The Forced Optin

[tweetmeme source=”getintheinbox” only_single=false]A forced opt-in is where a site asks for an email address, forces you to opt-in to emails, in order to get something.

Common B2C implementations are on financial aid sites, where you have to fill out a form in order to get your quote. However the quote is not emailed to you, it simply appears on the next page but you still have to supply an email address and accept the Ts & Cs.

Consumers have since figured this out and when they don’t see a relevance to entering their email address, they expect spam, so they either enter in their junk address or just make one up. Also consumers will often use these forms for a flash check of their credit rating, ie: accept or reject, so they can be opted back in as well.

This means that lists built this way are full of addresses that do not exist or belong to people who have not actually asked for them and many of the rest were not expecting the email and probably do not want it.

Many of these addresses are just people who’ve just hit a load of keys in a row, like: qwerty, asdf etc. others make the point like: nospam@thanks.ta etc. etc.

Of course many of these will bounce when first sent to and as long as your email software suppresses hard bounces you won’t have to worry about hitting them again. If you have a lot of them all in the same ISP, eg: Hotmail; a high number of bounces will not do your reputation and favours.

The ones that are actually delivered tend to find the inboxes armed with rather powerful spam buttons which get used without a second thought.

On the other hand over time instead of wasting their efforts dealing with all of the emails sent to junk addresses, the ISPs hosting them simply black hole it so you’ll never know.

However, the odd one gets turned into a spam trap, whether it’s run by the ISP or a Spam Fighting organisation. As you know, hitting traps harms your reputation or just gets you blocked.

Ideally lists would be built without forcing people to opt-in to emails, instead the list would be full of people who have deliberately signified that they want your emails. However, if you are forced to collect email this way, there are some ways help remove some of the risk:

  • Clean out the obvious junk addresses before you send the email to the list.
  • Send a welcome email that makes the opt-out easy, so people will happily clean themselves off you list for you.
  • Put an unsubscribe link in the top right as well the bottom in at least the first 5 emails you send each address.
    This way if someone opens the email and their mouse drifts towards the spam button, they are likely to pass this unsubscribe link in the top right and there is a chance they’d use that rather than the spam button.

The perceptions of this low level of data collection tends to come from the olden-days of direct mail when it was a numbers game and there were no blocklists. Well that model does not apply to email and ISPs & Spam fighting agencies don’t like it and where they are inclined to, they will target senders who obviously collect data this way and junk it or block it.

If you have the option to make a change to your collection methods:

Alter the collection method to only take an email address when your process actually needs to send them an email.

Change the process or decide to only email people who have deliberately requested emails.

Don’t opt someone in from the initial form but offer them help and benefits to sign-up on the next page.

This will save you a lot of pain, generally poor deliverability and subsequently a low open rate.

The important point here, is that hammering dead and uninterested addresses will harm your ability to get in front of the people who will generate revenue with you.