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Gmail rolls out new unsubscribe and feedback loop features

Thomas Senne
Senior Director of Global Deliverability

Google is at it again, recently announcing two new product additions to Gmail - an “Easy Unsubscribe” feature and the creation of a new feedback loop program for ESPs. This is causing quite a buzz among marketers who are always hungry for any new Gmail information.

Let’s look at these two updates in more detail.

Gmail is now displaying an “Easy Unsubscribe” button in every email. This is really nothing new, rather an expansion of the existing “List Unsubscribe” mechanism that’s been around for quite a while. Responsys customers have been using this feature since early in 2013.

When 'List Unsubscribe' is within the header of an email, a link is embedded that sends an unsubscribe request - with the user's email address - back to the sender. This was a big deal when it was rolled-out because Gmail had never provided a feedback loop as a way of removing unhappy recipients. It’s important to remember that if you are using the Responsys platform, this link has been included in all outgoing email for about the past year.

The changes to 'Easy Unsubscribe' are not all that different than the previous version, but the biggest change is that more people will now see the link. With 'List Unsubscribe,' a specific set of circumstances had to occur before the link was displayed. The user had to click the 'Report Spam' button in the Gmail interface (and meet some other undetermined Gmail special magic) before the link was displayed. This was great for senders, because they could possibly avoid a spam complaint by allowing the user to unsubscribe instead.

The new version of Easy Unsubscribe will operate differently. The link will now be displayed for all users who maintain a good reputation with Gmail. That means all users could now be offered the option to unsubscribe. This could result in a large reduction in spam complaints, and we could also see an increase in the number of unsubscribes. We don’t know if more people will notice and use the unsubscribe button because it is more accessible, or if they will just look for it if they were already thinking about unsubscribing. Overall, even if there’s an increase in unsubscribes, we feel like the reduction in spam complaints will be an overall win for senders.

Let’s talk about the second part of the Gmail announcement. Google disclosed that it will be taking applications for a new FBL (feedback loop) program. This initial phase is only designed for ESPs to join, not individual senders. There are not many concrete details at this point on what that FBL will look like from a technical perspective. Gmail tends to use their own technology with anything they design, so it is possible there could be development involved at the ESP level, and some adjustments necessary at the sender level. Regardless, the inclusion of a FBL at Gmail is wonderful news for senders.  We’ve previously had no way of knowing which recipients were complaining about messages, and probably continued to send mail to those who clearly didn’t want to receive it.

We’ll keep you posted on these changes as more details become available.

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