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How to Avoid High Email Unsubscribe Rates

At a recent conference, I heard a speaker discuss an interesting way in which her team looked at email unsubscribe rates in a different way and found an indicator of too much email being sent to new users.

To boil the discussion down, they were reviewing stats for a new email sender who had an overall low subscription rate, but their unsubscribe rate among new subscribers was bizarrely very high. They were a reputable brand, didn’t deceive people for what they were signing up for, and used a double opt-in. So (cue Serial Sarah Koenig voice) why did people want to leave their list so soon after signing up?

An enterprising mind at the speaker’s firm decided to look at the emailing cadence to these new subscribers, and that’s where they found the answer. Quite simply, the company was emailing new subscribers way too much. And as a result, they were unsubscribing at a much higher rate.

How much is too much exactly? It was upward of 50 emails in the first 30 days of their brand-to-subscriber relationship — essentially email assaulting in an effort to get the new subscriber to buy a product.

How can you avoid making a similar mistake? Your metrics will help guide you.

First, start by knowing how many new monthly subscribers you get on average, using the last 12-18 months of data. (You’d be surprised at how many email managers don’t know this.) Look for any common-sense trends that could be correlated to your business, such as seasonal swings, etc.

Next, starting post-signup, look at how many emails a new subscriber gets within their first 30 days, not counting transactional email.

Then, look at those new subscribers and what their current status is within your list. What you’re looking for is: a) Have they been opening up emails? b) If so, to what extent? and c) How long did it take new users to unsubscribe if they took that action?

If you focus on that data, it should tell you a lot. Perhaps you’re not emailing enough, and it’s a good incentive to finally create that welcome email you have been putting off. Maybe email unsubscribe rates in your first 30 days are three times what your average unsubscribe rate is. Or maybe you have a good cadence that is showing in your numbers.

I would also recommend taking a step back and periodically looking at the content you send to these new subscribers. Ultimately, what do you want them to be doing, and are they actually doing it? If they buy a product or service, do they know how to use it? Do you give them enough time to understand your brand before you ask them to buy something?

You will never have a person more ready to engage with your brand than when they sign up for email. Just don’t give them the Times Square effect of email marketing after they opt in.


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Whois: Josh Nason

Josh Nason is a Reputation Manager at Oracle Dyn Global Business Unit, a pioneer in managed DNS and a leader in cloud-based infrastructure that connects users with digital content and experiences across a global internet.