What Is Opt-in?
Opt-in is a system whereby a customer or site visitor explicitly agrees to receive communications from a commercial entity. It can be a general (blanket) permission, or—if you’ve offered a menu of choices—a more specific request that covers certain types of email communication.
Among the choices you offer, however many there are, there must be an opt-out choice by which the visitor may indicate that s/he does not wish to receive any communications by e-mail. This is a critical system to have in place if you wish to send emails to customers because it prevents the communication from falling into the category of spam, as defined by the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act).
Simply having a person subscribe by submitting an email address (called “unconfirmed opt-in”) can raise issues. First, you have no way of knowing if the email address actually belongs to the person who submitted it. Second, typos in the submission could result in email messages going to someone other than the intended recipient. In either case, the email you send in good faith following such a submission could be spam by being delivered to person who did not request it in either case.
Some businesses have approached this by using a method called “single opt-in.” In this system, a e-mail is sent to a new subscriber with confirmation being concluded by inaction (the recipient does not unsubscribe) rather than a positive action of response. Many feel that this is a questionable practice.
The answer to this quandary is referred to variously as “double opt-in,” “Confirmed Opt-In” (COI), “confirmed subscription,” or “closed-loop opt-in.” In this system, upon receiving a submission, a confirmation email is sent to verify the email address submitted. The recipient then clicks a link or sends a response email to confirm the original submission.
Help With Your Opt-in Email Campaign
There are companies that exist to help you with your opt-in email campaign, from providing the sign-up forms for your opt-in program to mailing list management to email newsletter templates to email analytics so you can track the success of your campaign. Several that you may wish to check for starters in order to compare their offerings.
Avoiding the Spam Label
Another key element of an email marketing program is to use a spam analyzer to help ensure that your legitimate email will not get flagged as spam by recipients’ Internet Service Providers (ISPs) or mail clients. GravityMail (http://www.gravitymail.com/spamscore.php) provides such a service for free. Additionally, you can acquire accounts with various ISPs and send email drafts to yourself to see how the ISPs and your mail client handle them.