I’ve already talked about how to keep your email list legal regarding the CAN-SPAM Act. In this post I want to talk about two BIG things that CAN-SPAM does not address: permission and double opt-in for your email list.
Some things that aren’t required in the US may be required in other countries where we have subscribers. (See a great infographic here!) But the goal isn’t just to stay legal! It’s to treat our subscribers like VIPs. We want the best user experience for them.
The laws aim to keep spam out of our inbox. We don’t want to do just the bare minimum to avoid being spam! So let’s dive into what you need to know about permission and double opt-in.
Permission and Double Opt-In Explained
It is NOT a legal requirement to get permission to email people in the US. Shocked? I was. Email service providers DO require this, so I assumed it was in the CAN-SPAM. Nope.
In Canada and Europe, however, there MUST be consent by way of an opt-in. While the definition of spam is an email that is BOTH unsolicited (without permission) and bulk, the CAN-SPAM Act is separate and doesn’t treat email this way. Weird but true.
Why Email Service Providers Care and Why YOU Should Too
Email service providers like ConvertKit and Mailchimp require this for a few reasons. The bottom line is that these companies need to have good deliverability rates. If people receiving emails from these companies mark the emails as spam or report them, it hurts the deliverability rates.
We definitely don’t want to get marked as spam! This can affect our relationship with our email service provider and our personal deliverability. But more than that, we don’t simply want numbers on our email list.
Our lists should be full of engaged people who WANT to be there. Permission is the most basic start to a relationship with people who actually want to open your emails.
Where Permission Gets Murky
Because most email service providers require this, you’d think that permission wouldn’t be an issue. But it still is! Let’s talk about where people get tripped up.
- Sometimes people will start an email list by adding all their contacts from Gmail or Outlook or wherever right into their email service provider. Not okay! It IS okay to email those people individually through your personal email in order to ask if they want to join your list.
- I’ve heard of people going to conferences and then adding emails from the business cards they pick up. Giving someone a business card is NOT giving them permission. Again, you could email them and ask if they WANT to join your list. But don’t add them.
- An extreme example is the conference I went to where a speaker (repping a major email service provider, btw) said from the stage that she required the emails of all attendees as her speaking fee. Sure enough, that next Monday I got an email from her. Ugh! When I speak, I create a standalone page for that event with an opt-in on the page itself.
Permission should be either through that person opting in and signing up through your email service provider OR specifically and clearly telling you they want to be on your list. Pretty simple!
What to Do If Someone Adds YOU Without Permission
I get added to lists all the time without permission. Sometimes when you hit unsubscribe, there will be a reminder of why you opted in or a name of the list you’re on. Several times, I’ve seen things like: Emails scraped from blogs. Or: You’re receiving this email because we thought you’d like our great deals!
Nope. And NOPE.
If this happens to you, I sometimes hit reply and explain my frustration in being added without permission. Every so often this will happen with someone new on the scene who just didn’t know. Rare, but it has happened a few times with friends starting businesses. Telling them helps them learn how to use email properly. (Feel free to send them this post!!!)
I also will report them as spam to their email service provider. Because the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t put “permission” as a requirement, the FTC will not likely do anything. But Mailchimp and these other companies WILL! When their deliverability is at stake, they will usually act.So next time you get an unsolicited email, try letting the person know and also reporting it to their ESP.
Double Opt-In refers to a two-step process of permission. The first step is when they enter their email address. Step two is when they get a confirmation email and click a link inside of it.
Unless someone clicks the link in the email sent from your email service provider, they will not be added to your list. I always find it confusing when people don’t confirm. It’s a lot easier to click that link than to enter your email. Still–a lot of people do just that. They sign up and don’t confirm.
To get around this, some people use a single opt-in. This means that once people enter their email on the form, they are ON THE LIST.
In a lot of ways single opt makes sense to me! It takes way longer to enter an email that first time than to click follow on Twitter. Surely they WANT to be on my list if they’ve done that…right?
Maybe. But the double opt-in is a qualifier. It makes sure that those people REALLY REALLY want to be on your list. And those are the kinds of superfans you want on a healthy list!
The other BIG issue is that, like permission, double opt-in laws vary by country. Many other countries REQUIRE double opt-in, which the US does not. Many email service providers don’t even offer you the option to single opt-in or not. But if you DO have the option for single or double opt-in, consider the legality in addition to the quality of subscribers!
Is there a time for single opt-in?
One use for a single opt-in would be for an automated email series that accompanies a course purchase. When people buy my course, Own Your List (or any of my others), they will be automatically added with single opt-in to an email series with information on the course.
This is a good use for single opt-in (and the only time I use it!) because that person has paid for a product and needs the information on how to use it! Things like: the login page, where they can reach you, and a Facebook group or other bonuses they need to access.
That is EXPECTED. You can also let them know on the sales page that they are giving permission to receive those emails, just to be super clear.
I create a custom unsubscribe for these, so if people don’t want to get the email updates about the course, but DO want to stay on my main list, they can.
When it comes to permission and double opt-in, this is the only time I skirt around the double.
If you’re reading this post, the chances are good that you are already following these best practices for permission and double opt in. Way to go, you!
The ultimate goal is to follow the best practices for permission and double opt-in so that your email list is legal and works FOR you. That looks like great open rates, click rates, and responses to your calls to action. Getting permission and having double opt-ins is just a start!
Have YOU ever seen these used poorly?
I’d love to hear your experiences with permission and double opt-in for your email list– or other lists! Especially horror stories. Those are so fun to share. 🙂