Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Good and Bad Unsubscribe Techniques

By: Ajay Goel
Founder, Chairman

When I first founded JangoMail, I would subscribe to as many newsletters as I possibly could, in order to check out the "Powered by ..." tagline at the bottom of emails to gauge which companies are using which email marketing services.  It helped me keep an eye on the competition.  Recently, however, I wished to clean up my Inbox and decided to unsubscribe from all of the newsletters that I had originally subscribed to for data collection purposes, but never ended up reading.  I was infuriated at how difficult most email marketing services' unsubscribe processes are and simultaneously proud of JangoMail's own unsubscribe feature, which is simple, intuitive, and customizable.

I found that if an unsubscribe mechanism is too difficult to use, I'm more likely to click my email tool's "report spam" button, which is an easy way to ensure I don't receive that sender's email anymore, but makes me feel guilty for punishing the sender.

A good unsubscribe mechanism:

  1. Focuses on convenience for the user, not on convenience for the sender.
  2. Should require two clicks at the most. One click within the body of the email message, and optionally one click on the web page to confirm that the first click wasn't a mistake or a bot.
  3. Should be instant on the sender's side. An unsubscribe mechanism shouldn't require "2-3 business days for processing".
  4. Should not require you to log in to a website.
  5. Should not email you "one final email" to confirm your unsubscribe. An unsubscribe means you don't want any more email from that organization.

Let's jump right in and look at examples of bad unsubscribe mechanisms:

Constant Contact--"Instant Removal" is anything but instant

To unsubscribe from an email sent by Constant Contact, you must ENTER IN YOUR FULL EMAIL ADDRESS.  This places the burden of the work on the subscriber, not the sender.  Therefore whenever I wish to unsubscribe from a newsletter sent via Constant Contact, I click "report spam" to save myself the work of navigating a difficult unsubscribe process.  As a veteran and proponent of the email marketing industry, I'm loathe to recommend to anyone to use the "report spam" mechanism in favor of the "unsubscribe" mechanism, since the "report spam" button will punish the sender and reduce their deliverability.  In cases where the unsubscribe process is as infuriating as Constant Contact's, however, I'd fully support clicking "report spam" to save the subscriber time. What's even more incredulous is how Constant Contact names its unsubscribe mechanism "Instant Removal with SafeUnsubscribe".  There is nothing "instant" about their unsubscribe mechanism.

eHarmony--requires a login

I haven't been a paid member of eHarmony for years, but I still receive their emails. Asking me to log in to unsubscribe is inconvenient and time consuming.  As a consumer, I'm more likely to report the email as spam instead of taking the time to figure out how to log in, which would require resetting my password since I can't remember what my credentials are, and then, unsubscribing myself.

iContact--insults your intelligence

The Unsubscribe link is prominent and clickable.  The resulting web page tricks the user though, by having the "Continue to send me email" selected by default.  Why would any legitimate email marketing service set that as the default option after a user has just clicked the "Unsubscribe" link?  The "Never email me again" option should instead be pre-selected so that the user need only click the Update button to complete the unsubscribe process.


In this example, there is no direct unsubscribe link.  Instead the email message provides an "Edit your Email Preferences" link. The resulting web page requires you to enter your email address, and then in what can only be an attempt at a Jedi mind-trick, the bigger more prominent button is the one to NOT UNSUBSCRIBE.  This button is useless, since it would be expected that the user would simply close his browser if he wishes to keep the status quo.

Early on in my career, I had a Yellow-pages ad saleswoman meet me in my office to sell me an advertisement space in the book.  At the end of our meeting, I thanked her for her time, but told her I wasn't interested in buying an advertisement space.  She then whipped out a contract and asked me to sign a statement indicating that I was declining to buy a Yellow-pages ad.  I was mortified.  Can you imagine a world where we have to sign a contract for everything we DO NOT want, versus everything we do want?  Don't make your unsubscribe mechanism remind me of my experience with the Yellow-pages saleswoman.

Zoniac--living in the 90s

Zoniac is an email marketing tool specifically for the IT staffing industry.  They impose a 24-48 hour window on when the unsubscribe will take place.  Imposing a two day time period on making an unsubscribe happen is akin to having a user go to a website and being told that they must wait two days before the homepage loads.  In today's modern world of real-time database transactions and 24-hour connected servers, there is no excuse for an unsubscribe process to take more than a few milliseconds to take effect.

In Conclusion...

Make your unsubscribe link easy to use in order to avoid being reported as spam. A good unsubscribe mechanism is good for email deliverability, and high email deliverability is tantamount to a successful email campaign.  JangoMail's unsubscribe mechanism is a direct link, and each client can customize whether the link within the email instantly unsubscribes the user, or whether the resulting web page asks for a second, confirmation link.  No 24 hour delays, no entering your email address, no logging in, and no "one final email" after the user has unsubscribed.  This is just one way JangoMail delights your subscribers and optimizes your deliverability.