So you send out your weekly broadcast email and the same thing happens every time: readers unsubscribe. However it’s not necessarily because they don’t want to hear from you.

Each of your subscribers have differing levels of interest in your content.

So how do you properly manage your list so unsubscribe rates drop? Here’s how…

Some want to hear every word you say (lucky you!). Others want to be notified of other things (new product releases, upcoming events, etc). Many of your subscribers don’t really want to hear from you every time you send out a broadcast email. One solution to this problem, which I covered back in 2012, was a strategy used by AppSumo.

They enable people who click unsubscribe to choose a different frequency for receiving messages. This is an incredible improvement over the standard receive all messages or none at all approach. However there’s an even more granular method that I will get to shortly…

The Wrong Way

I’m not going to name names here but some of the largest trade organizations use the strategy that I’m about to show you. When you click on the main unsubscribe link in their emails they bring you to a landing page which allows you to select which newsletters you’d like to unsubscribe from.

Something is missing from these pages though: a “never email me again” option. As in, “REMOVE ME FROM YOUR DANG LIST!!!!” This enables them to create a new newsletter that they’ll automatically subscribe you to. Product companies use this strategy effectively with “notifications”. I’m sure you’ve experienced this.

You sign up for a new application and you start receiving notifications that a friend of yours just registered. You click on a link that effectively means “STOP SENDING ME THESE DAMN NOTIFICATIONS!!!” and end up on a page that looks like this:

Email Preferences Screenshot

There are literally 20 notification settings on that page that you must opt out of individually. But what happens if they create a new notification type? They’ll automatically add you to the list!

I think you get the point by now: don’t do this.

Segment Your Marketing Messages

To be fair, companies that have multiple message types understand the most important rule of marketing: not all marketing messages are created equally. Your subscribers are not static entities. They are humans who have a wide range of emotions and goals. So how do you cater to them with relevant content while simultaneously letting them know you respect their inbox?

Give your subscribers the ability to choose the type of messages they receive in a single click. The problem with the previous strategy was that the moment you land on the supposed “unsubscribe page”, you immediately opt out of every list the publisher subscribed you to. That’s because every time you click “unsubscribe” you are potentially in a moment of peak frustration.

So how should you approach things to cut down the number of unsubscribes?

Be Clear About Your Deliverables

The first thing you need to do is make sure the subscriber was clear why they signed up in the first place. Take a look at the subscribe form that the company Chute (sorry to pick on you guys) used on their company homepage:

chute subscribe form

This form is relatively meaningless. What does the visitor expect to receive in their inbox? Yes, you can view the company’s latest blog posts to get a general sense about the type of content they publish but what will be included in their newsletter? No idea! This discontinuity is going to immediately increase unsubscribe rates.

So what’s a better example of a clear call to action? Check out Ramit Sethi’s call to action is:

Ramit Sethi Offer

Not only does he provide a compelling reason to hand over your email address and name, he also tells you what you are receiving. Ramit is one of the top email marketers so of course he has a great offering. People who are interested in his book will also potentially be interested in what other offers he has.

Limit The Number Of Full List Broadcasts

Under the perfect circumstances you would not be sending broadcast emails. This is because each subscriber has a different intention when they join. If you send the same message to everybody, you are reducing the relevance of each message.

In an ideal world, you would segment your list based on content they have explicitly stated they are interested in. For example, I may segment my email list based on people who are interested in boosting their email marketing and another group who’s interested in blog optimization.

The closest thing to a broadcast email that you should send is to offer readers the option to gain access to content they may be missing out on. Most important is that this isn’t technically a broadcast message as it goes after those who have not opted in to a specific list/segment.

Provide Two Unsubscribe Options

Just as you can prompt your subscribers to opt-in to new content, you can also enable them to opt-out of certain types of content. Rather than just having a generic “unsubscribe” link in your emails, you can prompt them with something more targeted. For example unsubscribe link number one will be: “No longer want to get my blog posts delivered to your inbox? Click here”. At the end of the email you can also include your standard unsubscribe/opt out link.


To sum things up, here are the three ways to dramatically reduce your unsubscribe rate:

  • Be clear with what you are going to offer readers and be congruent,
  • Try to diminish the volume of broadcast messages you send, and
  • Have segmented unsubscribe options Know any other ways to cut down unsubscribes? Send a message to me on Twitter!