Email opt-out is an email marketing approach which gives a subscriber an easy way to show that they no longer want to receive emails from a sender. This process means unsubscribing. CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 obliges companies to include an unsubscribe link in every email, allowing subscribers to opt-out any time.

This video produced by EmailDelivered considers 4 common methods for handling unsubscribe requests.

When subscribers opt out, a bulk email service like SendPulse automatically adds their email addresses to a blacklist, preventing the company from sending any more messages to these email addresses.

Funny, but spammers also make use of an unsubscribe link for their manipulations. A click on an opt-out button confirms that the email address is real, opening the way for further unsolicited emails.

Difference between opt-in and opt-out

Opt-in is a legal approach of asking for the users' email addresses in exchange for valuable discounts, news, updates, hacks, etc. It is a great way to start communication since it helps to form a genuinely engaged audience. If the email strategy is well thought out, subscribers gradually turn into customers and may become brand advocates in the future.

While opt-in starts the relationships, opt-out is the end of the way for uninterested people. Opt-out helps to keep your mailing list healthy, reduce spam complaints, maintaining the sender reputation up to scratch.

Any company willing to reach success in email marketing should realize both of these legal requirements in practice.

Why do subscribers opt-out?

You can’t please 100% of your audience so take it easy when some subscribers opt-out. However, the massive number of unsubscribed users might be a wake-up call to focus on the reasons that result in unsubscribing:

  1. People don’t realize they subscribed. Sometimes people give an email address in exchange for an instant value, like a helpful marketing guide or a sales coupon. If you don’t mention they will receive emails, some of these uninformed “subscribers” may immediately opt-out after the first email. Double opt-in solves this issue.
  2. They are overwhelmed with your email campaigns. In email marketing, less is better. Receiving emails too often irritates subscribers and results in opt-out no matter how much value you put in your emails.
  3. Your emails are not displayed properly. If you stuff your emails with embedded videos, and background images, some email service providers will fail to display your message correctly. Confused subscribers might want to stop this mess.
  4. Irrelevant content. Let’s say at the beginning of your relationships you promised to send newsletters with hacks and innovations every week and special promotions twice a month. Sending boring and outdated content instead may break the recipients’ expectations and they will opt-out or mark the email as spam.
  5. You’re too pushy with promotions. If you send discounts, sales, coupons day after day, jumping at subscribers like a backstreet gangster, it might be too much for them. Combine promotions with newsletters or any valuable yet non-promotional content to grow the feelings of trust and loyalty among your audience.

How to reduce email opt-out?

Here are seven ways to reduce the unsubscribe rate. You can try out some of them in SendPulse.

  • Segment your mailing list. Come up with more relevant emails for different groups of subscribers who have something in common like age, gender, country, etc. Below are a few segments created in SendPulse. Check out the ideas for segmenting your audience here.Email segmentation
  • Allow subscribers to set email sending frequency and content preferences. Define the balanced frequency for staying in touch without being too intrusive. Let subscribers decide upon the content. The choice determines the kind of segmentation for every user like in this example by Uncommon Goods.Email preferences
  • Offer different communication channels. Propose different media for communication — SMS, socials, chatbots. Offer alternatives in case the email is an inconvenient format for some of your audience. In the example below, Merriam-Webster gives the links to different social networks.Email opt out communication channels
  • Send regularly. Make your audience get used to receiving your emails on the same days and time. SendPulse allows scheduling, which helps you cope with that. Email campaigns are scheduled at the end of email creating like in the example below. Learn the instruction on how to schedule email campaigns here.Email scheduling
  • Let subscribers feel special. Give your audience exclusive discounts. Let them be the first to know about new products and updates. They need to understand that being your email subscriber is a privilege. To achieve this goal, use personalization and take advantage of birthday marketing!Birthday email
  • Encourage a dialog via feedback and quizzes. Ask your subscribers to leave feedback after they bought a product or service from your company, or offer to complete a survey related to your niche. Such two-way communication, or at least its imitation, might give the email that level of engagement we all need. Below is the quiz by GrowthRocks, a link to which was in the email.Email quiz
  • Reengage opting-out users one last time. If they hit that unsubscribe button, at least ask them why. Perhaps it’s because of the email sending frequency or irrelevant offers, so why don't you promise to solve these problems? All in all, this is the last chance to keep your subscribers from opting out.Subscriber retention


  1. The article "Opt-out" on Wikipedia explains what opt-out in email marketing means.
  2. The article "How to Create an Opt-Out Option for an Email Newsletter" on Small Business defines an email opt-out, explains its importance, and considers implementation.
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