Understanding the Gmail automated unsubscribe feature

Learn about the Gmail automated unsubscribe feature and find out how its effects can impact your email marketing campaigns.

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Ah, email, the final communication frontier. From the early days of AOL to today’s large amount of email-related services, email clients, and more, it has changed our lives. We all need it, right? But sometimes, the sight of that little red badge reminding you that you have 3172 unread messages can get a little daunting.

And the notifications badge isn’t the only email feature that can be intimidating, especially with a complex provider like Gmail. Of course, since so many of us have a Gmail inbox, understanding the inbox’s features is what makes Google’s webmail provider a helpful tool. In this post, we’ll talk about the Gmail automated unsubscribe feature and what it means to email marketers.

Understanding the Gmail Inbox

As part of their never ending quest to make email more manageable and, hopefully, a little less stress-inducing, Google is constantly developing new features for its webmail service, Gmail, and its Android and IOS email apps.

If you’re unaware of these newer features, now’s the time to learn. With productivity at the core of these changes, Gmail offers more confidentiality and increased security, as well as a range of functions that help users manage their inboxes in a more effective way. Features such as Smart Reply, nudges, or the snoozing options allow us to navigate our crazy inboxes and make our email experience a bit smoother.

But while we all tend to get quite excited and a bit carried away by all the cool stuff Google adds to its products, there’s one particular feature that might give your marketing team a bit of pause.

‘Oh, no! What is it?’ I hear you ask. We’re talking about that sneaky and smart “Easy Unsubscribe” feature for Gmail users, of course.

What is the mass unsubscribe feature on Gmail?

A while back, we talked to you about the List-Unsubscribe header and how Gmail was already adding some then-new sophistication to this header option that allows users to easily cancel their subscription to marketing emailing lists. While the ability to unsubscribe from a contact list on Gmail has been available for some time, it had always been up to the users to determine which ones they wanted to be removed from.

Currently, Google has fully leaned into that sophistication by automating that process and actively asking the users whether they’d like to unsubscribe from certain promotional emails they haven’t opened in the last 30 days or more.

The unsubscribe suggestions are based on how many emails users receive and open from a specific sender, and it means that, with just one click on the Unsubscribe button, the newsletter subscriptions will be terminated, making it even easier for recipients to stop receiving all of those unwanted emails.

What does the Gmail automated Unsubscribe mean for email marketers?

Quite frankly, it means that your recipients have an easier way to cancel their email subscription. So if your newsletters are boring or irrelevant, and the reader has not opened them in a while, they’ll be prompted to unsubscribe.

Don’t panic, though. The Gmail automated unsubscribe link doesn’t have to be seen as an enemy. They could already do this with tools like, couldn't they? In fact, it can be seen as a way to help you clean your contact lists, which in turn improves your deliverability rate.

On top of that, if you apply email list cleaning best practices, like regularly sunsetting inactive contacts and running requalification campaigns to re-obtain consent from your newsletter subscribers, you have an up-to-date database of contacts that are interested in receiving your communications and your content. And we’re pretty sure you did, didn’t you?

All in all, what’s important to remember is that this is yet another way to keep your email list clean. At Mailjet, we always recommend that you remove inactive contacts every three to six months to ensure your open and click-through rates remain at a healthy level, to ensure the best deliverability.

The bottom line is, if you continue to strategically plan and implement your newsletter campaigns, you don’t have to worry about the unsubscribe feature.

How to avoid Gmail mass unsubscribes

At Mailjet, we think the strongest email campaign is the one your contacts really want to receive. The best solution to avoid contacts unsubscribing is to create targeted and relevant emails, and to only send them to those that actually interact with your communications.

To help you maintain an engaged subscription base, here are some top tips.

Segment your contact lists

Don’t send the same email to all your contacts. Use segmentation to send content that is tailored to your contacts based on different data, such as behavior, location, age, and gender. Combine it with personalization to make it even more human. The more relevant your email is, the more engagement it will generate among your subscribers.

Send reactivation and retention campaigns to inactive contacts

Every three or six months, identify subscribers that haven’t interacted with your emails and send them a special campaign in which you remind them of the value they offer, and in which you ask them to confirm their subscription or take an action using their account. You can include a survey to understand what content they’d like to receive, or highlight what they have missed in those past months. Because of these reminders and attention, they’re less likely to take the unsubscribe option and more likely to stay with you.

A great example of a reactivation campaign comes from the home decor company Framebridge. In this email, they ask the recipient to confirm that they want to stay on Framebridge’s mailing list.

The email is short, to the point, and gets its message across. Additionally, the email uses color to draw attention to its call-to-action, which takes the form of a large, colorful button. It's very easy for any reader to understand how to take action and keep themselves on the mailing list. This email deserves a frame, right?

Okay, we tried.

Use our Exclusion List to avoid sending emails to inactive contacts

If you don’t want to remove your zombie contacts from your list forever, you can add them to your Exclusion List. This way, contacts will stay in your database, but won’t receive your emails.

Wrapping up

The Gmail automated unsubscribe feature might feel spooky at first but, by following the above tips and continuing to use email best practices, you can ensure that you’re keeping your email program as healthy as possible. That way, as Gmail and other services continue to refine their features, your mailing list and customer relationships will stay strong.

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