What is Opt-in Email?
Opt-in email is a term used when someone is given the option to receive email. Typically, this is some kind of mailing list, newsletter, or advertising. Without obtaining permission before sending email, the email is unsolicited bulk mail, better known as spam.
An Opt-out Button is Also Included
In e-mail marketing, a clickable link or “opt-out button” may be included to notify the sender that the recipient wishes to receive no further e-mails. While 95% of all commercial e-mails from reputable bulk emailers with an unsubscribe feature indeed work in this manner.
Some unscrupulous senders and spammers can also include a link that says it will unsubscribe a recipient. However clicking the link or button confirms to the sender that the e-mail address used is a valid one, opening the door for further unsolicited e-mail.
There are Several Forms of Opt-in Email
Unconfirmed Opt-in / Single Opt-in
Someone signs up for a mailing list, they first gives an email address to the list software. In this case no steps are taken to ensure that this address belongs to the person submitting it.
This can cause email from the mailing list to be considered spam because simple typos of the email address can cause the email to be sent to someone else.
Spammers Prefer This Type
Malicious subscriptions are also possible, as are subscriptions that are due to spammers forging email addresses used to subscribe to the mailing list.
Confirmed Opt-in / Double Opt-in
With a confirmed opt-in mailing list, a new subscriber asks to be subscribed to the mailing list. Unlike unconfirmed or single opt-in, a confirmation email is sent to verify it was actually them.
Unless the explicit step is taken to verify the end-subscriber’s e-mail address, by clicking a special web link or sending back a reply email, the email address is not added to the email list.
Using a confirmed opt-in also known as a Double opt-in procedure ensures that a third party is not able to subscribe someone else accidentally or out of malice. If no action is taken on the part of the e-mail recipient, they will simply no longer receive any messages from the list operator.
Confirmed Subscriptions are Reliable
Mail system administrators and non-spam mailing list operators refer to this as confirmed subscription or closed-loop opt-in. Some marketers call closed-loop opt-in “double opt-in”. This term was coined by marketers in the late 90s to differentiate it from what they call “single opt-in”, where a new subscriber to an email list gets a confirmation email telling them they will begin to receive emails if they take no action.
Some marketers contend that “double opt-in” is like asking for permission twice and that it constitutes unnecessary interference with someone who has already said they want to hear from the marketer. However, it does drastically reduce the likelihood of someone being signed up to an email list by another person.
The term opt-out refers to methods by which individuals can avoid receiving unsolicited product or service information. This ability is usually associated with direct marketing campaigns such as, email marketing, or direct mail. A list of those who have opted out is called a Robinson List.
Another method instead of giving people the option to be put in the list, they are automatically put in and then have the option to request to be taken out. This approach is illegal in the European Union and many other jurisdictions.
Address Authentication Matters
Email address authentication is a method used for validating that a person claiming to possess a particular email address actually does so. Validation is normally done by sending an email containing a token to the address, and requiring that the party being authenticated returns that token before the authentication proceeds.
The email containing the token is usually worded so as to explain the situation to the recipient and discourage them from returning the token unless they in fact were attempting to authenticate.
It All Comes Down to Laws Which Require Compliance
The US CANSPAM Act of 2003 does not require an opt-in approach, only an easy opt-out system. But opt-in is required by law in many European countries and elsewhere.
It turns out that confirmed opt-in is the only way that you can prove that a person actually opted in, if challenged legally.