Has anyone seen any evidence of best practice for displaying marketing opt-in/out preferences?

I'm trying to convince a client that it's not a good idea to make it "difficult" for users to opt out of marketing communications.


A few choice excerpts from the CAN-SPAM act and the caveat that making it harder to opt-out of the e-mail than it would be to report the e-mail as spam should be enough to convince any business person with a decent head on his or her shoulders that it makes far more sense to make opting out easy than it does to deal with constant spam complaints and getting removed from blacklists in terms of customer relations and time/money spent on systems administration.


Users who are not interested in buying products, signing up etc want to opt out. This is good for the user and good for the business. Why is it good for the business? I'll tell you why - users that opt-out will increase the conversion rate.

For example, what reads better? 100 recipients 25 recipients converted 25% conversion rate


50 recipients 25 recipients converted 50% conversion rate

:) Always give those who are not interested in your product the opportunity to help better your data.

  • Interesting way of presenting the argument, thanks. – Ali May 18 '10 at 9:45
  • Agreed, I made exactly the same point in an email last week to someone at visualwebsiteoptimizer.com when suggesting that they should use their own A|B testing tool to optimise their pages. <rant> they had clearly been concentrating on maximising signups (and therefore hiding the pricing table down the page), instead of focusing on conversion rate. I managed to persuade them to move the table up to the top, but it's still pretty awful, and not dogfooding your own A|B testing tool is pretty ridiculous, methinks... </rant> – MarcusT May 18 '10 at 13:58

If you are sending electronic marketing messages to New Zealand email addresses then by New Zealand law you must include the ability for user to opt-out of further messages. Whilst this doesn't mean "making it difficult" is not acceptable, its still not a good business practice.

In NZ, the antispam law is administered by the Department of Internal Affairs - and their website says:

The Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act 2007 (the Act) prohibits electronic spam with a New Zealand link (i.e. messages sent to, from, or within New Zealand). The Act refers to spam as 'unsolicited commercial electronic messages'.

Businesses must comply with the Act to ensure any electronic messages they send are not considered spam. Failure to comply could mean a fine of up to $500,000. The business could also be made to pay the victims compensation up to the amount of loss suffered or damages up to the amount of loss suffered or damages up to the amount of profit that was made as a result of sending the spam.

The interesting thing to note about this law is that it doesn't matter if the message originates from outside of New Zealand.

Personally, its just not worth the hassle or administrative overhead.

  1. Email services providers like Mailchimp & Aweber provide lot's of info about making it easy for user to sign up and why. Check out their blogs.

  2. Dan Ariely (a well known behavioral economics researcher) gave an awesome example here: http://danariely.com/2008/05/05/3-main-lessons-of-psychology/

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