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Unsubscribe link: Why it’s critical for your email marketing campaigns

Learn why the unsubscribe link is crucial for email marketers, how it empowers your strategy, and also keeps you on the right side of compliancy regulations.

Hermes gives a letter to a Goddess



We’ve spoken many times about building a contact list as one of the main steps in your email marketing strategy. We have also often repeated how important it is for you to have a clean list. In fact, you’re probably a bit tired of hearing all about it by now. We get it. But what we haven't covered until now is how important your unsubscribe link is.

Some marketers hate them, but unsubscribe links can really help your email deliverability - especially if you're sending emails to Gmail and Yahoo users. Want to learn how? Read on!

Email unsubscribe: A friend, not a foe

An unsubscribe link is a link within your email campaign, often placed in the email footer, that allows readers to cancel their subscription when they no longer wish to receive your emails. As we mentioned, unsubscribe links are important to protect your email deliverability and are also required by many spam laws around the world.

It’s always painful to see people unsubscribing from your contact list, but it's more beneficial than you may think. We know it may seem counterproductive to show subscribers the door, but if you’re providing your contacts with quality content, most of them won’t even look at that unsubscribe button.

Sometimes, though, even the most engaging content might not be the right fit for some of your subscribers. And if this happens and your contacts can’t find your unsubscribe link they may just mark you as spam. You don’t wantthat, and we don’t want that for you.

Contact lists: Is more always better?

Contact lists are something we - as marketers - cherish very much. Our businesses often depend crucially on the communications we send out to our subscribers. So, we never want to lose contacts. But when it comes to a contact list, more isn't always better.

Although it’s difficult, you always need to keep in mind that subscribers who don’t engage with your content are not valuable to you. What you want instead is to have a list of contacts that actually open and read your emails, and hopefully that click on and share some of the content too. We recently explained what these email statistics mean for you and how you can improve them to enhance engagement.

“We’re unsubscribing you” email from Sidekick.

The Sidekick (now Hubspot Sales) content team kept its email list clean in a very effective way, notifying subscribers so that they could stay on the list, if they wished; otherwise they would be unsubscribed. This is an example of very good practice.

One way to ensure that your list is clean and that people actually want to receive your communications is to allow them to unsubscribe from your email list. There is absolutely no reason to force someone to stay on your contact list if they don’t want to hear from you. It won’t benefit your business in any way, in fact, it might end up costing you.

But this is probably not enough to convince you… You want to know more, right? Until now you probably thought many contacts = big contact list = good. Well, we're sorry to be the ones to tell you, but quantity doesn’t equal quality.

Benefits of including an email unsubscribe link

It’s not merely about having a clean list. Including an unsubscribe link in your emails has many other benefits.

Avoid customer frustration

We’ve all been there. Giving our consent to receive newsletters from a brand we are not particularly interested in.

Hmm...annoying. Especially when your inbox is full of promotional emails that - let’s be frank - you don’t care about.

Why would you put anybody else through this? You know yourself how frustrating it is. Especially if you open a newsletter hoping to find an unsubscribe link…but it’s not there! It’s important to be understanding of people’s needs and preferences and allow them to opt out of your email list, if they wish to do so.

In fact, this improves the whole email marketing experience. As email marketers, we should know that, unlike other social channels, the inbox is for content you specifically want to see.

Funny opt out confirmation email from Groupon

Groupon gives unsubscribing from their Daily Groupon list a fun twist.

Get valuable feedback

If you're sending a confirmation email to let your readers know they are no longer part of your mailing list, you can use this opportunity to gain more information about why they are unsubscribing (and maybe suggest an alternative newsletter of yours they could find more interesting!).

This feedback can be really helpful, as you might learn why people don't find your newsletter’s content valuable anymore or whether they think your email communications are sent out too often, all of which can inform how you adjust your strategy to best meet your audience's needs.

Opt out confirmation email promoting other newsletters

Beta List asks its subscribers to take a few minutes to give some feedback on their email communications, so that they can understand how to do a better job.

End up in the inbox, not in spam

There is no other way to say it - fundamentally, including an unsubscribe link in your emails gives you more chances to end up in the inbox rather than in the spam folder. This is because if people don’t want to receive your newsletters and they find no unsubscribe link when they look for it, they will probably flag your email as spam.

You should know by now how detrimental it’s for your reputation to have emails that end up in the spam folder. Your spam complaints should always be kept to a minimum. At Sinch Mailjet, the acceptable threshold of spam is less than or equal to 0.08%. If your spam rate is higher than the threshold your account can be suspended or, in some cases, even terminated.

“Allowing your recipients to easily unsubscribe is not only good manners, it's also a good deliverability practice to follow. It will help reduce your overall spam rates, improve your reputation, and ensure that you're sending emails to an active audience going forwards, which will strengthen your inbox rate. Deliverability is all about aligning yourself with your recipients' expectations, and allowing them to unsubscribe is just one simple way to do just that.”

Alexandre Zibrik, Compliance and Deliverability Engineer, Sinch Mailjet

But that's not it: One-click unsubscribe links will also be a non-negotiable for bulk senders targeting Gmail and Yahoo senders starting 2024. So if you're sending email to Gmail and Yahoo addresses - and we bet you are - there's just no escaping the unsubscribe link.

Comply with anti-spam legislation

Every country has their own law on the inclusion of an unsubscribe link, as this is mandatory step in protecting people’s data. Since it came into effect in May 2018, GDPR has set the standards and has become a must-follow for any brand with contacts in the EU. Non-compliance with GDPR puts you at risk fines up to €20 million or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is greater.

According to article 17 of GDPR, ‘Right to erasure’ or ‘Right to be forgotten’, data subjects have the right to request their data to be erased. Data controllers have the obligation of deleting such data when it’s no longer necessary for the purposes for which it was collected, or the data subjects withdraw consent for it to be collected and used.

Example consent message for newsletters

This applies to email marketing campaigns too. If a contact requests to unsubscribe from a list, they are exercising their rights as data subjects. Your duty as the data controller is to delete such data. With GDPR, consent cannot be something that you obtain once and that’s it. The European regulation allows people to choose for themselves and to protect their personal data at any given time, should they change their mind.

If you’d like to read up more on anti-spam legislation and privacy regulations specific to your region, you can find more information below:

  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the most important restrictive regulation, applicable to all citizens in the European Union.

  • CAN-SPAM Act, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States.

  • Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), which regulates commercial email and mandates explicit consent from recipients before sending.

  • Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PERC) in the UK, which requires explicit consent for sending marketing emails, with exceptions for existing customers.

  • Australian Spam Act, which regulates commercial email use in Australia.

  • The Lei Geral de Proteção de Dados (LGPD), the Brazilian equivalent of the EU’s GDPR, which aims to regulate people’s private data within Brazil.

What are the new Google and Yahoo unsubscribe link requirements? 

On October 3, 2023, both Google and Yahoo announced they will enforce changes that will promote industry best practices and improve the overall email experience for subscribers. These new requirements will affect bulk senders – those sending over 5000+ to Gmail addresses in one day. Amongst those changes is the necessary inclusion of a one-click unsubscribe option.

This has long been considered one of the best ways to avoid subscribers marking your email as spam. Bear in mind that every time that happens, your sender reputation takes a significant hit.

Now, seeing as most email senders will be attempting to reach Gmail and Yahoo inboxes, this likely affects you. So, what can you do to ensure you comply with these new mandates?

What­ you’­ll need­

How to get ther­e

What­ you’­ll need­

Sa­me for Gmai­l and Yaho­o: A sing­­le-click path­­way for user­­s to easi­­ly unsu­­bscribe from­­ your­­ mess­­ages from­­ with­­in the mail­­box prov­­ider’s UI usin­­g list­­-unsubscribe head­­ers, and inte­­rnal supp­­ort to hono­­r unsu­­bscribe requ­­ests and remo­­ve addr­­esses from­­ rele­­vant emai­­l list­­s with­­in 2 days­­.

Send­­ers will­­ need­­ to put list­­-unsubscribe post­­ head­­ers into­­ the head­­er of thei­­r emai­­l as spec­­ified by RFC­­ 8058­­.

URGENT: We can’t stress enough how important it is that you update your email sending policy to include a one-click unsubscribe link. Failure to do so could seriously tarnish your sender reputation and lead to further deliverability problems down the line. 

How can Mailjet help?

Our Acceptable Use Policy is very clear when it comes to unsubscribe links, to ensure our clients are protected and we can offer the best deliverability. At Mailjet, "all marketing campaigns must include a clear and concise link for recipients to easily opt out of receiving future communication. The link must be easy for anyone to recognize, read, and understand."

As a GDPR-compliant solution, we ensure our clients are on the right side of the law by including an unsubscribe link in all of the emails created with our drag-and-drop editor. While this link cannot be removed, it can be customized to fit one’s brand.

Mailjet’s unsubscribe link in email footer

All of our subscribers are free to unsubscribe from our email list at any time.

Want to know more about email best practices? Check out our Email Growth Playbook, a database of 60+ tactics to help you increase the performance of your email campaigns.

Wrapping up

We hope that by now you understand how important including an unsubscribe link is for your email marketing practices. Always remember that consent, unlike diamonds, is not forever.

If you want to learn more about how to keep your contact list clean to maintain strong email deliverability, check out our post on email list cleaning tips!


Create and send your email campaigns with Mailjet

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This is an updated version of the post “Unsubscribe link: Why you need it in your marketing campaigns” written by Bea Redondo and published on the Mailjet blog in September 2022.

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