Just recently, I was purging all of my “unwanted” email  subscriptions. We’re talking hundreds of mailing lists that I was no  longer interested in or just plain never wanted in the first place.
It was actually quite an enlightening experience to look at the  processes from a “customer” or “prospect” standpoint rather than that of  the marketer, or online business owner! And it became quite clear WHY  people just get angry and report marketers as spammers!
In this article, we’re going to focus on some of the Do’s and Don’ts  regarding your unsubscribe process. And how to stay out of hot water  when a real live email administrator finds your emails and tries to make  a decision as to whether or not to let you keep on mailing or not!
Some practices or errors to avoid at all costs in list management are as follows:

  • NEVER allow an unsubscribe URL to point to a missing or deleted web page! If  you frequently change your website, always keep a record of the  previous names of those pages, and set up HTTP redirectors to bring  misdirected subscribers to the new correct pages.
  • NEVER allow another piece of mail to get to an unsubscribed user. Your  database deletes do not necessarily have to be in real-time (though it  is preferred, and a lot easier to manage that way) but all mail  campaigns should begin with ensuring that recently unsubscribed users  are excluded.
  • DO NOT program the unsubscribe URL to redirect to another one of your sites to process the removal.  This gives the illusion of foul play, and astute users may skip the  removal process and instead simply report the communication.
  • DO NOT create a removal page that prompts a user to re-enter his/her email address. You already know what this address is because you just sent it an  email! Your mail campaign software should be smart enough to build the  subscriber’s ID into the unsubscribe link so that the user does not have  to enter anything extra.
  • NEVER send any text on a removal page describing a time frame for removal (eg. “Allow 3-4 days for processing”, “May take 4-6 weeks”). Whether  your process is real-time or otherwise, always indicate that  ex-subscribers will get NO MORE communications, and that you are sorry  to see them go… And remove them right away!
  • NEVER attempt to obscure or draw out the unsubscribe process in the hopes that the user may find it too much trouble, and  reconsider. A good (bad!) example of this would be a lengthy and  confusing list of publications requiring that the user clear the check  box next to each.
  • Don’t Make the User Go Through Excessive Confirmation Screens!

You see all sorts of convoluted unsubscribe processes out there. In  marketing, it’s the equivalent of “upsell hell” when you’re trying to  make a purchase. All it’s going to do is make people mad and encourage  them to report you as a spammer. There’s no win in that no matter how  you look at it!
Now, on the flip side, here are some Unsubscribe Tips that may help  you not only stay in the good graces of the Email Administrators and  keep a customer – or get a new one!

  • Include a 1-Click Unsubscribe Link In All Email Correspondence. At  the end of every email, you should have a link that the person can  click on in order to immediately unsubscribe him/her from your list. And  make it simple and obvious! Don’t make them click through to another  page to enter their email address again and so on and so forth.
  • Honor All Unsubscribe Requests Immediately. Unfortunately,  you will have people that don’t click the link and send emails back  requesting removal from your list. (Admittedly, some of these can be  quite rude). And while it may be tempting to send them back through the  process or to reply with instructions to click the link, simply remove  them instead.
  • Utilize Your Unsubscribe Page As A Tool. If you put  a custom page up for your unsubscribe, which we certainly would  recommend, be sure it’s a working page.If you have a continuity program,  you may want to make sure they don’t think they are unsubscribing from  the continuity program by putting something to the effect of “You have  successfully been removed from our email database. If you’re requesting  to cancel your subscription to our ACME monthly service, please click  here to complete. Your paid subscription will NOT be canceled until you  complete the cancelation process”.This will reduce your chargebacks and  complaints ten-fold.

You may also use this custom webpage to give them one final offer,  recommend something else via an affiliate link, try to get them to  subscribe to a different list, etc. This is a great way to monetize your  competitors’ marketing efforts!
You have absolutely nothing to lose at this point because this is  your last chance to communicate with this customer, so make the  communication mean something to your bottom line!