Email Marketing Email Unsubscribes

Published on August 23rd, 2013 | by Janine Popick


9 Things to Never Do with an Email Unsubscribe

As the CEO of VerticalResponse, it might seem strange for me to write about how companies should handle email unsubscribes, but I had to do it.

You see, I make my email address very prominent on my company’s website and as a result, unscrupulous businesses scrape it, load it into their email lists and spam the heck outta me.

It’s the process that some businesses require for people to unsubscribe that ticks me off because, as an email service provider, my company tries to make it as seamless as possible when someone wants to unsubscribe from our lists or one of our customers’ lists. Others, however? Not so much.

To stay in the good books with your subscribers, avoid these nine don’ts I’ve honed over the last 12 years in the email marketing biz:

  1. Don’t provide an opt-out email address that doesn’t work.
  2. Don’t tell me my “request” for an unsubscribe has been received and will be processed. Just do it.
  3. Don’t ignore my unsubscribe request. 1) It’s against the law and 2) it’s not good for your brand.
  4. Don’t make me fill out my email address on a form. You sent me an email; you should already know it.
  5. Don’t ask me if I’m sure. Automatically unsubscribe me.
  6. Don’t redirect me to your website’s home page to shop; redirect me to a “you’ve been unsubscribed” confirmation page.
  7. Don’t send me an email telling me you’ve unsubscribed me. Hello, I just unsubscribed from your email! Don’t send more of it.
  8. Don’t obscure the “click here to unsubscribe” link or have it in four-point-sized font.
  9. After I click unsubscribe, don’t send me to a page that has a box checked to subscribe me. Then when I check the button to take me off of all lists, you make me then check another box to unsubscribe me. #fail

There you have it; nine simple rules to make your unsubscribe process a good customer experience for everyone involved. Want to know how to keep your subscribers engaged in the first place? Check out this post I did recently for Inc. and kick unsubscribes to the curb.

Have you had to jump through hoops to unsubscribe from an email list? Share your experience in the comments (and companies, listen up!).

This article by VerticalResponse CEO and founder Janine Popick originally appeared on

© 2013, Janine Popick. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

is a contributing author for VerticalResponse.

17 Responses to 9 Things to Never Do with an Email Unsubscribe

  1. Cody says:

    I can’t believe you forgot this one: NEVER make me sign in!

  2. Tashie Zaheer says:

    A while back I had subscribed to “next door Westmont( my neighborhood at that time). I have since moved from the neighborhood and have tried over thirty times to “unsubscribe” and every day I receive an email from them.
    Is there any way, I can get rid of them?
    No one ever responds to my request.

  3. +aPenny says:

    How about if you want to see something from an ad; they ask for your email address before u can see the description or the price. Would that be a tell tale sign thats a site you should deal with.

  4. Rguywilson says:

    I know so little about computers that i love helpful advice.Thanks

  5. Peggy K says:

    What infuriates me is that when you attempt to unsubscribe they ask you to type in the code to verify. IT NEVER works! I type it exactly, then change from caps to lower case and back, space, and it repeatedly says it is incorrect. NEVER has it worked. Grrrrr

  6. JCP says:

    Why do I find myself back on email lists I’ve unsubscribed from months before? I feel like I go through cycles of unsubscribing from the same companies over and over again, without having visited their pages or having made a purchase.
    Bluefly is the worst with the spam. Several emails a day, and when you unsubscribe they not only ask you to fill in your email address, they say “that it may take 5-10 business days before these changes are reflected in your email preferences”. Terrible for their reputation, I’ll shop with anyone else BUT them.

  7. Colleen Corkery says:

    Hi Gigi,

    That can be a frustrating process! A double opt out is most likely verifying your email address to ensure you do indeed want to unsubscribe. I don’t believe they’re adding you to another list, however, just make sure the email is coming from a valid email service provider.

  8. Gigi says:

    When I choose an unsubscribe button and it flips me to a box “please enter your email address in order to unsubscribe” do I have to enter the address to to subscribe? Ticks me off and I don’t enter an address since I very well know they already have my address and most likely entering it again will just get me onto another list!! Am I correct?

  9. Michele says:

    Actually, I disagree with #5. PLEASE ask me if I’m sure. With tablets & such, it’s too easy to hit a wrong link. In vertical response in particular, we followed up with some unsubscribers (starting with a few we knew personally) and found that a significant percentage hadn’t intended to unsubscribe at all (they took the time to email back and say “I didn’t mean too – please add me back). A two-step process, as long as it’s not onerous (ie a simple “please click to confirm”) should prevent those kinds of problems.

  10. Email Monks says:

    Nice article Janine. Most marketers fall a prey to these deadliest sins. For a better business-subscriber relationship, email marketers need to step into the subscriber’s shoe. An unsubscribe process should really be simple without any further interrogation. A short feedback or exit survey might though be helpful to take the call for improvement and mitigate unsubscribes. This can be handled creatively though.

  11. Hi5 has an unsubscribe link that takes you to a page where the only thing you can do is sign up for their service—and pay for it. I had to shut down my browser to get out of it. I went to my ISP and had them permanently blocked.

  12. Jennifer says:

    I’m wondering, does my vertical response account automatically delete email addresses from those people who unsubscribe to our newsletter? I always assumed that it did, but maybe I’m supposed to be ensuring that extra step is taken…
    Thanks for your guidance. And I agree wholeheartedly with this article.

  13. Felicity says:

    Love this list! Wish more people abided by this rule my top two biggest bothers are definitely 2,4 and 7. It will be the quickest way to turn me off the brand. Another good one that is more towards preferences, but I HATE the companies that allow you to select which kind of emails I would like to receive from them, then send me ones I didn’t select any way. I’m talking to you GAP: stop sending me Baby Gap sales!

  14. Jo Guerra says:

    I love this. First the tone sounds like I like to write. Just get to the point. I have to share. Oh and I’ve been using the social part of Vertical Response and it is great.

  15. Wow, Janine, what a great list! Although simple, most companies abuse these simple principles. I have had so many personal issues with trying to unsubscribe, and it completely deters me from even going to the brand’s website again. I sincerely believe the easier it is to unsubscribe, the more of a chance the brand has at keeping that customer.

  16. L says:

    Just yesterday I had to call a customer service rep at VISTA print because I got tired of all the hoops they wanted me to jump through to unsubscribe. The other ones that really perturb me are the ones that make you login to change your preferences. Another one: “Are you sure you want to unsubscribe?” One click to unsubscribe should be it. Confirmation is ok.

  17. Abby WH says:

    Great list. I’m actually not that bothered by scenario #7. This gives me written documentation that my email address has been removed from their list, as opposed to a temporary window that may not include my address. There is one particular list that I have clicked unsubscribe repeatedly and I am still receiving daily mails over 10 days later. My next step is to write an email to customer service to give them another chance to remove my address. I’m curious what my next steps would be re: can spam act if I’m not removed.

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