Brands work hard to create email marketing lists, so they want to reduce the number of opt-outs. However, persistent misconceptions about opting out are driving some brands to put wrong tactics in place. In their efforts to reduce opt-outs, some brands end up further disrupting the list or hurting its deliverability, or both.
Here are seven questions you or your boss might ask about opting out that are at the heart of creating prudent practices that protect your listing and your reputation.
1. If I make my unsubscribe link very prominent, do I encourage people to unsubscribe?
Visual unsubscribe links generally have the opposite effect. Having an easy to find unsubscribe link gives people more confidence to stay subscribed, because they know you’ll make it easier for them to opt out later if they want to. You are essentially acknowledging that the subscriber is in control, which gives him the ability to confidently move forward in his relationship with you.
Fortunately, this common email marketing mistake is easy to fix. Just separate your unsubscribe link from any administrative text blocks in the footer, use a font size of at least 14pt and look in bold, make sure the link uses the keyword ‘unsubscribe’.
Brands are most concerned about making the opt-out link too prominent when it involves placing a second opt-out link in the visible part of the title or title. However, this can be an especially valuable tactic for welcome, re-share, and re-authorization emails, which all arrive at times when subscribers are most likely to opt out. Opt-out is the opt-out method you want your subscribers to use, as I explain a little later.
2. Do unsubscribes hurt my e-mail’s ability to be delivered?
No. Although opt-outs reduce the size of your list, your sender reputation is not affected by it. This contrasts with the other three ways subscribers can opt out:
- Clicking the Spam Complaint button. This immediately prevents the subscriber from receiving future emails from you, in addition to potentially damaging the sender’s reputation. When a brand’s spam complaint rate goes above 0.1%, they may start to experience shivering or blocking.
- Ignore your emails. When a subscriber doesn’t open or click on any of your emails for a long time, not sharing it can damage the sender’s reputation with mailbox providers like Gmail who require positive engagement as well as no negative engagement (eg spam complaints). This disengagement can also be a sign that your subscriber has abandoned their email account, which increases the risk as mailbox providers turn some of them into recycled spam traps. Sending an email even a few spam traps can seriously damage the reputation of the sender. For both of these reasons, it is wise to block emails sent to inactive people in the long run.
- Disable their email address. In the world of Hide My Email and other temporary and relay email addresses, subscribers can also opt out by deactivating their address. Doing so makes any email sent to him difficult, and all reputable email service providers cancel all bounced addresses immediately. When a brand’s strong bounce rate exceeds 2% on a monthly basis, you may start to experience delivery issues.
When you compare unsubscribe to other opt-out methods, this is clearly the path you want subscribers to choose when they no longer want your emails.
Related Article: 7 Factors That Determine Email Deliverability
3. What about the original unsubscribe links?
The sender’s reputation is also not damaged when the subscriber chooses not to opt-out using the original opt-out links provided by Gmail, Yahoo, and other mailbox providers. These links are usually placed next to your sender’s name when reading an email, and these links are powered by the unsubscribe function in the list that all reputable email service providers enable. An opt-out initiated through one of these links works the same as an opt-out that is processed through your opt-out page.
For people who may not trust the unsubscribe link in your email, the original unsubscribe links provide a convenient alternative for the sender to flag the email as spam. However, these links provided by the mailbox circumvent your opt-out page, which means that you miss the opportunity to provide these subscribers with alternatives to opt-out. Therefore, the better your opt-out page or preference center is at retaining subscribers, the more you will want subscribers to be able to easily find and use your opt-out link.
4. How can I keep more subscribers when visiting my unsubscribe page?
In addition to briefly reminding them of what they will lose by opting out, persuading subscribers to stay is all about providing alternatives. If you don’t provide anything, little will stop them from opting out.
For example, if you offer a one-click opt-out, you will lose 100% of the people who click the ‘unsubscribe’ button. But even providing a “stay subscribed” option on your opt-out page can keep some subscribers.
However, to retain a large number of potential non-subscribers, you will need to provide options that address the reasons why they clicked unsubscribe in the first place. The two most common reasons are always frequency objections (“I receive too many emails from you”) and content objections (“your emails are not relevant to me”). The best way to address these concerns is to provide your call frequency preferences and content preferences.
For example, regarding your calling frequency preferences, if you typically send four emails per week, providing an option to receive only one email per week can be very effective in keeping an unhappy subscriber. In terms of content preferences, can you provide content options by type of business, product category, topic, location, or other factors? Even just a few broad strokes content options can make your emails considerably more relevant to the subscriber.
Related Article: B2B Marketers: Make Your Email Newsletter A Thing
5. How about offering a “snooze” option?
The option to pause emails started as a way to prevent subscribers who finished shopping during the holidays from opting out due to too much holiday email. It was then introduced empathetically as a way, for example, to allow subscribers who had lost their mothers to opt out of their Mother’s Day emails. Jenin Payne, senior director of agency services at Oracle Marketing Consulting, said the use of naps continues to grow.
“We have tested the snooze option with a number of our customers and can typically reduce the number of opt-outs by 82%,” she said. “This level of success has led some of our customers who have applied it only for the holiday season to decide to make it a year-round option on their opt-out page or in their preference center.”
If you decide to add this option, a one-month deferment is fairly standard for brands with high email frequency. Low-frequency programs generally offer a two- or three-month nap.
6. How many clicks should it take to unsubscribe?
As I mentioned earlier, doing the one-click opt-out process doesn’t make sense for the majority of brands. But it also makes no sense to require subscribers to click more than twice to unsubscribe. In my book, Email Marketing Rules, I call this the ‘two-click opt-out rule’.
One-click request in the email and one-click on the opt-out page strikes the right balance between providing an efficient opt-out process and offering options to address potential subscriber dissatisfaction – while understandably exercising those choices that require additional clicks. But every click over two clicks to unsubscribe makes the rugged efficiency of the one-click spam reporting button seem more attractive.
7. What should I pay attention to when testing my opt-out process?
I hope I’ve given you some ideas on the changes you’d like to test. If your updates are an improvement, you should see a file
- Reduction in spam complaint rates. A healthy opt-out renewal should encourage more subscribers to opt out instead.
- Increase retention rates. If you update your unsubscribe page or preference center, look for an increase in the percentage of subscribers who click on the unsubscribe link and then do something other than unsubscribe. Also consider looking at the average subscriber time to the list, which you want to see increase.
Keep in mind that opting out does not usually mean the end of your relationship with your client or potential client. It’s just a bump in the road. And you want that bump to be as small as possible so that they make a positive brand impression in their interaction with you on social media, on your website, on your physical sites, and anywhere else you interact.
In fact, for anyone unsubscribing, you should use your unsubscribe confirmation page to try to get them to subscribe to other channels like social media or SMS so that you keep the line of communication open. However, they will not consider doing this if you have made the unsubscribe process difficult or embarrassing or if you do not appreciate the interest they have already given you by being a subscriber thus far. In other words, you’re spoiling more than an email relationship by ending it on a bad note. You spoil the customer relationship. Design your opt-out process to avoid doing this.
Chad S. White is the author of Email Marketing Rules and Head of Research at Oracle Marketing Consulting, a full-service global digital marketing agency within Oracle.