(Yeah, yeah...we know. Original title, right?)

Opt In vs Opt Out

When it comes to building your email marketing list, what’s the difference between opt in email and opt out? It’s pretty simple, really.

Opt IN is when someone actually gives you permission to add them to your email list; opt OUT is when you assume that it’s OK for you to send them email unless they tell you to stop.

(Opt OUT is sort of like when your teenager takes the keys to your car without asking, then explains, “Well, you never said it was NOT OK…”)

That’s why opt IN email marketing is known as “permission-based,” while opt OUT is usually called SPAM.

Does one work better than the other? Almost universally, the answer is, “Yes, permission-based email marketing works better than spam.” And of course, it makes perfect sense that this is the case, because when someone takes the time to tell you they want your emails, there’s a much better chance that they will open them and respond.

Having said that, however, there are different levels of opt-in status:

  • Double Opt-In: This is the “gold standard” of permission. When someone gives you their email address, you automatically send a confirmation email with a link that must be clicked. Until that follow-up link is clicked, the email address sits in “pending” status and is not officially added to your email list. This ensures that anyone on your email list really wants to be there.
  • Confirmed Opt-In: This is very similar to double opt-in, only your confirmation email will have a link that may be used only if the recipient did NOT intend to sign up for your emails. This can help ensure that a nasty troll or other evil-doer didn’t give you someone else’s email address, perhaps as a really bad, unoriginal practical joke.
  • Unconfirmed Opt-In: This is your garden-variety level of permission, where someone has provided an email address, and you simply leave it at that. You might send a “thank you” email as a follow-up, but it does not have the unsubscribe option.

And actually, there are two levels of unconfirmed opt-in: One is called “affirmative consent” and the other is called “negative consent.” With affirmative consent, someone actually checks a little box that might say, “Yes, I want your emails!” With negative consent, the little box is already checked for them, and they might not even notice it. (This is more typical as part of an order form.)

Which of these methods is best for you? It goes without saying that with double opt-in you’re going to have better deliverability, fewer complaints, more opens, and more response from your email list. The only real negative to double opt-in is that a good percentage of the people who signed up for your emails will NOT click the confirmation link, so they will never be officially added to your list. The amount you’ll lose could be anywhere from 20% to as high as 50%.

Now as far as those losses go, a number of email marketing consultants feel that if someone won’t take the time to confirm their opt-in, their email address is not worth having. That’s a decision that you’ll have to make for yourself. Of course, if you’re still not sure what the best approach is for you, we can help you figure it out:


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