Guest post by: Jordie van Rijn

Some time ago I received this email from Adidas. They normally have pretty cool emails and I had my images blocked, so I tried to go to the online version by clicking on the link in the top of the mail. And I was immediately unsubscribed. ‘What just happened there?’. It was a badly executed unsubscribe link.

Unsubscribe links in the top debate
The email marketing community have been talking about unsubscribe link at the top of your email marketing messages for some years now. Mark Brownlow suggested in his 2008 blog that it was ‘time to move it to the top’. Also see the 2009 tweet discussion between Chad white and Loren Mcdonald over at the RetailEmailblog.

Deliverability and reputation
Most ISPs have made it very easy to click the “report spam” button, which can heavily damage your email reputation and deliverability. Clicking on a prominent unsubscribe link in the top of your email would offer a much cleaner way to unsubscribe. But it will also increase the number of unsubscribes and divert a piece of attention away of your main message.

Unsubscribe with caution
The general consensus is to use an unsubscribe link in the pre-header if you have problems with your email reputation. Another use would be if you have not been utilizing best practices (if you for instance have not sent any message over a long period of time). You should always give a very easy and clear way for your recipients to unsubscribe, but don’t rub it in their face.

If you have persistent sender reputation problems, it’s time to change something else in your marketing program instead of fighting symptoms like reputation scores.

Back to Adidas
What was perceived to be the online viewer link, was in fact an unsubscribe link. It was too hard to read with a dark blue link on a black background and from the positioning I was sure that it must have been the link to the online version. After clicking there was only a confirmation page “you are now unsubscribed”.

What can we learn from this example:

  • A part of your recipients will think that the link above an email is always an online viewer link. Especially if it is the only link in the pre-header part your email.
  • Always put a online viewer link in the top of the email, especially when emails are image heavy.
  • Add an opt-out page behind the unsubscribe link. Some people click on it by accident or are just a bit too curious. “Do you really want to unsubscribe?”
  • Or even better, link it to a preference center
  • Make sure all links are readable, be extra aware if you change the background color of your email frequently. Test the rendering of your email message in different email clients to be sure everybody can clearly see your message as it was intended.
  • When you add an unsubscribe link in the top of your email message, it doesn’t give you a free pass to forget the unsubscribe link in the bottom.

Bye bye Adidas email!
I’ve always been a fan of Adidas’ email messages, they usually do a good job of conveying their brand and coolness. So does Adidas have an email sender reputation problem? I guess not. Too bad I will never receive their email-campaigns again.

Net result:Goodbye Adidas email!

About the author:
Jordie van Rijn is an email marketing specialist, working with A-brands like AEGON, Unilever, Roche and Heineken to keep their customers loyal and brand enthusiasts. As the co-founder of Emailtestbox, he drives to inspire marketeers to optimize their email marketing and get the most out of their marketing efforts. He spends his free time thinking about email marketing. Contact him via twitter: @jvanrijn