Why Gmail's Unsubscribe Link is Good for You
By Ken Magill
Well, at least most news outlets avoided the “S” word when covering Google’s recent addition of an unsubscribe link to the tops of messages in Gmail users’ Promotions folders...
...with the exception of The Verge, which reported: “Google is making it a bit easier to rid your inbox of spam. It's beginning to add an unsubscribe button to Gmail that will automatically appear in the header of emails that it detects might be unwanted messages from marketers.”
No, Gmail’s new unsubscribe link is certainly not making it a bit easier to rid anyone’s inboxes of spam. Messages in Gmail’s spam folder don’t get the unsubscribe link, only messages in the Promotions folder do.
Sending unsubscribe messages to criminal spammers can be dangerous. Google is wisely not helping enable that behavior.
As a result, Gmail’s new unsubscribe link is only being applied to email from commercial senders the inbox provider has determined are sending legitimate promotional email.
Non-spamming e-mail marketers have had a legitimate gripe for years with spam-complaint buttons. Consumers often use them to prevent mailers’ messages from arriving even though they signed up for the e-mail.
Legitimate emailers’ unsubscribe links can be difficult to find and when they can easily be found, consumers may not trust them.
With complaint rates being one of the top factors ISPs use to determine whether or not they should block e-mail from a specific sender, marketers’ e-mail can be unfairly blocked when consumers are simply using the ISP’s spam-complaint button to unsubscribe.
Gmail’s new unsubscribe link would seem to be one way to keep illegitimate spam complaints down.
As reported on PC World last week: “Google is trying to strike the right balance to keep ordinary Gmail users happy without alienating business users. ‘We want our users to not have spam, and we also want you to reach the user,’ Elie Bursztein, who leads Google’s anti-abuse research, told [M3AAWG] conference attendees [where the feature’s rollout was announced].”
One potential flaw with Gmail’s new unsubscribe function is that people must open the messages that contain it to see it. It’s still far easier for email inbox holders to see a “subject” and “from” line that irks them, tick the box on the left and click the spam button.
Still, marketers should embrace anything that even slightly lowers their chances of unfairly being reported as having sent spam.