Unsubscribe rates and the “New Gmail”

Jun 25, 2019
Brad Gurley

Over its 15 years of existence, Gmail has undergone some major changes – some heralded by fanfare, others made without warning or even acknowledgement. From perpetual beta status and Priority Inbox to Promotion annotations and AMP, Google’s penchant for innovation has often left marketers running to keep up with the latest update.

In April 2018, Google made a design overhaul to the Gmail interface, integrating G-suite and incorporating some features previously available in their now-defunct Inbox product. One of the most notable enhancements was Easy Unsubscribe, a feature that prompts users to unsubscribe from mailings they haven’t opened recently. At the time, many email marketers feared the worst – that Google’s suggestions would push unsubscribe rates through the roof and gut their subscriber databases.

Fast forward to the present, nearly 14 months since the “new Gmail” rolled out…were they right? Did marketers experience mass unsubscribe pandemonium? We analyzed data from over 30 billion messages to find out.

How did Gmail’s users respond?

In the 6 months prior to the rollout, unsubscribe rates for Gmail users were trending slightly upward, with an average weekly unsubscribe rate of around 0.075%.

Since the change, unsubscribe rates have fallen steadily, averaging 0.061% over the 14-month period and hovering just above 0.05% in the most recent data.

The drop in Gmail unsubscribe rates could be due in part to increased adoption and use of the Promotions tab, removing promotional messages from the Primary inbox view and allowing users to view them on their own time.

And now for everyone else

For non-Gmail users, the picture is quite different: unsubscribe rates have shown no consistent change, with the average rate before and after the change barely moving from 0.066% to 0.064%.

In recent months, other major players, including Yahoo and Microsoft, implemented measures designed to make unsubscribing easy, but it seems those measures had little impact on overall unsubscribe rates.

While there are a few conclusions that could be drawn from this data, one thing is for sure: Gmail’s Easy Unsubscribe didn’t increase unsubscribe rates. Nor did the measures implemented by other mailbox providers to make unsubscribing easier for recipients. A recipient who wants your emails isn’t going to unsubscribe just because their email client prompts them to do so.

In some cases, that prompt can even serve as a reminder to go check out that brand you haven’t been reading lately (I know it has for me!). Set proper expectations and send personalized, relevant content and you’ll likely sleep a little easier not worrying about that unsubscribe link.

About the Author

Brad Gurley

Serving as MessageGears’ Director of Deliverability, Brad spends his days watching mail queues, analyzing customer delivery data, and researching the latest updates to email technology. He’s been in the email marketing space for the better part of two decades and harbors a passion for educating senders on how to more effectively deliver mail to their subscribers. When he’s not busy updating MTA configurations, you might find him preparing a variety of smoked meats or leading a group of friends to the closest karaoke bar.