How Many Clicks to Get to the Center of An Unsubscribe?

Mr. Owl: A one, a two-hoo…a three…(crunch sound effect). Three! Narrator: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

Yeah, I know…again cheesy, but come on. Who doesn’t like a Tootsie Pop? Remember how we always watched that commercial and then wondered how many licks would it really take us? Well, lately discussions have cropped up in industry groups about how many clicks it should take for someone to unsubscribe from an email. As some of you already know, it shouldn’t take a user more than one click to be unsubscribed. But the lingering question is, where or when do you start counting clicks? To make things even more interesting some senders are seeing an increase in undeserved link-driven unsubscribe requests. Is it related to relevancy? No. Is it because of poor list management? No. Is it because of the one-click idea from an email unsubscribe mechanism? Yes! I’ll explain more on that in a bit.

The debate that is ongoing is what is better for the brand and also regulatory compliance when it comes to how you offer your email targets a way to change their subscription preferences. We all know that in the U.S. 2008 CAN-SPAM update the Federal Trade Commission said that in basic form you could not make it difficult for a user to unsubscribe from your content. This means you can’t make a user go through form after form of information, or make them pay a fee to be removed, or provide any more information other than their email address to be removed.

The discussions I am hearing are interesting: some people think that allowing a user to click an unsubscribe link that takes them to a landing page to click unsubscribe again is not compliant with that act. In other arguments, people say that if you don’t offer that sort of process you will get false unsubscribes when security software (like anti-spam or anti-viruses) reviews an email and it “clicks” a link to see what malicious things are behind them. Thus, if you are using a one-click unsubscribe mechanism from within the email, the user is unsubscribed by the software without their knowledge.

The regulations state, “An e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender.” What that doesn’t state is that the click has to begin from within the email. It’s one click after the email. Some continue to argue that making someone visit a web page to click an unsubscribe “confirmation” button is more work than allowed, but you can read it for yourself – it is a valid process.

When you look at the government concerns it’s all about the intent of your process. Are you making it easier or harder than it has to be? Are you intentionally trying to prevent them from leaving your mailing list? Plenty of ESPs offer a landing page or preference option to their clients and any brand should take advantage of that since it is legal and is not much more work for an individual to go through when they want to make a choice. When you do take into consideration the issue of security software packages reviewing email, yes, they sometimes check to see what is behind a link, and if you are doing a one-click unsubscribe from within the email then you are allowing software to make a choice for your consumer. Why lose a valuable asset to some software?

Overall, I personally like the process of a landing page. During that time you can also show the recipient any other mailings they might be receiving from you as well. It also gives you the chance to show the frequency that the user will see emails from you. Give them the option to change that vs. unsubscribing. Of course, have an easy-to-use unsubscribe button on-the-ready in that same website real estate space. Another point to think about that my friend Ryan Phelan said was that if you have a one-click from within the email, you cannot present the user with an opt-down option to try and change their mind about leaving or even attempt to get feedback as to why they are leaving, which has been shown to reduce attrition by up to 40 percent.

Check today to see how your unsubscribe process works and count how many times it takes to get to the center of an unsubscribe. Maybe yours is just one and needs to be two.

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