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Understanding the Importance of Unsubscribes in Email Marketing

Travis Balinas
May 28, 2014

Understanding the Importance of Unsubscribes in Email MarketingAs far as email marketing metrics go, email unsubscribes are more important than you might think. With all the efforts email marketers put forth to overcome barriers to landing an email in someone’s inbox and, more importantly, getting them to open that email, the last thing you want is someone to unsubscribe. and unlike other metrics, the unsubscribe rate is a number you want to keep low. Make sure you are measuring it; it’s critical to analyze unsubscribes from every email campaign.

What Are Email Unsubscribes?

Email unsubscribes are the number of people who request to stop receiving your emails. With a small business, your email unsubscribes likely will be relatively low by nature due largely in part to the personal relationship you have with the recipients. But with a larger email list, you might not know all of those people on a personal basis, thus potentially giving you a higher unsubscribe rate.

Why Do People Unsubscribe from Emails?

People will unsubscribe for any number of reasons, but most are largely due to issues from the sender. Congested inboxes, uninteresting content and poor formatting are among the top reasons why people unsubscribe from emails.

When putting together a future email campaign, it’s always good to analyze your past unsubscribes in order to help you avoid more in the future. Depending on the size of your email list, seeing a few unsubscribes every so often is fine. But if one email campaign has more unsubscribes than others, it’s best to try to figure out why.

What did you do differently that time compared to other campaigns? Did you change the send date? Was the content too provocative or too boring? Did the people who unsubscribed come from an email list you bought or have they been long-time readers? These are all good questions to ask and should be part of your review process.

The Option to Unsubscribe Is Required by Law

Unsubscribes are interesting because by law, “a visible, operable unsubscribe mechanism” must be present in all emails. Meaning that in every email you send, it has to include a working link to easily allow someone to unsubscribe.

At OutboundEngine, our approach is to make it very easy for people to unsubscribe. Why? Because if someone can’t figure out how to unsubscribe, they’ll report you as spam instead, which will have a much more negative impact on you.

How Can I Avoid Email Unsubscribes?

If you’re sending valuable content at an acceptable frequency, rest assured you’ll keep your recipients happy and your unsubscribe rates low. Our customers see a less than 0.3% unsubscribe rate and an even lower spam report rate.

At the end of the day, you can have awesome email newsletters, full of engaging and entertaining content, successfully land that email in someone’s inbox and get them to open it, too. But if someone, for whatever reason, simply doesn’t want to get your emails anymore, it’s always in your best interest to make it easy for them to unsubscribe.


For good email marketers, unsubscribe rates typically stay pretty low. But even low unsubscribe rates are ones that you should track and study. Learning from and adapting to past mistakes can help keep your email marketing campaigns running smoothly. And remember, legally you have to provide a way for someone to unsubscribe, which ultimately is a much better option than being reported as a spammer.

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