What are the Types of Opt-In Lists?
You started building up your email list through a sign up box on your site or a checkbox when a person registers or purchases a product. Then, along came some fussy marketing consultant and said, “Is this an opt in list? Is it a double opt in list?” You probably looked at them and wondered what exactly they meant and why it mattered.
There are three ways to build a list: Email Opt Out, Email Opt In and Email Double Opt In.Comm100 will describe all three options here as well as their benefits and drawbacks. You can then decide which is the right list option for you.
Email Opt Out Lists
You’ll sometimes hear this type of list called simply email “Opt Out” or “Negative Consent”. When a person registers at your website, makes a purchase or signs up for a free white paper or other freebie from you, somewhere in the small print is the information that by taking that action they are agreeing to receive emails from you. The user can choose to opt out and leave the email list later, but they’ve implicitly given you permission to email them.
The upside of an email opt out list is that it can grow your list very quickly. If everybody who takes an action on your site is then on your email list, your list can grow quite rapidly. Many of those people who wouldn’t have actively signed up for your email list if you asked them to will ultimately discover that they appreciate your email newsletters or promotions and will turn into active readers and customers.
The downside is that this type of list building can also increase the number of spam complaints that you receive when you send an email. Users who don’t remember signing up for your email, or who are angry that you tricked them into signing up, will quickly hit the spam flag when they receive your email. This has negative long and short term effects. In the short term, it makes your email metrics look less successful. In the long term, higher than average spam complaints will do permanent damage to your email sender reputation and could result in all of your emails going directly to the junk folder.
Email Opt In Lists
In an email opt in list, a user actively opts in, or chooses to be on, your email list. This can be done either by having them check a box when they register or purchase or by including a special sign-up box on your website. Users enter their email, check a box that says that they agree to receive emails from you and then submit that information via a clickable button. You can also choose to collect other customer or client information at the same time.
The benefit of this type of email list is that your clients are actively saying that they want to receive email from you. Therefore you’re building the most responsive email list that you can.
However, there are some drawbacks as well. Your email list will grow more slowly. People will not as often take the extra action to sign-up as they will simply forget to “not sign up”. Also, because this isn’t a “double opt in” technique (see below), it’s entirely possible for people to sign-up their friends and family. When that happens, you can expect the much-feared spam complaints.
Email Double Opt In Lists
When building an email list, double opt in is the most difficult, but ultimately safest way to build an email list. It also usually has the highest return on investment since it creates a list of entirely qualified leads. In this method, a person opts-in as described above. They then receive an email from you with a link that they must click in order to be added to the email list. Even if they’ve provided a valid email address and checked a box saying that they allow you to email them, they MUST click the link in the email in order to prove that they really signed up for your email list.
The problem with this type of opt in email list, as you can see, is that it is the slowest way to build your email list. Often, even asking people to complete one action to sign-up for an email list is too much, let alone two actions! While many users are accustomed to the double opt-in process, they’ll need to really want your email product to sign up and then confirm.
The benefits of this type of list building are significant. You’re sure that you really are emailing to people who want to receive your emails. While this won’t completely eliminate your spam or deliverability problems, it will reduce them. If you’re paying per email address sent to, it also means that you’ll experience a higher ROI on each send because your list will have fewer junk addresses on it. Finally, if you do receive spam complaints, you can more effectively defend yourself against them by proving that the person double opted in (It’s good to create your confirmation link to log the email address, IP and date that it was clicked from.).
You’ll need to decide at what point on the spectrum you’re most comfortable. If simply growing the number of names on your list is the priority, Email Opt Out is your best choice. The more qualified and “safe” you want your list to be, the more you should move up to an Opt In or Double Opt In list. Certainly, when renting or buying a list, you should ask if the list was originally Email Opt Out, Email Opt In or Email Double Opt In.
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