A quick guide to email delivery & inbox placement (Pt. 2)

In part 1 I looked at the bad practices that can affect the general health of your mailing list. It’s important because it can impact your email delivery rates – and can even prevent all your emails from reaching the inbox.

In this post I look at best practices for collecting email addresses of new subscribers for your email newsletters.

Adhere to best practice, and you’ll have a mailing list that has a good reputation with the ISPS (who manage the web-based email inboxes) AND you’ll also be sending emails to people who want to receive your email newsletters. They’ll be more likely to be engaged and open and click your emails. Result!

Have a good sign-up form

So how do you collect addresses? First you need to have a good sign-up form that attracts new subscribers.

Once you have the sign-up form in place – in your newsletter and on your website, you need to decide about using a single opt-in or a double opt-in option. As long as the subscribers have provided their email address to you through the form, it is fine to use the single or double opt-in process for confirming their subscription. I am listing them here so you have the big picture and decide how you want to proceed yourself:

Best Practice data collection option#1: Single Opt-In

With single Opt-In the subscriber provides explicit permission for your company to send them email. Once they enter the email address in the form, they’ll either be taken to a landing page that acknowledges that they have signed up to the newsletter, or they might receive an email confirming that they have been added. This is the most popular way to collect addresses – and does fulfill legislation for acquiring a B2C email address.

Single Opt-In is the fastest way to build a quality email list, just ensure that these processes are in place:

  • Don’t try to trick subscribers into signing up

Avoid the Implicit/Hidden Opt-In clause eg. “Click here to accept our terms and conditions” where the opt-in is hidden in a terms and conditions.
Dupe the subscriber into providing their email address for communications other than those mentioned in the Sign Up form.
Send to the subscriber at a rate that is greater than what is stated in your Sign-Up Form.

  • Have a facility to check address validity

Validate that the email address is formatted correctly (eg ian@newsweaver.com)
Validate the email address for spelling mistakes (usually by asking the subscriber to repeat the address in a second field where it is checked that it matches the initial entry (if done electronically).

  • Do this to assure your subscribers they should sign up to your newsletter

Clearly state the content of the communications – and stick to it!
Clearly state the frequency of the communications – and stick to it!
Provide an incentive for subscribers to sign up in the first place!
Let your customer know that they may immediately opt out of the communication at any time.

In other words, best practice offers the subscriber a clear expectation of what they will receive, how often they will receive it and some incentive to share their personal information with you. You’re also letting the subscriber know that they can change their mind or “opt-out” when they want to.

The downside of a Single Opt-In is you can’t verify an email address is valid – and can make your system vulnerable to garbage addresses being submitted.  In general, single Opt-In methods won’t capture too many SPAM traps if you follow the other best practices listed above.

Best Practice data collection option #2: Double opt-in

But if you want to absolutely ensure that every subscriber on your list has signed up for your newsletter, you can consider using double opt-in.

Double Opt-In extends the single-opt in method by requiring the subscriber to validate their email address before you can send campaigns to it. The majority of implementations of Double-Opt in send a confirmation link to the supplied email address. When the link is clicked, the email address becomes active. It requires a user to carry out an extra step in order to subscribe to your list, it is inevitable that some will neglect to carry out this extra step. So while your list growth may not be as fast as with a single opt-in approach, you will have a 100% valid email address data, resulting most likely in better engagement – because users have taken the extra step to receive your communication, it’s a validation that they want what you have to send them and no issues with possible bad email addresses that are in fact spam traps  – so you will stay in the good books of inbox providers.

Make it easy to opt-out

This is as important as subscribing! Firstly, it is in legislation that you must provide an easy and free way to unsubscribe from your newsletters. It is also best practice. What you want to avoid is your subscribers hitting  the ‘report as spam’ button instead of unsubscribing.  You want to make it as easy as possible to unsubscribe – and this will contribute to the excellent health of your mailing list.