The debate between opt-in and opt-out email marketing strategies isn't simply about one choice or another. The reason? Any two marketers might have strikingly different definitions of opt-in. "[N]ot all opt-ins are created equal," writes Maria Pergolino at Marketo. "In fact, it's quite the opposite." What one marketer considers strong opt-in permission might be, from another marketer's perspective, barely up to CAN-SPAM standards.

Get on the same page by determining which opt-in category you're discussing:

Unconfirmed opt-in. This is as close to opt-out as opt-in gets because visitors don't actively subscribe to your newsletters or offers. Instead, their addresses are added to your list when they register at your website for other reasons—like downloading white papers. "You may be in keeping with the law but you're not getting high marks for credibility," Pergolino notes.

Single-confirmation opt-in. With this much better option, you add visitors' addresses to your list only when they actively subscribe by checking—or not un-checking—a box. "To make that opt-in easier," she advises, "have the permission box pre-checked and be sure to highlight all the reasons they will benefit from continuing a dialogue with you."

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