 
  • Updating their email address to a new one
  • Following you on social media platforms
Finding the right content to send to your email list isn’t easy, but if you keep testing and iterating on these techniques, you’ll likely improve your engagement metrics.

4. Ask recipients why they’re unsubscribing 

Losing a subscriber doesn’t feel great, but it’s a good opportunity to learn why some recipients leave your email list and get valuable insight into your email program. You can do this with a simple multiple choice survey, with options such as: 
  • I receive too many emails from you.
  • I receive too many emails in general.
  • I find your emails aren’t relevant to me. 
  • I never signed up for this email list. 
The answers can help you improve your email campaigns, but don’t let the survey make the unsubscribe process more complicated. If you choose to use a survey, make it optional so that users can still unsubscribe with the click of a button if they prefer. 

5. Consider a reengagement campaign

Once somebody unsubscribes from your email list, you have a legal obligation to remove them. But a reengagement campaign is a good way to reach unengaged recipients before they hit the Unsubscribe button.

If you’re keeping a close eye on your email metrics and notice a segment of your list not opening your emails, develop a reengagement campaign. Send this segment an email where you candidly ask if they would like to stay on the email list and offer the option to update their preferences. And if they don’t open the email, it’s time to part ways.

Track your email campaign metrics with Twilio SendGrid

Your unsubscribe rate is just one of the metrics you should keep an eye on to understand how your emails perform. Check out The Complete Email Metrics Guide (With Formulas) for an exhaustive list of metrics you can track. But don’t let the list overwhelm you. With Twilio SendGrid’s Deliverability and Messaging Insights, you can find all the data you need to understand your customers in an easy-to-follow dashboard. 

Sign up to try Twilio SendGrid for free and see for yourself how these dashboards can help your email program. And while you’re at it, check out a free demo of Twilio Segment to learn how to harness customer data to improve communications across every channel. 

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