Zee2A's Marketing Edge Blog

June 8, 2008

What Method Will People Use To ‘Opt-In’ ?

Further to my post of June 3rd on Right vs Wrong: How To Build An Email List, also published in The Marketing Edge Ezine by Zee2A; the following pearls of wisdom were contained in the Advanced Fiction Writing Ezine published by Randy Ingermanson.

Last month in this column, I talked about how to create and build an e-mail database of people who are interested in your writing and are willing to hear from you periodically.

 

I believe this is critical for marketing your fiction, so it’s not only worth doing, it’s worth doing exceptionally well.

 

This month, I want to focus on one issue in building your e-mail database: What method will people use to “opt-in?”

 

You have three choices, but only two of these are

kosher:

 

* Zero opt-in (you sign up people without their consent)

* Single opt-in (people sign up on a form on your site)

* Double opt-in (ditto, and then you require confirmation)

 

It should go without saying that using a zero opt-in method is completely illegitimate. You should never, ever add people to your e-mail list without their consent.

 

And yet it needs saying. Of the dozens of e-mail lists I belong to, I was put on roughly half of them without my consent. Yes, really. Some of these are best-selling authors and all of them are my friends, so I really don’t mind. But I’d mind if they weren’t my friends.

 

So I’ll say it again: Don’t ever, ever add people to your e-mail list without their consent. Don’t add your relatives. Don’t add your friends. Don’t add people who send you emails telling you how much they love your books. Don’t add anyone. If they want to be on your list, they’ll add themselves. Don’t you do it.

 

It’s fine to tell all these folks about your list. It’s fine to mention your list in the signature of your e-mails. But don’t sign them up yourself.

 

I know authors who have built large lists by adding anyone who ever e-mailed them. Eventually, when they realized that they needed to get legal, they had to throw away all those names and start again from scratch. That gets messy.

 

Don’t go down that road, don’t look down that road, don’t think about that road. There is a saying about handbaskets that comes to mind here.

 

What this means is that you really have two options, single opt-in or double opt-in. Let’s look at those in more detail.

 

When you use a single opt-in method, you post a form on your web site. People visit your site, fill in the form, press the “Submit” button, and they are magically added to your e-mail database. That’s all.

 

When you use a double opt-in method, you do all of that, but when your visitor presses the “Submit”

button, they are taken to a page on your web site that says, “You’re not done yet. My system will send you an e-mail. You have to respond to that e-mail to confirm it, or you are NOT on my list.”

 

Which is better, single opt-in or double opt-in?

 

That depends what you mean by “better.”

 

The single opt-in method is easier for everyone. Once people sign up, they’re on your list. No muss, no fuss, no wasted motions.

 

But I’ll argue here that the double opt-in method gives you a better quality list. There are three main reasons

why:

 

 

* Your dear visitor may have mistyped their e-mail address.

 

In a single opt-in system, you now have a wrong address in your database. Your visitor will never receive your e-mails. Either your e-mails will get lost in cyberspace, or (worse) they’ll go to somebody else who happens to have that wrong e-mail address. But you won’t find this out until later, after you start getting complaints. In any event, you now are paying your system to manage an e-mail address that is useless to you.

 

In a double opt-in system, a wrong address will never be confirmed. One message will go to it, and that’s all. You will not get any complaints from angry people.

 

 

* In a double opt-in system, your dear visitor may never bother to confirm their membership in your e-mail list. In that case, they really don’t care much about you, do they? In a double opt-in system, you won’t add such people to your list. In a single opt-in system, you will, and the quality of your list will be lower.

 

 

* Those pesky “thpammers” like to send their robots around the web filling in forms. (I have to use the word “thpam” here, because if I spell it correctly, this e-zine will be misclassified as, um, “thpam.” It’s a weird, weird, world.)

 

If you have a single opt-in system, when a “thpammer”

robot signs on your site, a bogus e-mail address is now in your list. You waste space in your system holding that useless address. You send that address an e-mail periodically, giving the “thpammer” renewed reasons to send you back some more of their tasty “thpam.” It’s a lose-lose situation.

 

But if you have a double opt-in system, when their robot signs up for your e-mail list, your system sends out one single e-mail to them. They never confirm, so they never get added to your official list. You do not ever send them another e-mail, and eventually they forget about you.

 

 

For these three reasons, I believe that a double opt-in system is better. Much better.

 

I used to run this e-zine as a single opt-in system, but eventually I realized that it was smarter to require a double opt-in system. My list doesn’t grow as fast, but it’s a better list because new signups are guaranteed to be correct e-mail addresses and not “thpammers.”

 

I am still culling my list of the “thpammers,” which I have to do by looking for “bounces” and then guessing whether my e-mails are bouncing for various technical reasons or because the address is actually bogus.

 

One final technical note:

 

With a double opt-in system, you need to do a bit of house-cleaning every so often, because your system will keep track of those people who signed up but failed to confirm.

 

I routinely check my system for the list of recent signups. If somebody hasn’t confirmed their signup in a week, I delete them. They are either a “thpammer” or they’re not terribly interested in me. Either way, I delete them from my system. It takes a few minutes per week.

 

If you don’t do this house-cleaning, your database will fill up faster than it should, because it’ll have all those unconfirmed entries. Since you pay for these names, it just makes sense to delete them. They don’t care about you. Get over that horrid sense of rejection you feel and delete them.

 

Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, “the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 11,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit http://www.AdvancedFictionWriting.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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