Manage your unsubscribe links

Have you ever tried to cancel cable or get your number off a solicitor’s phone list? This can be a frustrating experience. But it doesn’t have to be when it comes to mass emailing. Sure, as an organization, you want to increase your readership and attract new members and participants to your events. And to that end, it's always a good idea to have a mailing list sign up form on your website. But do not forget to make it as easy for your constituents to opt-out of your communication.

You may think that having people unsubscribe is a sign that they don't find any value in your emails. Fact is people unsubscribe for a variety of reasons and you cannot expect to permanently retain 100% of your audience: it may be that they are not interested in your content anymore, you are emailing them too often, but it can also be due to your emails not displaying correctly on their device or simply that they never signed up or didn't realize they signed up for receiving your emailings. Whatever the reason, these contacts are obviously not engaging with your communication and keeping them in your mailing lists only increases the risk that they click the dreaded "Mark as SPAM" button, which has more devastating results than simply letting them unsubscribe when they wish.

Adding an unsubscribe button in your bulk emails is not only best practice

It is actually the law in most countries. And that is why CiviCRM will not let you send out a bulk email if it does not include an unsubscribe link. For that purpose CiviCRM provides 4 tokens that will let the recipient of the mailing either unsubscribe or opt-out. You must include at least one of these 4 tokens into your mailing, usually in the footer area.

In CiviMail you can configure the footer by going to Mailings > Headers, Footers, and Automated Messages. From there you can also personalize the email message that would be sent when the reader unsubscribes or opt-out of your mailing lists: in that confirmation email, it's a good idea to tell them how they can resubscribe, if they unsubscribed by mistake.
If you are using Mosaico in CiviMail, you can modify the footer and add the token directly in your Mosaico template from a drop-down list.

To add a unsubscribe link in your emailing you need to use a CiviCRM Unsubscribe token 

  • {action.unsubscribe}
    • Allows the recipient to unsubscribe via email
    • Example: 

      To unsubscribe from this mailing, send mail to {action.unsubscribe}


  • {action.unsubscribeUrl}
    • Opens up a web page where the recipient can confirm they want to unsubscribe from this list
    • Example: 

      You can <a href="{action.unsubscribeUrl}">unsubscribe from this mailing</a> at any time.


  • {action.optOut}
    • Allows the recipient to opt-out via email
    • Example: 

      To opt-out of all mailings from us, send mail to {action.optOut}


  • {action.optOutUrl}
    • Opens up a web page where the recipient can opt-out for all your emailing communication
    • Example: 

      <a href="{action.optOutUrl}"  >Opt-out of all our future mailings</a>


Our recommendation is to use the token for the webpage instead of email as it makes the unsubscribe process easier for your reader.

But what is the difference between Opt-out and Unsubscribe

Opt-out is used when you want to give the option to stop receiving any mass-emailing communication from your organization. When the recipient clicks an Opt-out link, their contact record in CiviCRM will be marked with the red flag NO BULK EMAILS (User Opt Out) in Communications Preferences. They will however still receive all your transactional emails such as automatic membership renewal reminder email or event registration confirmation email.

Unsubscribe is used when you have several mailing lists and you want to give the option to only be removed from the mailing list that was used to send this specific mailing. When the recipient clicks on Unsubscribe, their contact record will be removed from the corresponding CiviCRM group that is used as a mailing list to send out the mailing. But the contact will remain in other mailing list groups that they were already in. 
In that case, it's also a good idea to add a link such as "Manage your preferences" to a subscription form that includes the list of available mailing lists. To add this link use the token {action.subscribeUrl}If you have only one mailing list, for your Newsletter for instance, inserting the links Opt-out or Unsubscribe does not make any difference.

For example: you have 2 mailing lists in CiviCRM, one for your monthly Newsletter and one for the Weekly Tips. Jane just received your Weekly Tips mailing and decides to unsubscribe:

  • if she clicks the Opt-out link, her contact will flagged to not receive any new bulk communication from you anymore, including the monthly Newsletter
  • if she clicks the Unsubscribe link, her contact will be removed from the Weekly Tips group in CiviCRM, so she won't receive the Weekly Tips anymore, but it will remain in the Newsletter group and she will continue to the Newsletter on a monthly basis.