How to Remedy a High Email Unsubscribe Rate

September 27, 2019
Written by
Koryn DelPrince
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

How to Remedy a High Email Unsubscribe Rate

Before we get into the weeds, I want to make one thing clear. Don’t take unsubscribes personally. As senders, we spend a lot of time editing and perfecting our messaging. And when recipients unsubscribe, it’s easy to feel rejected.

However, the unsubscriber is actually doing you a favor by saying goodbye. Sending email to recipients who are interested in reading your messages is cost-effective. After all, sending to an unengaged audience hurts your sending reputation. 

There's even some upside this situation. The unsubscriber didn’t mark your email as spam or junk, which is helpful to your overall deliverability. All in all, you should think of unsubscribes are a good thing! Unless you’re getting too many…

How many unsubscribes is too many? 

Senders should aim for less than a 1% unsubscribe rate.
If you’re sending relevant content to recipients who want your emails (recipients who have engaged in the past 30 days), this shouldn’t be too difficult.

If you’re getting higher than a 1% unsubscribe rate, read on...

What to do if you’re getting too many unsubscribes? 

First off, don’t panic. Many senders can relate and there is always a story to be told. While we don’t have a magic ball to tell you why you’re getting too many unsubscribes, here are some questions to ask yourself as you investigate:  If a particular campaign has caused a spike in unsubscribes, your content might not be resonating with your audience. Think about your recipients and segment them based on characteristics like location, gender, age, purchase habits, etc. Also, make sure your emails look as intended. Our Email Testing tool can help you preview your email in every inbox, check for image or formatting issues, and ensure you have no broken links. We’ve also designed free responsive email templates to make sure your emails are mobile and desktop friendly. 

How often are you sending? 

Oftentimes people unsubscribe from email lists because they are getting emails too frequently. If you’re sending recipients messages daily, consider cutting it down to a bi-weekly, weekly, or even monthly cadence to see if your unsubscribe rate decreases. Or, consider adding a time-based preference center to your emails, so your audience can tell you how often they want your communications.

What time of day are you sending? 

You might be landing in the inboxes of grumpy, pre-coffee recipients! Consider segmenting your audience based on location and sending during waking hours. A/B test various times of day until you find your sweet spot. 

Hint: With SendGrid Marketing Campaigns, you can schedule your sends so you’re not waking up in the wee hours of the night to click send. 

Did the recipients agree to receive your emails?

It’s important that you aren’t sending emails without recipient consent. At Twilio SendGrid, if someone opts in to our monthly newsletter, The Scoop, we have them double-confirm their email address before adding them to our list. You can create your own Signup Form here that enables recipients to sign up for your list organically. 

Note: It’s against Twilio SendGrid policy to purchase an email list. Here’s why.

Did you promise one thing, but deliver something different? 

Perhaps you didn’t set clear expectations on what the recipient was signing up for. For example, your recipients may have opted-in to receive monthly thought-leadership content, but you’re sending them weekly product promotions. Make sure you are holding true to your word when a recipient opts in. If you happen to switch gears, let your audience know and give them the option to unsubscribe. 

Does your content look spammy? 

Sometimes you can accidentally include spammy elements into your email without even knowing it. Be sure to avoid ALL CAPS, multiple punctuations!!!, urgent phrases like “purchase now” or “click here,” and excessive images or linksall proven to increase the likelihood of unsubscribes. 

Is your content interesting?

The inbox has transactional, marketing, and personal messages in every corner.  You’re constantly competing with other businesses to grab the attention of your recipients. Make sure your message is concise, compelling, and relevant. Offer a mix of promotional and thought-leadership content to keep your audience engaged. 

Need some inspiration? Check out some of our favorite emails here.  

Unsubscribe Scenarios

Let’s dive into a couple of unsubscribe scenarios to get you thinking about ways to improve your own program:  

Scenario 1: Newsletter Cadence 

You send out a monthly newsletter that gets high engagement and is a major lever for selling the products on your website. Your team decides they want to bump that newsletter up to twice a month. You start sending at a higher cadence and you notice a large number of unsubscribes...what happened? 

In this scenario, you failed to set proper expectations. Recipients thought they were signing up for monthly announcements, but then started receiving them twice a month.
Being open and honest with your recipients will pay off in the long-run. 
Be sure to inform recipients of the change first and give them the option to opt-out entirely or select their preferred cadence for your emails moving forward.

Scenario 2: Promotional Emails 

When recipients fill out a form on your website subscribing to your emails, you let them know they will receive thought-leadership emails with advice and quotes every week. You then decide that you want to email all your recipients a new promotion that your team is running. After sending the email, you notice a 4% unsubscribe rate...what happened? 

In this scenario, you promised one thing, but delivered something different. If users sign up for non-promotional emails and get promotional content, they are likely to unsubscribe. Not only was it important to update the form on your website to mention promotional emails, but you also should have informed existing recipients of the change and given them an opportunity to opt-out. Be sure to only send promotional emails to recipients who have opted-in. 


Don’t get down on yourself for email unsubscribes. They ensure you are sending to recipients who actually want your messages. But if you do notice an unsubscribe rate over 1%, remain calm. 

Start by creating an action plan to investigate the issue. You can look at your email stats to determine if your unsubscribes are coming from a particular campaign. If you made false promises to your recipients, make sure you address the mistake head-on. Being honest with your audience opens doors to a trustworthy relationship. 

To avoid high unsubscribe rates in the future:
  • Segment your audience and cater your messaging to each segment 
  • Keep your messages concise
  • Drive home the action you want your recipients to take 
  • Set expectations in your sign-up form
And just remember...You've got this! With this article and so many other resources at your disposal, you'll be turning that high unsubscribe rate around in no time. For tactics on how you can create a more engaged audience, read our article, Top Email Marketing Engagement Strategies.

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