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What Is Opt-in Email Marketing?

Jamie Johnson
Jamie Johnson

When a new subscriber opts in to your list, they permit you to send them promotional emails. Learn more about opt-in email marketing, how it works, and what to know about opting out.

  • Before you can engage in email marketing, you need to build your opt-in email list.
  • It’s also important to give your subscribers an easy way to opt out of your email list.
  • Making it easy for customers to opt in and opt out isn’t just a good business practice – it’s the law. 
  • This article is for small business owners and marketers who want to build an interested, immersed email marketing subscribers list.

It’s common knowledge that email marketing has many benefits and is one of the best ways to grow your business. Email marketing has a higher ROI than other channels, and it’s an effective way to convert subscribers to customers.

But before you can engage in email marketing, you need to build your opt-in email list. Learn what this is and how to encourage subscribers to opt in to receive your emails. 

What is opt-in email marketing?

Email marketing involves sending commercial emails to groups of people who are known as your subscribers. However, before you can send emails to your subscribers, you must receive their permission. 

This is what’s known as opt-in email marketing, and it’s an essential aspect of complying with FTC regulations. Nonetheless, it’s just as essential to make it easy for your subscribers to opt out of your list if they no longer wish to receive your business emails.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right email marketing solution for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Let’s look at the differences between opting in and opting out, and how to ensure you’re giving subscribers these options. 

Opting in vs. opting out

Opt-in email marketing means you ask permission before sending people promotional emails. When you collect an email address from a website landing page or popup, a new subscriber willingly gives you their email address. By opting in, they agree to receive marketing emails and promotional offers from your company in the future. 

Opting out means that subscribers are withdrawing their permission for you to email them. They can do this by hitting the Unsubscribe button located at the bottom of your emails, or they can change their preferences.


Make your opt-in opportunities clear and easy to find on your website. A common email marketing mistake is providing unnoticeable ways subscribers can opt in.

Why do customers have to opt in to your emails?

When subscribers opt in to your emails, they give your business explicit permission to email them in the future. Here are three reasons why that’s important.


You must give customers the choice to receive emails to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act. The act sets guidelines for how your business can use commercial email marketing purposes. 

According to the FTC, failing to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act could lead to fines of $43,792 per email. Fortunately, the law isn’t difficult to follow, and these requirements are straightforward:

  • You must not use false information.
  • The subject line must clearly state what the email is about.
  • You must disclose that your email is an ad.
  • You must include your company’s name and address at the bottom of the email.
  • The email must give recipients an easy way to opt out.
  • You should honor opt-out requests immediately.
  • If you hire a company to handle your email marketing for you, you must stay informed of what they’re doing on your behalf.


Your email marketing campaigns must also comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). GDPR is the European Union’s privacy law, and it applies to your business if you collect EU citizens’ email addresses. 

Similar to the CAN-SPAM Act, the GDPR states that your company must receive explicit consent before emailing a subscriber. You must also make it easy for your subscribers to opt out of future email communications. 

Brand protection

Finally, good email opt-in practices will help you protect your brand. The reason you use email marketing is to build a relationship with your subscribers. But if you send your subscribers spam emails, or make it hard for them to opt out, they will stop trusting you.

Plus, if subscribers start reporting your emails as spam, this could hurt the email delivery rate over time. If your company has an unusually high number of complaints, your email service provider could even suspend your account. All of this will negatively impact your business, and could hurt your sales and profitability. 

Key Takeaway

Good opt-in practices not only protect your brand and make your business more attractive to subscribers, they also comply with laws that dictate how your business can use commercial email for marketing purposes.

Single vs. double opt-in systems

In the world of email marketing, there is some debate about which tactic is more effective – a single or double opt-in method. If you require a single opt-in, a subscriber only has to enter their email address once before they start receiving emails from you.

A double opt-in means that subscribers will enter their email address and agree to receive emails from you. As an additional step, they’ll receive a confirmation email and click a link to verify that they want to join your email list. If they don’t finish this final step, your email service provider won’t add them to the list.  

The biggest advantage for using a single opt-in is that it helps you build your email contact list faster. According to GetResponse, businesses that use a single opt-in can grow their lists up to 30% faster. Plus, the single opt-in method is easier for your subscribers who may be too busy to make that extra step to verify their email address.

This can be especially important if you invest in paid advertising. You wouldn’t want to lose a lead your company paid for because the consumer never confirmed their email address. 

There are also advantages to using the double opt-in method. Some argue that using a double opt-in creates a higher-quality list and more active subscribers. 

There is evidence that double opt-in lists have a higher click-through rate and lower bounce rates. However, there are no laws requiring a double opt-in system, so this really comes down to your preference. 

Tips for promoting opt-ins through email marketing

Most of us are already inundated with emails, so your website visitors may not be in a hurry to add another weekly email to the mix. Here are a few best practices for encouraging people to opt in and join your list:

  • Give them many opportunities to sign up. If you want new email subscribers, you need to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up. Include an email opt-in on every page of your website and all your blog posts.
  • Provide value content. The best way to attract new email subscribers is by providing valuable content. Draw in your audience with helpful blog posts and social media content, and then offer premium content – like an e-book or guide – if they sign up for your email list. 
  • Use social proof. It can be helpful to include a testimonial or some form of social proof on your opt-in form. This is an excellent way to build trust with new email subscribers.
  • Keep it interesting. Once a subscriber joins your email list, the battle has only just begun. Now you must find a way to keep that person engaged so they don’t unsubscribe. The best way to do this is by mixing up your email content. Send a combination of promotional and educational emails so your subscribers don’t get bored. 
Key Takeaway

Successful email marketing starts with excellent opt-in practices and valuable content. Once you’ve won over subscribers, your challenge is keeping them interested in your business.

3 examples of good opt-in emails

Are you looking to create an email opt-in form but not sure how to get started? These are a few inspirational examples:

1. I Will Teach You to Be Rich

Here’s why this opt-in works:

  • Ramit Sethi clearly understands his audience – people who want to make more money and aren’t interested in cutting costs.
  • You can immediately see the value of the lead magnet, and new subscribers are promised instant access.
  • Because it states that new subscribers will receive a few emails per week, the audience understands what they’re signing up for.
  • The “featured in” section at the bottom builds credibility.    

2. ActiveCampaign


These are some reasons why this opt-in works:

  • The language is simple and gets straight to the point; you don’t have to read through a lot of text first.
  • The benefits of signing up are apparent; subscribers can create incredible emails, and you receive a free 14-day trial of the service.
  • ActiveCampaign makes it easy to get started: All you have to do is enter your email address, and you don’t need to enter your credit card information.
  • By using language like “the top marketing automation platform,” ActiveCampaign sets itself apart as a leader in the industry.

3. Salesforce


Here’s why this opt-in works:

  • It has a compelling headline that immediately grabs the company’s ideal customer.
  • Salesforce establishes its authority as “the world’s #1 CRM.”
  • It includes a customer testimonial for social proof, so website visitors understand the types of results they could receive.
  • It makes it easy to sign up and get started. 
  • Read our review of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and you can try creating your own opt-in pages.

If you’re looking for help creating a successful email marketing campaign, check out our guide to locating the best email marketing service for your business.

Opt-in email marketing is the only compliant approach

You must give your customers the opportunity to opt in and out of your company’s email list to be compliant with both local and overseas policies. When your consumers opt in, they give you their permission to send them weekly newsletters, promotions and marketing messages. And if they choose to opt out, you should remove them from your list immediately.

Once you have new subscribers, make sure to keep them engaged by providing valuable content, personalizing your emails and varying the types of content you send. That way, you’ll not only continue to grow your list, but you’ll have an active list of subscribers who look forward to reading your emails. 

Image Credit: BartekSzewczyk / Getty Images
Jamie Johnson
Jamie Johnson
Contributing Writer
Jamie Johnson is a Kansas City-based freelance writer who writes about finance and business. She has also written for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Fox Business and Business Insider. Jamie has written about a variety of B2B topics like finance, business funding options and accounting. She also writes about how businesses can grow through effective social media and email marketing strategies.