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What's in an Opt-Out?

Participating Solution Provider

What's in an Opt-Out?

One of the questions I get asked on a regular basis is how to read an opt-out, and what exactly does and opt-out mean?  Opt-outs definitely have a meaning with email marketing.  Opt-outs are an indicator of your program, not the health of your business, and definitely not sheer death.  It may feel that way, but you’ll live through opt-outs if you plan for them. 


The main thing to remember about an opt-out is someone has decided to remove themselves from one of your email lists.  They are gone.  If you are using Constant Contact you cannot add someone back into your system (legal requirement that Constant Contact takes care of for you) that has opted-out.  Constant Contact’s handling of opt-outs is one of the biggest reasons I like using Constant Contact; they keep me legal.


Don’t lose hope.  There is a way to “get them back.”  Although Constant Contact prevents you from adding back the email address from someone who’s opt’d-out, that person can reenter their email address and get back on your list. 


The reason I wanted to explain a little bit about opt-outs is because I’ve repeatedly seen opt-outs cause a negative emotional response from the owner of the mailing list.  There seems to be confusion and sometimes hurt because someone chose to opt-out of their list. 


To alleviate some of the confusion, let’s break down an opt-out.  An opt-out is when someone decides they no longer want to receive your emails.  There are several reasons for an opt-out.  As a business owner you should be aware of what they are so you can be prepared to take action if you need to.  The reasons for an opt-out are:


  1. The list is new or is a transferred list. People on the list may not remember who you are or why they signed up for your mailing list.  This is ok.  You want to have a “clean” list; a list of people who want what you have and remember you.  An aging list may start having less and less activity. 
  2. As a business owner the following 3 reasons are the most important to monitor because they are indicators of the overall quality of your email marketing program. We’re assuming you have a clean list and have emailed to that list at least one time within the last 6 months.
    1. Sending too many emails
    2. Content is no longer interesting
    3. Content is no longer relevant


Don’t get upset at your opt-outs, figure out what happened and fix it.  If you send an email and there is an unusually high opt-out rate, you need to reread your email and see if there is something about the email (subject, content, placement, day of week, number of previous emails, etc.) that caused your opt-out numbers to jump.


In the following example there were 14 opt-outs out of 2378 email addresses.  That may seem like a lot, but it is .6% of the overall number of people who were sent this email.  That’s les than one percent!  Not bad, but we still want to see if there's a reason for the opt-outs.




For this particular list we learned the owner of this list had not sent regular emails and the list had aged.  Our summation was the content may no longer be relevant for those 14 people who more than likely may have a new role or changed companies.


The main thing we use opt-outs for is as an indicator we are sending too many emails.  Too many emails will kill your list probably quicker than anything else.  You can and will have opt-outs.  To compensate for opt-outs, continually build your list. 


I’ve watched as some companies think all they have to do is bring in several thousand email addresses and they’re done with their list.  What they don’t understand is as people lose interest with your emails and they opt-out, you have to keep attracting others to build your list.


Not everyone will stay on your list and not everyone will go.  Get used to it, but don’t give up.  As an email marketer you have to keep growing your list, or at least maintaining your list at a predetermined level.  As people exit your email list, you have to bring on new people who’ve been recently excited about your product or service.  They are your best advertisement.


The takeaways:

  1. Use opt-outs as an indicator that something may need to be fixed or tweaked with your email marketing program.
  2. Keep building your list. Be innovative.  Look for new and exciting ways to attract people to your email list. 
  3. Build your email list to compensate for the opt-outs. If you don’t compensate for the opt-outs your list will dwindle and your program will become less and less effective.


Constant Contact has a lot of information about how to build your list, read your analytics, etc.  Take some time and go through their Knowledge Base or watch one of their many instructional videos.  Above all be comfortable and confident in your email marketing program. 


We wish you well.  If you are not a Constant Contact user you can test drive the Constant Contact Marketing Toolkit free for 60 Days.  Click here Tell Me More about the 60 Day Free Trial for more information.






Mike Bitter
Affordable Social Media, Inc.
(402) 216-8126
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