You Forgot to Say Please: How to Collect Email Addresses

July 27, 2016
Written by
Seth Charles
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

You Forgot to Say Please: How to Collect Email Addresses

Because a marketer’s list is the lifeblood of their email channel, it’s paramount that the sender/recipient relationship begins on a foundation of trust and transparency. That begins with the process the user goes through to subscribe.

How a sender chooses to collect addresses not only affects the overall quality of a distribution list, but can also impact their email delivery as a whole. Here, we’ll cover six different types of address collection methods along with their accompanying benefits/risks.

Single Opt-In

End-users take a single step to subscribe to a list, such as entering their email address in a single collection field, selecting a checkbox, etc. This practice is considered hazardous for a sender because nothing is preventing typos or forged email addresses from being added to lists. The risk to delivery and reputation can be not only from a high number of bounced addresses but also from deny lists due to high spam traps.

Confirmed Opt-in

In this situation, the subscriber receives a confirmation “welcome” email or the start of a welcome series once they opt-in. This helps affirm the recipient wants a company’s email (and did not unknowingly sign up, since change their mind, etc.). This form of consent decreases the likelihood of anyone being on a marketing list long-term that does not want to be, but just as importantly verifies to the sender that the email address actually exists. Additionally, this helps prevent frequent “typo” and “recycled” spam trap hits.

Pre-Selected Opt-in

In this scenario, a subscription check box is pre-selected for users to receive promotional emails where they would be including their email address (during purchase process, for example). By leaving the checked box intact, users consent to receive email. This option is not flawless, as some users may not realize their permission has been given; this practice is particularly risky for co-registration. If a user is surprised by marketing material they receive, they are much more likely to report it as spam which can damage the reputation of the sending email program and company.

Pre-Selected Opt-in With Confirmation

This version of “pre-selected” consent will send a confirmation email to any recipient who has left the pre-selected opt-in checkbox intact. But unlike “Pre-Selected Opt-In,” the confirmation content helps decrease the possibility of unintentional subscribers, therefore reducing the potential for spam complaints.


This practice gives users the option (or forces them) to agree to receive email from third-parties. Co-registration is very risky, and only considered mildly palatable if both extremely clear disclosures as well as an option to not subscribe to those third parties are present at the point of collection. Co-registration should be used with caution; it can be confusing to recipients if they did not remember leaving boxes checked and, in effect, accidentally signed up for emails they did not expect, and can very easily lead to spam reports and corresponding deliverability issues.

Double Opt-In

This is considered the best form of consent a user can provide a sender, since it requires a secondary action from the email address owner to confirm subscription to a mailing list. This typically comes in the form of a confirmation link call to action, a URL to post in a browser, etc. This is the ideal method for collecting addresses because a sender has demonstrated a genuine desire to make sure the user absolutely wants their content, and sets an effective foundation for a sender/recipient relationship.

As you can see, each type of consent provides different pretense and opportunities for a first impression. It’s important to weigh these options carefully, because any cut corners on the front end of email channel strategy could ultimately result in damaged reputation and delivery. Much of how inbox providers evaluate promotional email is how their end-users interact with it; this makes confirming a subscriber’s interest in joining a distribution list right off the bat that much more crucial.

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to build the most engaged subscriber list, check out our guide on How To Authentically Grow Your Email List.


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