Having reviewed many, many thousands of email campaigns sent through Campaign Monitor and MailBuild, we’ve noticed that a lot of designers like to try and hide the unsubscribe link away, to make it like a little game of ‘find the link’ for their subscribers.

We’ve always encouraged people to do the opposite, make it easier for people who don’t want your emails to unsubscribe than it is to hit the ‘spam’ button and cause you trouble.

The always helpful Mark Brownlow agrees with us in his post “Time to move the unsubscribe link? recently.

If it’s there in the preview pane, then more people are likely to use it instead of reporting you as spam. Less spam reports means a better sender reputation and less chance of ending up on a blacklist

The best way to find out of course is to measure it – does having the link at the top actually lead to a significant increase in unsubscribes? A reduction in spam complaints? If more people do unsubscribe, does that leave you with a more responsive and passionate subscriber base?

Email marketing has plenty of room for testing and experimentation, and another great post on Email Marketing Reports links to information about the big impact small changes can have.

We’ve posted before about working with your subject lines, and you can also experiment with positioning your ‘key action’ links, use of images in your newsletter and the ‘introductory’ text above your headers.

There’s no end to the possible layouts, all it needs is some creativity and a willingness to make small changes. We’d love to hear about any changes you have found useful, so leave us a comment.

  • Vincent

    For my new website, I plan on doing a few things to avoid spam and encourage unsubscribe instead:
    – first, I will require people to register to the website BEFORE subscribing. I know I’ll lose some subscribers but I believe I’ll get a higher quality list. I’d rather have fewer subscribers that are really interested in what I do instead of a longer list that will cost me more and that will not lead to sales anyway.
    It will therefore be a 2 step opt-in only done online. First you register to the website then you’re redirected to the newsletter suscribe. No email confirmation link though since that would be redundant. I’ll also add a message stating why this is done this way and ask another time if they’re sure to signup -> e.g. encouraging them to avoid signing up if they’re not that interested in the newsletter.

    2/ On each newsletter I’m going to send, I’ll put the unsubscribe link on the top with another message like (this is just an example): “We don’t want to be considered as a spammer. Please click here to unsubscribe, do not use your junk folder.”
    The message will be very easy to see, in bright colors and the first thing they will see.

    Vincent

  • Brian

    Try telling a client that the unsubscribe link doesn’t have to be 4pt type at the bottom in light gray. Just you try it. :D

  • Mathew Patterson

    Oh we’ve tried it alright Brian – the Freshview office has in aggregate a lot of web design with clients experience!

    That’s why we spend a lot of time trying to give you guys the ammunition you need to convince your clients.

  • Jason Head

    At the University of Pittsburgh, I changed our email designs a few month ago and moved the “Unsubscribe Immediately” link as the first line in our emails.

    Since moving it, we’ve seen our number of “Mark as Spam” complaints drop significantly. Previous to adding this to the top of the emails I design, I was suspecting that most people were hitting the “Spam” because it was immediate to them.

    So far, I believe it’s been working well, and we’ve *integrated* it into our design in a way that is non-obtrusive to our designers and useful enough for the end user to find easily.

  • Dave Greiner

    That’s great to hear Jason, I’ve seen a number of studies that confirm the same thing. Unsubscribes don’t actually go up, but spam complaints go down significantly.

  • Matt Winger

    One suggestion I would make to placing the unsubscribe link prominently at the top of the email, would be to also place it in the ‘usual’ spot at the bottom of the email as well.

    As a system administrator I have more subsriptions to industry e-mail newletters than I know what to do with. And although I rarely actually do unsubscribe from the ones I receive, when I do I invariably look for the link at the bottom of the page, and expect to find it displayed much the same way that Brian described above (i.e. 4pt arial – with the worst possible contrast to the background behind it).

    Finding the unsub link at the bottom as well as the top, would (at least in my case) be appreciated and would help further reinforce the idea that the organization in question was commited to being “anti-spam”.

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