Handle Unsubscribe Info With Care


ADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — Facebook is only the beginning.

The online collection and use of personal information will be under an intense beacon of light in the remainder of 2008 and into 2009 with possible FTC action being taken against companies with egregious privacy practices. The industry will begin to improve the communication of privacy expectations to users, data privacy and protection awareness will grow, and a less-discussed area of data collection will influence the email marketing landscape: Unsubscribes.

An unsubscribe represents a lost opportunity for email marketers. Even though the unsubscribed address does not generate revenue, and resources are spent on unsubscribe file maintenance, attention should be given to unsubscribe files for two reasons.

First, internally a company could minimize the net loss associated to the maintenance. Second, dedicating time to improving unsubscribe handling, honoring unsubscribes, and protecting the consumer’s email address post opt-out will improve the consumer’s experience with your company and help to improve the consumer’s overall attitude toward their email address—and the email messages they receive.

According to LashBack, an email compliance company, a consumer, globally speaking, has a better than 50 percent chance of receiving email after unsubscribing.

Many unsubscribe files are transmitted in email or through unsecure FTP sites for use as a suppression file in affiliate marketing. Along with the unsecure data transfer method, these files are not encrypted and often contain additional information unnecessary for suppressing a consumer from receiving an email.

An increasing number of advertisers will protect their customer’s personal information, and provide their unsubscribe file in an encrypted format. The two most widely used email address encryption methods are MD5 Hash and SHA1.

Most email service providers and in-house mailing applications are not equipped to process a suppression file in an encrypted format. The publisher will have the option of either upgrading his email deployment system or manually preparing each suppression file before loading it into the deployment system. Email system enhancements require additional development time, and in the case of publishers who use an ESP, it will mean waiting for a new version release.

Along with email address encryption, guidelines for suppression file data standardization are needed. Publishers consistently receive advertiser suppression files in strange database formats that require clean-up and manipulation on the publisher’s part in order to make the file usable. The majority of publishers do not clearly communicate suppression file format requirements, and advertisers may not completely understand the technical nuances.

The perfect suppression file would be a text file (.txt as the file extension), have one email address per line, and contain nothing but encrypted email addresses. Advertisers can expect charges for suppression file formatting issues to be passed along to them in CPM rates if the suppression file fails to meet publisher formatting requirements. Advertisers engaged in CPA marketing can expect fewer publishers to promote their offers if the advertiser’s suppression file is a mess.

— Express your opinion, comment below.


  1. Hello, Koltz,

    “Article” December 12th 2008
    ” Handle Unsubscribe Info With Care”

    I would like to thank you for a clear understanding, of the mechanics, within a business, who utilizes the internet via email.That is, to service customers via email services.

    This creates a double-sided situation, for a marketer, such as my self. On one hand, you have a serious expense, that the business may experience to retain customer loyalty and base, for services. On the other hand, you have an opening for marketers to capitalize on the options.

    As you have stated, there are two options available to these businesses. One very expensive, which will be time consuming as you have clearly explained. Second, not to expensive, to have a manual system setup, to produce the end results, of suppressing each file before loading it into the deployment system.

    This opens to my question to you, can this manual procedure, be performed, off site? If so, how can this be completed, and what time frame would be acceptable?

    I believe this will resolve many issues, that will come to manifest.



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