Gmail adds its own unsubscribe link

Gmail Unsub

Gmail is now adding an unsubscribe link at the top of the email, after the Sender Name

Gmail’s had a busy time lately: tabs and auto image loading being the most recent two and before that, smart labels and priority inbox. All there to improve the user experience of the Gmail inbox.

Gmail’s latest little trick is to add an unsubscribe link at the top of the email. This is not far all senders and is not in fact a new feature, they’ve just moved it so it is more prominent.

Back in 2009 Gmail decided to make Unsubscribing easy. This simply gave the user the opportunity to unsubscribe when they hit the spam button. This was kind of pointless, because people who hit the spam button had done so because they did not trust the unsubscribe mechanism provided by the sender and were worried that by doing so they would merely alter the sender of their existence thus ensuring more spam. Alternatively the email might not have had an unsubscribe button at all. All the user wanted to do is not see anymore emails from that sender.

Either way the spam button was still hit and the damage was done to the sender’s reputation in Gmail.

How they unsubscribe them

They key point here is how they were able to unsubscribe them. The funny thing is that Gmail did not invent anything new and nor did any of the other ISPs who also rolled out that same functionality. The method employed is in fact very very old and it’s called the “List-Unsubscribe Header”. (Try reading that back again but in your best Jeremy Clarkson voice!).

In the old days is was simple and the receiving server or person would just process the opt-out of the address which sent the email. Nowadays we have software to send millions of emails very quickly all from one spot, ie: ESPs. This means that the unsubscribe method has to be unique for that recipient at that sender and sometimes even on that particular list but it works the same.

All that used to happen was when someone hit the spam button on an email with an Unsubscribe-Header, Gmail would let them also unsubscribe thus stopping that sender from hitting someone’s junk folder for ever or until they did some engagement cleaning.

(That is if they did engagement cleaning, they might be one of the “Never Remove Inactives Crew” which incidentally has a very long list of “Don’t be stupid rules” which if you break them and have deliverability problems, you don’t get to blame the people who told you to never remove inactives and it’s definitely not their fault, it’s your fault).

So in short, the List-Unsubscribe header is quite a bit like a Feedback loop when activated automatically by hitting the spam button and quite a lot like a unsubscribe link when activated manually by the user.
Of course all of this relies on the sender having these headers.

What Gmail Have Actually Done

Gmail have simply copied the “Unsubscribe” bit of old “Unsubscribe and report a spam” from their spam button process, into the inbox.

Only one email I get actually employs the List-Unsubscribe header, and it’s my Favourite place to get baby gear from for my daughter – free next day delivery if you spend £30 – Kiddicare.

This is what I get from my favourite on-line shop when buying toys and stuff for my kid – this lot do free next days delivery on orders over £30 if you order early enough in the day!!!

… Below they are correctly signing with DKIM, if they didn’t properly sign the Sender-Name would be followed by some kind of “via” or something like that and then they would have the unsubscribe link.


Essentially it looks a little like an Inbox Snippet Preview, where in the inbox they take the top line or two from the message and stick in grey after the bold subject line, except it’s underlined to show it’s a link.

Apparently it is to save their users from scrolling around looking for the link. I think it is far too prominent and should be at the bottom of the page where everyone expects it to be. It could be at the bottom of the frame so people still don’t have to scroll, it would just mean that as they open the email, the new easy to use unsubscribe link won’t appear right under their mouse.

Either way, it’s here if you have a List Unsubscribe Header.

If you don’t and are quite spammy, you might think, “I’m not getting one of those, people will just hit that link”, what you are missing is the fact that without that link your recipients are just hitting the spam button!

If you get on the eventual Gmail FBL you’ll be able to see the counts and when you add your List-Unsubscribe header you should see the complaints go down.