In late February 2014, Gmail made another strive towards simplifying inbox management for their users by introducing automatic unsubscribe. This feature has been rolled out for all users using the Gmail interface. Auto-unsubscribe enables Gmail users to unsubscribe from most promotional mailing lists without having to leave the Gmail interface (just like quick actions!). However, keep in mind that not all promotional emails will have the auto-unsubscribe option—and it relies on certain information being available in the technical headers in your email.

Rather than searching for an unsubscribe button in an email, Gmail users can now unsubscribe with the simple click of a link located in the top right corner of the header field:

When users click on the unsubscribe link, there are two different actions that may occur. If the “List-Unsubscribe” header line simply contains an email address, then they will be given the following notice:

After confirming this action, Google will send an automated email to the sender requesting that the subscriber be removed from all future mailings. Google notes that:

Mailing lists may take up to three days to process your unsubscription request, so it may take a few days for you to stop receiving mail from the list.

However, if the “List-Unsubscribe” header includes a link, then subscribers will receive the following notice:

In this case, Gmail is simply passing along the unsubscribe link used by the sender. If clicked, the unsubscribe process will be the same as if they had clicked the unsubscribe link in the body of the email.


While auto-unsubscribe makes it easier for subscribers to remove themselves from lists, it may also reduce spam complaints and frustrated users—and may even help improve your sender reputation.

Gmail created auto-unsubscribe to benefit both senders and subscribers. By implementing auto-unsubscribe, Gmail allowed disinterested users to unsubscribe from emails quickly and easily. Auto-unsubscribe also decreases the chance of them marking legitimate emails as spam—helping to keep your lists clean and your reputation intact.

If numerous people report a sender’s message as spam, then Gmail will classify that sender as a spammer and send their emails to the Spam folder. With the unsubscribe text link, the goal is to decrease subscriber’s spam reports on legitimate promotional emails. The hope is that they will unsubscribe, rather than mark it as spam—which is a major plus for email marketers. Having email recipients unsubscribe from you, rather than mark you as spam, is a huge win for delivery rates!

While you may see a rise in unsubscribe rates, this may not be a bad thing. The removal of disengaged and disinterested subscribers from your mailing lists may be beneficial to your overall email marketing program.

The unsubscribe button provides an easy way to get consumer feedback and weed out those who aren’t receptive or actively resistant to your message...think about what your subscribers likely did before the new unsubscribe button. Were they more likely to open the email and hunt for the unsubscribe button or just hit spam? The new unsubscribe button is not only a feedback loop, but prevents inboxing issues by reducing reliance on the spam button.
Brad Van Der Woerd
Director of Market Intelligence & Deliverability, Yesmail

What should you do?

Use this feature to your advantage! Having an engaged list and fewer spam reports is definitely good news for email marketers.

The auto-unsubscribe feature is only available to senders who are not known spammers, have a positive sending reputation, and include “List-Unsubscribe” in the header. You can choose to use an email address, a URL (perhaps to a subscription center), or both in the list-unsubscribe header.

List-Unsubscribe: <>,

In the example above, both methods are shown. If both an email address and URL are used, the latter of the two will display as the unsubscribe action.

And, as always, keep your engagement level up by only sending relevant content to opt-in subscribers!