Why are people unsubscribing from my emails?
Last updated: December 6, 2022
Churn is a natural part of any email list. But left unchecked, unsubscribes can harm your email marketing metrics, campaign success and even your sending reputation.
If you’re seeing a spike in unsubscribes, you need to figure out why your audience is leaving your list, then resolve those issues before they permanently impact your strategy.
In this post, we’ll explain why people unsubscribe from emails, along with our best practices for remedying each of them. (And if you’re not sure how your unsubscribe rates compare to industry averages? Check out our benchmark calculator to see how you measure up.)
They don’t remember subscribing in the first place
Many unsubscribes stem from ineffective list-building tactics. If your company buys or scrapes email addresses of people that didn’t consent to receive emails from you, many of them will leave your list once they realize they’ve been added. Or it could be that someone downloaded a whitepaper from your company without realizing that they were also subscribing to regular emails from you as well.
Both these situations can wreak havoc on your email deliverability. Because even though you’re losing subscribers that were never likely to buy your product anyway, mass unsubscribes can trigger spam filters and harm your sending reputation.
While you can’t keep everyone from accidentally subscribing to your list, you can reduce the likelihood of this happening by making your subscription forms prominently visible at the bottom of any relevant pages — or prompt new contacts to confirm their subscription via a second email. (And whatever you do, don’t buy lists!)
You’re emailing them too often
The number one way to irritate customers? Send them too many emails.
The ideal sending frequency for your company depends on a lot of variables: the purpose of your list and content, your promotional cycle, your industry and audience preferences, among others.
If you’re a fintech company providing daily coverage of the stock market, you might need daily or even more frequent emails. If you’re just updating your MarTech audience about this week’s blog posts, though? You can probably afford to scale back from weekly to monthly. (Also experiment with sending your emails on different days of the week, depending on your audience’s preferences.)
To figure out what’s best for you, compare your email reports, as well as your unsubscribe and complaint rates to recent changes in sending frequency. Also look for opportunities to segment your audience — the more targeted your content, the more leeway you have to send additional emails.
Your emails are irrelevant
Imagine: You just bought a software that will have an enormous impact on your daily marketing activities. As part of your onboarding, you subscribe to the company’s emails in order to stay on top of new product updates. But with that monthly product update email comes two monthly webinar invitations, a weekly content newsletter, and other promotional emails you never wanted.
If you don’t give this person a way to opt into specific emails from your company, they’ll just unsubscribe from everything instead. Here are some surefire ways to cut down on unnecessary emails:
- Associate every campaign with an intended action: Most marketers don’t go into email with the intention of spamming their audience into submission. Instead, they decide that they need to send their weekly newsletters and monthly webinar invitations, along with promotional emails for each product, etc., because those are best practices, right? And yes, staying connected with your audience keeps people engaged. But if people are unsubscribing en masse, it’s worth reconsidering the purpose of each email and sending only when the purpose of the email is to drive a specific action, like registering for an event or buying a specific product. (Better yet, program emails to be triggered when audiences meet a specific criteria or engage in a specific behavior.) This will make each email more precise and focused, while also cutting down on unnecessary inbox clutter.
- Use preference pages during the subscription process: Allowing people to state their communications preferences right away signals that you care about their privacy and will respect their boundaries going forward. And that increases the odds that they’ll stay engaged.Linking your subscription form to a preference page is the best way to do that. When active, new subscribers are redirected to a checklist where they manually opt in and out of different email categories (so they can opt into receiving product-related communications, but out of receiving marketing newsletters, etc.).
- Segment your audience: Preference pages can’t account for every individual preference, though. You might manage multiple brands relating to different products, industries and use cases, each with its own email content and sending frequency. In that case, you also need to create different interest-based segments within your audience to ensure that everyone is receiving the communications they’re most interested in — and nothing else. To do this, you can review individual clicks on your previous emails or cross-reference a subscriber’s email activity with their past purchase history, event attendance or registration history, and website visits to related pages, etc. (All of this is possible using Omeda’s Audience Builder).
- Send re-engagement campaigns allowing people to periodically opt in and out of different email categories: If someone has gone three or six months without engaging with your emails, add them to an automated re-engagement campaign (learn how to create effective re-engagement campaigns here). People who are interested in staying on the list can choose to stay on the list by opening and clicking a link within the email, and then proactively choose what they want to get from you. And if a recipient doesn’t open the email? You can remove them from your list, which improves your deliverability and while also lifting your click rates.
You seem spammy
As phishing attacks escalate, people are becoming more skeptical of emails from unknown entities. Often, they use the sender name, subject line and preheader text as a barometer of the sender’s trustworthiness. Pay close attention to these parts of your email to ensure that it appears reputable and safe to open. Watch out for these warning signs in particular:
- Your sender name is misspelled or it doesn’t match your company name
- Your sender information is inaccurate or missing
- Your subject line doesn’t match the contents of your email
- You’re using excessive exclamation points in your subject lines (this comes off as desperate and, in turn, spammy)
- Your subject lines sound pressurized or make promises that seem unrealistic. Words like “free,” “low price,” “additional income, etc. raise red flags with audiences and can also cause your email to be redirected to spam filters. (Check our list of 175 words that trigger spam filters here.)
- You’re sending too many attachments: Many email-based scams prompt the target to download an attachment, which then downloads viruses onto their device. Many customers are wise to that trick and won’t open an unsolicited email with attachments.
Seeming spammy is bad enough, but actually being labeled as spam is even worse. To keep your emails out of the dreaded spam folder, review best practices on email deliverability and implement them into your email strategy ASAP
Your emails have poor design
Most people skim through emails for the necessary information, whether it’s event registration details or takeaways from a piece of content. The more cluttered or distracting your design, the less likely readers will get any value from your emails. If your unsubscribes are rising, review your email design templates.
Can people get the point of the message and take the intended action with one swipe? Or do they need to parse through clashing color contrasts or complicated design to find what they need? If your designs fall short, implement these best practices into your emails:
- Use complementary colors against a white or light-shaded background.
- Avoid using files over 85KB so that the email is not clipped by ISPs
- Employ images selectively: Sometimes, email clients or an individual inbox doesn’t allow images to download automatically in an email, which makes emails eyesores at best and unreadable at worst. Avoid this by testing your emails to ensure that images are loading quickly and are compatible with mobile devices.
- Make your call-to-action button bright — or use a highly visible color. If your branding’s already red-heavy, use black or green so it’s still the most prominent part of the email.
- Separate different elements with color blocking.
Your emails aren’t mobile-optimized
More than half of professionals check email on their phones. If you’re not optimizing your content, design and subject lines for mobile device limits, you’re going to lose subscribers quickly. Ensure your emails are mobile-optimized with these tips:
- Keep subject lines below 30 characters to comply with mobile inbox limits (use pre-header text to add more context if necessary).
- Display CTAs front and center in your email, so that it appears at the center of mobile screens.
- Use concise copy.
- Leave ample white space around your CTA buttons and main text. The goal of any email is to draw the eye to the text, then the CTA button. Mobile interfaces are compressed enough that having too much filler content will distract readers from those main messages.
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