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Analysis: Gmail's new Unsubscribe Feature
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Analysis: Gmail's new Unsubscribe Feature

A lot has been written this week about the new ‘unsubscribe’ function that has been added to Gmail and the impact this will have on marketer.  The new button automatically appears in the header of emails, next to the ‘from name’ in the email whereas previously it was hidden in a dropdown menu.

If a user clicks on the button, they will not be directed through to the sender’s unsubscribe page but instead Google will send an automated email to the marketer on your behalf, requesting they remove you.

Many people believe this is another undercut way of ridding marketing messages from Gmail while they continue to pedal their own adverts and profit from such activity. However, in reality this is a technique which has been in place since 1998, known as ‘List-Unsubscribe’ and prevents people from hitting the ‘Report Spam’ button.  

Functionality is not new

Gmail has used this type of functionality since 2009, however they are now making it more prominent and it will only be available where the email include the ‘list-unsubscribe’ header. This means Google will not automatically add it against all marketing messages but only against those mailers who have allow for the ‘list-unsubscribe’ functionality.

Further to that, Gmail are one of the only major ISPs to not provide a feedback loop to notify marketers when a spam complaint has been made and this list-unsubscribe provides a half-way house.

Unsubscribe links are often hidden at the end of an email in small print and for many people they find it easier to use the ‘report spam’ button. This function is Google’s way of preventing this and should in turn reward marketers who follow best practices and set up the functionality to process these types of unsubscribes.

I would strongly recommend all marketers to add the functionality to handle List-Unsubscribes. In doing so, you should reduce the number of complaints you receive and in turn increase deliverability.

Further to that, list-Unsubscribes are widely adopted by most ISPs including Microsoft and Yahoo. Thus including a List-Unsubscribe will be viewed positively by both ISPs and spam filters. It also allows unsubscribe reputation services to monitor your unsubscribe compliance.

Process unsubscribes to improve reputation

As long as you are processing these unsubscribes, this should in turn improve your reputation and delivery, as all the major ISPs view user feedback as one of the most significant factors in delivery.

A further benefit of List-Unsubscribes, is that some people fear hitting the unsubscribe link. We manage 15million records and act as a broadcast platform for other third-party emailers, therefore we send in excess of seven million emails a day. Our actual complaint rate is exceptionally low, having incorporated list-unsubscribes, however on average we receive around 2-4 written requests a month to be removed.

Generally these people have emailed us directly to be removed because they fear hitting the unsubscribe button, believing that it is a form of phishing. Therefore this provides a ‘trusted’ solution to this issue and avoids consumer’s hitting ‘Report Spam’.

Finally, do not see someone unsubscribing as a bad thing. Do you really want to be spending money marketing to an individual who has no interest in your product. Swiftly removing people who wish to unsubscribe, will in turn lead to a better list which will yield greater ROI.

So if you have not added the functionality yet to handle ‘List-Unsubscribes’, do it now!

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Suzanna Chaplin

Suzanna Chaplin

Suzanna has been working in email for nearly a decade, focusing on acquisition via email through third party lists. She has worked with a wide variety of brands including BMW, British Airways and NSPCC. Most recently she has co-founded ESBConnect, a programmatic platform for email inventory and cross-channel marketing, working alongside a team as the Commercial Director.

Read more from Suzanna

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