Ask Laura: Should we confirm unsubscribes?


Dear Laura,

We have some questions about best practices for unsubscribes. Our ESP uses the List-Unsubscribe header by default on every email. I’m not familiar with this, and I have some questions for you.

First, do you think this is a good idea? Should we always use it, or just for certain emails? Should we use the mailto:link or link to a web site to unsubscribe?

We were also asked about double opt-out and if we should do it. We’re thinking that if someone clicks on the unsubscribe link they would be directed to a site displaying a message such as “Sorry to see you go. We have sent an email out for you to fully unsubscribe from the mailing list”. They then have to open the email and click on the link. Do you recommend doing this? Are there anti-spam regulations that this might violate?

And then, once someone unsubscribes (either with double opt-out or not), should we send out some sort of email confirmation? We currently do not, but we’re thinking of sending something like “Sorry to see you go.  If you unsubscribed accidentally please click here to re-subscribe.” What do you think?


Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Dear Breakup,

It’s always hard to let go. But think about your own email experiences, and how frustrating it can be to unsubscribe from messages that are no longer relevant to your needs. The more pleasant you can make the experience, the better chance you have that the recipient walks away with a positive feeling about your brand, and the more likely they are to return when they need your products or services again.

We do recommend that senders use the list-unsubscribe header when possible, and I recommend a mailto: link over http://.  Some of the systems that use List-Unsubscribe do not use http:// links, so you’re losing out by only using http://

If you’re curious about List-Unsubscribe, you can read more here from the co-author:

On your proposed double opt-out process, I do not recommend this. It’s likely a violation of CAN SPAM and is definitely going to annoy people. In general, I don’t recommend sending email after the unsubscribe, since the recipient has specifically just asked you to please stop sending them email. The best practice is to present a thoughtful unsubscribe message on the webpage after the confirmation click.

Hope this helps,


Confused about delivery in general? Trying to keep up on changing policies and terminology? Need some Email 101 basics? This is the place to ask. We can’t answer specific questions about your server configuration or look at your message structure for the column (please get in touch if you’d like our help with more technical or forensic investigations!), but we’d love to answer your questions about how email works, trends in the industry, or the joys and challenges of cohabiting with felines.


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