The Unwritten Requirements for Implementing an Email Notification Unsubscribe Feature

There have been many times over the past couple of months where I have seen many violations to the basic rules that companies should follow when implementing and email notification unsubscribe feature. I’m hoping that you are reading this now because you want to implement a email notifications and want to know what the unwritten rules are for allowing people to unsubscribe from them.

Don’t take it personal when someone wants to unsubscribe from your email notifications. Make it easy and they will probably sign back up in the future. Make it difficult and they will remember that and never sign up for your notifications again.

Some sites like LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to granularly configure email notification preferences. This post isn’t necessarily targeting those complex email notification systems, but the basic rules apply. Keep your users happy by making it very easy to stop getting email from you. Oh btw, it’s also the law. You can read more about it on the Bureau of Consumer Protection website’s CAN-SPAM Act: A Compliance Guide for Business page.

On Your Website

  • Allow users to opt-in or opt-out of email notifications when they are creating their account.
  • Include a “Notifications” section under your “Profile” section that allows users to unsubscribe from individual topics or unsubscribe from all email notifications.
  • Include an “Unsubscribe” page that you link to from your email notifications. This page will serve two purposes:

In Your Email Notifications

  • Include a link with the word “Unsubscribe” in it. That link will open the page on your site I mentioned above and will immediately unsubscribe the user from email notifications without asking them any more questions.
  • Do not require user to login to unsubscribe. It’s often a pain to sign into sites on mobile device and sometimes the user will forget their credentials. Include some token in your unsubscribe mail that maps to the user. It’s difficult to hack that and even if someone did, it’s only email notifications and shouldn’t allow the user to perform any other action.
  • Immediately unsubscribe the user from the email notification. Don’t tell the user that they will keep getting emails for weeks or months while the request is processed. There’s no good reason to do that. Just have a bit in your database that gets unflipped when they unsubscribe. If that bit is unflipped then don’t send notifications.* Allow users to unsubscribe without telling you why they are unsubscribing. It’s fine if you want to ask the user why they are leaving, but don’t require them to fill out a form before unsubscribing. Make it easy. * **Allow users to unsubscribe by replying to the email. **Unsubscribe users if they respond the word “unsubscribe” in the subject or in the body of my response.
  • Do not send an unsubscribe confirmation email to the users. The users are trying to reduce the amount of mail from you. Don’t send yet another another email telling them they won’t be getting any emails from you. * Don’t require users to “download pictures” of the email to unsubscribe. As mentioned above the unsubscribe links should be text not an image.