Gmail Continues to Challenge Email Marketers

Debra Ellis President, Wilson & Ellis Consulting

Posted on March 1st 2014

Gmail Continues to Challenge Email Marketers

Gmail Unsubscribe Link

Unsubscribing to email messages just got a little easier for Gmail users and a little more challenging for email marketers. Google’s continued efforts to simplify inbox management for users led to the introduction of a prominent “unsubscribe” link that appears at the top of marketing emails. Gmail support explains how the new quick link works:

“We don't think you should be burdened with managing messages you don't want to receive. We do our best to put messages in Spam when we're pretty sure you won't want or need them. But everyone has different preferences about the mail they want to see. You may not want to read any messages sent by a certain company or mailing list, while another Gmail user finds these same messages to be valuable.

To help solve this problem, we're providing you with an unsubscribe tool for some messages. You'll see the unsubscribe tool when you mark a message from particular types of mailing lists as spam. If the particular message is a misuse of a mailing list you like to receive, you can Report spam as usual. But if you never want to receive another message or newsletter from that list again, click Unsubscribe instead. We'll send a request to the sender that your email address be removed from the list. It's that simple!

Keep in mind 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. Also, please note that we are unable to provide the Unsubscribe option for all mailing lists. For your protection, Gmail won't display Unsubscribe for lists that are known to be owned by spammers. When you don't see the unsubscribe tool for a particular newsletter or mailing list that you trust, check the actual message for unsubscribe options, or try contacting the list owner about removal (you should only do this if the list owner is trustworthy and not a spammer).”

This change follows the shift into a tab format. Companies with large quantities of subscribers using Gmail are still feeling the effects. There is little information available that describes exactly how the unsubscribe function works on the marketing side. The information provided by the support site states that a request to remove email addresses would be sent to the sender. It does not specify how the information will be sent or any ramifications that may come from people requesting to unsubscribe from specific lists.

The only way to truly know how it works is to wait to see if your company receives unsubscribe requests from Google or to test it yourself. If Google considers an unsubscribe a close relation to a spam report, testing it yourself could have negative consequences. This is one time that a “wait and see” approach has merit. Use the time while you are waiting to prepare for the challenge:

Check to see if your company won the “unsubscribe” lottery. Since Google notes that “they are unable to provide the unsubscribe option for all mailing lists”, you may get lucky. Check your messages in Gmail for the unsubscribe link as shown in the image below:

 Gmail Unsubscribe Link Example

If you haven’t already segmented known Gmail users to monitor for change, do it now. The only way you will know the effect of the change is by watching activity and comparing it to comparable non-Gmail users. Please note that many Gmail users do not have addresses ending in

Monitor incoming messages received by the from address in your outgoing emails. At this time, we don’t know how requests for removal are being processed. They may be automated to the unsubscribe link but the requests will most likely come via email. If the removal requests art honored quickly, there may be long-term ramifications.

Consider relocating your unsubscribe link. If your company is receiving Gmail removal requests. If Google is tallying the number of requests, your company may be flagged as a spam generator. Encouraging people to use your unsubscribe option instead of Gmail’s could provide a safety net. Wait until it is necessary to do this because highlighting the unsubscribe option can have negative consequences.

Monitor information shared by others about the Gmail unsubscribe link. Learning from others is the best practice.


Debra Ellis

President, Wilson & Ellis Consulting

Debra Ellis is a business consultant, author, and speaker. She specializes in showing companies how to improve customer acquisition and retention using integrated marketing and service strategies. Her latest marketing guide, 31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing, is a practical resource for marketers seeking better results with minimal investment. Her engineering background provides statistical insight to finding actionable data that can be used to grow companies and reduce costs.

She is recognized as an expert in marketing from direct mail to social media, customer behavior, and strategic planning. Her expertise is often tapped by media sources including: The New York Times, CNN/’s Small Business Makeovers, Target Marketing, Multichannel Merchant, and MarketingProfs.

Her marketing guides include 31 Ways to Supercharge Your Email Marketing, Social Media 4 Direct Marketers, and Marketing to the Customer Lifecycle.

Debra loves the art and science of multichannel marketing. She is a student and teacher of the methods that transform shoppers into buyers and buyers into lifelong customers. In 1995, she founded Wilson & Ellis Consulting, a boutique firm specializing in creating strategies that make channels and departments work together to optimize the customer experience. Since then, she has worked with over a hundred distinguished clients such as Costco, Edmund Scientifics, Jacuzzi, Ross-Simons Jewelry, and The Body Shop.

Prior to founding her firm, Debra was instrumental in the record growth of Ballard Designs, Inc. while serving as Chief Operating Officer. Today, she uses her experience and expertise to show executives how to successfully navigate marketing channels and integrate activities to profitably grow their business. Her practical approach maximizes the return on investment.

She can be reached via email at [email protected]. She blogs at

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