How To Do Opt-In Email Marketing The Right Way (Examples Included)

Written by Franco Varriano.

Email marketing won’t happen if you can’t get a site visitor or customer to give you their email. If you can’t overcome this hurdle, then it doesn’t matter how perfect your subject lines are or how amazingly well you’ve crafted your email marketing drip campaign.

But in the rush for emails, it can be easy to take shortcuts and neglect applicable spam laws. While you want to do everything you can to boost the number of people who are opting into your email list, it’s important to acknowledge the legal boundaries.

 In this article, we break down how to get people to opt-in to your email list in a way that complies with all applicable laws, plus key tactics you can implement to boost sign-ups and quickly grow your email list.

Why People Must Opt-In?

Like all forms of marketing or business communications, email marketing has a set of laws that govern what you can and cannot do. This law is called the CAN-SPAM Act, and it spells out in great detail what sort of emails (and under what circumstances) you’re allowed to send to customers.

In particular, the law aims to prevent unsolicited bulk email (more commonly known as spam). Unsolicited email is any form of commercial email communication that a recipient did not agree (or solicit) to receive. The “bulk” part of it refers to the common spammer practice of sending large amounts of email to randomly generated email addresses.

The penalties for violating these laws are harsh. The FTC states that “Each separate email in violation of the law is subject to penalties of up to $41,484”, with even higher penalties, including imprisonment, for more serious violations.

An explanation of the CAN-SPAM Act as it appears on the official FTC website.

This all sounds scary, but don’t worry too much. The violations that this law targets are far more serious and on a larger-scale than something most people would ever do even by accident. Furthermore, all modern email marketing software has built-in features that ensure compliance with the CAN-SPAM act. Still, it’s important that you be aware of the laws and ensure that you are well within their limits.

In particular, you should make it crystal clear when someone is joining your email list, as well as explaining what they should expect to receive when they join. You should make it easy to opt out of your emails at any time (a feature built into most marketing email templates by default).

Finally, ensure that you aren’t writing emails that are (or appear) spammy in either their content or presentation. This will help you avoid spam complaints, which can hurt your reputation as a sender and decrease your sales overall.

Now that we’re clear about the laws surrounding email marketing, let’s take a look at the two different types of opt-ins you can use. Both are legal, but they each have their pros and cons from a marketing perspective.

Single vs. Double Opt-In

In the world of email marketing, there are two types of opt-ins: single and double. Email marketers continue to debate which one is better, and to a certain degree, it’s a matter of personal preference. We won’t pass judgment, but rather explain what each is (as well as the pros and cons).

Single Opt-In

A single opt-in allows a new subscriber to join your email list simply by putting their email into a form and pressing “Submit”. No additional action is required on their part. Once they put the email in, they’re automatically added to your list with the understanding that they’ll receive all future emails from you until they opt out.

Double Opt-In

A double opt-in, on the other hand, requires an extra step for someone to join your email list. They put their email address into the correct form and hit “Submit” just like in a single opt-in. But once they’ve done this, they’re still not part of your list. They have to take an additional step to confirm that they want to join.

Generally, this means opening a confirmation email that you send them and clicking a link that says something like “Yes, I want to receive emails from this business”. Only once the recipient has clicked this link will they be part of your email list.

Which Type of Opt-In Is Better?

Many email marketers argue that single opt-in is superior since it makes the process simpler for the customer. They don’t have to remember to click the confirmation link in an additional email.

On the other hand, there are also strong cases for double opt-ins. In particular, people who go through a double opt-in process tend to be more engaged subscribers than those you receive through single opt-in.

When someone clicks the confirmation link, they indicate that they’re sure they want to receive your emails. Double opt-ins can also reduce the number of fake or automated email sign-ups you receive. It’s much harder for a bot to go through a double opt-in process, which helps to ensure that real people are on your list, not just spambots.

Ultimately, the decision is yours. In, you have the choice of enabling double opt-in via your Account settings, as you can see in the screenshot below.

How to Boost Opt-Ins

Now that you understand the two basic types of opt-ins, let’s look at how you can get more people to opt into your email list. Here are our top five tips for boosting email opt-ins:

1. Place Opt-In Forms Throughout Your Website

The opt-in form that uses at the end of blog posts.

Anytime someone visits your website, it’s a chance for you to invite them to join your email list. To make sure that a visitor has as many opportunities as possible to opt-in, place sign-up forms throughout your website in key positions. We recommend placing opt-in forms in the following locations on your website:

  1. Site footer
  2. At the end of blog posts (you can also experiment with placing the opt-in forms throughout your posts)
  3. Site sidebar
  4. About page

And you should also feel free to test placing the form in other places to see how it affects the number of opt-ins you receive.

2. Add Opt-Ins to Your Checkout Process

If a customer is making a purchase, then they’ve already indicated that they trust you. What’s more, they have to give you their email address. The checkout is the perfect time to ask a customer to join your email list.

To do this, you can include a checkbox as part of your checkout flow that says something like “Send me occasional product updates”. For example, the below screenshot shows the process for adding an email opt-in checkbox to your checkout process using BigCommerce:

3. Offer Incentives

No matter how many sign-up forms you have, visitors aren’t going to opt into your email list if they don’t have a compelling reason to do so. Something needs to be in it for them, and that’s exactly what you can provide in the form of incentives. Possible incentives you can use to get customers to join your email list include:

  1. Free Products or Samples – This gets someone to join your email list and also allows them to test your product, which is a win-win without question.
  2. Free Shipping – Make it easier for someone to try your product for the first time. We cannot overstate the power of the word “Free” in your marketing communications.
  3. Discounts – You can give a certain percentage discount (“Get 25% off your first purchase”) or a flat discount (“Sign up for our email list to get $5 off your next order”).
  4. Exclusive Content – You can create a guide relevant to the products you sell and offer it to visitors in exchange for their email list. Once they opt in, you deliver the guide via email (or via a direct link if you’re using a single opt-in).

4. Use Popups (Carefully)

Popups are a controversial tactic in digital marketing. If you are going to use them, give people relevant, valuable offers if you want them to work. We advise against the sort of popups that appear immediately when someone first lands on your website. This comes across as pushy and interrupts the user experience.

Instead, experiment with other sorts of popups. We suggest using exit-intent popups, which appear when someone is about to click away from your site or page. Serving someone a form when they’re about to leave is a logical time to give them one last compelling offer to convince them to stay or come back later.

For example, here’s a popup that appears when you go to exit the handmade goods website Best Made Co:

This popup offers a compelling incentive in exchange for joining the company’s email list, as well as clearly explaining what sorts of emails a subscriber should expect to receive. This is how you should use popups.

5. Include Opt-Ins in Transactional Emails

Even if a customer goes through your checkout process without opting into your email list, you still have another chance to add them to your promotional email list in the course of your routine communications with them. When you send a customer a purchase confirmation, receipt, shipping confirmation, or other transactional emails, you can include a link at the bottom that offers customers the chance to join your promotional email list (in exchange for the right incentive, of course). You can even customize the specific incentive based on what the customer has purchased.

Here’s an example of this kind of opt-in created using

And of course, we encourage you to experiment with the messaging you use in this part of your email to see how it affects the number of people who sign up.

Start Making More Ecommerce Sales Today

We hope you now have an understanding of how to craft email opt-ins in a way that complies with federal law, as well as how to create and place email opt-in forms in a way that boosts sign-ups and ultimately allows you to reach more customers.

It’s easy to feel intimidated by email marketing, but integrating techniques such as opt-in forms into your email marketing doesn’t have to be difficult. With, it’s easy to start using automated email campaigns for common challenges like Welcome Series, Abandoned Carts, Order Follow-up emails, Personalized Recommendations, and more. To learn more, start a free trial by clicking the button below:

And if you’re one of the thousands of merchants who are already using Rare’s Smart Email Marketing software and want to see how our Customer Success Team can work with your brand to grow your revenue – feel free to book a call at your convenience here.

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