The Ultimate Guide to Opt-Outs (2023)


As a marketer, you don’t want potential customers to opt-out of your email campaigns. While it is important to allow subscribers to control the emails they receive, which can help prevent spam complaints and improve engagement rates, opt-outs can harm your marketing efforts. 

In this article, we will explore the causes of opt-outs and provide practical tips on how to minimize them. We will also discuss how to measure the impact of opt-outs based on industry guidelines to improve your email marketing campaigns.

What is an Opt-Out?

Opt-outs are a feature in email marketing that allows subscribers to remove themselves from a mailing list. It is the opposite of an opt-in, where subscribers voluntarily sign up to receive emails from a company.

The Importance of Opt-Outs

While it may seem counterintuitive, opt-outs are a critical component of email marketing. They allow subscribers the freedom to control the emails they receive, which can help prevent spam complaints and improve engagement rates.

Two Types of Opt-Outs

There are two types of opt-outs: explicit and implicit. Explicit opt-outs happen when a recipient specifically requests to be removed from a mailing list, while implicit opt-outs occur when a recipient ignores or deletes emails without engaging with them.

Common Reasons for Opt-Outs

Subscriber opt-outs are caused by a few factors, including receiving content too frequently, irrelevant content, poor timing, lack of personalization, technical issues, and spammy or overly promotional content.

Understanding opt-outs is crucial to preventing them, so let’s dive a little deeper.

The Negative Impacts of Opt-Outs

Despite the importance of allowing subscribers the freedom to control their inbox, opt-outs can have a negative impact on email marketing campaigns.


When a subscriber opts-out, it can affect the deliverability of future emails. Too many opt-outs will signal to ISPs that your emails are unwanted, leading them to mark your future emails as spam. This can harm your sender reputation and lower your deliverability rates.

Engagement Rates

Opt-outs can also negatively impact overall engagement. As subscribers opt-out, the overall size of your email list decreases, leading to fewer opportunities to engage with your audience. Additionally, opt-outs can signal that the audience is not resonating with your content.


Ultimately, opt-outs can have a direct impact on revenue. When subscribers opt-out, it reduces the number of potential customers who could convert, leading to a decrease in revenue. Furthermore, if too many subscribers opt-out, it is an indication that your email marketing campaigns are not effective, and it may be necessary to re-evaluate your strategy.

What Causes Subscribers to Opt-Out?

Email Frequency

Bombarding subscribers with too many emails, even if the content is valuable, can be overwhelming and lead to frustration. While some subscribers may enjoy receiving daily emails, others may prefer a weekly or monthly cadence. Consider sending a survey or asking for feedback to understand your subscriber preferences. Finding the right balance of frequency is crucial to keeping subscribers engaged.

Irrelevant Content

Sending relevant content is important when preventing opt-outs. If subscribers receive emails that are irrelevant or not what they signed up for, they are likely to lose interest and eventually opt-out. Personalization can go a long way when curating relevant content and maintaining a strong email list.

Poor Design

Poorly designed emails can be difficult to read, confusing, or unappealing, leading to subscribers opting out. Ensuring that your emails have a clear hierarchy and are easy to scan can help maintain subscriber interest.

Technical Issues

If subscribers encounter problems when trying to read or open an email, they may become frustrated and opt-out of the mailing list. It is essential to ensure that emails are optimized for different devices and email clients to prevent potential technical issues.

How to Prevent Opt-Outs

Segment Your Email Lists

One of the most effective methods of preventing opt-outs is to segment your email lists. By dividing your subscribers into smaller groups based on factors like demographics, interests, and behavior, you can send targeted emails that are more relevant to each group. This can increase engagement rates and reduce opt-outs as subscribers are more likely to interact with content that is tailored specifically for them.

Personalize Each Email

Personalization is another key factor in preventing opt-outs. By using subscribers’ names, past behavior, and preferences, you can create a customized experience for them. Between the plethora of personalization strategies and the introduction of AI tools, there is no shortage of possibilities.

Offer Opt-Down Options

Instead of just offering an opt-out option, consider providing subscribers with an opt-down option as well. This allows them to choose the frequency or genre of emails they receive from you, instead of just completely unsubscribing. As an example, you could offer the choice of receiving one email per week, or one per month. This can help retain subscribers who may still be interested in your content, but are overwhelmed by too many emails.

Provide Valuable Content

One of the most effective ways to prevent opt-outs is to provide valuable content that is relevant to your subscribers. Deliver high-quality content that solves their problems or meets their needs, and your audience will continue to be engaged and interested in your brand. In turn, lowering the chance for subscribers to opt-out.

Ensure Technical Compatibility

Before sending an email, it is vital to ensure that your emails are technically compatible with as many devices and email clients as possible. Test your emails on different devices, in different browsers, and on different apps. This can help prevent technical issues that may frustrate subscribers and lead to opt-outs.

Measuring the Impact of Opt-Outs

To understand how your email marketing campaigns are performing and identify areas for improvement, it is important to measure the impact of opt-outs alongside industry standard KPIs.


This metric refers to the number of people who have opted-out of an email list. This is essential data for marketers to track as it can provide insight into why customers may no longer be interested in their email content. Understanding the reasons for opt-outs can help reduce their frequency and improve overall campaign effectiveness.


These are the users who clicked the ‘unsubscribe’ link, but did not remove themselves from the email list. Measuring this metric over time can help gauge the effectiveness of your opt-down page. Also, consider further segmenting your list based on opt-down users who have made purchases or shared your newsletter.

Making Data-Driven Decisions

By tracking the above metrics and identifying areas for improvement, you can make data-driven decisions to optimize your email campaigns. For example, you could analyze the revenue generated from subscribers who chose to opt-down to find the percent of users who made a purchase after almost unsubscribing. Or, you can track the engagement of list members who chose to opt-down separately to understand where your content can improve.

Use the insights gained from measuring opt-outs and opt-downs in combination with unsubscribes and other industry standard KPIs to develop a successful email marketing strategy that engages and retains your subscribers.

Final Thoughts:

Preventing opt-outs should be a top priority for email marketers. By using the strategies mentioned above and measuring key performance metrics along the way, marketers can minimize opt-outs and improve the overall ROI for their email campaigns.

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Been Mailed by Me Before…

Have you ever received mail from a company or organization, even after you thought you unsubscribed? Are you just having a déjà vu moment, or has there been a “glitch in the matrix”?

When this happens to one of your email recipients, they might think that your organization didn’t honor their unsubscribe request, which can result in your email being marked as spam, or even a direct abuse desk complaint being made against you. Trust me, legitimate direct abuse desk complaints are taken very seriously, and carry a lot of weight.

Are these continued mailings really the result of senders or ESPs not honoring an unsubscribe request? Yes and no! Let me explain…

Why You Need More Than One Email List Admin

Here’s a situation our support team runs across from time to time: A client calls us in a panic because her email list has been deleted, and she doesn’t know it happened or who was responsible. What a nightmare! But it doesn’t have to happen to you. There are some simple preventative measures you can take to avoid a similar scenario.

The Biggest Benefit of Email Testing

In our last post, we explained why it’s important to test your emails before they go out. There are many benefits to incorporating this practice into your email marketing program, from catching typos and grammatical errors to ensuring optimal image display and maximum delivery.

But the biggest benefit of all is a little more abstract.

Take Time To Test!

Picture this: you’ve created a phenomenal email. One of your best ever, in fact. It’s got highly compelling content that’s relevant to your subscribers, gorgeous images, and a call to action that’s practically irresistible. This email is so good, you can’t wait to put it out there and watch the clicks and conversions start rolling in. So you’re really tempted to just pull the trigger and skip the whole testing phase. After all, you know your email is practically perfect.

What could possibly go wrong?

Missing Image? Lancelot Link to the Rescue!

You want to include that beautiful photo you took, or that gorgeous artwork you created, in your latest mailing. Your image is so good, you can’t wait for everyone to see it. But there’s a problem: when your email goes out, all your subscribers see is a blank space where your image was supposed to be, along with this message:

Bad Link Image

So what happened??

The Email Multiverse – or, How Multi-Part Messages Are Like Comic Books

As you know by now, I’m an email nerd and – surprise! – I’m a comic book geek, too. I’ve been collecting comics since way before it was cool – long before tattooed specialty shop clerks (who try to make me feel like I don’t know the history of the Justice Society) were even born! I love the golden age heroes, like Earth-Two, Dr. Fate and The Helm of Nabu – heck, he was even based in Salem, MA (just like Net Atlantic)!

So what does this all have to do with email? Aside from the fact that I’d love a shout-out from @dandidio1, @JimLee or @geoffjohnsKAPOW! – quite a bit! Take the idea of the Multiverse. Comic book authors use the Multiverse as a way to tell stories about different versions of the same hero. And each version of the hero is interpreted differently by the readers. This is similar to the idea behind sending a multi-part email message. How?

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