3 Steps for Getting Ready for the Microsoft Unsubscribe Button

Posted by Tom Sather on

Even the most diligent, best-practices-based email marketer will see marketing and transactional emails land in the bulk folder at email providers like Hotmail, AOL, and Yahoo. This is generally caused by high consumer complaints. And we can all kind of get behind this idea, right? If consumers complain about your email then maybe you aren’t really following best practices.

Except that we also know that a high proportion of consumers use the “this is spam” button as a proxy for unsubscribing from legitimate email – up to 37% according to a recent Return Path survey. And this, rightfully, annoys marketers. They don’t want to be penalized if subscribers have simply grown tired of their offering.

So, it is exciting to see the recent news that Microsoft is planning to add an unsubscribe button in the header of its emails. The introduction of this feature should give senders more accurate complaint and unsubscribe rates to gauge campaigns. And, if the marketer is legitimate and following best practices, their complaint rate should fall.

Microsoft is currently beta testing the unsubscribe button and there is no word on when it will be available to the general public. Also, the exact parameters and specifications of the program are not yet known. As we get more information, we will be updating this blog and sending client alerts. In the meantime, we recommend that all email marketers take the following three steps to be primed and ready when this feature is released:

  1. Carefully review the technical specifications (which can be found here) for exactly how to modify your headers to allow for the addition of the unsubscribe link.

  2. If you haven’t already, encourage your subscribers to add your “from” line to the address book, and also encourage them to add you to the Allowed Senders list. As of this writing, only senders on the Allowed Sender list will be granted the unsub button. Depending on how much of your list is represented by Microsoft addresses – and how many complaints you usually generate – it may even be worth sending a special email to those subscribers on this topic.

  3. Create instructions for your subscribers on how to remove your “from” line from their Blocked Senders list. Currently, Microsoft is considering adding the “from” line to the subscribers Blocked Senders list when a user unsubscribes. This could mean a headache for senders and subscribers when a user tries to re-subscribe to a list. Consider including this language in your subscribe process, too.

Of course, it goes without saying that you should be fully prepared to process the unsubscribes you receive through this process. Not doing so will almost certainly result in blocking by Microsoft.

If you need any assistance with this process, contact your Return Path Account Director. If you are not yet a Return Path client, contact our blog editor, Tami Forman.


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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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