What are the best practices for handling e-mail list unsubscribes?

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Answer: There are many reasons to make unsubscribing from your e-mail list as easy as possible, including protecting your reputation with both subscribers and Internet service providers, who can blacklist your firm or report you as a violator of the CAN-SPAM act. But if you need one more reason, the law requires it. Failure to have a working “unsub” system is a violation of CAN-SPAM.

Some best practices for handling e-mail list unsubscribes include:

  1. Simplify the unsubscribe process. A one-click unsubscribe that is instantaneous is best. Most major ISPs offer this option. If you make it too difficult to unsubscribe, you may be reported as a spammer. A subscriber should have to take no more than two steps to exit your list, and one is better. Never require a subscriber to log in or reply to an e-mail in order to unsubscribe. This may actually violate the law because if they have forgotten their password, they can’t unsubscribe.
  2. Provide a link at the bottom of every e-mail that brings subscribers to an unsubscribe page. This page should be different from the Subscriber Profile page, which should have its own link. Test unsubscribe links regularly to ensure they work. You can offer a subscriber profile page allowing them to unsubscribe from one of several e-mail communication options; however, one must be to unsubscribe fromall. Clicking “All” should remove them automatically.
  3. Back up your unsubscribe process and make the process secure. In addition to the unsubscribe link, provide an e-mail address that subscribers can use if the Web form fails. Make your system hackproof so others so others cannot unsubscribe someone from your list without their knowledge.
  4. Follow the 10-day guideline set by CAN-SPAM laws. Spell out the time line on your unsubscribe page so subscribers know what to expect.
  5. Make sure that your unsubscribe list is secured, and that you can not accidentally add the names back to the list. Also, if you move to a new e-mail provider, make sure it can maintain your current unsubscribe list so that unsubs cannot accidentally be added.
Jordan Ayan is the founder and CEO of SubscriberMail (, a provider of e-mail marketing services and technology.
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