Great email deliverability begins with a great email opt-in process. Let’s begin with two definitions.

  1. Email Opt-In Process: The email opt-in process is the process which your subscribers have followed to join your email marketing list/lists.
  2. Email Deliverability: Email deliverability measures your ability to send an email which is actually recieved by your email subscribers.

In today’s post, let’s talk about the role which email opt-in plays in the short and long-term deliverbility of your emails. Specifically, we’re going to focus on the behavioral email deliverability factors which are directly impacted by HOW you get the email addresses and subscribe the user.

How Opt-In Method Affects Deliverability

The email opt-in process begins with your efforts to convince a website visitor to sign up to your email list. There are a number of common ways to do this:

  • Email opt-in via web form: In its most simple format, acquiring new email addresses can be accomplished through a simple web form which appears on your website, social network, etc. You see these all the time in the footer of websites with calls to action like Join our email list! Not the best converting or compelling call to action, but you may see a few new email addresses from it.
  • Email opt-in via popup: Second to sign-up forms, popup windows are often used as well and function as the “in-your-face” way to capture email addresses. Combined with a great incentive (immediate discount, coupon code, etc.), pop-ups (also known as email “pops”)  are sometimes the highest converting version.
  • Email opt-in via checkout of via lead submission: When checking-out in your online store or completing a contact form on your website, asking for permission to email is quite common.
  • Email opt-in via offline activity: Offline email opt-ins can come in a number of ways. Sometimes a simple sign-up form near your cash register (brick and mortars) is the best way to generate interest.

For the sake of this article, one opt-in method compared to the other will not necessarily yield better deliverability. But from a holistic viewpoint, the more engaged subscriber is the one who is more likely to interact with your emails. From above, a pop-up may get a lot of new emails for you but the subscribers are not always the most engaged (cause you disrupted them). Conversely, the opt-in via website checkout may be considered extremely engaged as the user has just purchased from you and now your connection is strong.

Since email interaction rate (opens, clicks, etc.) can play a large role in your deliverability, you have the best deliverability if you only capture emails from highly engage users. This may or may not be best for business, but will be best for deliverability.

How Opt-In Processes Affect Deliverability

Next, let’s talk about happens after you’ve had a request for an email subscribe (using one of the methods above) and how it affects your deliverability.

Here, we’ll focus on 1) verifying the email address is real, 2) ensuring that the user really wants to get future emails, and 3) maximizing engagement early on.

  1. Real vs. Fake Emails: Sometimes, believe it or not, subscribers lie about their email address. Let’s say that you showed the me a popup which promised an immediate coupon to your store. I may simply enter a face email just to get the coupon (in case I do decide to buy) even though I really don’t want your stinking newsletter (no offence intended). And thus, you don’t have my real email address. Now, next time you send your newsletter out, you send it to my and other peoples’ fake email addresses which actualy hurts your deliverability (because email servers see you emailing addresses which are not real).
  2. Are You Sure?: Now let’s assume that you caught the user at the perfect time and they really wanted your value-add call to action (the coupon). Now, you could just begin sending marketing emails like most do. But what if you stepped back a bit a re-sold the user on subscribing (this is called the double opt-in process). Why would you do this? Two reasons- 1) Make sure the email is accurate (if it’s not, your email software will detect the bounce and remove the subscriber so that your reputation isn’t damaged), and 2) Engagement.  If the user clicks to confirm the subscription, the email service provider sees this and likes you. The downside? Some people will never confirm and thus, you’ll have fewer email addresses.
  3. Engagement: Last, engagement is the best long-term play. It’s not enough to just get email addresses and push marketing emails. You need engagement to convince the Gmails and other ESPs (email service providers) of the World to continue delivering your emails (as opposed to just filtering you to SPAM). As this relates to the opt-in process, how about doing something crazy to maximize early engagement? This could be sending a automated thank you with incredible deal, contest sign-up, or undeniably engaging offer, etc. Anything at all to get the greatest number of new subscribers to immediately engage with your list will again show the ESPs that you are worth delivering to.

Finding Balance Between Email List Growth + Deliverability

Unfortunately, the best practices for deliverability also tend to slow the pace at which you can grow a list. The more steps you take to make sure that the subscriber is both interested and engaged sometimes means losing subscribers, some of which may have been great future customers. So, you need to find balance. You need to really think through the best way to judge who would be engaged on your list and focus on them. Examples:

  • Pop-Up: Let’s say that you decide to get emails using a popup tool like OptinMonster. Instead of just showing the popup to everyone who comes to your website, adjust the popup settings to only show after users have visited 3 or 4 pages. Why? They are more likely to be engaged with you than those who are just arriving and might possible bounce.
  • Double Opt-In: Double opt-in is mostly used to ensure that an email address was entered correctly. And really, mostly to ensure that the email is REAL. Instead of double opt-in, you could consider using 3rd party services to validate the email address independently and only subscribe those which come back as REAL.

There’s no one right way to capture emails for the best deliverability. But use these principles as guidelines as how to do it better because after all, a big email list means nothing if you can’t get delivered.