Recently, Google has made a fundamental change in the way Gmail handles unsubscriptions with email offers and newsletters. Reactions from other email marketers range from cautious acceptance to outright fear.

Well, here I am to tell you that this change is a change for the better, and will only improve the quality of email marketing. The actual change, of course, is rather small and, if anything, is positive for the email marketer: Gmail is automatically populating an ‘Unsubscribe’ link on the top of the email message. Now I will tell you why this is a good thing.

“I got a fever! And the only cure is Unsubscription!”

Look at the latest promotional/offer email you put in your trash bin. Go ahead, check it out and pull it up. I’ll still be here. Ok, now looking at it, what do you think is missing? Well, since you threw it in the trash, obviously, the biggest thing missing is a clear unsubscription message. Again, I can hear the audible gasps. Most marketers HATE unsubscriptions; seeing every unsubscribe as a lost potential customer. But you should start thinking of yourself as a recipient as much as a marketer. What would YOU prefer?

I’ve worked with savvy marketers in the past who worked hard to try and minimize the effect of the mandatory CAN-SPAM compliance unsubscription link, so much as to decrease the font-size, font-weight, shift the messaging to the bottom of the message, and even remove the word ‘unsubscribe’ from the message itself.

Gmail’s new unsubscribe option, quite plainly, standardizes unsubscription, making it easier to unsubscribe from any sort of promotional email. And, believe me, standardization of the unsubscription process is a good thing. It will:

Make it clear who are white-hat email marketers, since if they follow standards and practices, their messaging will generate the new unsubscription option.

Make it easier for those uninterested in your messaging to opt-out, cleanly.

However, some email marketers seem to disagree, even going as far as claiming Google is declaring war on email marketers. I also imagine these people would prefer unsubscription messages like the one below:

If you no longer wish to receive email communications from OUR BUSINESS, please let us know.

Let’s break this message down, and we’ll talk about why the clever marketer chose this message, and why it’s wrong.

Sounding like a Robotic Secretary is never a plus

‘If you no longer wish’ is a pretty passive way to start this message. If you want to unsubscribe, you’re looking to take action; take control, rule your inbox and your life. A message starting with ‘If you no longer wish’ makes me picture a cheery-eyed robotic secretary that will then say “One Moment Please” after every inquiry. It comes off as vaguely amateur legalese. Which brings me to my next point: Why sound like a lawyer at all in this message? An unsubscription message shouldn’t require a single lawyer to look at it. The intent of the message; of the link should be so clear you can use plain english: Unsubscribe.

The next part isn’t any better; ‘to receive email communications’. If I did business with a company or signed up on their list, I would remember it. To say ‘to receive email communications’ implies that all other avenues of communications are still open. If you want to be left alone, you want to be left alone, and even making OTHER avenues of communication pop up in your recipient’s mind is a failure on your part. Again, if a customer wants to unsubscribe, you should make the process as painless as possible. Being verbose every step of the way is only going to gain the ire of a recipient. If he can’t find that unsubscribe button, he’s got plenty of other buttons to hit, and I promise you, you won’t like them.

This button right here. If your recipient can hit this faster than they can unsubscribe, you failed.

The final part, ‘please let us know’ doesn’t promise any ACTION. Again, I picture the cheery-eyed robotic secretary, filing my REQUEST for me to stop receiving communications into a massive bureaucracy. ‘Let us know’ is passive and promises no resolution, which flies in the face of the CAN-SPAM act that this supposedly valid unsubscription message fulfills, which clearly states that unsubscriptions must be honored IMMEDIATELY. That’s the problem when you have marketers trying to write legalese; they think they can be clever and avoid any ‘negative words’, without realizing they’ve gone too far in the other direction and are using action-neutral passive words.
Now I’ll show you the perfect unsubscription message for a promotional email:


Here, we give a clear message; a clear ACTION for the recipient. There’s no mental pictures of robot secretaries filing a request, no confusing passive language, only a single, simple action, and best of all, Gmail can pick up on it being an unsubscribe link. Again, the marketing guys are screaming loudly. “We don’t want to make it EASIER for someone to unsubscribe!” they cry. Well, why not? A recipient that unsubscribes is a recipient that isn’t receptive to the message you’re broadcasting. Best ensure you get them away as quick as possible so their experience with your brand doesn’t sour them to being an outright detractor.

Email Marketers should treat their recipient’s inboxes as sacred places to the recipient. Much like how we all hate telemarketers calling us during dinner, confusing/almost hidden unsubscription messages are annoying and take us out of our day. And if the recipient can’t unsubscribe in 10 seconds? You better believe that ‘Report Spam’ button’s being hit. Unsubscription lowers your list size, but being flagged as SPAM lowers your send reputation. Be good to your list. If you love your recipients, be willing to let them go.

Author Info

Brad Parnell
Founder & CEO

Brad is the Founder & CEO of Steadfast Creative, leading the team in exploring new ways to solve creative problems and bringing direction and vision for the company. His passion is building relationships, providing solutions and empowering his team to send new ideas out into the world. With over 10 years of agency experience serving local and national brands, he is focused on results for his clients and team. Outside of  work, Brad serves on the board of directors at his local Chamber of Commerce and loves giving back to the community and spending time with his wife and kids.