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Dorchester Center, MA 02124
E-mail marketers always have lots on their plate: they need to analyze stats, come up with an offer, segment subscribers and create impressive email designs. Therefore, they often miss tiny details that turned out to be tiebreakers at the end.
One of such things is the unsubscribe option. Found at the bottom of the newsletter and set in the smallest font size ever, this relatively unremarkable element can easily break the whole strategy when it is neglected. The deal is, if people cannot opt-out from your subscription list, they will mark your newsletter as spam and register a complaint to your ISP.
The recent studies show that more than 50% of all respondents agree that if they could not quickly figure out how to unsubscribe, they will mark an e-mail as spam. This leads to drastic outcomes for the business, such as blacklisting and blocking. Therefore, the opt-out mechanism should always be in your sight.
There are two options to embed this functionality into your newsletter: using the body’s unsubscription link and defining the list-unsubscribe header. While the first option has been with us for ages, the second one has only recently become a standard for digital newsletters and a highly recommended feature. Let us dive into its essentials, find out why the list-unsubscribe header is important and break into steps the routine of setting up this unremarkable yet crucial e-mail header.
The list-unsubscribe header is an e-mail header added to digital newsletters by the mail system. It describes the command to unsubscribe users directly from a mailing list.
Occurred due to CAN-SPAM – the law that advocates the right of users to stop receiving the e-mail messages and obligates all companies to implement unsubscribe mechanisms for all their e-mails – the list-unsubscribe header has become a valid alternative to unsubscribe link inside the e-mail body.
It is highly appreciated by companies that regard adding an unsubscribe link in the e-mail body as a bad practice. For instance, some professional marketers consider placing unsubscribe button in the footer of the digital newsletter as a risky tactic since users may easily miss it out, or mail readers can misinterpret the body of the newsletter, thereby removing this link from the flow. Whereas the list-unsubscribe header, as a native unsubscribe mechanism of mail client, provides a clean, prominent, fast and reliable way to opt-out.
Consider the list-unsubscribe header for London-based brand ChiChiClothing as a representative example:
The email header:
List-Unsubscribe: <mailto:list-unsubscribe+789423654_1282512_99698_G5rvzOjQV2@emarsys.net>, <https://list-unsubscribe.eservice.emarsys.net/api/unsubscribe/789423654_1282512_99698_G5rvzOjQV2>
The part that is seen by the end-user:
Unsubscribe message in Gmail
The workflow of the list-unsubscribe header is straightforward. It includes just two basic steps:
To the end-user, the work of the list-unsubscribe header boils down to just one thing: it adds the unsubscribe button that users can click to opt-out from the subscription list. This button can be a unique e-mail address, a descendant of the “reply to remove” method, or it can be a URL, which triggers an unsubscribe action.
Depending on the mail provider, the control element can be presented as a link or a typical button. As a rule, it sits next to the sender’s information in the head of an e-mail. However, some mail providers may put it at the bottom of an opened e-mail, as Outlook does. In addition, its visibility may vary based on the mail client version.
The first thing to understand about the working flow of the list-unsubscribe header is that the mail provider generates an opt-out button only if there is an instruction.
Two methods tell the mail server how to realize an unsubscribe link in the e-mail header: mailto and HTTP. Both of them can be added to the message. Let’s consider them closely.
The mailto method is self-explanatory. It includes standard mailto instruction with a link to a specific e-mail address. The system generates a newsletter with a request to unsubscribe a particular user from the mailing list and sends it to an e-mail address specified in the instruction. The sender honors the request on its own and unsubscribes the user from the mailing list manually.
This method is one of the most popular ones because mail clients and mail providers widely support it.
HTTP method implies adding to the list-unsubscribe header a link to the page where users can opt-out from the mailing list. As a rule, it is the same page to which an unsubscribe link in the footer inside the body leads to. It is a landing page where the user should confirm their desire to unsubscribe from the mailing list. The process is automated and does not require a sender’s involvement.
One-Click List-Unsubscribe Method
Along with two traditional list-unsubscribe header methods, there is a brand-new option that gives your users an opportunity to opt-out from the mailing list with just one click. This is increasingly handy for prospects since they do not have to waste their precious time visiting landing pages or wait for the sender to process their request.
However, this method can be bad for e-mail marketers. The deal is, with HTTP and mailto methods, you still have a chance to bring the prospect around and save your precious subscriber, for example, by offering a sweet deal on the unsubscribe page.
With a one-click opt-out, everything happens automatically without any chances to rectify the situation. However, this option still benefits the company since you improve your sender reputation and establish yourself as a brand that respects the right of your customers to leave the mailing list without any explanation.
The important thing to note, currently, only Gmail and a few more mail clients support this method. Therefore, it should not be used alone. Much like the HTTP method, it should be used in tandem with the mailto method.
Although embedding an unsubscribe link to the e-mail header is a highly recommended practice for e-mail marketers, still not all e-mail clients support this technology.
The good news is, all popular mail providers (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, and iOS Mail) support the mailto method. Since these platforms cover more than 80% of the worldwide market, it should be your first option.
Although the list-unsubscribe header is not required e-mail header: your digital newsletter can live without it; however, it is crucial for your campaign.
Reasons why the list-unsubscribe header is important, are not apparent since the benefits of this functionality cannot be seen immediately. However, it goes a long way.
For instance, the most significant advantage of the list-unsubscribe header is improving the sender’s reputation. The deal is, the list-unsubscribe header provides an alternative or sometimes the only way out from the mailing list. Without a transparent opt-out mechanism, your newsletter can quickly get into a junk folder followed by a spam mark and a complaint. This outcome negatively affects the sender’s reputation. A bad reputation means poor deliverability. Poor deliverability means low open rates and low conversion rates. Low conversion rates mean no profit.
On top of that, some mail clients have a strict policy about spam folders. For example, Hotmail will pre-route all the e-mails from the sender that has got into a spam folder only once to the junk folder. To make matters worse, it will not notify the sender through the complaint, leaving the e-mail marketer in total darkness. Therefore, you need to avoid spam folders at any cost, and deployment of the list-unsubscribe header helps to do this.
There are some more good reasons why the list-unsubscribe header is vital for your e-mail marketing campaign and business:
List-unsubscribe header can be pulled off with the help of two methods. You can choose one – mailto method because it is widely supported. However, it is highly recommended to use both to avoid all the loopholes.
The basic routine for creating a list-unsubscribe header with the mailto method implies two simple steps that any non-tech person can handle:
As a rule, the syntax for this method looks like this:
Much like the mailto method, the HTTP method is pretty straightforward and takes just several basic steps:
Note, since this method lacks mail clients’ support, it is highly advisable to use it in tandem with the mailto method to ensure your users have a way out regardless of the situation.
The unsubscribe landing page in ChiChiclothing
The list-unsubscribe header with both methods properly configured looks like this:
From: Your Company Name <customerinfo@your_company_name.com>
To: John Doe <email@example.com>
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2021
List-Unsubscribe: <mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org>, <http://www.your_company_name.com/unsubscribe.html>
To determine whether your newsletter has a list-unsubscribe header or not, you need to inspect the e-mail header. For this, send a message to yourself and open it.
First and foremost, if you see an active link or button next to sender information, then the list-unsubscribe header is specified. Note, some mail clients place the button in dialogue windows or at the bottom of the newsletter.
Second, you can inspect the e-mail header. Open the e-mail header. For example, in Gmail, the e-mail header is hidden in the dropdown menu on the right of the sender information. If you can see a URL or even two URLs under the list-unsubscribe option, then the list-unsubscribe header is specified.
Alternatively, you can use online tools for this. Consider these two popular options:
Although deploying a list-unsubscribe header is a simple procedure that the ESP assists most of the time, there are still some good practices that you need to follow to ensure it works as intended. Here, they are:
Last but not least
It is important to note that even if the e-mail client support list-unsubscribe header, it does not mean it will show it for your brand. The big names, like Outlook, or Yahoo! Mail, embed the unsubscribe button only if you have a good sender reputation. This is a big problem for new businesses since their reputation is low. Remember to maintain your website uptime because it directly effect your email.
However, it does not mean you should not ignore this type of e-mail header. By specifying the list-unsubscribe header, it will be much easier for your brand-new company to work your way towards a good sender reputation, high deliverability rate, and desirable open rates.
All the best practices for e-mail marketers encourage entrepreneurs to achieve quality over quantity. This rule concerns all the aspects of marketing, especially sender reputation, since it stands behind the success of every marketing campaign.
Many factors help grow sender reputation, and deployment of a list-unsubscribe header is one of them. Even though this e-mail header is optional and lacks the overall support of mail clients, it is crucial for your business. It makes your brand look trustworthy not only for mail servers but also for recipients. It improves your relationships with customers and creates a solid base for running successful commercial marketing campaigns.