Make it easy for me to leave you – unsubscribing

Like Rowan, I’ve been unsubscribing from a lot of list emails recently. Let’s see what we can learn from the process.

The Good

The best email subscriptions are easy to unsubscribe from – requiring a simple click from inside the email, which bounces to a web page with a confirmation message.

This is exemplary – at the bottom of each WSJ news alerts message is a one click “stop this now” link. (There is also another link where you can go to the website and manage all of your emails)

Next best is a return email to unsubscribe – something like this from the OECD.

Less good but still ok-ish are email lists that give you a unsubscribe link, direct you to a page and make you hit a confirm button on that page, sometimes answering a question while you are there. This is painful, but I guess you can spend a few more seconds to help them understand why you are leaving, and you don’t have to remember a login or password.

I had to laugh at this “why did you unsubscribe” pick-list from a sporadic email list that I signed up for some client research.
This drop down list actually made me feel a lot better about the particular organisation, even though I never read their spam. I’m guessing that the information they gather isn’t really  that valuable, but it is clear that the list owners understand the state of mind of people that have resorted to unsubscribing.

This is an important lesson – by the time you want to unsubscribe you are annoyed with the cumulative impact of all the messages, and therefore you don’t really like the senders. You are not happy, and want out.

It also means that email senders don’t want the customers anymore either. The recipients  are not reading, and if they are reading then they are not enjoying – so advertisers will get negative vibes.

Therefore it is important to do three things as an email sender:

  1. Make it really easy to unsubscribe, so messages will never annoy customers again
  2. Try, even, to make customers enjoy the process – so the last taste is a good one, and they will consider signing up again later or for something else now.
  3. Ask for feedback – so you learn and customers feel they have their say. Do make it optional though.

The Bad

The bad unsubscribe links aren’t what they advertise – they send you to the website, make you do something and then send a (one or more) “are you sure?” email, which is doubly annoying as you’ve just told them never to send me messages again.

The worst offenders are links that direct you back to the originating go to their site, require you login and then ‘manage your email options’.

This is simply unacceptable today. I’ll often be on a computer (e.g. the iPhone) where I don’t have my password for that site stored, or maybe I’m simply too lazy to go through the process so I won’t unsubscribe.

While some ’email marketers’ may want to keep expanding their email lists, I say “NO – you do not want me on your list”, and here’s why:

  1. The cumulative annoyance directed at your company will continue to build up until I am mad when ever I see your contemptable unstoppable spam
  2. I will desperately try to consign your crap to oblivion in my junk mailbox, and thereby never see any of your messages again. Your email list is vapour.
  3. I’ll get really mad and tell people about it, and maybe even blog about it…

So let’s name and shame, and I’ll direct this to a company that actually does know better: Trade Me, and specifically OldFriends.

The Old Friends emails have been getting spammier* and spammier, and I am getting really annoyed*, angry even at the spambot* that keeps sending them* – so I want to remove them.

*refer to above three points for linguistic context

However to remove myself from the OldFriends spambot requires a login:

OldFriends is not a site made for constant hanging out – so chances are that the login screen will draw a blank when it comes time to remember your details:

Of course we know the email address – it was just spammed – and so we can ask for yet another email to send you your password. Umm – no thanks – that is going to take too long.  (and I won’t mention the giant page-long “do you know these people” brick wall after you log in)

It’s the same with FindSomeone**

so I’ll keep getting spam from Findsomeone as well.

**(are you single, cute, smart, ridiculously weathly and have low standards? – get in touch :)

Trade Me can do it right though, as you’d expect.

Here’s how easy it is to unsubscribe from Mod’s Motors. First – click on the unsubscribe link in the email:

and that’s it – done.

Trade Me also make it trivial to sign up again for the email – which I quickly did.***

***I hope I never have to do this for real – Mod is leaving Trade Me but I trust that the appeal of 250,000 righteous readers will keep his classic quotes coming:

The thrill of fettling a neglected beast and turning it into a minter is special. Some people try to do this with the opposite sex and get disappointed when they fail.


So what have we learned?

  1. Make it easy to unsubscribe
  2. Make it easy to subscribe
  3. Make it fun

To me the best unsubscribe approach is:

  • a link that unsubscribes me instantly
  • lands me on a professional, branded and fun page
  • that thanks me, tells me I’m now unsubscribed and offers me an optional one to three question survey to fill out.

Which is just common sense.

Published by Lance Wiggs


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