email opt-out

A Complete Guide on Email Opt-Outs

What does it mean when your subscribers opt out? This is a complete guide to email opt-outs, why you should comply with these requests, and the best strategies to lower your opt-out rates.

It’s disheartening for any business or marketer to watch subscribers opt-out one by one of the content they worked so hard to make. That’s why taking good care of email subscribers is important for most businesses since conversions usually happen through email follow-ups. But why do subscribers opt out?

In this article, we’ll discuss the common causes of opt-outs and why they happen, brief but thorough definitions, mechanisms, and practical tips on addressing them. Read on.


Here are some key points we’ll discuss in this guide:

  • Understanding Email Opt-Outs. A guide to what opt-outs are, their importance, and strategies to reduce them.

  • Reasons for Opt-Outs. Includes irrelevant content, lack of segmentation, excessive frequency, and poor personalization.

  • Importance of Compliance. A look at adherence to the CAN-SPAM Act and legal consequences for non-compliance.

  • Types of Opt-Outs: Explains explicit, implicit opt-outs, and “delete my data” requests.

  • Strategies to Lower Opt-Out Rates. Some include proper market segmentation, easy and clear unsubscribe link mechanisms in emails, and learning from opt-outs to improve email strategy.

  • Benefits of Respectful Communication. Good communication builds trust, reduces email overwhelm, and allows preference setting.

  • Preventing Opt-Outs. Pick up some tips on audience segmentation, personalized content, optimal email frequency, and engaging email design.

  • Opt-Outs as Opportunities. Why you should see opt-outs as feedback for improving strategies and maintaining an engaged subscriber base.

What is an Opt-out?

An opt-out is a recipient’s request to stop mail from coming, or specific groups of messages, from the sender. Not all senders offer this choice, and not everyone knows how to use it.

Opt-out mechanisms exist to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, requiring companies and email marketers to provide an opt-out button or link in every deployed email marketing campaign and opt-out request. These requests, however, must be approved upfront or within 10 business days after posting a request. Otherwise, senders may face legal consequences.

Different Types of Opt-out

reading email

There are three known types of opt-outs:

1. Explicit opt-out emails

Explicit opt-outs are when a recipient requests explicitly to be removed from a mailing list, a specific type of email, or all kinds of emails a sender might send in the future.

Breakdown of explicit opt-out emails and mechanisms:

  • General opt-out emails are opt-out emails sent to do a specific task of cutting off all forms of communication from that sender regardless of the content or purpose of the email.

  • Specific opt-out emails are sent when a subscriber wishes to opt-out from certain types of communication while maintaining a relationship with the sender.

    • Example: Users no longer want to subscribe to educational and sales content but wish to remain in the events and community updates emails.

  • Promotional or marketing emails, by law, must offer a straightforward way to opt out of a database upon request. All unsubscribe mechanisms typically lead to a landing page that has options and mentions of different types of opt-outs.

2. Implicit opt-out emails

Implicit opt-outs are when email recipients ignore or delete emails without reading or engaging.

3. Delete my data requests

This option will ultimately give a recipient’s email a “do not contact” status and should be housed in a hashed format for auditing and suppression purposes. Your recipients will often make this request through a setting in your dashboard (if you provide one).

Generally, this works alongside the “Delete Account” or “Deactivate Account” requests you add to your dashboard. Otherwise, clients might also reach out to you explicitly requesting for you to remove them from any emails or other forms of communication or notification.

Importance of Respectful Communication with Email Marketing

Maintaining respectful communication from start to end is essential because it serves as the foundation for a good relationship with the leads and customers for email marketing efforts. By allowing email subscribers to opt out freely and respecting that decision, counterintuitively, a great customer-vendor relationship is established and reinforced—making it easier for companies to be top-of-mind.

Let’s cover the importance of being respectful in email marketing:

1. Building trust through transparency and honesty

Marketers, at all times, must be upfront with their intention when writing to subscribers. This ethical practice should be evident from the opt-in to the content, privacy, and data usage, down to the opt-out. Also, providing insights on how the subscribers’ data are used to personalize emails keeps subscribers informed about email marketing practices—making compliance a breeze.

2. Reducing readers overwhelmed by unwanted emails

Sending emails at a reasonable frequency or giving an upfront option of opting out of certain types of emails from a sender, prevents subscribers’ overwhelm. Unwanted emails can clutter inboxes for recipients, which can be annoying for some since revisiting backlogged emails and deleting them one by one is inconvenient.

Note: Unreasonable volume of marketing emails is one of the leading causes of subscribers opting out.

3. Allowing them to choose their preferences, user-friendly preference centers

Provide an optimized preference center for subscribers where they can choose their preferences. The presence of preference centers is beneficial in reducing email overwhelm and maintaining subscriber engagement. This helps them tailor the email experience to their interests and desired frequency.

4. Perform an audit of your strategy and make use of email list segmentation

Market segmentation helps marketers understand their audience’s behavior when opting out of emails. Market segmentation allows businesses to have an in-depth look at their analytics, which is essential when performing an audit and revamping ineffective marketing strategies. [Source]

Great to take note of:

  • Subscribers receiving excessive promotional emails are most likely to opt out.

  • Align the type of content you create with your target audience, proving the great importance of proper market segmentation.

  • Emails with poor design, calls to action, or broken links raise red flags.

  • Emails that don’t align with what the subscribers signed up for or feel generic are perceived as spam.

  • Too many emails or emails that come in spammy frequency, regardless of value, leads to fatigue and prompts subscribers to opt out.

  • Subscribers who do not open or engage with emails will eventually opt out.

  • Low engagement rates are indicators that certain content isn’t resonating with the audiences or that they’ve lost interest in what companies are selling.

Marketing automation platforms with email services typically have an analytics feature that displays all important details about your audience, including demographics, behavior, etc. Making it easier for businesses to create new strategies and streamline based on the current data.

How to Create a Proper Opt-out Email

Curating effective opt-out emails to maintain a positive relationship with your subscribers.

Here’s how you can efficiently restructure your emails:

  1. Craft clear and intentional subject lines.

    Keep subject lines clear and concise to create a good first impression and encourage subscribers to open the email instead of unsubbing.

  2. Create engaging experiences.Expectations For UnsubscribingUse dynamic content and behavioral triggers to make any emails relevant and interesting.

  3. Personalize your messages.

    Personalized emails give subscribers the impression of care and good intentions from the sender. [Source]

  4. Maintain decorum in your messages.

    Respect your audience by maintaining professionalism and courtesy in your communications.

  5. Provide clear transition information.

    Offer accurate information to subscribers who opt out, setting clear expectations for the transition period and explaining the effects of their decision.

Common Causes of Email List Recipient Opt-outs

When people opt out, it means fewer potential customers, which could also mean less money coming in. If lots of people opt out, it’s a sign that your email marketing isn’t working well, and you might need to change what you’re doing.

Subscribers opt out of emails for a variety of reasons. It can be:

  • Overwhelming frequency of emails deemed annoying and spammy

  • Irrelevant topics, or topics they didn’t sign up for (evident with bought contact lists)

  • Emails with horrible timing

  • Generic emails with poor personalization, or the lack thereof

  • Technical problems cause problems leading to a loss of trust

The bottom line is, that subscribers opt out of emails if they are no longer interested in what companies are offering, feeling that the senders are taking advantage of them, or they think that the sender is simply annoying.

Ways to Prevent Recipients from Opting Out

man typing

To stop subscribers from leaving your email list, you need to use smart tactics that give them value, relevance, and control. Here are some helpful strategies:

  1. Use data to segment your audience into small groups based on what they like, how they act, and who they are.

  2. Send win-back emails, try incentives, or refreshers to re-engage disinterested subscribers before they have opted out. Make sure that you send them within the 10 business days window. After that, you should no longer send communications with these receivers to avoid any legal issues.

  3. Let subscribers pick how often they get emails. Make it easy for subscribers to pick upfront what kinds of emails they want.

  4. Make sure your emails are valuable, interesting, and well-made. Use insights or special offers that match what your audience likes.

  5. Figure out the best times to send emails using data, so more people will read and like them.

  6. Perform an A/B test for different emails with varying subject lines, content, and buttons to see which ones will receive the best results

  7. Listen to feedback from your subscribers to understand why they’re leaving and improve your emails accordingly.

Note: While it may appear counterintuitive, opt-outs are a critical component of email marketing. In other words, opt-out mechanisms return the freedom to subscribers the freedom to control the emails they receive, which can help prevent spam complaints and improve brand reputation and engagement rates over time.

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve compiled the recurring questions about email opt-outs.

Why do subscribers opt out of email lists?

A few common reasons why subscribers opt out of emails when they feel taken advantage of are bombarded with emails in spammy frequency, or no longer find value in what the email marketers are offering.

Is it safe for subscribers to opt out of emails?

Yes. It should be safe for all subscribers to opt out of email marketing databases anytime. Most countries have laws and regulations that are in effect that require businesses to provide clear and working unsubscribe mechanisms attached to their emails.

Why is opt-out important?

Subscribers are legally entitled to have full control over their personal data and online safety. Subscribers, at all times, should be able to control what they see and receive in their inboxes.

What is the difference between unsubscribe and opt-out?

“Unsubscribe” and “opt-out” are two related terms often used in the context of email marketing, but the meaning may vary depending on the context, for instance:


When a recipient chooses to “unsubscribe” from an email list, it means they no longer want to receive emails from a particular sender or organization. It is typically a user-initiated action and is considered a request to be removed from the sender’s email list and database altogether.


Opt-out is a broader term that refers to the process of choosing not to participate in something. This can be used interchangeably with “unsubscribe” but may also encompass other actions where a recipient chooses not to receive certain, and not all, emails or communications.

How do you write an opt-out email?

Creating an opt-out email means making a message that lets people easily leave your email list while being polite and professional. Here’s how to make your opt-out email better (With example):

Aww shucks! We're sad to see you go. :-( 

We have received your request to unsubscribe from our email list. Your email address ([Customer's Email Address]) has been successfully removed, and you will no longer receive any future communications from us.

We're sorry to see you go and hope we haven't inconvenienced you in any way. 

If you have any feedback or if there's something specific you were looking for but didn't find in our communications, we'd love to hear from you.

Thank you for your time with us, and remember, you're always welcome back if you decide to receive updates from us in the future

Thank you for being a part of our community, ([Customer's First Name]). 

([Sender's First Name])
([Your Company's Name])
  • Use a clear subject line

  • Be polite and respectful

  • Give straightforward instructions

Adding a simple thank you, a short survey, or asking for feedback can also be valuable.

Final Thoughts

Creating and maintaining an active email list is hard because there are regulations to follow (namely the CAN-SPAM Act). That’s why buying lists might not help much, nor that it’s ethical. Consumers are way more careful about giving out their info now compared to before as we’re more aware of their rights and safety online—as we should—to protect ourselves from fraud and breaches.

That’s why building a good relationship with your subscribers through respectful and smart methods is important. Opt-out emails aren’t just about ending engagement; they’re an opportunity to improve communication by receiving feedback from your former subscribers.

For marketers, do not fear opt-outs. Keep including opt-out mechanisms in emails, consistently provide value, and adhere to compliance regulations.

In case your opt-out rates aren’t improving even after following this guide and you think you need professional help, we’re here to help. Kindly let us know so we can help you connect with an email expert. Take step one, click here.

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