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The Anatomy of an Opt-In: 10 Points to Remember

Updated: October 28, 2013

An opt-in box and an irresistible free offer (IFO) is the cornerstone of an online information marketing business and a smart strategy to build any business’ marketing list. Unfortunately the opt-in process is often set up incorrectly with the same mistakes made over and over in the planning, execution, and follow up that takes place as part of a successful opt-in system.

For visual people like me, check out the step-by-step information graphic of the basic opt-in process below — and for those of you who want this written out step-by-step, you can find that below the graphic!

In this post I’ll outline 10 strategies you should base your next opt-in campaign on to increase and accelerate your list growth. But first, Here are 5 Key Factors In Planning Your Irresistible Free Offer Opt-In Campaign:

The Step By Step Anatomy of an Opt-In

1. Create an Irresistible Free Offer or Ethical Bribe

Your free offer may be a report, ebook, ecourse, audio download, checklist, tips sheet, video, tutorial, consulting session, or something else that has intrinsic value, and will help your ideal clients solve a problem or challenge they have — or at least improve their situation. With more business owners and online marketers adapting this method, your offer must be absolutely irresistible and address your ideal clients’ “do-anything, pay-anything problem or need”; if you expect your site visitors to trade their email address (and your future marketing messages) for it.

2. Think like an advertising copywriter

When you write your call to action and opt-in box copy (the text), it must persuade and compel your website visitors to sign up. Don’t use passive adjectives; use strong action verbs to motivate a response and focus your copy on the results your visitor will achieve by opting-in to get your offer.

3. Use powerful imagery to increase your results

Avoid using the standard boring opt-in box HTML code from your email marketing provider. A custom designed and coded opt-in image will compliment your website much more than the ugly standard box. If your irresistible free offer is a report, ebook, DVD, or CD, etc., consider creating a custom 3D product image to draw attention to your offer and create added perceived value.

4. Don’t ask for too much information

If your free offer is downloadable from your site, only ask for a first name and email address. If your free offer requires mailing, only ask for the information you absolutely need to deliver your product. Think of it this way, the more information you ask for, the more likely it is that your visitor will pass.

5. Always use a double opt-in

Double opt-in sequences ensure that you have a real email address to market to in the future, and confirm that your prospect did not make a mistake in giving you their information. It also helps keep your database/list clean and reduces your chances of sending perceived spam.

Now that you know the five key points in planning your irresistible free offer opt-in, the next biggest problem I see with opt-in boxes is the actual execution and set-up of the opt-in process — in other words … making the darn thing work!

I can’t tell you how many sites I have visited where I tried to opt-in, but couldn’t because of opt-in form failure, including things like submitting my email, reaching the Thank You page, the download link, the double opt-in confirmation email, the follow up sequence creation, etc.

Follow these five opt-in best practices to ensure that once you hook your prospect with your offer, you can reel them in with ease:

1. When setting up your opt-in form, select the option to send the visitor to a webpage on your website (custom URL).

Please don’t just send them to the ugly default page of the software provider. Send them to a branded page on your own website and don’t forget to add the actual page to your site. In a double opt-in sequence, we call this the “Confirm or Next Steps” page and usually have a message like:

“Congratulations on deciding to take your business to the next step by grabbing your copy of our Awesome Free Report. We just sent you an email to confirm that you entered it correctly, and to confirm that you really want to hear from us. You should receive this in a few moments. When you do, simply click the link for instant access to our Awesome Free Report. If you don’t receive the email, you may have entered your email address incorrectly, so please try again. Thank you.”

2. Then create the confirmation email within the software provider you use and set it to send immediately after someone opts-in.

Write a quick note telling the recipient to click the link to verify their email address and get their free stuff. When setting up this step, select the option to “Send to a Web Page or URL” on your site when the link is clicked. The Thank You page is where you will put the download link(s) and download instructions for your free offer. Don’t forget to add this page to your site and upload your offer to your website. We usually call this destination page the Thank You page and have a message similar to:

“Thanks for confirming that you are an actual person, and not a spam bot! As promised here is your copy of my Awesome Free Report.”

3. Do not commit follow up sequence failure.

Don’t forget to create a follow up sequence (auto responder). Many people opt-in to get free products but never actually read or listen to them. As a result, your message is never heard. A well planned follow up sequence or auto responder can help your message be heard and automate some of the initial marketing to your new prospect.

An easy method is to have an email follow up sequence planned to send every few days for a week or two after someone opts-in. A great tactic we like to use is to supply surprise bonus content that was not mentioned in the initial free offer.

4. Use consistent email subject lines to avoid confusion

If your follow up sequence emails appear like random marketing messages, there is a good chance that your emails will not get opened, your new prospect will quickly unsubscribe, or worse, you will get flagged as a SPAM.

5. Finally, the biggest failure in executing an email marketing follow up sequence is the lack of adding a call to action or up-sell at the end.

By now you have gone through a lot of work in creating your irresistible free offer and planning and coding the follow up sequence, so you better make a pitch at the end. It doesn’t have to be big or involve a monetary transaction. It can be as simple as scheduling a free consultation, or a free trial of your paid product. That way, if your prospect doesn’t “buy” right away, at least now you have their email address to send content-packed, valuable email newsletters.


If you follow the five key points to a successful opt-in process and the five opt-in best practices I outlined, your opt-in sequences will run smoothly and give you the greatest chance at successful email marketing and sales conversions.

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Comments & Feedback:Check out what others have to say about this post!

  1. Jennifer, I, too, am a very visual person – and so appreciate the graphics that you laid out. Most helpful and I thank you for that!

    One thing I do, in addition,is to actually go through and experience the process myself so I actually see what my subscribers are getting………that helps me a lot.

    Thanks, Jennifer. Great information, as always,

    Pat Mussieux

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