The wrong way to let subscribers opt-out from your email list

September 19, 2012 · 23 comments

This got me going… and I had to share.

I follow a friend of mine on Twitter named Scott Stratten. You can follow him on Twitter at @unmarketing or on his website at

If you don’t know Scott, he tweets about social media and marketing with a very unorthodox mindset – which I appreciate and respect. His Twitter handle of “unmarketing” says it all. Similar to my authentic Internet marketing approach, Scott looks for the real, genuine and authentic way to market a business online using email marketing, Internet marketing and social media.

Scott recently tweeted something about the process of unsubscribing from someone’s email list (see below). Ironically, the timing couldn’t have been better (I’ll share more on that in the p.s. at the end.)

Can you relate? I sure can… And, I had to share by retweeting it on Twitter. As did 40+ other people that supported his tweet about the occasional and unfortunate process of unsubscribing from someone’s email list when it’s done in a non-ethical, non-intuitive and non-authentic way.

It got me fired up to share some of the reasons why this is just so wrong. Interestingly, I just looked at the other @replies to Scott’s original tweet to see other examples (including mine) as to why this not the right way to go about having people opt-out from your list.

Listen, someone at some point may decide to leave your list. And, as I shared in an earlier post about why that’s a good thing – you don’t want to make them feel bad or irritate them by making the process more difficult or cumbersome than it really is. A simple one-click unsubscribe will do.

So, in the interest of showing “how to do it right.” Here are some  examples of what NOT to do when people choose to unsubscribe from your list.

Forcing subscribers to login into their “profile” to access “subscriber options.”

I mean give me a break. I optin to your list for a free report or to join your newsletter – I don’t need a profile where I have to login to opt-out if I choose to do so. Simply point me to an unsubscribe page where I can remove myself easily and let’s move on. Chances are if I am wanting to unsubscribe, I’m not getting value – so why would I even know or remember my profile information to login in the first place?! I am in favor to login if I actually have multiple subscriptions or options – but most people don’t when they join a simple email newsletter.

Sending a confirmation email after I unsubscribe.

I mean is it just me or does this seem 100% counterintuitive? I just opted out of your list because I don’t want to receive anymore emails and you send me ANOTHER email? When does No actually mean No to you people? When I hit unsubscribe that means “don’t email me again, please.” Else, I’m reporting email spam on you.

Forcing the subscriber to re-enter my email address. For real? Of course you have my email address because I am receiving emails from you – so why do I have to re-enter it? Seriously.

Actually “unsubscribing” and still getting emails. Yes, this does happen. I happen to be on an email list where I have opted out several times (and they use all these sneaky tactics above) and I STILL receive their frickin emails. I’m at the point now I had to setup a rule in my email program to auto-delete their emails when they get delivered. I’m sure subscribers like me don’t skew their email metrics at all… right…

Designing your unsubscribe page like a website from hell. I’ve visited a web page to opt-out and it literally looked like a scrabble board – letters and forms and buttons and images all over the place. I don’t mean to toot my own horn – but I get websites – and am pretty crafty about working my way through some pretty horribly designed pages to figure out what to do. But some of these opt- out pages – totally stumped me. Kudos to them for making it hard for me – and keeping a pissed off subscriber. Big win, huh?

These are all measly attempts to keep subscribers – which is pathetic and pitiful. I feel sorry for people that do any of these – or shame if you do all of them. If you’re actually successful on keeping subscribers because the opt-out process is so darn difficult – do you actually think these people will want to receive (let alone open and read) your emails? No!

If anything, you’re setting yourself up for failure – because they most likely will report spam on you for not being able to opt-out.

Here’s the deal – if you’re doing any of these – please stop. Perhaps you don’t even know what your opt-out process is about. Well, test it!

If your email marketing platform doesn’t allow you to customize any of these options or remove them entirely – think about moving to a different provider that makes it easy for people to opt-out. Not only are you hurting your business by pissing off subscribers – you’re rubbing people the wrong way and that’s just morally wrong. They may come back later – but not if you piss them off while they’re leaving now.

Until next time… Learn It, Love It, Live It!

p.s. Why was the timing of this perfect as I mentioned earlier? As this tweet conversation was going on – I was having my own “opt out from hell” experience trying to unsubscribe from a list as they pitched me some offer repeatedly for days. Their weapon of choice to keep me subscribed? The famed “login to your profile to access your subscriber options.” Buggers…

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

ShannonNo Gravatar September 19, 2012 at 7:11 pm

I’ve had every one of those experiences! This reminds me that I have to check to make sure that people don’t receive an email confirmation that they’ve unsubscribed. I would never do that knowingly, but maybe it’s an automatic!


Derek FredricksonNo Gravatar September 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

Yes, definitely worth checking Shannon. You don’t want to create the icky feeling if they decide to leave and opt out. Always let them move on under good terms. 🙂


Cathy PreslandNo Gravatar September 20, 2012 at 4:55 am

Love Scott’s stuff and have joined in this convo with him on twitter. I’m with Aweber so not quite one click (two steps) but at least it doesn’t send those annoying emails after.

There are some systems that seem to make it impossible to unsubscribe. Don’t get me started!!



Derek FredricksonNo Gravatar September 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

Yes, those “tricky” systems to have you opt out really do rub me the wrong way! Thanks for the comment, Cathy…


JoyceNo Gravatar September 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm

How funny, I was having a rant about this only yesterday, as I desperately tried to cancel a sub to an newsletter I appeared to have joined when I did an online supermarket shop. No idea of my log in details, and it drove me crazy. In the end, I set a filter to send it to spam, something I NEVER do if I have any inkling at all that I may, sometime, somewhere have subbed to a list, even if I can’t remember doing it, but I was SO frustrated.


Derek FredricksonNo Gravatar September 21, 2012 at 9:05 am

Yes, Joyce! That’s exactly what I’m talking about… So frustrating sometimes that people just don’t get it. And, now you’re sharing that experience which has even more of an impact to the owner of the list. Thanks so much for commenting!


KimNo Gravatar September 29, 2012 at 11:51 am

I whole heartedly agree. Marketing peeps often value the numbers more the people. That’s just wrong.


LilyNo Gravatar October 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm

This is all so true. Why trick your subscribers into staying with you? That never works out in ANY relationship!

So this is a little tangential, but on the topic of spam I detest when I sign up for an online service or app and I immediately get not 1 but 3 autogenerated, unsolicited Welcome to ______! blah blah blah emails. I never read them, they never tell me anything other than: login to access training!

Of course I’m happy to receive a free report if I’ve opted in to someone’s newsletter. When I sign up for a service it’s not like I expect them to call me (although GoDaddy does) but this just has the feeling of, “Look! We’re totally here to support you with impersonal autogenerated emails! Lots and lots of them!”

Thanks, welcome robot.


Derek FredricksonNo Gravatar October 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Hi Lily – great points! I do recommend the multi-email auto responder campaign when someone joins your list – but only if it’s done with integrity and the email are generally about following up and giving value – than just “blah” emails as you describe. 🙂 Thanks for the comment!


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