Email marketing is hard work and sometimes really ungrateful. You have been working day and night to build a great mailing list, create your newsletter, promote it everywhere you can, maybe even create a free gift to entice people to join, following all the tips to boost email open rates yet all this seems in vain when people opt out so eagerly from your email list after receiving only a handful of your messages.

I know the pain, I’ve been dealing with those problems ever since I started building my email list a couple of years ago. There are literally tens of reasons why people end up clicking the unsubscribe button , or what’s even worse, the spam button. I will share my experience with you and focus on the 5 most common reasons for leaving your email list. Also, let’s talk about what you can do to convince people to stay around!


1. Your Topic Isn’t Evergreen

I’d say that this is the deadliest reason on this list, mainly because it’s not something you can fix without restructuring your whole offer and strategy. Simply, not all newsletters will remain evergreen for long periods of time.There are topics that are interesting only while the reader is having some kind of life experience and when it is over, they don’t care anymore about the topic.

Let me give you an example. If you have a parenting advice business and people subscribe to your newsletter to get information on how to childproof their home, they will naturally leave you when the child grows up a little. Same thing goes for: car buying advice, selling a house advice, buying a house advice, finding a job advice, basically everything else that has a clear goal that’s a finite thing. On the other hand, topics such as language learning don’t have an end point. There’s no particular moment when someone can say that they’ve mastered a language completely.


This is a difficult one because it lies in the heart of your newsletter or list: your topic. Review your offering and make sure that the content you’re sharing isn’t short-lived by nature. Try restructuring your newsletter if needed. Perhaps you will get new ideas using useful tools such as the Content Idea Generator or Content Ideator.


2. Messages Not Optimized For Mobile

At first, this sounds like something that’s not that important. After all, it’s just mobile, right? But according to the internet, nearly 50 percent of emails are read on mobile devices. Mobile is just a more friendly way to access the web. You can go online via a mobile no matter where you are (on the go, at the gym, etc.). You don’t need to be sitting in front of your computer. And the issue of newsletters not being mobile-friendly is actually serious enough for people to unsubscribe if the email doesn’t render properly (30 percent of recipients will do so).


Do two things: (1) use the preview mechanism available in your email newsletter service.

Here’s what it looks like in MailChimp: (2) Make sure you’re subscribed to your own newsletter and view every email you send on at least one mobile device. In case anything looks off, adjust your message template.

Newsletter for mobile users

Preview your campaign in Mailchimp


3. Sending Too Often, Or Not Often Enough

I don’t know what’s worse, sending emails too often or not often enough. If you send your newsletters too often, your customers can quickly grow tired of constant nagging, especially if they are subscribed to more newsletters than just yours … which they are. On the other hand, if you send not often enough, they are likely to forget who you are and why you’re contacting them.

So that’s a fail too. What also matters is the time of the day when the messages get delivered. For some markets, sending emails during work hours is the best bet, but for others, your recipients can be stressed out and eager to click the unsubscribe button just to have a break from all the clutter going around them.


It’s difficult to give you the exact perfect frequency because it all depends on your list, niche, and the types of messages you’re sending, but you need to do one thing. Experiment. Experiment with different frequencies and pay close attention to your unsubscribe rates (your email software will let you know).

The reported industry standard is 0.27 percent, and it hasn’t changed a lot since 2011. Also, split test different times of the day. Find out when you need to send your newsletters to get the most engagement and also the lowest number of unsubscribes.


4. Bad Promotion Frequency / Approach

People don’t usually get mad when they receive sub-par advice. But they do get mad if they receive not-quite-right promotion. The most common problems are:

  • Too frequent promotion, or promotion-driven newsletters altogether. If you’re not Amazon then building your newsletter around promotional messages will rarely work.
  • Repeated promotion. This is when you’re promoting the same thing over and over again, or don’t segment your list properly and end up promoting a product to someone who has already bought it.


Make your newsletter content-driven or advice-driven. In other words, for every promotional message, make sure that you send out at least 5 content messages – not promoting anything. Also, introduce list segmentation. Whenever someone buys what you’re currently selling, put them on a separate list and treat them individually.




5. Are Your Newsletters Boring?

Like Jon Morrow said in one of his great posts, most people are not very good at telling stories that are not boring. “[…] telling a boring story is worse than not telling any stories at all, and unless you’re trained in storytelling, yours are pretty much guaranteed to be boring. If you doubt me, go to a bar and tell a story to someone in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear. If everybody in the bar stops talking to listen to you, you’re a good storyteller. If they don’t, you suck.”


Unfortunately, the level of your newsletter’s interestingness is something very difficult to gauge. But you can try to boredom-proof your messages by doing the following:

  • Always build your newsletter message around an actionable advice. You want people to be able to put it in practice right away.
  • Don’t focus on showing pieces of data that have no real application in the real world. It will make your newsletter sound dry and uninteresting.
  • Talk to people like they are your friends. Use a lot of “you.”
  • Make the first two paragraphs of your newsletter message clear, convey the value the recipient is going to get after reading it.
  • Use images if your newsletter template allows you to.
  • Invite people to engage with your newsletter – ask questions.
  • Be careful with humor. Sometimes it works. Oftentimes, it doesn’t.

There’s also one more thing you can do here. Take a look at the newsletters that you are subscribed to. Try to put a finger on what makes them interesting, and what elements are there. Can you adapt them to your own newsletter?

I hope this list will help you fine tune your newsletter and reduce your unsubscribe rates. By the way, what’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now when it comes to your newsletter?



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