Please Unsubscribe Me: How Many Emails Are Too Many?

Jamie Shanks
Jamie Shanks

Unsubscribe here” is probably the only CTA you are betting against your subscribers to click on.

This CTA link is what every marketer’s nightmares are made of (including mine). Imagine you just paid over $300 to capture a super targeted lead through your paid campaigns, only to have that person opt-out after receiving your first couple of emails.


There are a number of reasons that might lead to someone clicking on the dreaded “Unsubscribe” link. Your email content might be boring, generic, un-personalized, or not optimized for mobile, to name a few.

According to data from Chadwick Martin Bailey, however, the number one reason why people unsubscribe from an email list is over-communication—specifically, receiving more emails than they signed up for.

So… how many emails are “too many”?

Email send frequency is a juggling act that requires a delicate balance. Send too few emails and you risk leaving money on the table. Send too many emails and your readers might get annoyed, leading to list-churn, or even worse… spam complaints (yikeesss).

It’s important to consider the effects of both over and under-mailing as you work to find your ideal email send frequency.

Effects of under-mailing:

  • Missed revenue opportunities
  • Lower LTV (lifetime value)
  • Lack of inbox presence
  • Poor or inconsistent sender reputation
  • Inability to maintain a clean list and avoid spam traps

Effects of over-mailing:

  • Decreased engagement
  • Increased opt-outs
  • Risk of getting your IP banned by ISP’s

Testing your email frequency

Now that you know what you risk by over or under-emailing, it’s time to run some tests. Here are a couple of tried-and-tested methods I have used throughout my 5 years of professional email marketing experience to hack into these frequency dilemmas.

  • Reduce “regular” email frequency to less-engaged subscribers: A typical e-commerce email strategy is usually to send 4-5 email campaigns in a week to its subscribers. Perform a test that involves sending half the amount of regularly sent emails to a small segment. Measure the CTRs and conversions accordingly over a 6-week period, and optimize based on your results.
  • Give your campaigns a theme: Provide a theme for your campaigns that mentions the frequency of your emails. For example, if you label your subscription as  a “daily blog update”, your subscribers will expect to receive 365 emails. Similarly, if they sign up for a 5-day course, you can send emails for 5 days for that specific campaign.
  • Let your subscribers choose: When someone signs up for your email list, have them select the frequency or subject matter of the emails they wish to receive. You can easily do this through their profile or “preferred communication center”. Giving subscribers options is always a great way to increase their engagement because they’ll only be receiving the content they really want.
  • Segment your audiences: Tailoring your email content to a segmented audience is a great way to control your email frequency. If you have a particular webinar coming up, try sending that webinar to a list that would find it most beneficial—not only are you likely to see more sign-ups, this will also open doorways for highly targeted follow-up emails.

Finding the balance

While these methods can help you set up some email campaigns, there is no one-size-fits-all answer here—determining what kinds of tests you run and tactics you use will largely depend on your particular industry and audience. One thing all marketers have in common, however, is the need to consistently monitor their metrics and optimize their campaigns to achieve success.

Which methods do you use to determine your email frequency? I would love to hear some other suggestions in the comments.

Want more email marketing tips? Watch our Marketing Automation Hacks webinar series.

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