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How The Unsubscribe Functionality Works In SFMC

How the Unsubscribe functionality works in SFMC

Keen to understand how the unsubscribe functionality works in SFMC? This blog has all answers...

[This post was originally published on 18th May 2020. It has been updated on 30th Sep 2022.]

Unsubscribe button is an option provided by email marketers to their subscribers on email to reset the quantity and quality of emails being received by them. 

Unsubscribe option provided in the email is an important and mandatory aspect of any email sent by any provider. As per the compliance laws of America, Canada and EU[GDPR], it is mandatory to have a clearly visible unsubscribe button in every email. 

There are two types of emails sent by emails marketers:

  • Commercial emails – This includes promotions emails, newsletters, digest, new product launches etc. 
  • Transactions emails – These emails are triggered after subscriber’s actions i.e password reset emails, invoice emails after a purchase, etc.   

All the ISPs, including Gmail, monitor emails coming to their email servers for Unsubscribe options in the email. If the unsubscribe option is missing from the email then ISPs may take appropriate actions depending on their policies. 
Like in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, if marketers don’t insert the personalization string denoting unsubscribe, profile center within their emails, the system will throw an error while executing the email. 

In this article, we will talk about the following topics: 

  • We will look at some industry examples of the best practice of unsubscribe pages  
  • Talk about the standard unsubscribe pages and profile center or subscription center in Salesforce Marketing Cloud
  • In the end, we will touch on the custom-built profile and subscription center in Salesforce Marketing Cloud  

Industry examples of unsubscribe pages    

Let’s take a look at some of the industry-wide unsubscribe pages that follow good practices and provide a great experience to the subscribers.


Look at the simple and well-spaced options that Grammarly provides for their subscribers who land on this page after clicking on the Unsubscribe button at the bottom of the commercial email.   

They provide options to unsubscribe from their various newsletters like a Blog, Offers, Progress reports individually and in the end, they provide the option to Unsubscribe from all of their email lists.


GoDaddy offers a very simple Preference/Unsubscribe page. It opens up after the subscriber clicks on the unsubscribe option in the email. 

Advantages for the subscribers is that they ask 3 simple questions and it’s done. 

Basics of Email unsubscribe in Marketing cloud

Salesforce Marketing Cloud comes with out-of-the-box Profile center and Subscription center.
Profile center is a web page which helps subscribers to enter and maintain their personal information with the company e.g. first name, last name, email Id etc.

The subscriber can also update their preferences with respect to the frequency of emails they would like to receive.  

Here is a screenshot for standard Profile center from Salesforce Marketing Cloud

A subscription center is a web page where a subscriber can manage the quality of emails coming to them from an organization. This helps them to sort out the various types of Salesforce Marketing Cloud that subscribers would or wouldn’t be a part of. This available publication list in the below screenshot is exposed to the subscriber if the marketers mark them as public.

Below is the screenshot for standard Subscription center from Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Marketers should use these following personalization strings in their email content for utilizing standard preference management features within Salesforce Marketing Cloud

FeaturePersonalization string
Subscription center%%subscription_center_url%%
Profile center%%profile_center_url%%
Unsubscription service%%unsub_center_url%%

There are 4 types of email unsubscribe levels within Salesforce Marketing Cloud which can be utilized by subscribers:

1. List level unsubscribe – Subscribers can unsubscribe from a particular list and they will keep on receiving emails from other lists. They can rejoin the list by visiting the subscription center e.g. subscriber chooses to stop receiving emails related to new product launch email list but will receive emails from the monthly digest list.

2. Account-level unsubscribe – This is a level up from list level unsubscribe and subscribers can choose to stop receiving emails from a particular Business Unit but will receive emails from other business units. e.g. the subscriber chooses to stop receiving emails from one business unit used for selling hiking shoes but will keep on receiving emails from another business unit selling camping products.    

3. Master unsubscribe – This type of unsubscription makes the subscriber stop receiving emails from the whole company. They won’t be receiving emails from any business units of the account and this sits at the top level of the unsubscribe chain. 
This will show the subscriber in the All Subscriber list as unsubscribed.  

4. Global level – This unsubscribe is more drastic in nature as performing this action will make the subscriber stop receiving emails from any Salesforce Marketing Cloud account. This can be done by marking an email to Marketers won’t be able to make out the reason for the non-delivery of email to this particular subscriber.  

Custom Preference and Subscription center

Sometimes, the standard out-of-the-box preference and subscription center webpages are not sufficient for big enterprises and they want a custom profile and subscription center, which match with their branding guidelines and theme. It also provides subscribers with the feeling of a cohesive experience, thus increasing the customer experience. 

To resolve the above use case, custom profile and subscription center web pages can be built with the help of Salesforce Marketing Cloud scripting languages like AMPscript and SSJS. It will also require lots of customization skills along with some provisioning help from your Salesforce account executive. 

Since it requires deep technical skills and will take quite a lot of time as well, we will keep this out of the scope of this article but the below steps will guide you through the process on a high level.

  • Create a custom webpage which interacts with current or new subscribers
  • Link the above custom profile and subscription web page in the email 
  • Create an API code to interact with Salesforce Marketing Cloud
  • Create an error message in case something goes wrong
  • Email triggered informing the subscriber with all the changes done

Please refer to Salesforce Marketing cloud’s official documentation to create the custom preference centre.

Also, below are some good reference articles which will help marketers to create a custom profile and subscription webpage

Wrap Up

We have tried to showcase a couple of examples of the awesome preference and subscription webpages. While we  introduced the concept of out-of-the-box Salesforce Marketing Cloud preference and subscription center along with all kinds of unsubscribe levels and their use cases, we also walked you through the concept of custom preference and subscription in Salesforce Marketing Cloud. We hope this will help you deliver an awesome customer experience.

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Kevin George

Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing full-service email marketing companies. He is an email enthusiast at heart and loves to pen down email marketing content. You can reach him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.



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