The Golden Rules of Email Opt-In: How to Ethically Get More Email Subscribers


Email might not be the freshest or most exciting marketing solution on the block.

However, that doesn’t make it any less successful.

Over 59% of all marketers say that email is their biggest source of ROI. What’s more, creating an email newsletter is one of the easiest ways to maintain an ongoing relationship with your target audience. Most people check their emails several times each day, from their desktop computers, and their smartphones.

The trouble is, before you can start earning value from your email marketing strategy, you need to get people to actually sign up to your list.

On average, a consumer receives about 121 emails per day. Every day, those individuals are being overwhelmed with coupons, offers, and promotions that drive them crazy. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to convince someone that they should give you their email address.

The good news? Follow the golden rules of opting in, and you’ll be able to get more email subscribers in no time.

Step 1: Start with a compelling offer

First things first, you need something special to capture your audience’s attention and convince them to look at your sign-up page.

In the age of digital marketing, email addresses are a lot like currency. Whenever you ask someone to hand over their details, you’re engaging in a crucial transaction. Since the number of emails clogging up your customer’s inbox is on the rise, you’ve got to earn the right to connect with your customer.

Fortunately, that’s where your landing page offers come in.

If you can convince your audience that it’s worth giving you their email address, perhaps in exchange for a free eBook, download, or discount code, then you boost your chances of them signing up. For instance, the beauty brand “Bliss” used a 20% discount to incentivize opt-ins on its site.

Bliss sign-up example

Your lead magnet can be anything you like. Just make sure that it’s something intriguing enough to earn consumer attention and convince them that you’re worth their time.

Step 2: Don’t pre-check any boxes

For years, when customers have bought an item from an online store, it’s been common practice to automatically opt them into your email list too.

However, just because someone wants to buy something from you, doesn’t mean that they want to hear from your brand every other day. These days, you can’t just assume that people want to be a part of your email list.

It’s just bad manners to send someone an email without their consent. Not only do your subscribers hate it, but it’s also against the law in certain places around the world. If you connect with consumers from Canada, Australia, or the EU, then you risk some hefty fines by automatically opting your subscribers in.

While keeping your email sign-up boxed unchecked does mean that you’re less likely to get as many new subscribers as you once did, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The fact that you’re giving your consumers a choice on whether they want to hear from you might improve your chances of gaining their respect too.

What’s more, asking people to actively opt-in to hear from you means that you’re more likely to get the email addresses of genuinely engaged customers.

Step 3: Limit your form fields

Today’s consumers are busy people. They’re always on the move, dealing with things like work, family life, and their personal lives. The chances are that the majority of your consumers will even browse the internet from their phones more often than they use a computer.

The fast-paced lives that today’s consumers lead mean that they don’t have time to answer a bunch of questions before they sign up to your email list.

With that in mind, if you want to increase your chances of subscribers, keep your form fields to a minimum. Studies suggest that the ideal number of form fields is between two and four. However, it’s usually best to stick to just two if you can.

Get more email subscribers example: Boonmail basic signup form

Asking for a customer’s name and email address will give you everything you need to send them a slightly customized welcome message.

From there, you can invite your customer back to your website where they can fill out more details on their profile when they have time.

The aim of your opt-in form is to get people plugged into your email list initially. You can deal with the rest a little later.

Step 4: Let subscribers manage their preferences

The more information you have about your customers, the easier it is to send engaging, personalized emails that capture their attention.

During that initial interaction when you’re signing a customer up to your email list, it’s not appropriate to ask too many questions at once. If you have too many fields on your forms, then you’ll end up scaring your customers off. It’s like meeting someone who asks way too many personal questions right off the bat.

Instead, give your customers a chance to come back to your site and update their information in a “preference” center. This page is where your customers can decide how often they want to receive emails from you, and what content they’re interested in. For instance, they could mark if they prefer discounts, sale information, or news about new products. Check out this example from for example:

lastminute email preferences

Allowing your subscribers to have complete control over the kind of information they receive will drastically reduce your chances of unhappy clients. What’s more, it could reduce your risk of people complaining that you’re “spamming” their accounts.

With most of today’s email providers, you’ll be able to add a link to your emails that guides your subscribers back to a preference center.

Step 5: Invest in double opt-in

Perhaps the best way to make sure everyone that’s on your email list is eager to hear about your brand is to invest in double opt-in. It’s easy for people to click on a checkbox on your website, thinking that they’re agreeing to terms and conditions, only to discover that they’ve accidentally signed up to be part of an email list.

Double opt-in gives your consumers a chance to back out if they’ve signed up to your list accidentally. It’s also an excellent way to show your customers how much you care about sticking to their preferences.

Not only is double opt-in a good practice for ethical reasons, but it’s becoming increasingly necessary for many companies too. The rules for GDPR in the European Union indicate that double opt-in might be one of the best ways to access explicit “affirmative” action before you add someone to your marketing list.

Although there’s a chance that you might end up with fewer subscribers than you would have had without double opt-in, lists are sometimes about quality over quantity. At least you’ll know that the people you’re reaching are interested in your brand.

Zulily double opt-in example

Step 6: Keep learning about your subscribers

When someone gives you permission to send emails to their inbox, that doesn’t mean that they’ll be happy to hear from you forever. The clock starts ticking from day one.

If you don’t communicate with your subscribers regularly and show them that you’re committed to giving them an excellent customer experience, then you risk them revoking their permission for you to access their inbox.

As soon as you get someone’s email address, make sure that you send a “welcome” message, thanking them from becoming a part of your community. Once you’ve established that initial connection, and you’ve spent a little time with your subscriber, you could consider asking them a few questions now and again.

Sending out polls and surveys is an excellent way to see whether you’re on the right track with your email campaigns, or whether you need to adjust your strategy.

Kate Spade Questions email

Remember, when you’re asking for information from your subscribers, it’s always a good idea to give them something in return. A discount or free gift is an excellent way to improve your chances of gaining that all-important insight.

Step 7: Let subscribers opt-out

Finally, it’s hard to let go when it comes to email subscribers.

You know that your money is in your list as a digital business. However, holding onto people who don’t want to be a part of your community won’t help you to keep growing. Ultimately, you’re going to need to give people a chance to opt-out, or risk getting spam complaints that damage your sender reputation forever.

As tempting as it might be to hide your unsubscribe option and try to force people to stick with you, it’s much better to allow your audience to simply clean up your list for you.

Every time someone opts-out of your list because they’re no longer interested in your brand or product, they’re allowing you to stop spending unnecessary cash on a pointless lead. That means you can focus your attention elsewhere, on the people that want to hear from you.

Moosejaw unsubscribe


Don’t worry; you can always replace those subscribers with new people over time.

Optimizing the email opt-in

Ultimately, building a list of dedicated and loyal subscribers isn’t easy.

If you want to win with your consumer list these days, you’re going to need to spend a lot of time and effort upgrading your opt-in process.

The good news is that if you can follow the tips above, you’ll end up with a list that’s not only safer from a legal perspective, but also happier to receive content from you. This improves your chances that people will actually convert when they read your emails, rather than just pushing your content into their spam box.

Don’t underestimate the power of effective opting in.


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