Your Opt In Email Marketing
Questions Answered

Use opt in email marketing, if you're not, you either don’t understand it or you don’t want to be successful.

Since you are reading this article, I’m hoping it is the former.

In the simplest terms, the phrase “opt in email marketing” means that your subscriber is giving you permission to contact them via email about what you are doing.

There are many reasons why someone will give you their email address (we’ll discuss those in a second) but the most important thing…

…is what you do with it.


The first and most important question, is WHO should use opt in email marketing?

The easiest answer is…E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.

And only on days that end in "Y" ;)

My friend…do your part to make the world a better place and follow these words of wisdom.

Don’t buy a list.

Don’t harvest email addresses online.

Don’t compile a list from a bunch of business cards from a fish bowl.

Understand this:

Anytime you send a “mass” or “bulk” email to a list of people without their permission you are spamming…plain and simple.

If you are not using any form of opt in email marketing, you are sending email to people who have not asked to receive communication from you.

If you develop a list without using opt in, 1 of 2 things will happen:

When you send to your “subscribers”:

  1. They will unsubscribe, complain, and report you as spam. This will result in your URL being blacklisted, your emails not getting delivered, and your email service provider refusing to let you use their platform

  2. You will send to your “subscribers, they will ignore your emails, internet service providers will determine that no one is engaging with your emails, your emails will end up in the Spam folder, and you will eventually get labeled as a Spammer by the software (potentially getting yourself blacklisted).

One way or the other…neither scenario benefits anyone.

Sending unsolicited email is unethical and ineffective.

You can certainly “build” a list by using the “Don’ts” mentioned above but that is playing the short game and you’re setting yourself up for failure.

I know it can be tempting, but please trust me when I say...use opt in email marketing.


What does it mean to use opt in email marketing?

In short, having your reader “opt in” means they give you approval to send them email marketing messages.

Coined “permission marketing” by the legendary Seth Godin, it is the standard for sending any type of email message to a large group of people.

First let’s discuss the different types.

Implicit Opt In

This is when a reader uses their email to make a purchase, fill out a contact form, or sign up for an event or download on your website.

After doing so you add them to your database and begin sending them additional emails...without permission.

Single Opt In

This is typically a form on your site that a reader voluntarily enters their information in to because they want to hear from you.

1. Put in your information.

2. Start getting emails.

Double Opt In

This is the same as single opt in, except when a reader submits their information, they get some type of follow up email asking them to confirm that they submitted their email address to you.

1. Put in your information.

2. Click to confirm you want information.

3. Start getting emails.

It’s important to note that permission is technically only granted when a reader single or double opts in.

You may find that your list of implicit opt ins are not as responsive as you anticipated because they didn’t give you their email address thinking/knowing you would continue sending to them.

To move implicit opt ins to single opt ins, set up an automated welcome message sequence (kind of like this one) in which you provide the reader with the option to keep getting emails from you or opt out.

I do this on my other site when readers subscribe for one of my free downloads. 

The email service I use has a really simple and organic way to double opt in my subscribers by sending a follow up email with a button they must click to access the download.

When the subscriber clicks the link to download the freebie, they are double opted in.

This may seem like overkill, but once they are double opted in, I still send them an email with two clickable links.

One link says “Keep sending me valuable content and resources", and the other link says “No thanks, I don’t need valuable content and resources”.

If the user clicks “Keep sending…” they are tagged as a “Weekly Newsletter” subscriber and sent to a “Thank you for subscribing” page on my site.

If they click “No thanks…” I tag them as “Remove from list” and they are sent to a “We understand, you can always subscribe anytime in the future” type page on my site.

To be clear, I create this once and then automate the entire thing using my email marketing service.

Doing this will hyper-qualify the subscribers on your list and improve engagement.

I would much rather have a list of people who want to hear from me vs. pay for a large list that only a small percentage interact.

Quality is better than quantity. 

And don’t worry about subscribers opting out.

If you create trust and value they will remember it and will have a much higher chance of subscribing again later.

Plus, they will be more inclined to tell their friends to join your list...word of mouth marketing at it's finest.


Why is it important to collect emails via opt in?

There are many advantages (and disadvantages) to using opt in email marketing.


  • grow your website, blog, or company
  • preserve your email and company reputation
  • help you build trust (but more importantly relationships)
  • improve deliverability
  • get high engagement
  • make more money


  • have an unresponsive list
  • waste your time and money
  • ruin your email and/or company reputation
  • get blacklisted
  • email marketing company's won't let you use their service
  • more chance of getting in legal trouble

The last disadvantage is very important to remember. You must be compliant with laws like the CAN-SPAM act and the newly developed General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) laws.

Failure to follow CAN-SPAM could cost you a lot of money, up to $42,530 per violation, yikes! Not to mention potential legal trouble.

Granted GDPR laws are more stringent for people living in the European Union, but, if you’re really trying to build a relationship, abiding by the rules will show that you’re legit.

I know if I met someone who was compliant with a country’s laws even if she didn’t live in that country, she would definitely earn trust points in my book. 

Most email marketing services should have this already built in and it gives me peace of mind knowing that mine does.

If you're unsure whether yours does, a simple Google search should provide the answer.


Now that I have (hopefully) sold you on the idea of using opt in email marketing with your readers, the next question you might have is...

Which type of opt in email marketing is better? Single or Double?

I'm glad you asked.


Single Opt In

  • grows list fast
  • no subscribers left in limbo (place emails get lost when a subscriber doesn't click a confirmation link)
  • only one step

Double Opt In

  • more engaged list
  • higher deliverability
  • less likely reported to spam
  • more accurate subscriber data
  • deters spambots/submissions (there are programs that can make it through single opt in, but those programs can’t complete a double opt in)


Single Opt In

  • get marked as spam more likely
  • misspelled emails can hurt deliverability
  • costs more for a less engaged list (platforms charge based on # of subscribers)

Double Opt In

  • more work for customer
  • slower list growth
  • some customers forget to click double opt in link (but this really qualifies your subscribers)

There are different schools of thought here and you will definitely have to choose for yourself.

Personally, I prefer double opt in email marketing for a few reasons:

  1. I want subscribers who want to hear from me.
    The cost of email marketing goes up as list size increases. I only want people on my list if they engage with my messages.
  2. I want my emails to get delivered.
  3. I don't want a list of fake email addresses
    (i.e. if you use single opt in with a free download someone can get the free download by submitting a fake email address).

Double opt in is the default setting on the email marketing service I use and they say "Single opt in is like leaving your front door unlocked all the time!"

Ask yourself this question...what is the point of having a big list if only 10% or less are actually getting, seeing, and acting on my message?


Where do you let readers opt in?

There are a variety of places on your website that you can and should place opt in forms to capture your readers email address.

Make the opt in form visible without ruining the user experience.

The biggest rule of thumb here is to make the opt in form visible without ruining the user experience (more on that below).

Also, one warning: don’t overdo it.

An excellent tactic is to create a stand alone subscribe page (#9) and link to it so you don't litter your site and bombard your readers with opt in forms.

My best advice is to choose a couple of options and try them for a few months (or less depending on how much traffic you get), then swap those out for new ones and see which options get you more subscribers).

Listed below are many strategical options of where you can place an opt in form on your site (most all of which I use with my email marketing service)...

1. Slide In Form

2. Floating Bar at the Top of the Page (Sticky Bar)

3. Side Bar (Inline)

4. In Between Content (Inline)

5. At the End of a Content Article (Inline)

6. In the Website/Blog Footer (Inline)

7. About Page (Inline)

8. Landing Page

9. Stand Alone Page

10. Home Page (Inline)

11. Exit Intent / Full Screen Popup (Modal)

A word about full screen pop ups.

They can be very effective, however, as of Jan 10, 2017 Google will now place your website lower in search rankings if the mobile version of your website contains popups that cover main content.

Per their Blog:

"To improve the mobile search experience, after January 10, 2017, pages where content is not easily accessible to a user on the transition from the mobile search results may not rank as highly."

My recommendation is to use exit intent popups.

They don't ruin the user experience and only appear when the reader moves their mouse toward the top of their screen to leave.


When should you use opt in email marketing?


It doesn't matter how large your list is, if people don't engage with it.

If you do decide to follow the "wrong ways" to build a list (which I still don’t recommend by the way), at the very least send the people on the list a way to opt in before you start mass sending to them.

Make a note of this: It doesn’t matter how large your list is, if people don’t engage with your email messages. 

I've said it once, but I'll say it again...

...the QUALITY of your list is much more important than the QUANTITY of your list.

Always give your readers and subscribers the chance to opt in. 

It’s also worth mentioning that even if a subscriber opts in for one thing from you, does not mean that they opt in for everything.

The QUALITY of your list is much more important than the QUANTITY of your list.

For example, just because a reader opts in to your newsletter doesn't mean she is interested in the ebook you are trying to sell.

This is where segmenting your list based on interest comes in very handy.


How do you do opt in email marketing effectively?

Now you've learned of the numerous places to put your opt in form, but there is an entire science about getting it to convert readers into subscribers.

How your form looks and what it says is crucial to getting readers to opt in.

Integrating these tips into your opt in forms will improve conversion rates and make readers happy to subscribe.

1. Walk Your Reader Through It

Set up an automated process that walks your subscriber through step-by-step.

If someone is willing to trust you enough to give you their information, make it really simple for them to sign up and don't let them fall through the cracks.

Make it easy for your readers to sign up and don't let them fall through the cracks.

For example, when a reader completes and clicks the call to action button on my site, I follow up with a complete opt in email marketing sequence.

Using this sequence walks the reader through the process efficiently, let's them know what to do and decreases the chances of them not completing the subscription process.

All of this is automated and ensures that I'm doing everything I know how to qualify subscribers to my list.

2. Specify Frequency

For a standard "Join Our List" form, tell people exactly what to expect and when to expect it.

In general, people like to know what they are "getting themselves into" and don't like to deviate from that.

Will you email them 1 time per week or 1 time per month?

What will the content you send be about?

What kind of value will you deliver?

Doing this will also qualify who signs up to receive email from you. If I'm an accountant, I'm probably not going to want emails from the blog below.

Another excellent way to show what subscribers can expect, is by linking to your message archive or a page that shows a few examples of what your email(s) will look like.

3. Use Social Proof

Social proof comes in different forms.

Some email services have counters that allow you to show the amount of subscribers you have. You can use that or type it in near the form on the page.

There's also the option of making your own testimonials and putting them near your opt in form.

These can dramatically increase credibility and subscribers.

4. Remove "SPAM" from Privacy Statement

Always use a privacy statement but avoid using the word "SPAM" in it.

I've seen thousands of opt in forms in my day and many of them say "No SPAM" or "Never spammed".

By using the word SPAM your reader may sub-consciously think about the potential of being spammed and may reconsider subscribing.

Use a combination of words to tell your potential subscriber that their information is private, secure, and won't be shared.

5. Use a Creative Name

Call your newsletter something better than a "Newsletter"

Be specific about naming what your reader will get by subscribing.

If you will send cooking tips or recipes, don't just put "Sign up for Cool Recipes" on your form.

Instead, think about your niche or what types of cooking you talk about in your content, or more importantly what type of cooking your product can do.

If your niche or product focuses on Avocados for example, you might call your "Newsletter" the "The Awesome Avocado Angle" or "Actionable Avocado Advice".

You don't have to use alliteration of course, but it adds a little more fun to it.

And the more fun, or professional, or unique you can make it the more subscribers will look forward to hearing from you.

6. Use a Lead Magnet

A lead magnet is relevant and enticing thing offered to your reader in exchange for their email address.

Sometimes referred to as "bait", lead magnets come in many shapes and sizes and are used to get leads/subscribers ranging anywhere from "Raising Chickens" to "Cloud Computing".

In order for your lead magnet to have maximum impact, it must have the following qualities...

Great lead magnets:

  • provide an instant solution to a very specific problem that a very specific audience has.
  • are quick to consume and offer instant gratification (not a newsletter or 30 day course).
  • are highly valuable and are believed to be highly valuable
  • promises "1 big thing" (not many little things)
  • addresses a known desired end result
  • give hope and belief to your reader that she can achieve her desired result

7. Specific CTA

Let your personality shine in the form by using your own language and saying something more exciting than just "Subscribe".

A Call to Action (CTA) must be just that. Words that motivate someone to act.

Test different variations to see which CTAs convert higher.

Perfect example:

The website Empire Flippers A/B tested 2 variations of a Call to Action for their readers to learn how to flip websites.

Version A

Version B

Can you guess which one did better?

Version B increased conversions by 33.1%!

Specific CTAs are a very important component to your opt in email marketing forms and it is essential to you use CTAs that resonate with the readers you want on your list.

8. Give Subscribers a "Way Out"

To do opt in email marketing effectively, you must (by law as well as common decency) allow them a way to "Unsubscribe" or stop receiving emails from you.

As mentioned above, failure to do this can land you a lot of trouble.

9. Limit the Amount of Form Fields

The amount of fields you use is highly dependent on your goals, but must be considered to reach them.

To get the most subscribers 1-2 form fields for "Name" and "Email" are best.

I prefer to get the name of my subscribers so I can personalize emails to them.

However, if you are doing more Business to Business prospecting you might use a longer opt in form with more fields to highly qualify your subscriber/lead.

A few years ago (2015) Ascend2 and their partners did some research on conversion rates based on how many form fields were displayed and though their subjects were primarily B2B audience, their results were revealing.

In conclusion...

Opt in email marketing is paramount when building any type of email list.

There are many ways to gather email addresses but you must do so legally and effectively.

Double opt in email marketing is going to better qualify your subscribers, increase your engagement, and improve deliverability.

Your success depends upon the quality of your list and how well they engage with you, your content, and your purpose.

So get out there and start building your empire, 1 opt in subscriber at a time.

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