by, mira

For fuck’s sake. I’m so tired of receiving confirmation emails asking me if I’m sure I want to unsubscribe from an email list. Yes. The answer is ALWAYS YES.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. I get it. Companies, bloggers, startups, entertainers, etc. want to reach as many people as possible and that means collecting lots of emails and trying to hold onto your mailing list subscribers by any means necessary. BUT isn’t it bad for your fans/customers/subscribers to have to jump through an extra hoop or two just to get you to take their email off of a mailing list?

I can’t speak for anyone else, but every time I have to click more than one thing to unsubscribe from a mailing list it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I unsubscribe from lots of mailing lists for a whole host of reasons;

  • Your content went down in quality and I no longer wish to receive emails.
  • Your content is no longer relevant to me.
  • I don’t have time to read/watch your content right now.
  • You’re trying to sell me penis enlargement pills.
  • *Grabs your shirt collar and pushes you against a dark alley wall at knife-point* WHO ARE YOU AND HOW DID YOU GET THIS EMAIL ADDRESS.
  • I signed up for an account and did not voluntarily opt into this mailing list.

I’ve decided to start categorizing spam into different archetypes to give you a better idea of exactly how not to run your mailing list:

The Secret Hydra Mailing List

You’ve likely encountered this before. You willingly sign up for a newsletter that looks interesting, but then you start receiving wayyy too many emails. Then you decide to unsubscribe. Next, discover that signing up for that one newsletter automatically signed you up for like 5+ different mailing lists from that same company. This is made worse if they don’t offer a uncheck/check all button. You need to individually uncheck a bunch of boxes for mailing lists that you didn’t want to be on in the first place. Most people, upon discovering this trickery will unsubscribe from every list you offer. They may no longer trust you with their email.

The Honest Spammers

The simplest, boldest, and most common type of inbox intrusion. These are the Nigerian princes asking you to wire the money. The mail order Russian brides asking you to wire them money. The Chinese company trying to sell you illegal boner pills. The classic and easy-to-spot spam.

There’s only one way to deal with these: straight to the incinerator.

The ‘How Did You Get This Email’ Spammers

These are pretty annoying because who wants to recive emails from a company or website that they never signed up for? These are the people who acquire your email through indirect means such as;

  • Buying a mailing list.
  • Finding your email online.
  • Signing you up for a mailing list that you did not opt into by pulling it from an account you signed up for.

It’s always unsettling to find that your contact info has been found by a company or person that you don’t know or trust. You then begin to wonder, where did they get it from? Who sold me out? Is ALL of my contact info floating around on the web just waiting for some rando to contact me out of the blue asking for Kickstarter money?

These get unsubscribed from immediately and thrown into spam jail.

The Worst Offenders

Now I’m just wondering, why would someone want to hold onto my email address if I took the time to open one of their unwanted emails, scroll all the way to the footer of the email, and find that purposefully tiny unsubscribe link in the fine print and click it? Why would you want to annoy people who aren’t in your target audience? In my opinion, the worst offenders of email list etiquette are the ones who offer an unsubscribe link, give you confirmation that you’ve been removed from the list, but then a week later they pop up in your inbox again like you never unsubscribed at all.

At least the boner enlargement ads are honest enough to not have an unsubscribe link at all. That I can respect, but now you’ve made me waste precious seconds of my life to click an unsubscribe link, or even worse, have to double confirm the unsubscription through a second email or unchecking a list of boxes for lists I neither signed up for nor care about. Now you’ve not only deceived me, but you’ve wasted my time as well.

For this, you are condemned to the spam folder where you will never see the light of my inbox again. 😡🔥

How To Be Better (Hint: Let Your Users Esily Unsubscribe)

Being annoying in peoples inboxes will not help your brand, business, or content strategy. You’ll only drive away perspective readers & customers. Maybe you’ve committed some of these mailing list sins genuinely believing that it’s a good marketing strategy to opt people into more mailing lists or make double extra sure that people didn’t click the unsubscribe button by mistake, or you even purchased a mailing list of people who are likely to be interested in your product.

These are all methods that do work, but you won’t generate a highly engaged audience built on trust and genuine interest by using those methods. Start with being honest with your readers.

Don’t Be Sneaky

Don’t opt people into a ton of mailing lists without asking. Send them an “If you like these emails you might also be interested in [blank]” email, for example.

If you bought a mailing list, make it clear that you’re trying to get them to check out your product or content with an initial introduction email. Don’t just start sending them stuff as if they signed up on their own.

If you genuinely made a mistake and your unsubscribe button is broken, then you’ll want to know about it. Next steps could be to make sure that you have a help form or some way for the reader to let you know that there’s a bug. Lastly, at the end of the unsubscribe process write a note. For example: “If you’re still receiving emails, please let us know! It’s a bug and we don’t want to spam you!”. Make sure you’re readers know that you’re not trying to spam them.

Next, Set up check-in emails if you notice that a person hasn’t opened the last three or so emails that you’ve sent. For instance, if they haven’t opened ten in a row, consider removing them from your list, they clearly aren’t interested.

Long email lists are useless if no one reads your emails anyway. 

And last but not least

Lastly, make the unsubscribe button bigger. People who want to unsubscribe will find it, and making it hard to see or click isn’t helping your cause. 

Making the unsubscribe button too small or unreadable may even be an accessibility issue; for example. Think of your visually impaired readers. They could be color blind, or elderly. Make sure you keep them in mind too.

In conclusion, be better and respect peoples inboxes.  


Thumbnail credit: Pau Casals on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash
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