Gmail’s Unsubscribe Button Could Be a Huge Blow to Email Marketers

Lists will shrink

How many times have you wanted to unsubscribe from a commercial email list but didn't want to scroll all the way to the bottom of a message and then have to click through to an opt-out landing page that would ultimately require you to click a few more times? Too many times to count, right?

Well, Gmail is about to make that a lot easier. The email arm of the digital giant introduced an Unsubscribe button at the top of emails, making opting out a one-click, easy-to-do action.

The move heralds a potential nightmare for email marketers, who work diligently to keep their list numbers as high as possible.

In an Aug. 6 Google+ post, the company announced: "Now when a sender includes an ‘Unsubscribe’ link in a Promotions, Social or Forums message, Gmail will surface it to the top, right next to the sender address.”

Alerts that do not already include an option for automatically unsubscribing, however, will not get the button added by Google. But if email marketers pull unsubscribe links from their messages, such a move would go against the grain of a long-held industry best practice.

It will likely have the biggest negative impact on the retail sector, as marketers from Macy's to Cabela's depend on the low-cost channel to beef up e-commerce profits.

Calling the redesign "a win for everybody," the Gmail team explained that making it possible for Gmail users to "say goodbye to sifting through an entire message for that one pesky link" lowers the risk of a sender’s product getting marked as spam.

Replies to the Google+ post were almost all positive. Direct marketers everywhere, though, are probably having their week darkened by the announcement because Gmail is the most popular email service in the world. The churn rates for their lists are about to jump.

Outlook introduced a similarly easy to find opt-out button months ago, and the Gmail Unsubscribe link remains buried on messages retrieved through the Gmail app for iPhones and smartphones running Android.