Unsubscribe Part 1: An Email Marketer’s Glossary
Unsubscribe rates can cause a great deal of anxiety for email marketers and for companies that rely on email to drive engagement with new customers and to nurture current customers. The terminology around “unsubscribing” can be confusing, so we want to offer this glossary as the first of a three-part series. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also look at how you can lower your unsubscribe rate, as well as the reasons why unsubscribes are not such a bad thing.
The Unsubscribe Glossary
- Unsubscribe – this is simply the catch-all phrase for canceling a subscription to an email list; often is also applied to cancellation of an online service (as opposed to canceling a physical magazine subscription, which is usually referred to as a “subscription cancellation”)
- Soft bounce – this means the email was undeliverable, often for a reason that may “correct” itself in the near future – a good example is a “bounce” that comes back because someone has set an automated out of office message or forward while they are on vacation; every CRM varies, but all have some criteria for the number of consecutive soft bounces allowed prior to converting an email address to a hard bounce
- Hard bounce – this is an email address that is undeliverable because the address is no good; while you want to delete these emails from your system, dump them first and go through them manually, because you’ll often find typos that can be easily corrected – gmial.com, for example; it is also worth checking the name connected with the email, as you may find a reliable customer has changed jobs and a simple phone call could recover the contact; set a “hard bounce review” schedule and look through this list quarterly prior to scrubbing these emails from your system
- Spam – unsolicited emails – this can include email addresses you have collected yourself but were not clear about how you would continue contact; or emails you have gathered through some other source (such as scraping emails from social media or contacts from websites) and are emailing without gathering appropriate consent
- CAN-SPAM – this is the set of U.S. government regulations surrounding unsolicited email, click here to read the law – and read the information available to consumers here; if you are sending email outside the U.S., be sure you are following GDPR (EU) and Australian laws; note also that privacy protections in terms of data storage and breaches are generally stricter outside the U.S.
- Email list rental – there are thousands of targeted lists you can rent through a list broker; note that a legitimate broker will not release the email list to you, they will send your email for you, and they are responsible for adhering to spam laws
- Unsubscribe link – you are required to include an easily accessible link in every email that allows recipients to unsubscribe at any time
- Open rate – your open rate is NOT necessarily the number of recipients who opened your email, as a number of email clients show previews of emails, which can count as an “open”
- Click rate – this is a reliable number calculated by your email service provider and based on the number of links in your email that were clicked; note, however, that one recipient may click a single email several times, and that many ESPs count a clicked unsubscribe link as part of the overall click rate, so you may want to adjust your marketing reports to take this into account
- Non-opens – track these and, after your email has gone unopened for a while, give these a rest and cycle them out of your regular campaign cycle; test bringing them back in with different topics or a different frequency
A well-organized CRM will allow you to store and act on all the information noted above. If you are concerned that your CRM is not supporting your email marketing the way you’d like, get in touch – just add your name to my schedule and I’ll be happy to strategize with you, no strings attached!