Enhancing Unsubscribe Filtering in Gmail

A well known email organization hack is to create a search filter in Gmail for the term "unsubscribe." Unfortunately, it's not always effective at catching all mailing lists and, in some cases, improperly filters. Here's an alternative Gmail filter method that does the job much more effectively.

Why Simple Filters Don't Always Work

Let's start with why filtering by "unsubscribe" by itself is not optimal. First, if a friend or coworker forwards you an email from his or her list, you may not want to filter it. For example, a coworker might forward you a list with a message and action item. Another example is if you're included in a conversation or threaded message involving an email that started with a list. You may not want those emails automatically filtered. Finally, what about lists that don't use "unsubscribe" in the body?

How to Create a Better Gmail Unsubscribe Filter

If you've experienced the above problems, try the below to improve your unsubscribe filter in Gmail.

Go to Gmail.com, and click the small down arrow immediately to the right of the search box. Next, select "All Mail" in the search dropdown.

In the "Has the words" field box, include the following keyword phrases:

unsubscribe OR opt-out OR "opt out" OR "mail preferences" OR "email preferences" OR "manage notifications" OR "manage your notifications" OR "manage alerts" OR "alert preferences" OR "list:yahoogroups" OR "list:googlegroups" OR "list:listserv" OR "list:groups" OR "list:basecamp" OR "list:anyothers"
Check out Google's full list of advanced search operators. One trick is using list:. Glance through your email to find all the group emails you receive and you can split them up into separate labels or compile them in one place.Unlistr

In the "Doesn't have" text field, include the following:

subject:("FW: OR FWD: OR RE:")

Check the option for "Don't include chats."

Next, create the filter and select what you want to do with the email. The most common approach is to Skip Inbox and apply a specific folder/label (e.g., Subscriptions). Now, your filter will taken into account subscription email that doesn't necessarily use the terms unsubscribe and will skip over emails that are not actual subscriptions associated with your email address.

NOTE: This enhancement to unsubscribe filtering in Gmail does not automate the unsubscribe process. In other words, this method is limited to filtering relevant emails into a folder/label and does not execute unsubscribe actions on your behalf.

Use this filtering method in conjunction with Unlistr by setting Unlistr to scan only the folder/label created in the step 3 above. Unlistr can then crawl your folder/label and unsubscribe automatically. Cheers!