Should You Celebrate Email Unsubscribes?

Celebrate Email UnsubscribesEvery time someone unsubscribes from my mailing list it stings a little bit.

To get on my mailing list, you not only had to sign up, you probably had to dig the Mailchimp confirmation out of your spam folder to confirm your opt-in! That was an active decision.

If you then unsubscribe, it means I didn’t meet the expectations you had. And that stings. If you are a blogger, I’m sure you can relate.

But actually, if you unsubscribe today, I missed your expectations long ago. I just didn’t know it until now.

Unsubscribes by the Numbers

Recently I took a closer look at every recent unsubscribe from my email list. It was eye-opening.

Unsubscribers were already almost completely unengaged. Emails were going out with every new post, but this group hadn’t been paying attention.

In fact, the click rate over the last six months for people who unsubscribed was about 80% lower than for the email list overall. 80%!

If you had a segment that was 80% less likely to respond to you than average, how much of your attention would that segment warrant? Answer: not much. But embracing that answer let’s you see the segment in the right light.

Interestingly, spikes in unsubscribe rates on an individual email were no different. Although it’s based on a small set of a records, emails with more unsubscribes don’t appear to include historically more engaged users. An additional anecdote that supports this: no one clicked a link in the main body of the email and then unsubscribed. It wasn’t about the content, it was because they had already tuned out and I simply didn’t know it yet.

Time to Celebrate Unsubscribes

If no one unsubscribed, but just tuned out instead, my list today would be about 30% larger, but the number of clicks would increase by less than 10%. Overall click rates would be 20% lower. Instead I would have a less responsive list and deliverability of all my emails would probably suffer.

Unsubscribes may still sting, but I’m seeing the other side of unsubscribes now, here on my site and in my work with clients. A clean email list of people happy to hear from you is far more valuable than a larger list that tuned you out long ago. So embrace unsubscribes and focus your efforts on continuing to meet (and exceed) the expectations of the people who haven’t tuned out your emails.

How do you view unsubscribes? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@wittlake).

Photo Credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via Flickr cc

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  • Kitty Kilian

    In general, email subscriber’s attention always dwindles over a period of time. That is partly why you need to keep refreshing your list. I am sure as a marketer you know all about that – but honestly, in real life we also wander from one friend to the other and some get lost along the way. Part of it is accidental.

    I do find I get larger unsubscribe numbers on some posts than others – when I write unfriendly things about large corporations my corporate readers will tend to disappear in larger numbers, for instance.

  • http://www.irhodes.com Ian Rhodes

    Great post Eric. It reminds me of when I go to a concert. Right in front of the stage are the crazies… the hardcore fans who will jump up and down to the sound of the guitars being tuned.

    In the middle, there are the fans. Those that go because they appreciate the music and take in what’s happening around them.

    On the peripheral are the ones who have just gone along because it was something to do. Half way into the gig, they become disinterested, chat to friends, annoy those around them and then scarper before the encore.

    They’re not really sure why they’re even there, they just are. They’ve the characters that unsubscribe. They simply don’t get it. No matter how in demand the tickets have been, they’re just disinterested from the very start. There’s nothing you can do to incentivise them. You focus on giving the guys at the front exactly what they came for…. don’t worry about the peripherals.