Email Opt-out Rates: What’s Too Much in Unsubscribe Rate?

January 21, 2014 | By | Reply More

unsubscribe rateIt might break your heart to find people unsubscribing from your email newsletter every time you send it out, but it doesn’t mean your readers are fleeing the ship.

The question is, when does it stop being a regular event and become a red flag?

That’s what Melissa Bell wanted to know. She sends email newsletters to people who donate to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital of Memphis, Tenn., ( ).

“We have a non-profit e-letter that we sent to our donor base and wanted to see if our average unsubscribe was comparable with industry averages or too high. Thanks for any information you can share,” she wrote.

Unsubscribes Spike After Delivery

You can expect to see your unsubscribe rate spike right after you send out a newsletter. People forget to change their addresses or to unsubscribe until you show up in their in-boxes and remind them.

There isn’t any hard-and-fast research on this number, just anecdotal opinions from publishers who have been in the business a while.

What research there is covers the whole email industry and shows about 30 percent of email addresses will turn over in a year. It doesn’t speak directly to unsubscribes, but you can expect that some of your unsubscribes result from this high turnover.

Pointers to Consider in terms of Unsubscribe Rate

Here are some pointers to consider with regards to opt-out rates:

  • The more often you publish, the smaller the number that will unsubscribe right after you send. If you send infrequently, you give people more time to change their minds about you or to change their addresses without updating their subscriptions.
  • You should see no more than 1 percent to 2 percent of your base turn over after each delivery. This number is more a rule of thumb than a hard research-based fact.
  • Track your confirmed subscriptions right along with your unsubscribes. If your new subscriptions keep pace with your unsubscribes, you’re probably doing all right.

If, however, you lose more than 5 percent to 10 percent of your subscription base, whether or not you see a corresponding increase in confirmed subscriptions, then something’s amiss.

What’s the Problem?

These strategies might help you pinpoint problem areas:

1. Chart your unsubscribes daily over the next couple of publishing cycles and see if any patterns develop.

If you publish a highly specialized newsletter, or if you appeal to a unique audience, like Melissa’s donor group, industry standards might not apply to you.

2. Review your subscription reports to find if any new and old addresses coincide, and to see how long people were on the list before exiting.

If you see people leaving after a year or more on the list, it could be email fatigue or address turnover. Also, look to see if you are making up your losses with new confirmed subscriptions.

3. Review all your promotions

Check out all your web forms, as well as your promotions from social media to link exchanges, ad or list swaps, and the like. Has your focus changed since the last time you updated your promotions? Do you make it too easy for just anybody to sign up, or is it time to get pickier?

If most of your unsubscribes come within one or two publishing cycles, you might be attracting people who expect something different from what they’re getting. That doesn’t always mean you’re not putting out a good product. Instead, you might not be promoting it correctly.

4. Add a note to your unsubscribe confirmation asking people to explain why they left.

Make it easy — link to a Web comment form or include the mailto: code to make the link active. Not everyone will respond, but you should hear either from your loyal fans or from folks with a specific complaint.

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Email Opt-out Rates: What's Too Much in Unsubscribe Rate?
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Email Opt-out Rates: What's Too Much in Unsubscribe Rate?
No matter how hard you try, people will unsubscribe from your email newsletter. But at what point does the opt-out or unsubscribe rate become a red flag?
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Category: Email Marketing

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