Resources Hub » Blog » The Top 7 Unsubscribe Best Practices for Email Marketers

We’ve all gone through some sort of breakup. Whether it’s a romantic relationship or a job, it’s not always easy to say goodbye. But what if you’re trying to dump a company that won’t leave you alone?

Have you ever tried to cancel cable or get your number off a solicitor’s phone list? This can be a frustrating experience for a customer. But it doesn’t have to be when it comes to email marketing.

The best brands understand that customers come and go and while it might seem counterintuitive, making it easy for people to say goodbye is good for your business. These companies make it easy for customers to unsubscribe from emails or be removed from contact lists.

And you can easily do the same thing.

Not convinced that letting people go is good for business? Keep reading and we’ll convince you.

Email unsubscribes aren’t necessarily a bad thing

On the surface, you might think unsubscribes are negative. After all, this obviously means they don’t find any value in your email messages, right?

Well, that’s not necessarily true.

Customers unsubscribe from emails for a variety of reasons. You could be sending too many messages or have an unknown issue with formatting. On the other hand, some of your readers may have inadvertently signed up to receive your emails and are no longer interested.

Regardless of the reason, it’s actually better for your email marketing if these people aren’t on your email subscriber list.

The majority of people who unsubscribe from your list are likely unengaged contacts anyway. This means they’re probably dragging down your email performance because they aren’t opening or clicking on your messages. If these people voluntarily opt out from receiving your emails, it should give your key email metrics a boost.

That doesn’t mean you want a mass exodus of customers from your contact lists. If your email unsubscribe rate is hovering around 2% for an average email, then you’re in good shape. However, don’t be alarmed if that rate is higher for new contacts or lists. New subscribers may change their minds after subscribing.

Follow these unsubscribe best practices

Taking care of customers is important, even when they unsubscribe from your email list. They may opt out of your email list, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be your customer. If you treat them poorly during the unsubscribe process, you might lose them forever.

Here are seven unsubscribe best practices you should follow to make the process seamless for your customers, all while building your sending reputation.

1. Make unsubscribing easy

Your emails should already include an option to allow customers to unsubscribe. Not only is it a basic part of unsubscribe best practices, but it’s required by law under the CAN-SPAM Act.

Most brands will include their unsubscribe information in the footer of the email. But if you want to make the process clear and easy for your customers, you should also include a link in the email header. Gmail will automatically put an unsubscribe option in the header of your emails, so you might as well add it into your email header anyway.

This will prove your brand’s authenticity, showing customers you care.

This email from TeeChip includes a small and simple unsubscribe option in the email header.

Image Source: TeeChip

This email from TeeChip includes a small and simple unsubscribe option in the email header. And bonus points go to this company for their footer. This section includes information on why and how the customer ended up on the email list.

2. Offer to update their email preferences

There’s a chance your contacts don’t want to cut off communication with you completely. Some customers want emails infrequently, or they only want emails about certain topics.

In addition to an unsubscribe option, you should include a link to an email preference page directly inside your messages. Here, your customers can select the frequency at which they’ll receive emails, as well as topics they want to read about. For instance, your customer might not want to receive marketing messages, but maybe they’re still interested in company news.

In this instance, your subscriber could outline that preference using an email preference page.

This page can also provide an opportunity to unsubscribe. Your email preferences and unsubscribe links should remain live. Don’t build pages that will expire a few days after the email is sent.

3. Ask contacts why they unsubscribed

Unsubscribes can contribute to quality list health, but don’t be afraid to ask subscribers why they chose to stop receiving emails. Just keep your question short and sweet. A single multiple-choice question is a perfect example.

If you’re going to use this tactic, follow unsubscribe email best practices, making the survey question optional. Collecting this data is valuable because you can improve your marketing efforts based on the trends you see.

4. Give them other ways to stay in touch

An unsubscribe doesn’t mean a customer never wants to hear from you again. They just don’t want to receive your emails currently.

You should subtly provide other alternatives for them to stay in contact with your brand, like adding links to your social channels on the unsubscribe landing page.

Consider providing social links on your landing page as well as links to your latest blog entry. This is a great way to encourage contacts to stay engaged, even while they opt out of your email marketing.

5. Pre-populate the email address field

You already know your customers’ email addresses, so there’s no reason to request it again during an unsubscribe. Additionally, don’t force users to log into your website just to unsubscribe from your list.

Because if you make the process too difficult, your users won’t decide to stay on your list. Instead, they become far more likely to mark your campaign as spam, sinking your deliverability and causing problems for other email campaigns.

Make sure you’re using a smart form, which will automatically populate the email address. Then, all your customer has to do is click the confirm button.

6. Use a single opt out

Double opt-in is a great way to improve your list quality when gaining new subscribers. However, it’s more of a hassle for those who are unsubscribing.

When a contact indicates they want to stop receiving emails, don’t respond by sending them yet another message asking them to confirm.

Your best unsubscribe best practice here is to include a confirmation page as a part of your process.

7. Send a re-engagement email to inactive contacts

Some customers may never unsubscribe. They might be happy just to delete or never open your emails.

Consider sending your inactive contacts a re-engagement email drip campaign. This will encourage them to update their email preferences or unsubscribe, ultimately improving your campaign metrics.

One great way to re-activate your customers is to offer them an incentive.

This email from Jack Wills lets customers know they’re missed, simply by offering a discount on their next purchase. But the email also offers a large unsubscribe option as a secondary CTA.

Image Source: Really Good Emails

This email from Jack Wills lets customers know they’re missed simply by offering a discount on their next purchase. But the email also offers a large unsubscribe option as a secondary CTA.

You don’t even need to use a re-engagement campaign to clean your list. You can unsubscribe inactive users on the backend.

Take a look at this brilliant unsubscribe email from Sidekick, which nudges subscribers to make a choice:

Take a look at this brilliant unsubscribe email from Sidekick, which forces subscribers to make a choice:

Image Source: Contently

It explains the cold subscriber process in layman’s terms, and this email lets people know they’re being removed from the email list. Rather than giving the customer a CTA to unsubscribe, the email CTA here is to remain on the list.

This tactic is smart because uninterested subscribers don’t have to do anything. But readers who do take action are more likely to be engaged in the future.

Wrap up

You shouldn’t be afraid of unsubscribes. Some amount of list churn is natural, after all. In many cases, unsubscribes will improve your email marketing performance. But always remember to follow these unsubscribe best practices:

  • Make unsubscribing easy
  • Create updatable email preferences
  • Provide an optional one-question survey for why someone unsubscribed
  • Create new ways to keep in touch
  • Prepopulate the email field
  • Choose a single-opt out format
  • Release unengaged contacts with an unsubscribe email

It’s important to give your customers the option to opt out of emails if they’re no longer interested. You can make this process easy for your customers by including clear links in your emails to unsubscribe, as well as simple steps on a landing page to remove their email addresses from your list.

If you continue to offer incredible customer service even when a contact is leaving, they’ll be more likely to return when they need your product in the future.


Unsubscribes aren’t the only performance indicators you should be paying attention to when determining the success of your email marketing campaigns. Learn more about the most common metrics you need to know about when measuring the performance of your emails.

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This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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