Do This! (Not That) For Better Email Delivery

The food industry has resources like the Eat This, Not That book to guide you, but what about email marketing? With all the different tactics out there, it’s hard to know what will help you and what will hurt you.

Email marketing tactics and food have a few things in common. There’s the good, the bad, and the people that try to make the bad look good for you.

The food industry has resources like the Eat This, Not That book to guide you, but what about email marketing? With all the different tactics out there, it’s hard to know what will help you and what will hurt you.

That will be changing today with AWeber’s “Do This, Not That” approach to Email Marketing.

We’ll kick it off with some of the worst list management mistakes that could be hurting your email deliverability, and what you should be doing instead.

Send Only to Those Who Requested Your Information

What this is: You cannot use a list you’ve obtained through a third party service.

Some third party services will pitch the idea that these email address requested information about your industry, which can be appealing if you’re just starting out.

You need to realize these subscribers did NOT request YOUR information, and you don’t even know how their email addresses were originally obtained. You’d be spamming them.

Another danger is obtaining stale or invalid email addresses. Your message may be filtered because of this, reducing your deliverability rate.

Do this instead:

  • Build your list organically.
    You can put up a web form on your website so subscribers can sign up if they want to be on your mailing list. You can also include links to sign up on social media sites like Facebook. And don’t forget if you have a store to include a sign up sheet at the register!

Check out how we invite people to subscribe on Facebook:

Don’t Assume Permission- Ask For It!

What this is: Subscribers skip the confirmation message and just start getting your emails.

There are some worries that confirmed opt-in makes the sign up process harder for the subscriber. But if you don’t have confirmed opt in on, you run the risk of again getting bad email addresses on your list. You’ll also open yourself up to more spam complaints, and subscribers who aren’t as interested in your company.

Do this instead:

  • Send a customized confirmation message.
    Set up a customized confirmation that explains to subscribers what’s going on. You’ll have a list of subscribers who want your information and are much less likely to complain.

Here’s what a good confirmation message looks like:

Don’t Ignore Your Complaint Rate

What this is: A complaint is recorded when a subscriber marks one of your broadcast messages as spam.

A subscriber who complains will be automatically unsubscribed from your list in AWeber, which may lead to an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. However, consistent complaints hurt your reputation and your deliverability rate will go down.

Occasional complaints may be inevitable, but that’s never an excuse to look into what you could be doing better.

Do this instead:

  • Make sure you are properly setting expectations.
    Does your web form clearly state what they are signing up for? Do you have a welcome message that details your email plans? You can lower your complaint rate by ensuring subscribers know what they will be getting from you and how often you will be sending them messages.

Here’s an example of a form that sets expectations:

Don’t Push Down the Unsubscribe Link

What this is: Using space or unnecessary text to push down the unsubscribe link. This makes the unsubscribe link hard to find.

If subscribers want to leave your list, you should let them! Otherwise you will run into spam complaints which can hurt your reputation and deliverability.

It will also mean your list contains subscribers who aren’t really interested in your emails. If they’re not interested, they won’t be interacting with your emails.

Don’t fall for the idea subscribers may “accidentally unsubscribe”. It’s not going to happen. The unsubscribe link takes subscribers to a new page where they will need to actually choose the unsubscribe option. Hiding the link is just not worth the risk.

Do this instead:

  • Put a link to unsubscribe at the TOP of your message.
    Including some text such as “If you no longer wish to receive these emails, please click here to unsubscribe” is a much better approach. Subscribers will appreciate that you respect their time and attention.

Here’s what it can look like:

Coming Up Next: The “Do This! (Not That)” Approach to Creating Emails

In the next part of the series, you’ll learn the worst mistakes you can make when creating and sending emails. Find out if you’re doing one of these mistakes, and what you can do to fix it!

Fill out the form below to join our blog newsletter and you’ll get the post right in your inbox.

We’ll also periodically send you the other email marketing tips we publish here. The blog newsletter goes out 2 times per week.


  1. Graham Lutz

    6/17/2011 1:12 pm

    There have been times when I have unsubscribed from something and then resubscribed at the later date. But when its a hassle to unsubscribe from something – I’ll never go back!

    The last thing you want to do is leave the person with a bad taste in their mouth when they are already taking action to get away from you.

  2. Graham Lutz

    6/17/2011 1:13 pm

    I like to see an easy unsubscribe link and an easy unsubscribe process where I know that I’m unsubscribing.

    Somethings you think you get rid of the emails and they just keep coming!

  3. Tikyd

    6/17/2011 4:00 pm

    I personally dislike to find that an unsubscribe link has been placed way lower under the of the message.

    Nonetheless, based on what Russel Brunson communicated if I am not mistaken, not having a double optin had an increase in the number of subscribers.

  4. Blaine Means

    6/18/2011 8:54 pm

    Crystal that was a very a very good article. I am very clear now on what to do and what not to do.

  5. Crystal Gouldey

    6/22/2011 8:16 am

    Thanks for the feedback!

    @Tikyd- turning off double opt in may have increased his numbers, but how valuable is that number? People can enter throwaway email addresses just to get on the next page and never read a message. Bots can also submit email addresses, loading the list up with undeliverable email addresses. All this can hurt deliverability, which means the real subscribers may have a hard time getting the messages.

  6. Carol Bentley

    6/28/2011 12:30 pm

    Hi Crystal,

    because people get so many confirmation requests from Aweber’s clients, I like to distinguish my request for confirmation by reminding them what they can look forward to when they subscribe.

    Plus, in my case, I don’t always get around to clicking the confirm link straight away so it is nice to be reminded why I thought subscribing was a good idea.

    I also like to write short paragraphs, sometimes 1-liners. The limit of just 10 lines for the confirmation message can be very restricting

    I daresay you will comment that the first auto responder message is the place for that, but if someone doesn’t confirm they don’t get that reminder.

    Any chance of allowing a few extra lines for layout?

  7. Jer

    6/28/2011 12:31 pm

    great article Crystal!

    thank you for the valuable info

    if someone marks it as spam they automatically get taken off the list?

    is there a way to see in the stats who marked the email as spam?

    thank you so much!


  8. Mike Webb

    6/28/2011 12:57 pm

    I agree with all your suggestions Crystal, if you are open about allowing your customers to unsubscribe they will value what you have to say much more.

    I have seen way to many emails that put a lot of space between their message and their unsubscribe link.

    I have a habit of checking the unsubscribe link, if it’s an aweber email than I know the person is legit and not just someone or something spamming me.

    I think the unsubscribe by aweber helps build your reputation.

    The double opt-in does seem like a hassle but it’s better to get customers that really want what you have.

  9. Orestes

    6/28/2011 1:13 pm

    Hi! Crystal,

    Thanks so much for the great article which will help me a lot the way I

  10. Paul Williams

    6/28/2011 1:19 pm

    Great article Crystal. It never hurts to have these basic points repeated to us. And I totally agree about quality of subscribers vs. overall numbers – you want active participants on your list not deadwood. 100 buyers and action takers will always outperform 10,000 subscribers who have no interest in what you have to say.

    Looking forward to the next part already.

  11. Joshua

    6/28/2011 2:14 pm

    I greatly enjoy single opt in. I understand in certain very sensitive industries double opt in may be best(make money, stock trading), but it seems like people are getting more and more annoyed of having to confirm in and are simply skipping it esp for something like a consumer product.

    All the huge email list sites like group-on or living social don’t bother with double-opt in, and they do it for good reason. There must be other filtering methods you can take besides requiring double opt in.

  12. Crystal Gouldey

    6/28/2011 3:27 pm

    Carol- I get what you’re saying, but unfortunately it is not currently possible to extend the confirmation message. I will pass that on as a suggestion though.

    Jer- Yes, when a subscriber marks one of your messages as spam they will be removed from your AWeber list. You will not be able to see who marked it as spam, they’ll just be listed as an unsubscribed.

    Orestes- One of the personalization variables allows you to do that! Just use the variable {!remove web} wherever you want the unsubscribe link to appear. We also have step by step instructions for doing this.

    Joshua- It’s not limited to select industries- confirmed opt in can help everyone. You can have people entering throwaway email addresses, hurting your deliverability, because they’re just trying to get to the incentive you’re offering. Sure, you could go through your reports and check out who’s active and who’s not, but the damage may already be done as far as your deliverability rates go.

    And Paul Williams- that baby in your picture is precious!

    Thanks to everyone else for all your comments!

  13. Steve Balliett

    6/28/2011 5:43 pm

    Thank you for the email ethics tips. They are excellent. I will get to work right away to make sure my links give my customers the quick ability to unsubscribe should they choose to do so.

    “Do it right or don’t do it at all” is what my Dad used to tell me. And this one makes a lot of sense. Why ruin your hard work building a list if you’re just going to spam folks? Not a good idea.

    Please keep the helpful ideas coming for our future use.

  14. Wayne martin

    6/28/2011 9:12 pm

    What I don’t understand is the following scenario:
    A customer comes to my store; he sees a book to sign if he wants to get newsletters so he signs in and gives us his email address. Now, we have to send that same person an email for him to opt-in. This does not make sense. I am a firm believer of not sending spam. I would challenge anyone that accuses me of sending spam. This extra step does not make sense. We should be able to add him to our list of subscribers without making the customer do more work. It is hard enough to get customers to sign up let alone making him sign up twice. Your comments please

  15. Crystal Gouldey

    6/29/2011 8:33 am

    The customer isn’t signing up twice. A confirmation message is sent to the subscriber that simply requires them to click a link to confirm they would like to receive emails from you. Those that are truly interested in being on your mailing list should not have a problem with that.

    There is also an issue with misspellings when you import those customers in your list. Those misspellings can lead to undeliverable email addresses, hurting your deliverability rate.

    You also run the risk of higher spam complaints, and without a valid audit trail you would not be able to properly address those complaints.

    You can check out our articles “What Makes Confirmed Opt-In an Industry Standard?” and “Confirmed Opt-in Reduces Unsubcsribes & Complaints” for even more information.

    You might also be interested in attending the Confirmed Opt-in Webinar and talk to my coworker Jay Moore.

  16. Linda

    6/30/2011 11:31 pm

    Completely agree! I really HATE it when i get added to lists that I did not opt-in to, yet people still add me – guess what, I am NOT Staying! Or people see your email on facebook and assume that they automatically have permission to send you whatever they want. I get rid of them fast and some people do not even have an opt-out area, so they get a big earful from me and they are reported as spam. We all hate spam, so DO NOT DO it!!

    Some people just don’t get it!

  17. Wayne

    7/1/2011 9:39 am

    Hello Linda;
    This is not the situation. Let me paint the correct picture. You go into a storee and You sign up for their newsletter in the store. Now You have already given us written permission to have us send You our newsletters. Why would I make you sign up again. Now Aweber has stated that we could send You a note thanking for signing up and asking you to confirm the sign up. I believe that is a good practice, but to have you re-sign up again is confusing to the customer You.
    Thanks, Wayne.

  18. Michelle

    8/19/2011 6:01 am

    “We’ll kick it off with some of the worst list management mistakes that could be hurting your email deliver ability, and what you should be doing instead.” – in one way or another, this is more inclined to what I also believe and practice.

  19. Beuna

    2/3/2012 11:12 am

    As someone new to email marketing I look forward to reading more articles.
    So far I have had few unsubscribes and a couple people who never confirmed. Is there a way to send one reminder to confirm? I know that those who did not confirm were interested because they contacted me before hand.

  20. Crystal Gouldey

    2/6/2012 10:04 am

    Beuna- the confirmation message is sent only once per subscriber. It specifically states in the message that if they do not want to subscribe, they can simply ignore the message. If they decide later they do want to sign up, or if they deleted the first confirmation, they can sign up to your list again to trigger another confirmation.