5 Ways to Lose Email Subscribers

Are you making avoidable mistakes that lead to fewer email subscribers?

I wonder how many readers will unsubscribe from this email newsletter after reading today’s article. For the ones who do, I’m sure there is a good reason for it…perhaps you don’t care about email marketing, audience development or digital magazine publishing anymore. Or maybe you get way too many emails in your inbox, and you’ve decided to purge them all (except Groupon, of course).

These two reasons alone account for about 35% of email un-subscribers.

If you’re like me, you take notice of the email drops you experience and you always try to get that number as low as possible. However, you realize that much like death and taxes, losing email subscribers is inevitable. And it won’t always be your fault. Some people get tired of specific topics. Others experience email overload and cut out anything that isn’t absolutely necessary in their lives.

On the other hand, sometimes subscribers opt out of your list because of your direct actions. Since we all want to avoid this, I’ve listed five reasons below that are common amongst email un-subscribers. Take a careful look at the reasons and audit your email marketing process accordingly.

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Five email mistakes to avoid

#1 email mistake to avoid: Irrelevance and bad frequency: Relevance is an important concept in online content-based businesses. If your content fails to be relevant, informative, and full of value, then people will opt out of your list. Offer content that teaches them something, provides the latest news with insight, or is simply a pleasurable read.

And according to BlueHornet, a lack of relevance is the main reason why people unsubscribe from email newsletters. A recent report of theirs states that 31.4% of email consumers cited it as a reason for opting out of lists.

Frequency falls right behind relevance in BlueHornet’s report, with 30.7% of email subscribers citing it. There isn’t a hard rule to frequency, although when you start emailing the same list multiple times per day, you will likely see more opt outs. How often you provide content depends on your staff and audience, but be sure to provide high-quality content whenever you do send emails.

#2 email mistake to avoid: Misleading content: If your daily email newsletter’s subject line boasts a list of the best professional email subject lines and you provide your readers with tips for search engine optimization, there is clearly a disconnection between what you’ve promised your readers and what you provided.

#3 email mistake to avoid: Improperly segmenting: Doing this shows your email recipients that you pretend to know them and care, but you really don’t. If a brand new subscriber receives an email thanking them for their latest purchase, which they never made, your credibility is in question. Or vice versa: if a long-time client, who has made multiple purchases, receives a welcome email, they may question how you manage your contact information, and if it’s safe in your system.

#4 email mistake to avoid: Uninteresting subject lines: This suggestion comes from unofficial research I’ve conducted. If people cannot understand the content in an email, they won’t open, and they will consider opting out. For instance I received an email the other with the subject line “I’m shocked”. I clearly had no idea what it was talking about and assumed it was some attempt to sell me something. I hope the email marketer involved wasn’t shocked when I unsubscribed from the email newsletter.

#5 email mistake to avoid: Confusing email templates: This goes especially for mobile email design as 70% of consumers will delete an email if it doesn’t render well on their mobile device. The number may not be as high on desktops, but it still has to play a part in subscriber retention. Present your content up front, unobscured by ads and clutter, and you should be safe.

Do you have any additional tips to share for retaining email subscribers? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.


    Useful info. Thanks for sharing. I also unsubscribed from the one with:I’m Shocked’ in the subject line for the same reason you did. Who cares?

    Bonnie C.

    Great article! Now what about length of e mail? I’m constantly worried about this subject – should I worry about other things?

      Chris S.

      Hi Bonnie,

      The length of email varies on your audience and the type of content involved. Making the message fit the medium is the most important part. Today, email is often skimmed by the recipient, so providing skimmable email that can be digested in 2 or 3 minutes would fit the medium accordingly. A Week in Review email with multiple hyperlinked headlines, and a single lead article between 500 and 700 words would both likely fit the medium.

      Promotional emails involving long-form sales copy would be much longer emails. People in the transaction mode would likely take to these types of emails well because it would provide all the information they need to make a purchase.

      Hope this helps!


    Bill D.

    Great post Chris — always good to have reminders such as these about how to keep customers! Bill Dugan


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