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Opt-in and Opt-Out in Email Marketing

The Difference and Importance of Each

10 min read on

Email Marketing
Digital marketing is full of jargon - Opt-in and Opt-out are one of them.

Because of the internet world's evolution, privacy issues are arising more often, and legislation is made to tackle them. The lawmakers are trying to build an eco-system for consumers to be in charge of their personal information, collection, and usage.

As an email marketer, your job is to abide by the rules and laws governing consumers' privacy.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) are the parts of the same chain of protecting consumers' rights. They were designed to rectify the opt-in and opt-out of consumer’s specific data collection activities.

Before we get started, let’s get used to some official definitions of these terms.

What is "Opt-in" in Email Marketing?

Opt-in is a simple process of getting consent for the user’s personal information.

Email marketers use it to ask a user's consent to accept their terms & conditions, privacy policy, cookies policy, and, most importantly, subscribe to an email newsletter.

Here’s an example of asking users to enter their emails for subscribing newsletters.

They may quickly enter their email for opting-in or leave this option aside - The choice is totally up to them.

Checkboxes are another common way of getting the consent of a user to process their data information.

Example of an Opt-In Form

Here’s an example of NextDraft, a famous newsletter subscription having followers worldwide.

Here’s another example from MSN's homepage

What is "Opt-out" in Email Marketing?

It is the opposite of opting in - opting out is an act of withdrawing consent from using personal information.

The withdrawal action can simply be taken by unchecking the boxes on the opt-in page. 

Whether you’re rejecting the cookies, withdrawing from a newsletter, or not accepting terms & conditions, all of it comes under the banner of opt-out.

Example of Opt-Out

Here’s an example of a Shopify newsletter - You can see the option to unsubscribe the email campaigns at any time.

How to Implement Opt-in?

So, we have pretty much covered the basics.

Let’s move on to the implementation phase of the opt-in service.

You can be in serious trouble if you don’t know when to implement opt-in and opt-out in your marketing campaigns.

To comply with privacy laws, each of them is equally important and can affect your business reputation.

Here are three important steps to note before setting up an opt-in form.

Outlining Data Collection in Privacy Policy

Consent is a necessary step before taking anyone’s personal information and using it.

Therefore, you must make the user agree to terms & conditions and your privacy policy (in which you mention every single detail about how you’re going to use that information) to avoid future conflicts.

Laws about privacy issues are getting tough day by day - And you can’t miss out on any of them.

A consent banner is an alternative way to advertise your privacy policy and display it to your users. It simply allows them to opt-in right from there knowing the checkboxes that they should tick before proceeding.  

You can direct that banner ad to your privacy policy or terms & conditions page where the users get to know all the legal information about your business.

All of these hustles are necessary to outline your data collection and processing information right away to your audience.

Collecting Data from EU Citizens

Collecting data from EU citizens may require some legal framework to proceed - If you’re already collecting data from them, you might know it.

But if you don’t, let’s not panic.

Before collecting EU citizens’ data, you must follow the GDPR guidelines, which states that the businesses collecting user’s data must do it on any one of the following basis:

  1. Consent of the User
  2. Legitimate Interests
  3. Contractual Necessity
  4. Legal Obligation
  5. User’s Vital Interests
  6. Public Interest

How to Collect Opt-in Information

For asking the consent of a user, there are numerous methods, some of them are:

Paper Forms

An old-school method that is still loved by many classic business-owners who don’t like innovation and digital screens.

But that’s okay as long as you’re getting the opt-in task done.

Yes/No Options

A simple and straightforward method to ask your users whether they are willing to accept your terms and conditions or not.

The more options you give them, the less likely they will fill your opt-in form.


As I mentioned earlier, more than half of the businesses are already using this crafty method of getting opt-in permissions from the users.

The user can simply check or uncheck the box, depending on his decision. You can even add multiple and separate checkboxes for newsletters, privacy policies, and terms & conditions.

Account Pages

Although it’s not intuitive, it may produce less complication in your opt-in system because the user has to take action through a website interface. 

The users can set their preference settings whether they like to opt-in or opt-out.

Email Consent Forms

An email requesting consents is a clever way of reaching out to your audience while they are behaving as a cold target.

You can immediately convert them through email marketing campaigns and bring them into your opt-in funnel - Truly amazing!

Clickable Buttons

Simplicity and intuitiveness at its best!

The opt-in process can’t be simpler than that you design clickable buttons or links through which your user has direct opt-in access.

You can use creative button designs, symmetry, and sizes to get more click-through rates as well.

Oral Consent Requests

In case if your customers/consumers aren’t digitally-savvy or your business isn’t digital or online at all, then the best practice of opt-in consent would be oral.

It might sound strange, that’s what works out the best in these types of scenarios.

What about Cookies?

Do cookies count too in this opt-in act?

Yes, they do!

The importance of cookies' consent is the same as you’re making someone subscribe to your email newsletter - So don’t take it easy and unimportant.

EU Cookie Law and GDPR are clear examples of the laws tightening around cookie usage.

How Do You Opt-in for Cookies?

Whenever someone visits your site, it’s your job to ask for cookies acceptance explicitly (in the form of a popup or a bottom/top banner)

But how is it related to email marketing?

Of course, it does - As an email marketer, you’re only responsible for sending emails and getting responses. You must know the inside out of your website structure and the legal issues attached to it.

If you get the user’s consent to store cookies on their browser, you’re good to go.

But if your user rejects the cookies opt-in option, then you must abide by his privacy.

The user may also opt-out anytime if he is willing to withdraw his consent or don’t feel his privacy in safe hands.

Also, according to CJU Judgment planet49, you can’t bombard multiple consent forms on the user’s screen. They should be separate and clearly visible.

It’s not just about asking users to accept cookies policy - You must be very clear in your consent form about what your cookies will do, where they will be kept, and how you will process information of those cookies.

It’s advised to write all of these things explicitly in your consent form that is displayed immediately when a user lands on your website.

What about Parental Consent?

Talking about opt-in, how can we forget about parental consent forms?

For consumers below 18, certain countries have parental consent laws that require parental consent to be notified about the activities.

So, few opt-ins for consumers below 18 (minors) require additional parents' additional consent.

This step can be done by sending emails to parents’ addresses or other confirmation methods such as calls or texts.

What about Email Newsletters?

To opt-in for an email newsletter, you need to ask the users' email addresses to send them promotional and marketing emails.

You must ask permission in any way mentioned above, to ask for email addresses or any other personal information. If the user happily gives it, you should feel elite!

Here’s an example of a popular newsletter, NonObviousInsights.

How to Implement Opt-out?

Email marketing isn’t only about opting-in and filling your database with a huge number of email lists - The things can go another way around.

In any unforeseen circumstances, the user may have the right to opt-out of your service without giving you any prior notice - You should be prepared for it.

Opt-out for EU Citizens

In any case, the user may reject your offer asking for personal information. To abide by laws, you must stop processing data immediately and delete it from your database to respect users' privacy.

It’s completely lawful to deny access to personal information, and as an email marketer, you must accept that.

What about Cookies Opt-out?

The opt-out procedure for cookies is as simple as opt-in; the user may reject cookies storage immediately when the consent popup or banner shows in front of him.

It’s their lawful right to reject any cookies that they don’t trust or withdraw from using any previous cookies policy.

The users may delete cookies through their browsers too.

What about Newsletter Opt-outs?

The subscribers/followers have the right to cancel the newsletter subscription at any moment if they feel like they no longer need your content or for any other reason.

For that, you can include a link through which they can unsubscribe easily with just a click. (However, you can add a confirmation step just to be sure that the click was intentional)

Giving the opt-out option explicitly in your emails builds trust among your audience, and it shows the determination and hard work you put into your email marketing sequences.


In the end, I would like to state the fact that ‘whoever wants to be with your service and content, he or she will be’ so don’t push yourself too much over the limits and leave the option of opt-in and opt-out purely in the hands of your users.

Opt-in vs. opt-out isn’t a new battle - Whenever you have an opt-in, you always want to have an opt-out option side by side.

Your users want independence and liberty from any restrictions, and so do GDPR want as a legislative regulation.

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