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Team reviews a way to prevent email unsubscribes

Google’s Push to Purge Your Low-Engagement Emails

Google made it easier to unsubscribe from unwanted mailing lists, but what does this mean for future email strategy?

In the last few months, Google added a feature to users’ Gmail accounts. It’s meant to help you easily unsubscribe from emails.

The Gmail user in all of us is excited that unsubscribing from unwanted mailing lists will be easier. But those of us in marketing, communications, sales, and membership are a little more concerned with what this unsubscribe notification means for future email strategy.

The notification pops up if a user doesn’t open emails for one month from a designated “promotions” sender. When a Gmail user clicks this “Unsubscribe” button, they’re automatically unsubscribed from all email communications from this sender, no questions asked.

It’s tough news for most marketers – this new feature affects A LOT of users, not the minority of your email list:

But the primary issue here is disengagement. So, first and foremost: how can we reengage the subscriber? We should apply these simple but effective email mantras every time:

  • Personalize the subject line
  • A/B test the subject line
  • Use a Friendly From address

If you’re sending relevant content to people who have subscribed to your organization, then the Google unsubscribe feature won’t be a factor in your email campaigns. Still, with these somewhat unnerving stats in mind, are your emails good enough to keep people from hitting “unsubscribe”?

Let’s focus on planning ahead. Here are five actions to reduce the likelihood that your members and customers will unsubscribe:

1. Make your emails responsive.

75% of Gmail users open email on their mobile devices. Your marketing automation platform should make your emails mobile responsive – meaning the text and images adjust to the screen it’s opened on (e.g. desktop, mobile phone, table). If the content doesn’t fit on the screen, and recipients are zooming in and out just to read it, odds are they won’t open them in the future.

2. Personalize your emails.

Personalizing emails used to be more of a recommendation. But in 2018, knowing your subscribers and sending personalized content is the only way to make sure your emails hit the inbox and stay there. If someone doesn’t open your emails for a month, Google will send them a notification asking them if they want to unsubscribe from your mailing list, which will kill deliverability. But more than that, customizing and automating emails can turn a spam-folder email into a personal note, eliciting more responses.

3. Change up the tone.

Heartfelt and personal emails win every time over generic email blasts and promotions. Gary Wohlfeill, director of marketing at CrowdRise, says, “Your organization’s voice and tone are two of the most crucial factors in helping your messaging, your cause and your brand stand apart from the rest.”

Bonus: if your email doesn’t get lumped into the “promotions” category of Gmail, which 68.4% of emails do fall under, then Gmail won’t send an automatic “Unsubscribe?” notification.

4. Send the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

With marketing automation, you get more than a report on opens and clicks – you get a 360-degree view of what each recipient clicked on and what they’re interested in, so you can automatically send them better emails based on that data. You’ll also know which times to send emails to receive the highest engagement, or create custom, automatic campaigns, like the ever-popular abandonment campaign (e.g. When you browse on Amazon, look at an item but don’t purchase it, and then receive an email that says, “You still have items in your cart”).

5. Allow people to selectively unsubscribe.

When someone clicks that “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of your emails in that teeny tiny font, what are they unsubscribing from? Is it any and all communications from you, or can they choose the types of emails they receive and how often they want to receive them? Including an unsubscribe option is part of being compliant with anti-spam legislation (as well as being a reasonable sender!), so we must learn to coexist. There are ways to provide subscribers with clearer unsubscribe options. Your CTA buttons and links can lead to a form where a subscriber chooses whether to remove themselves from one type, several, or all communications with your organization. If you’re going for full transparency, you can even feature the option to opt-out prominently in your emails.

Having people unsubscribe for your emails is unavoidable, and that’s arguably a good thing. Then you’re really communicating with those who want to be engaged. It’s time to give those people what they want – high quality content that engages with them, provides value, and gets way more than one open per month.

Download the Engagement Trends Report 2020

Sara Maloney

Sara is an online community manager at Higher Logic. She works with 5-6 customers at a time to maximize their success. She graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with a degree in Marketing and Psychology. In her free time, Sara enjoys reading and spending time in Washington, DC.