Accidental unsubscribe, or the forwarded unsubscribe, can be minimized if you follow these suggestions.
You want your email to be forwarded and be seen by as many people as possible. What you don’t want is for a recipient of a forwarded copy of your email to think it is spam and unsubscribe. This accidental unsubscribe will remove the original recipient from your list and unfortunately it will be very difficult to add them back on. In some cases it will be near impossible.
Fortunately, there are a few options we can look at.
The first option if you are using an Email Service Provider (referred to as an ESP) such as MailChimp or Constant Contact, is to include the “Forward to a friend” button and make it predominate and very easy to find. When forwarded this way, any unsubscribe buttons or links are removed from the email. Let me stress at this point that this is completely compliant with any and all legislation and regulations regarding commercial emails. The reason why is due to the fact that the original recipient of the email is all you are responsible for. Once it is in their hands, you have no control over what they do and therefore it is not your responsibility. Furthermore, the recipient of the forwarded email is not on the list they are trying to unsubscribe from. You would essentially be offering them a means to remove their name from a list they are not a part of.
Great option, but even with this big button or link, some people are still going to forward the email directly. How can we address emails forward that way?
There are a few steps we take that will minimize the accidental unsubscribe rate. First step is to show the email address that would be unsubscribed, if they wish to unsubscribe. Wording would be along the lines of “Would you like to unsubscribe firstname.lastname@example.org from our list?”. This method will show the recipient who is trying to unsubscribe that they would be unsubscribing a specific email. When most people see they would be unsubscribing their friend’s email and not their own, they don’t.
The next step is to have the link to unsubscribe go to a landing page. Again, this is completely compliant with all legislation and regulations. On that landing page it clearly shows what email would be unsubscribed. We always recommend putting in text which describes what an accidental unsubscribe is. Text such as this: “If this is not your email address, then chances are this email was forwarded to you by this person because they thought it might be of interest to you. If that is the case then please rest assured you are not on our list and will not be sent any emails directly from us. Instead of unsubscribing the email address above from our list, please try to respond to the email asking whoever sent it to not forward you emails again.” Then below we add “If this is your email address and you wish to remove it from our list, please click the unsubscribe button below”.
Another option which should be done as an alternative to the above, not in conjunction with, is to have the unsubscribe button go to the preference management page. Please note that this option meets all legislation and regulations AS LONG AS you do not force them to log in or take any additional steps. Once inside the preference page, they will be able to change the name, address, and whatever additional information you have made available along with the unsubscribe option. When most people land on this page they will see that they are not managing their own account and will not unsubscribe.
A third option, although not my preferred method, is to send an email for confirmation. So once someone clicks the unsubscribe button, they should receive notification that an email has been sent to their email address requesting confirmation of the unsubscribe. Inside that email once the confirmation is clicked, they must be unsubscribed at that point. Bringing them to a webpage at that time makes it a multi-step process which is not in compliance. This method does almost eliminate the accidental unsubscribe, but can irritate the recipient.
By using the methods above, you will greatly decrease if not eliminate your accidental unsubscribe rate. If someone does get unsubscribed by accident, you cannot add them again. What you can do is send them a link to the sign up form so that they can re-sign up. So you can’t but they can.
Let us look at one additional option that came to our attention.
I have heard of code – or more specifically, CSS styling – that can change the content of an email so that the original viewer sees one copy, and if it is forwarded the content changes. Although this sounds ideal it is not reliable, especially with gmail users. So being as unreliable as it is, we do not recommend this option at this time.
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