Your roving reporter had an opportunity to sit down (over email, of course) with several leading email industry experts and ask a series of questions of interest to our readers. This is the fourth in our continuing series of “Partner Insights”, which we hope will provide you with answers to some of your most vexing issues.

This month, we are excited to have a new group of panelists. Our new panelists are:

Chip House, VP Industry & Relationship Marketing – ExactTarget

Loren McDonald, VP, Industry Relations – Silverpop

Jeanniey Mullen, Global EVP, Chief Marketing Officer – Zinio LLC and VIVmag

FreshPerspectives (FP): Chip, where’s the best location to place the opt-out link in an email, the top of the page or the bottom?

Chip: Like so many items with email marketing, the best answer on where best to place an opt-out link is “it depends.” Some factors to consider include both legal concerns as well as deliverability. In the U.S., CAN-SPAM says that the unsubscribe must be “clear and conspicuous.” From a deliverability standpoint the requirements are similar. Ultimately honoring the needs of the subscriber will lead to better deliverability. Putting the subscriber first should come at the beginning of the relationship, with a clear, explicit opt-in, and also at the end of the relationship with an easy-to-find and easy-to-use opt-out mechanism. Placement at the bottom of the email meets this requirement for most marketers, provided that it isn’t hidden or a small font. This is partly because this is the most common location for the opt-out link, and presumably where subscribers first look. Placement at the top of the message may be required when there is some concern that the subscriber may not want the content or may be confused as to why they are receiving the email in the first place. If that’s the case, potentially the current name capture/opt-in process needs to be examined, or the value proposition and relevancy of the email program needs to be improved.

FP: Loren, what’s your opinion regarding the best opt-out link locations?

Loren: Your unsubscribe link should always be prominent and included in the email administrative footer in each message. This has become a standard location for unsubscribe and preference center links that most consumers are familiar with.

A common mistake many marketers make, however, is to try to make the unsubscribe link hard to find. They use unfamiliar language or hard-to-read font colors, or they bury the link at the end of the email after lengthy legal disclaimers.

Because the alternative for consumers is to click the spam button, making the unsubscribe process easy and reliable is fundamental to a good email program.

The core rationale for locating an unsubscribe link at the top of an email is to encourage subscribers to opt out rather than hit the “This is spam” button included in most Web-based email services.

Here are a few situations when adding an unsubscribe link to the top of your message might make sense:

  • High complaint rate at specific ISPs: An unsubscribe link at the top of emails sent to just the subscribers of the problematic ISP/Web mail service typically will reduce spam complaints below the ISP threshold.
  • Subscriber inactivity: If you are segmenting out your inactive subscribers into a separate email track, including an additional unsubscribe link at the top makes it easy for them to take the next step and opt out.
  • Multiple opt-in sources: If you use more aggressive opt-in practices such as co-reg or sweepstakes opt-ins, a top-located unsubscribe link will allow people to get off your list immediately, rather than getting mad and complaining after receiving a few annoying emails.
  • Adding new message streams/using pre-checked boxes: If you add a new message stream, such as “Daily Deals,” to an existing subscriber relationship, ideally you should gain a specific opt-in for the new email. If you use a pre-checked opt-in box, the top unsubscribe link should minimize complaints and damage to your brand.

As always, test different approaches until you find what works best for your situation

FP: Jeanniey, where do you stand on the opt-out link placement discussion?

Jeanniey: The best place is option C: both. A reduction in spam complaints is seen when the option to opt-out is prominently placed. That said, newer registrants, who take the time to read your emails and determine the content is “not for them” right now typically make it to the bottom, and have been trained to look there for profiles management purposes.

FP: Thanks so much for sharing your insights on this subject. We’ll “talk” again next month!

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