Sending to Yahoo? Confirmed Opt-In Is The Way To Go

If you’ve ever spoken with anyone here at AWeber about what you can do to maximize your email deliverability, you’ve probably heard us say “use Confirmed Opt-In.”

While it’s certainly not the only thing you can and should do (check out our Email Deliverability Guide for more tips), it’s a best practice that clearly correlates to more email getting to the inbox.

And as time goes on, it’s become less of a suggested best practice, and more of an ISP requirement.

Just ask Yahoo!

Yahoo! “Recommends” Confirmed Opt-In

A recent post on Tamara’s BeRelevant! blog addresses the divide between what email marketing practices are “legal” and what practices actually get your email delivered.

First up on the list of ISP recommendations (and bear in mind, when an ISP recommends you do something, it’s a pretty good bet that your deliverability will depend partly on whether you do it)?

Confirmed Opt-In.

From Yahoo’s Postmaster area:

“…use confirmed, opt-in email lists. To do this, after you receive a subscription request, send a confirmation email to that address which requires some affirmative action before that email address is added to the mailing list. Since only the true owner of that email address can respond, you will know that the true owner has truly intended to subscribe and that the address is valid. Without this process, you cannot be sure that the recipient requested your mail. Unintended recipients will likely tell us your message is spam.”

Now, that’s not the only recommendation on the page (for example, they also talk about things like keeping your message content relevant to what subscribers signed up for), but the fact that they place Confirmed Opt-In at the top of their list of recommendations speaks volumes about how important its use is.

It’s also worth noting that Yahoo! isn’t the only ISP that recommends this. Others do too — for example, Gmail outlines it directly on their site, while Microsoft advises that senders “comply with industry standards” (among which they include Confirmed Opt-In).

Learn More About Confirmed Opt-In

Head over to our Knowledge Base for more on why Confirmed Opt-In is a key to good email deliverability.

Or join us for a free live video seminar:

Protect Your Business & Maximize Results Using Confirmed Opt-in
  • Thursday, December 13, 2007
  • 12:00 – 1:00PM Eastern Time

Not on Eastern Time? Click Here.
What does this seminar cover?


For more email marketing advice, check out Tamara’s BeRelevant! blog — she aggregates anticles and tips from numerous sources, and it’s a resource that several of us here at AWeber read regularly.

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Justin Premick is the former Director of Educational Products at AWeber.

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12 Comments

  1. This is so true. While it’s definitely to get many more leads with single opt-in, it’s just too dangerous. Anybody can enter their competitor’s email address or some other person’s email address into your autoresponder account, and you get hit with spam complaints for no reason.

    Double opt-in makes it harder to build a larger list, but it’s the only way to go to remain safe.

    12/8/2007 12:39 pm
  2. Vicky

    I do believe in confirmed opt in – the only trouble I am experiencing (and why I will be attending the seminar) is now I am trying to segment my list by asking subscribers to express their interest in specific subsets of info, they are being asked to confirm opt in again, even though they have already confirmed opt in.

    I am being told that once confirmed opt is in on, it applies to everything I do – even when I am only dealing with people who are already subscribers.

    Nobody wants to confirm their opt in time and time again.

    I feel a little frustrated that my marketing strategy is being curtailed because I tried to do the right thing :-(

    12/10/2007 3:32 pm
  3. Hi Vicky,

    I’m glad to hear that you’ll be joining us Thursday!

    This is an area that can be complicated for email marketers. A policy of "one subscription, one list" (as described at MAPS and other places) is something that we believe all email marketers should adhere to.

    For example, we do this with our own campaigns – a unique confirm email is sent to people signing up for our Test Drive, Affiliate News, User News, Blog Updates… the list goes on. They all use Confirmed Opt-In for all subscribers, no matter what other lists those subscribers are on.

    I can definitely see the argument that there’s some grey area here (some subscriptions are more closely related than others). But when push comes to shove, ISPs want to see that your subscribers have provided affirmative consent for the specific set of information you’re sending. Proof that Susie Subscriber confirmed to list A, when she’s complaining about an email from list B, isn’t particularly helpful.

    By treating different sets of information as discrete subscriptions/lists, you help minimize spam complaints that can arise from subscribers feeling that those messages aren’t relevant to what they signed up for and expected to receive from you. And in doing that, you maximize your deliverability.

    12/10/2007 4:17 pm | Follow me on Twitter
  4. Vicky

    Thanks for the reply Justin! I guess I need to think new lists, not sub-sets.

    :-) I’m still learning so much!

    12/10/2007 4:36 pm
  5. My lists might be a bit on the simple side, but I still maintain three separate lists. Everyone signs up for the general list, and on that list, the main item I look for is how they found us. We do a lot of craft-type shows, so I can send special coupons to people who met us at the Sheep and Wool Festival, and not at the MD Renaissance Faire.

    Then, in every general newsletter I send out, I have links at the bottom for my other two lists – one a "local" email list (for those who live within driving distance and may be interested in our open houses), and one advertising our (hopeful) honeywine business. Every newsletter, I get a few more people signing up for the other lists.

    The point, though, is that they are advertised as separate lists, so even with double opt-in, people know what they are getting themselves into.

    On the note of NOT using double opt-in… Well, compare it to snail mail. I really don’t want to send a snail advert to someone who doesn’t want it, and waste the postage. I’m not big enough to eat the advertising cost. By the same token, I don’t want to send mass emails to people who don’t want them. I can’t afford to waste the time and loss of income from fighting the ISP’s to be allowed back in.

    (On a side note – I’m having trouble right now with my webhosts mailservers getting blacklisted, and they are working on implementing new policies. The aWeber account gets through, but I find myself unable to answer some questions because the response gets bounced back as spam. They have been working on this for a few weeks now, but it takes a lot of paperwork and proof before some of these ISP’s will reinstate you. I’m real glad aWeber works hard at keeping clean – every time I send out a newsletter, I get another $600-$1,000 in orders….)

    12/10/2007 11:53 pm
  6. While I agree that confirmed opt in is essential, particularly in the post CAN SPAM era, I think the incongruity in the CAN SPAM laws is that we are not allowed to email someone without request, this part, no problem. However, if an ISP doesn’t deliver the confirmation request, they get a free pass, where in snail mail, if I stole an advertisement out of my neighbors mailbox, I could get 5 years in prison.

    Clearly, ISPs need to have some sort of requirement under the law to deliver valid opt in email, and it is foolishness to suggest that because they don’t, our businesses are not losing profit.

    12/11/2007 8:38 am
  7. Chris

    There’s something not being said here- if your confirmation email goes to their bulk folder or is not delivered at all, the subscriber has no chance to confirm… since Yahoo sometimes has trouble with that, they’re not helping by trying to force double opt-in.

    I still have some things I’ve double opted into, yet they wind up in my bulk folder.

    I don’t trust anything these email providers tell us on this topic- it’s like the stuff Google publishes about ranking highly.

    12/11/2007 11:22 am
  8. Chris

    Another thing- shame on Yahoo and anyone else who provides a Spam button that can be easily pressed with no "Are you sure?" or undo option.

    12/11/2007 11:24 am
  9. Bill,

    I agree with you that there are remarkable differences between postal mail and email when. Unfortunately, in the case of email, one additional difference to the one you mention involves the lack of cost for spammers to send thousands or even millions of unwanted messages. Meanwhile, there is a set, metered rate for postal mail.

    It’s also important to note that physical mail is a public service, closely regulated using public resources, while email is very much in the private realm.

    For these reasons, it doesn’t look like we will see laws introduced that closely regulate how ISPs manage email messages, at least not in the immediate future.

    We should keep in mind that it really is in the interest of ISPs to deliver messages that their subscribers want, and from my experience they work hard to accomplish this. On the other hand, they are deluged with so many spam messages that do their best to look like requested mail, so false positives may occur occasionally.

    Fortunately, there are simple things we can do to very clearly differentiate our email from spam so that this type of issues does not affect our businesses.

    12/11/2007 11:25 am
  10. Chris,

    While it’s true that there’s not typically an "are you sure?" dialog box that comes up when someone presses the Spam button, there are measures that email users can take advantage of to tell their ISP when a false positive has occurred.

    Many ISPs including Yahoo! have a "Not Spam" or "Not Junk" button that will move a message from the bulk folder to the inbox and report the false positive.

    For more on filtering, sender reputation and how "Spam" and "Not Spam" reports are used, check out this report (PDF) from Google on how they sort out wanted and unwanted email.

    It’s also worth noting that permission, and whether you use Confirmed Opt-In, is not the only factor affecting deliverability. Other factors include relevancy, end-user feedback and the reputation that derives from them.

    12/11/2007 11:41 am | Follow me on Twitter
  11. Chris

    Justin, it’s true Yahoo has a Not Spam button. However, it only applies to messages that Yahoo places in your bulk folder. If you hit the Spam button, that message gets deleted- so the Not Spam button cannot be used like an undo function. That’s what they need, since they make it so easy to hit Spam accidentally… almost like they want to encourage as many people to press it as possible.

    Bill, the funny thing about CAN-SPAM is that it doesn’t require any consent at all! That’s right; go read it yourself. A lot of people assume it does, but it doesn’t. It requires a few things like including your postal address, but nowhere does it say the person has to agree to receive your messages! I’m not saying you shouldn’t get permission, just that CAN-SPAM doesn’t require it like you might assume.

    On the multiple lists thing, I don’t get the argument. You could have one giant list, and have a signup form offering dog tips, but send people messages about stock investing, video games, recipes, etc. Of course that would be dumb but would comply with the single list idea. What’s the difference between doing that and automatically putting dog subscribers on your stock list? None that I see, as far as the messages people get.

    I don’t see the problem with multiple lists if the info is related to what they signed up for.

    Let’s not forget- every single one of these messages has an unsubscribe link, so people can easily stop getting them. And we ARE talking about email, not bricks thrown through someone’s window.

    12/19/2007 10:23 am
  12. Chris,

    Very true – you could have people sign up to one list, and then send them messages totally unrelated to what they signed up for.

    But like you point out, that wouldn’t be a good idea. And after the ensuing complaints, the ISP would come asking what people did sign up for, and where. And they’re not going to consider that sort of action to be in line with the "one subscription, one list" idea – even if technically within our system structure it is one "list."

    As I mentioned in my response to Lori’s comment, I do understand (as all of us do here at AWeber) that some subscriptions are more closely related than others. But a review system where we look at every list individually and say "OK, Joe’s lists are related enough to treat as one subscription, but we don’t feel that Chris’ are, so he needs to use separate/independent subscriptions" isn’t feasible and would cause more issues than it would resolve.

    You have to draw the line somewhere. We draw it where we do because it most closely adheres to the "one subscription, one list" idea, and because it’s the fairest way to do things.

    12/19/2007 12:18 pm | Follow me on Twitter

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