If you love your subscribers, let them leave: The upside of not hiding the unsubscribe button


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Breaking up is hard to do not just between romantic partners, but also between email senders and their subscribers. After all, you put a lot of effort into wooing every email address in your marketing funnel. But when push comes to shove, your subscribers need to have the final say in whether they maintain their love connection to your mailing list or let the spark die.

While unsubscribes may hurt your heart, the good news is they don’t damage your mailing reputation. Contrary to popular belief, it is clicks on the SPAM button, not the unsubscribe button, that count against you. And that’s exactly what subscribers do when they can’t easily opt-out of your mailing list.

Fortunately for us, the Internet Wizards figured out a way to let subscribers easily walk away without causing a scene, aka creating a spam complaint. It’s called the List-Unsubscribe X-Header and most major email service providers (ESPs) give you the ability to automatically add it to all of your email campaigns.

Since it was created in 1998, the List-Unsubscribe X-Header has streamlined the process internet service providers (ISPs) use to unsubscribe a recipient from a mailing list via three mechanisms: the 1-click RFC 8095 method, the URL method or the Mailto method.

As you can see from the chart, the most popular ESPs all support the Mailto method – making it one of the most popular List-Unsubscribe X-Header.

Embedding the List-Unsubscribe X-Header in all your email campaigns is the recommended best practice to keep your mailing lists full of folks likely to swipe right on your content and remove those that will swipe left. This all contributes to improving your sender reputation and improves the user experience for your subscribers.

Now that you know the details behind the List-Unsubscribe technology, here are a few reasons why you should make implementing this in your email marketing messages a top priority:

1. Improve email deliverability. Implementing the List-Unsubscribe X-Header reduces spam complaints from uninterested subscribers who can’t otherwise easily walk away from your subscription list. Anyone who takes the time to unsubscribe is highly unlikely to respond to future messages, so you would not want to keep them anyway.

2. Boost engagement rates. Keeping inactive subscribers lowers your engagement rates and dilutes your campaign metrics, which can lead to higher spam folder placement and lower inbox rates. By setting these inactive subscribers free, you will allow your engagement and other metrics to soar.

3. Identify what email tactics are short. Paying close attention to your unsubscribe rates can also help you spot problems with individual messages or even an entire campaign. A higher unsubscribe rate for a particular campaign might point out issues with segmentation or even formatting issues for a certain email client.

Bottom line: If you love your subscribers, you will give them an easy out from your mailing list when they’re just not that into you anymore. Yes rejection hurts, but it’s the best for your delivery rates and ultimately, the ROI of your email marketing campaigns.


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