ways to reduce email unsubscribe rates

When I share tips and hacks on how to write better marketing emails, I tend to focus on ways to boost your open and clickthrough rates. After all, when you’ve poured a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into writing and designing your marketing emails, it can be downright discouraging to see low open rates and clickthrough rates. And you probably want to fix them by bringing those numbers up. (I’ve got you!)

But there’s another email marketing stat that can make you want to crawl into bed and hide under the covers: your unsubscribe rate.

Low open rates and clickthrough rates are disheartening because they mean that some people didn’t even bother to open or click on your email. But unsubscribes are even worse. They feel like the ultimate form of rejection because instead of just ignoring your email, someone decided to peace out and leave your list altogether.

Now, it’s important to remember that unsubscribes can be a good thing. I know you probably don’t believe that, but hear me out:

Some people who end up joining your email list aren’t the right fit for it because they’re not genuinely interested in what you offer as a brand. And that’s perfectly a-okay. So when these types of people unsubscribe, it’s a good thing because your list is cleaning itself. That’s why an unsubscribe rate of 0.5-2% is healthy and normal.

The problem is when your unsubscribes come from people who were genuinely interested in your brand but either didn’t feel engaged when they were on your list or felt frustrated by something related to your emails. These are people who may have eventually bought your product or booked your service. But now that they’re off your list, you don’t have a shot at selling to them via email anymore.

So what can you do to reduce your unsubscribe rate among the people who actually are the right fit for your email list? Try one of these 12 effective strategies for reducing your unsubscribe rate.




Need help crafting email subject lines that will make your subscribers actually open your emails?
Download my 63 free email subject line templates.


1. Make it clear that they’re joining your list

Have you ever received a marketing email from a company and wondered how the heck you ended up on their email list in the first place?

Sometimes people experience this when they sign up for an email list, don’t hear from that business for months, and completely forget that they signed up at all by the time an email finally lands in their inbox.

But in other cases, people don’t know that they signed up for an email list because they weren’t explicitly told that they were signing up for an email list. Retailers are notorious for doing this. You’ll go up to the cash register at a clothing store to pay for a sweater or a new pair of jeans. And during the transaction, the sales associate will probably ask you for your email address.

Sometimes they do it so they can send you an electronic copy of your receipt. In many cases, though, they do it so they can add you to their email list. But they’re not up front about their endgame. So when you start receiving promotional emails from them the next day (or even that same day), you feel like you’ve been tricked. And that’s when you start searching for that unsubscribe link.

So if you want to reduce your unsubscribe rate and avoid making your audience feel like you’ve taken advantage of them, make sure they know when they’re signing up for your email list. Even if they’re signing up to get a lead magnet or content upgrade, add some copy to your landing page or opt-in form that makes it crystal clear that they’ll also be added to your email list. This way, there won’t be any surprises when you send your first email.

Example: On this opt-in form, Marie Forleo makes it clear that by signing up for her free audio training, you’re also signing up to get emails from her each week.


Example of Marie Forleo opt-in page


2. Experiment with double opt-ins

When you’re building your email list, you can use either a single opt-in system or a double opt-in system.

With a single opt-in system, subscribers are automatically added to your email list once they complete and submit an opt-in form. There’s no extra step they need to take.

In comparison, with a double opt-in system, new subscribers have to confirm their subscription before they get added to your email list. Typically, they do this by clicking a link in an email you send then after they complete the opt-in form.

Because people have to actively confirm their subscription with a double opt-in system, the double opt-in system tends to increase the quality of an email list and reduce your unsubscribe rate. After all, people have to really want to be on your email list to go through the trouble of completing an extra step to sign up. And if people really want to be on your email list, they probably won’t unsubscribe as readily.

But that extra step can also reduce the number of people who end up completing the subscription process. That’s because as many as 20% of people who complete the initial opt-in form won’t end up confirming their email address. Sometimes this is because these people didn’t really want to be on your list in the first place. But you can also end up losing people just because they missed the confirmation email or it landed in their spam folder.

So go ahead and experiment with double opt-ins. But be aware of the limitations.

Related: 9 easy list building tips to grow your email list + free list of 27 content upgrade ideas

3. Set expectations for your emails

Just like you want your subscribers to know that you’re going to be emailing them, you also want to set expectations for what you’ll be sending and how frequently you’ll be sending messages.

Either on your opt-in thank you page or in one of your welcome emails, tell your new subscriber what kind of emails you’ll be sending and how frequently you’ll be sending them. This way, they’ll understand how often they can expect to hear from you. And they can peace out sooner rather than later if they realize that it’s not what they were expecting.

Related: How to write a welcome email series + free 6-email template

Example: In this welcome email, Ashlyn Carter tells her subscribers exactly how often they can expect to hear from her.


Ashlyn Carter welcome email

4. Select the right email frequency

It’s great to be transparent about how frequently you’re going to email your subscribers. But you also want to make sure that that frequency is appropriate for your audience and your brand. After all, when asked why they unsubscribe from emails, 47% of millennials said it was because they receive emails too often.

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule about how frequently you should email your subscribers. But in general, you want to select a frequency that allows you to build a relationship with them, deliver consistent value, and stay on their radar. And you want it to be a frequency that you can maintain.

Weekly emails work for many brands, but depending on your audience and resources, you may decide to send emails more or less frequently.

Related: 10 expert tips for writing marketing emails that convert + 63 email subject line templates


5. Segment your subscribers

Imagine that you want to get better results on Instagram when you use it to promote your business. So you find a social media brand that’s offering a free video series on how to get better engagement on your Instagram posts organically. And you sign up for their email list in exchange for getting access to the video series.

But once you end up on their email list, you find that a big chunk of their emails are about Snapchat and TikTok—platforms you don’t even use. So what do you do? The Instagram emails are really valuable, but there are just too many emails that aren’t relevant to you. So you unsubscribe.

That’s a loss for the social media brand because they probably could have kept you on their list by doing one critical thing: segmenting their email list.

When you segment your email list, you split it up into different groups based on your subscribers’ interests or characteristics. For example, if you have a social media brand, you might segment your subscribers based on the social platforms they’re interested in learning about.

Segmenting allows you to send only the most relevant emails to your subscribers so that you can keep them highly interested and engaged. This would mean, for instance, that you send tips about Instagram to the people in your “Instagram” segment and tips about Facebook to subscribers who are part of your “Facebook” segment.

Getting irrelevant content is the third most common reason why people unsubscribe from email lists. So segmenting your email list and sending more targeted emails to your subscribers is a great way to reduce your unsubscribe rate. It also boosts your open and clickthrough rates. Score!

Related: 17 email copy techniques that make your subscribers open and click + 63 free email subject line templates


6. Write solid email subject lines

Want your subscribers to believe that you’re worth the space you take up in their inbox? Write solid subject lines for your emails to convey that what you’re sending is interesting or valuable.

Remember that your subject lines are the key piece of information your subscribers will use to decide whether they’ll open your emails. And if your subscribers realize that they almost never open your emails, they might decide that it’s time to hit that unsubscribe link.

So do yourself a favour and use your subject lines to tell your subscribers why they should bother to stick around on your list. Do this by writing subject lines that emphasize the benefits of your emails or invoke curiosity while keeping things short and sweet.

Related: 12 email subject line tips to boost your open rate + free spam trigger word list

Example: Check out this attention-grabbing subject line in Amy Porterfield’s email:


email copy mistakes example



Need help crafting email subject lines that will make your subscribers actually open your emails?
Download my 63 free email subject line templates.

Send me the templates



7. Make it personal

Another effective hack for reducing your unsubscribe rate is to make your emails feel personal. After all, personalized emails have transaction rates that are 6x higher than those of nonpersonalized emails. So if you’re not personalizing your emails already, it’s worth testing!

You can personalize your emails by using merge tags to add your subscribers’ first name to the emails you send. This makes your emails feel more like a conversation that you’re having with each individual subscriber. And it helps them feel more engaged.

Related: 7 email copy mistakes that are destroying your conversions + 63 free email subject line templates

8. Optimize for mobile

These days, people view as many as 81% of emails on a mobile device. So to reduce your unsubscribe rate, it’s important to make sure that your emails can deliver as much value when people view them on a mobile vs. desktop device.

To optimize your emails for mobile devices, make sure you do the following:

  • add preheader text (the text that shows up underneath the subject line on a mobile device)
  • ensure your font is large enough to read comfortably on a mobile device
  • ensure your images aren’t too large to fit screens
  • make links and call-to-action buttons touch-friendly (people shouldn’t have to zoom to tap a link or button properly)

Related: The 62 best words to use in your call to action + 80 free call-to-action templates

Example: Even on a smartphone, the CTA button in Netflix’s email is super easy to tap.

Netflix confession killer example


9. Share exclusive content or offers

People will be less likely to unsubscribe from your email list if they know that they’re getting access to content or offers that they can’t get from you elsewhere. So if you have exclusive tips, resources, or discounts that you can offer to your email list, send them to your subscribers.

People love feeling special. And there’s nothing wrong with showing them some extra love if they’ve granted you access to their inbox. Plus, email converts better than every  other marketing channel. So adding some extra value up front to keep people on your email list can pay off in more sales down the road.

10. Change things up

People get bored of seeing the same types of emails over and over and over and over again.

So to keep your subscribers engaged and reduce your unsubscribe rates, test out different types of email formats. For example, try adding an image, gif, or video to your emails to change things up and pique your subscribers’ interest.

You can even just try formatting your copy in a different way and seeing how your audience responds to the change.

11. Ask why they unsubscribed

You may not be able to convince every single subscriber to stay on your list. But you can still learn from the people who decide to leave and use their feedback to reduce your unsubscribe rate.

Specifically, many email marketing platforms allow you to ask unsubscribers why they want to leave your email list. You can then use this information to see if you’re falling short somewhere.

For example, maybe you find that lots of people are unsubscribing and telling you that they never signed up for your email list. That’s a sign that you may not be making it clear to people that you’ll be adding them to your list when they sign up for a lead magnet or content upgrade on your website.

The good news? This problem is pretty easy to fix. All you have to do is add some copy on your opt-in form or landing page to make it crystal clear that by signing up for a resource, people will also be added to your list.

Related: When to clean your email list: 4 signs that it’s time + free welcome email series swipe file

12. Suggest other ways to stay connected

This last one isn’t about reducing your unsubscribe rate. But it is about trying to stay connected to people who do unsubscribe.

You see, just because someone doesn’t want to be on your email list doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re completely uninterested in your brand. They just might not want to have your tips or resources landing in their inbox every week.

So when someone unsubscribes, give them a chance to stay connected to your brand in other ways.

Related: How to write social media CTAs that boost traffic, leads, and sales + 80 CTA templates

Example: Sean McCabe asks people who unsubscribe from his list if they’d like to stay in touch on Twitter or Instagram instead.


Example of unsubscribe message



You CAN move the needle on your unsubscribe rate

Sometimes it can feel like no matter what you do, you can’t get the needle on your email marketing analytics to move. But I wrote this post to tell you that this isn’t true—not at all, in fact.

The truth is that you CAN reduce your email unsubscribe rate. You just need to use the right strategies to do it.

The hacks that I’ve shared above are strategies that successful entrepreneurs use to reduce their email unsubscribe rates and keep them down. So go ahead and take them for a spin. They’ll help you improve the experience you create for your email subscribers. And when you do that, it’s only natural that people will be less likely to peace out.


Need help crafting email subject lines that will make your subscribers actually open your emails?
Download my 63 free email subject line templates.

Send me the templates




Are too many people unsubscribing from your email list? Learn 12 hacks to reduce your unsubscribe rate + grab 63 free email subject line templates.

12 effective ways to reduce your email unsubscribe rate + 63 free email subject line templates

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