Can’t you see I don’t like you? Why are you making this so hard?!? [a tale of unsubscribing]

[this post was originally featured on my LinkedIn Profile]


Lots of businesses think it should be hard (or rather, not easy) for users to get off their email list. I argue that if someone wants to leave, you should practically walk them to do the door so they don’t hurt your IP or domain reputation. This seems to be (IMHO) some common sense that many businesses can’t stomach.

Consider this scenario:

I signed up for your product/ service/ newsletter some time back. Let’s go as far as saying a long time back. Even though I don’t engage with your content, you still keep emailing me. *cough* Don’t Do This *cough*.

Finally, I decide that today is the day I want to stop receiving your emails. So I click the unsubscribe/ manage preferences link you have provided in your email. (You do have this in your email, don’t you?)

2015-04-289.17.08 AM

But what’s this? You want me to log in first? I can’t recall my info (I signed up a long time ago, remember) and honestly, I couldn’t be bothered.

2015-04-289.20.33 AM


You’re making this a chore now, so I’ll just mark you as spam. I’ll solve the problem my way since your way is too annoying.

Aaaaaaand scene.

You see what happened there? Making it harder for users to let you know that they’re no longer interested in your content is a sure fire way to boost your complaints. And I’ve said before, it takes a lot less than you think to get your domain or IP address blacklisted

I hope this helps 😉



“Can we make the unsubscribe link smaller?”

[this post originally appeared on my LinkedIn Profile]

I hear this all the time from clients. Fundamentally, it’s about fear – fear that they will lose their customer. Fear of rejection. But it’s definitely the wrong question. Here’s the correct question:

Can we make the unsubscribe link highly visible and basically impossible to miss?

Here’s the thing:

If you’re sending timely, relevant and engaging content to your subscribers, they’ll keep wanting more from you.

If your content is not relevant or interesting to your subscriber, they’re going to want off your list, and you should make this as simple as possible for them to achieve.

The alternative is a Spam complaint.

Trust me, you never want a Spam complaint. Not even one. Not ever. So make it as painless as possible for someone to let you know that they’re just not that in to you without anyone getting hurt.

Here’s an example of getting it wrong:

I cancelled my Vudu account a little over a year ago. I haven’t used their service since and really, I have no desire to do so. Every now and again I see an email from them pop in to my Promotions folder, and today I thought to my self “I should probably unsubscribe”. Except I couldn’t.

There’s no way to get to a preference center or an unsubscribe link from this email. Which means that I have just one option. The dreaded Report Spam button.

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Let’s forget for a minute that this violates CANSPAM laws and just focus on the customer convenience aspect.

Don’t force your customers to mark you as spam, because they will. Give them an easy, one click way to get off your list – it’s better for your data integrity, and its better for your customer.

Make it clear that you understand if they’re just not that in to you, and that you’re OK with that.


What are Spam Traps and Honey Pots?

If you’re doing email marketing, chances are you’ve heard the terms ‘Spam Trap’ or ‘Honey Pot’ bandied about, but what are they and how can you avoid them?

Spam Traps are email addresses that ISPs use to identify unethical senders. If you have one of these email addresses on your list, chances are that it was not added in a legitimate manner. If you are repeatedly found to be sending to a Spam Trap, you could end up blacklisted at an ISP and your mail won’t be delivered.

Spam Traps are usually old email inboxes that are no longer in use by clients, but can still accept email.

Let’s say for example I open up a Hotmail account, I use the email address a few times but then abandon it for fear of ridicule, never to return again. After a period of time, mail will bounce from this inbox and after an even longer period, Hotmail may use this inbox as a spam trap. Any marketers sending email to this dead inbox are clearly doing something fishy, since the original owner of the email address is no longer using it. This tells Hotmail that your Email Marketing is not up to scratch and your deliverability will be affected.

The second kind of trap is called a Honey Pot. It’s am email address created specifically to catch spammers. Here’s how it would typically work. I will create an email address called and publish it on my site in a way that is not visible to normal subscribers, e.g. white text on a white background. If an email harvester visited my site and scraped it for email addresses, it would find this Honey Pot. Before too long, I would start to receive unsolicited email. Since I would not use this email address to subscribe to anything to send mail to any real people, I can now identify the source as a spammer. All in all it’s pretty neat and tidy.
Another way that this is often used it to add the Honey Pot to the WHOIS record for a domain, as that is a popular target for spammers.

How Did The Spam Trap Get On To My Email List?

99% of the time the answer is very simple – list buying. When marketers use list brokers or buy lists from other 3rd parties, this is the most common way for a bad email address to make it in to your database.
If you do aquire new data in a legitimate fashion (e.g. via a merger) my advice would be to relegate that data to its own sending IP and keep is seperate from your existing lists until you are 100% sure that the data is clean. Blending the new data right away is risky, as it could affect your IP Reputation if it contains bad records. I would advise a 3 month quarantine period.

What should you do if you have hit a Spam Trap?

Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your perspective) there is no way to know which email addresses on your list are honey pots or spam traps. The best way to avoid the problems these emails cause (blacklisting) is to segment your list by subscriber engagement. If someone hasn’t opened one of your emails in a year, it’s probably a good time to stop sending them campaigns – you’re not getting any ROI for that user anyway. I have found that an inactivity period of 6 months is usually a good benchmark.

Another important step is bounce management. Since some ISPs will take over dead inboxes and use them as Spam Traps, it’s important that you remove hard bounces from your list, that way you might dodge the bullet by removing the inbox before it becomes a spam trap.

Lastly, if you do get black listed because of a spam trap, you should open a support ticket with the source of the blacklisting and request a removal. The process can be slow, but the effects on your delivery make it worth the effort.

The Science of Social Timing and 10 other awesome email infographics

If you’re involved with Email Marketing, then the time at which you send your email can have a dramatic impact on the result of your campaign. Obviously, the optimal sending time will depend on your list profile – a B2B audience will have a different optimal time to the B2C list, and even then geographic and lifestyle factors will come in to play.

Hubspot has put together a list of 11 infographics about Email Marketing, including the one below from Kissmetrics which looks at the best time to send campaigns for optimal response rate.

View the full list of infographics here:

Click the image to view the full infographic