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Published on April 2nd, 2009 | by Janine Popick

11

The Wrong Way to Handle Unsubscribes

I got an email the other day from what appeared to be a non-profit organization requesting donations for their cause. Normally this would be fine, however I never signed up to receive their information, I’ve never heard of them and don’t know how they got my email address. On top of this there were no instructions nor mechanism to unsubscribe. They’re also asking for me to send them a check which enables them to care for people and their animals. Noble cause? Perhaps so, but not the right way to go about marketing. Icing on the cake? The email was written as if the dog pictured in the email wrote it.

Safe Harbor Foundation Email

So I did what anyone would normally do in this case, reply to the sender with the word “unsubscribe” in the subject with the hopes that I won’t get a bounce back with a reason like: “no one here with that email address.”

Miraculously I got what appeared to be an auto-generated email in my inbox. Shocked and awed, I opened it and to my dismay it was a request asking me to take another action to unsubscribe! Did I mistype that very word when I requested it in the first place? I don’t think so.

Unsubscribe Confirmation
Finally the next day I got the confirmation of the confirmation of the request to unsubscribe. Phew!

Removal Confirmation

Here is how you should present an easy way to unsubscribe:

  • Unsubscribes should be one click and web-based if possible. Most Email Service Providers provide this as part of the package.
  • There should be a working reply-to so that if someone wanted to put the words “unsubscribe” or “remove in the subject line it will be automatically taken care of.
  • There should be clear instructions for how they can unsubscribe.
  • Your recipients should not have to input their email address into a field in order to unsubscribe, you already have their email address you should know who they are.

I know we all hate it when our recipients unsubscribe, but it doesn’t mean they won’t continue to do business with you in the future. It puts you on the side of being a good marketer and it protects your brand in the long run.

© 2009 – 2012, Janine Popick. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

is a contributing author for VerticalResponse.



11 Responses to The Wrong Way to Handle Unsubscribes

  1. Anthony G says:

    unsubscribe should be web based, as rightly pointed out, with the email id, encoded int he unsubscribe link, if the same emailid appears in multiple lists, then the radio button method of selecting the lists to unsubscribe from should be followed.
    Opt-out should be as easy as opt in after all!

  2. Mae says:

    Fortunately for me, I’ve clicked on the unsubscribed link a few times now on different occasions and i did not receive future emails from them.

  3. Steve says:

    I hate to harp but the worst thing you can do is try to unsubscribe from an unsolicited news letter or email. Most scammers and spammers only use the “unsubscribe” button to harvest good emails. When you hit the unsubscribe button they know your email address is valid. Best thing to do? Report ALL unsolicited emails as spam!! Yeah, I know, little Fluffy is cute and all and needs a home there is a little girl somewhere in a wheel chair or hospital that needs prayers but do not pass on those emails and do not respond in any way. Hit the spam button on them!

  4. Carol says:

    Actually, Webby, even VerticalResponse auto unsubs when it receives a Reply with “Unsubscribe” in the subject line. That methodology dates way back to Usenet and early listservs. They weren’t manual either: when the list received a message with “unsubscribe” in the subject line, the program was instructed to automatically remove the address from the list database.
    Of course, I had momentarily forgotten that historical tidbit when I wrote the subject line for my first issue: “Is it Safe to Unsubscribe?” I thought I had found a great line to entice my list recipients to open the message. (The leadoff article discussed the pros and cons of clicking on such a link in a newsletter, and ended with something about “It’s safe for you to unsubscribe to this newsletter – but we hope you find the content valuable and look forward to our subsequent issues.”)
    I had at least 5 recipients who Replied to the newsletter, saying how much they enjoyed it – and were immediately unsubscribed because of my subject line!! Nothing like being way too clever for myself. LOL.

  5. Karen says:

    I’ve actually been subscribed to a list for almost three years that I’ve been trying for almost as long to get off of. I’ve probably sent 10 emails to the individual requesting that they delete my email address from any and all lists and all I’ve gotten back from them are replies saying they can’t find my email address, though I’m still getting emails.
    This particular organization has lost ANY chance they ever had of my doing business with them – now and in the future. Not having an effective unsubscribe function (regardless of the size of your business) is inexcusable.
    Thanks for this post!

  6. John Guillory says:

    Add to that, I shouldn’t have to unsubscribe to anything I never “Subscribed To”, nor should I have to subscribe to any mailing list just to try out a shareware version of your program. Two great ways to guarantee to loose my business for good!

  7. DearWebby says:

    I know you mean well, but the word “unsubscribe” in the subject is totally meaningless except for tiny, manually operated lists.
    Proper lists have an unsubscribe link at the bottom. That link has the name of the list and the subscribed address built in.
    For example, I send out five different daily newsletters. Which one do you want to unsubscribe from?
    In addition to that, a lot of people use different addresses to subscribe to different things, so that they know instantly who abuses their privacy. You might be subscribed with promo27@yourdomain.com, an address that forwards to response@yourdomain.com.
    If you send an email with UNSUBSCRIBE in the subject line from response@yourdomain.com, it won’t get anything accomplished.
    Clicking the unsub line at the bottom of a LEGITIMATE newsletter will get your address purged instantly. Anything else just wastes time.
    Have FUN!
    DearWebby

  8. Molly says:

    What do you do, when you have someone who had their email sent to their phone. Then, they hit unsubscribe from their phone? I have no record of the email address from the phone in my system. Only the original email address. I can’t reach them to get the original email address to remove them.

  9. Aimee says:

    While you are on the subject of unsubscribes – I have had several customers unsubscribe from my email list, only to tell me later that they did not mean to, and they want to receive emails from me. How can I get those customers back on my list?

  10. Zuzanna says:

    Good post!I’d to share with my my experience. I receive a newsletter every couple of weeks where at the bottom of it there is a link to ‘Unsubscribe’. Lovely!-you would think. But you go there, type your e-mail, click ‘Remove me from the list’, receive confirmation and … nothing happens! I’ve tried few times to unsubscribe but no luck, I even e-mailed them but never received a reply. Now, when I see their newsletter it goes straight to the junk.

  11. Abby says:

    Very informative blog; thanks for sharing.

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