Resources Hub » Knowledge base » Is It Illegal to Not Have an Unsubscribe Link?

Even though it’s a vital key performance indicator (KPI) that should be carefully monitored, most marketing teams would rather not focus too much attention on their unsubscribe rate. Concentrating your attention on gaining new followers sounds far more appealing, but having an unsubscribe link and knowing your unsubscribe rate is essential.

Concentrating your attention on gaining new followers sounds far more appealing, but having an unsubscribe link and knowing your unsubscribe rate is essential.

Before jumping into the crucial details of knowing what your unsubscribe rate is and how to figure it out, many marketers want to know whether or not having an unsubscribe link in their email campaigns is necessary. The goal of your campaigns isn’t to lose subscribers, so why should you make it easy for them?

Are there specific laws telling marketers they need to have a link in their email campaigns for the sole purpose of unsubscribing?

What is the law regarding having unsubscribe links?

While we cannot give legal advice, we can provide you with further information regarding the laws of digital and email marketing.

Digital life doesn’t happen within just one country’s borders, so when it comes to deciding whether or not it’s a law to have an unsubscribe link, there may be several laws or opinions to consider. One such law is the US’s CAN-SPAM legislation. This law, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, states clearly that you must include a clearly obvious way for subscribers to opt out of your commercial messages:

Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.

Similarly, Canada’s CASL indicates that a sender of commercial electronic messages must “specify an electronic address, or link to a page on the World Wide Web that can be accessed through a web browser, to which the indication may be sent.” While this is not the whole of CASL’s requirements for providing the ability to unsubscribe, it shows a common thought that the unsubscribe mechanism should be integrated into your communication with your subscribers and not hidden.

Most recently, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) addressed consent directly in Article 7, and had this to say regarding an individual’s right to withdraw consent:

It shall be as easy to withdraw as to give consent.

While they take different approaches, these laws ultimately seek fairness for individuals in how they give and withdraw their consent.

Should I have an unsubscribe link in my email campaign?

The laws cited above, and many others around the world, clearly support the right of subscribers to withdraw consent and indicate that senders should have an active role in providing for this right.

Many organizations provide an unsubscribe option at the end of an email, or they offer an option to go to a preference center that allows subscribers to alter their subscription choices. Most email service providers make these linking options available in their email builder.

This is a very fine line to walk, so consider these suggestions to help you comply with this law:

Source: Really Good Emails

This example by Codeverse does an excellent job of providing options to their readers. They not only offer an unsubscribe link, but a link to change their email subscription preferences so they don’t have to completely opt out of the emails altogether.

How to measure your unsubscribe rate

Knowing your unsubscribe rate is only half the battle, and while marketing tools these days take a lot of the work out of the process, it’s always a good idea to know how to do the math for yourself.

Calculating your email unsubscribe rate for a given campaign is relatively simple. Start with the total number of unsubscribes that a campaign received, then take that number and divide it by the total number of emails that were delivered. Take the total and multiply it by 100 to provide the actual percentage.

Unsubscribe rate = (Total # of Unsubscribes / Total # of delivered emails) x 100


  1. 5 unsubscribes / 100 delivered emails = 0.05
  2. 0.05 x 100 = 5
  3. Unsubscribe rate = 5%

Does knowing your unsubscribe rate really matter?

Knowing your unsubscribe rate can tell you a lot about your email marketing efforts. It helps you keep a pulse on your email cadence (are you emailing subscribers too often?) and whether or not your email content is relevant (is this campaign interesting to subscribers?).

If you notice a specific email campaign is yielding more unsubscribes than usual, see what you can learn from the content to improve your other campaigns.

What now?

Now that you understand a bit more about the laws regarding unsubscribe links and have a basic understanding of unsubscribe rates, make sure you take a look at what an ideal unsubscribe rate is for email marketing so that you can optimize your campaigns for better results.

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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