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What is the List-Unsubscribe Header in Email Marketing

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06 Jan 2021

Whether you’re a new startup or an existing business, chances are that you must have used or are using email marketing. Email marketing is an effective way of getting new customers while keeping the existing ones engaged. It helps a company reach out to its customers with new offers, news, and useful information.

This email marketing might also lead to spam in some cases. In order to protect the privacy of customers and avoid spam, a number of new laws have been passed all over the world. In the world of email marketing, spam can be avoided by using the list-unsubscribe header.

What Is the List-Unsubscribe Header?

List-unsubscribe is an optional email header that allows users to opt-out of receiving emails at any given time without having to go and click an unsubscribe link or mark the emails as spam. As the user is voluntarily opting out instead of reporting as spam, this helps the sender in protecting the sender's reputation as well.

Why Is the List-Unsubscribe Needed?

Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 or CAN-SPAM act was passed by the United States Congress. Its main purpose was to restrict the flow of unsolicited and spam emails and to protect the privacy of recipients.

CAN-SPAM is still active and if your business includes email marketing, then the guidelines of the CAN-SPAM act should be kept in mind while initiating your email marketing campaign.

Under this act, all businesses using emails must comply with the following points:

The most important point here is the last one, users should be given an opt-out option and they should be told how they can opt-out of future communication easily. This is why every commercial email should have an opt-out option so that users can easily unsubscribe whenever they feel like it.

This unsubscribe option can be provided in many ways. Some senders include an unsubscribe link at the end of each email along with the mailing address. There are several other options besides using an unsubscribe option in the footer. The best one is including a list-unsubscribe header.

How Does the List-Unsubscribe Header Work?

There are two ways of implementing the list-unsubscribe header: mailto and http.


This is the most used method for generating a list-unsubscribe header. Mailto sends an email from the unsubscribing user with an opt-out request. This email is delivered to the dedicated email address that you provided your email provider with, with a request that they embed it in the header.

This method requires that you provide a dedicated email address to your email service provider to which unsubscribe requests are sent. The ESP then embeds the correct syntax and email address in the header.

A good practice is to choose a simple dedicated email address and to remove each unsubscribing recipient manually.


The hypertext transfer protocol (Http) takes users to a page where they have to confirm their unsubscribe requests. In order to use this method, you will have to make a dedicated web page and provide it to your email service provider for it to be embedded in the email header.


Gmail is one of the biggest inbox providers. In Gmail, the higher your sender reputation the more functionality you can have out of list-unsubscribe tools. Gmail supports both mailto and http method and you can use any as per your requirements. Gmail, however, recommends the mailto option and urges users to use it over http method.

In Gmail, the list-unsubscribe header appears as a hyperlink in the drop-down menu right next to the ‘To’ field.


In order to enable the list-unsubscribe header in Outlook, you should have a good sender reputation. Furthermore, Outlook only supports mailto options.

IOS Mail:

In IOS mail, the list-unsubscribe option is present at the top over the sender information. IOS also supports the mailto option only.


The list-unsubscribe option was integrated into yahoo mail back in 2018. It also supports only the mailto option.

What Does This Mean For Email Marketers?

List-Unsubscribe: Good Or Bad?

List-unsubscribe is a good option for both the users and the senders. If the user at any point feels like they don’t want to receive more emails, they can simply unsubscribe instead of reporting spam.

Similarly, the sender is saved from spam reports which help in improving sender reputation, improving the market image, and getting access to new customers.

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