Updated June 2023
The short answer is no; you should not include an unsubscribe link in your cold emails.
Unsubscribe links are usually associated with emails where people opted-in, such as emails from newsletters.
If you add an unsubscribe link to your unsolicited cold emails, then you will create two problems:
You will confuse your recipients as they never opted-in. They will think “How can I unsubscribe when I never subscribed in the first place?”.
You will destroy your response rate. The entire point of cold email is to personalize your email as much as possible. If you add the word “unsubscribe”, you immediately lose any credibility that you had. The recipient will no longer think that you are emailing them personally, and will assume that you are sending mass emails to many people.
There are ways to allow your recipients to opt-out of receiving future emails from you without using an unsubscribe link.
In this article, I will cover the following:
Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not be up-to-date with current laws in your jurisdiction.
Anti-spam regulations, such as the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR, don’t require unsubscribe links.
However, both regulations require you to tell recipients how they can opt-out from receiving future emails from you. Some people like to add a large disclaimer in the footer of their emails. Although this can work, it’s not the best idea. Adding a large block of text in your email's footer will decrease your response rate and make your email seem less personal.
My favorite method of allowing recipients to opt-out is to simply write in the call-to-action section in the body of the email something like “Let me know if you would be interested in this?”. The below image shows a variation of this that I often use:
The recipient can then opt-out by responding with “No thanks”. All you would need to do in this scenario is remove the recipient’s data from your list, and never email them again.
From a legal perspective, cold emails do not need to have an unsubscribe link.
You do not need to include an unsubscribe link in your cold emails in the United States (CAN-SPAM Act) or Europe (GDPR). However, you need to tell your recipients how they can opt-out of receiving future emails from you.
The CAN-SPAM Act in the United States says: “Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future.”
GDPR (Europe) states: “The GDPR unsubscribe rule states that all emails: outbound messages and email marketing messages should specify clearly the way in which the recipient can remove his or her data from your list, or change it.” GDPR does not specify the way, so it does not say “you should use the unsubscribe link”.
Unsubscribe links are a good way of allowing people to opt-out when you are sending mass emails, for example, when you are sending emails to a newsletter list. However, the entire point of cold email is to personalize your emails for each lead, and using an unsubscribe link makes your emails seem like they are not personalized, which will kill your response rate.
Cold emails do not need to have an unsubscribe link.
However, you need to tell the people that you are emailing how they can opt-out from receiving future emails from you.
The best way to do this in the context of cold email is to write something like “Let me know if you’d be interested in this” or “If you’re not the right person to contact about this, then please let me know or please forward this email to the right person.”
If the recipient wants to opt-out, they can simply reply with “No thanks” and you can then remove their data from your list and never email them again.
Instead of using an unsubscribe link, you can simply write something like “Let me know if you would be interested”. If the recipient wants to opt-out, they can simply respond with “Not interested”.
Newsletter and transactional emails should contain an unsubscribe link. Unsolicited cold emails should not contain an unsubscribe link. However, you still need to tell your recipients how they can opt-out.
You should not add an unsubscribe link to your cold emails for two main reasons:
You will confuse your prospects because they never subscribed in the first place, so they will not understand why your cold email says “unsubscribe”.
Using the word “unsubscribe” will kill your response rate. The only way to get responses in cold email is to make your emails seem personalized. When you include the word “unsubscribe”, your email no longer looks personalized.
Finally, you can allow people to opt-out without needing to use an unsubscribe link. For example, you can simply state in the body of your email (in the call-to-action section) the following:
“If you’re not the right person to contact about this, then please let me know or please forward this email to the right person.”
If the recipient wants to opt-out, all they have to do is respond with “No thanks”. All you have to do from here is remove the recipient’s data from your list and never email them again.
You can learn more about the laws and regulations affecting cold email in my article Is Cold Email Legal?
Also, check out my other article How To Write A Cold Email (4-Step Process) before you send your first cold email campaign.
Founder of Emailchaser.
I have been working in the sales & marketing industry for nearly a decade.
When I’m not working on my business, I enjoy eating sushi & doing jiu-jitsu.
Address: Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Email: [email protected]
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