GDPR introduced a new era of protections for consumer privacy and forever changed the way that businesses across Europe captured, processed, stored, and used personal data.
There was a lot of confusion amongst business owners and marketers in the run-up to the regulations being implemented in May 2018, with many people not knowing quite what to do to ensure compliance.
In the UK, the ICO has done a great job of outlining the responsibilities of organizations in the protection of their customer data. There’s also a lot of great information about how to comply on the official GDPR website.
But despite the official support and guidance available, there are still a few commonly held myths around certain areas of personal data management and processing.
One of those myths is that it’s necessary to have a double opt-in GDPR process for email lists. This isn’t true. Double-opt in email lists is not a requirement of GDPR in the UK.
The only country where there is a compliance requirement for double-opt in newsletter subscriptions is Germany, where examples of case law (rather than GDPR legislation) have made it important for businesses to embrace double-opt in.
Some businesses such as Google have decided to err on the side of caution in a few other territories as well, and to receive their marketing and performance emails, Google Ads users need to double opt-in if they are located in Austria, Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Norway.
So even though double opt-in GDPR is a myth, and not compulsory to ensure compliance with legislation, if you’re reaching international customers it’s still a good idea. And there are plenty of other reasons why your business might want to choose a double opt-in email subscription method for your lists.
What is double opt-in and why is it important?
Before we jump into why double opt-in can be so useful for the quality and effectiveness of your email lists, let’s first look at the weaknesses of the single opt-in method.
The challenges with single-opt in
When you have a single opt-in, people are added to your lists simply by supplying their email address and taking an action like checking a box. This single action is taken as consent to receive your marketing emails.
This sounds quick and easy, and it is. But it’s also prone to error and poor data quality.
Any spelling errors in email addresses means an incorrect contact is automatically added to your list.
Another example of a weakness of single opt-in is fake or erroneous emails - either from bots or malicious activity. There are a variety of scenarios where this could happen, but as an example, imagine you have friends or colleagues that thought it might be amusing to add your email address to an irrelevant list. A single-opt in process would have no way of verifying that you genuinely wanted to receive marketing emails.
How double opt-in overcome these challenges
With a double opt-in process for your email lists, after supplying their email address and consenting to receive your communications, subscribers need to take a second step of verifying their details before they are added to your list.
It’s typical for a verification email to be sent almost immediately after a user has opted in to deliver the best verification rates.
Moosend has a great article about what should go into a verification email, with a list of examples including this email from Tease Tea:
By adding this second ‘validation’ layer to your opt-in process, you’re taking steps to prevent incorrect and mistyped email addresses from making their way to your list. You’re also eliminating any fake or spoof email addresses from contacts who aren’t really that interested in your emails.
The benefits of using a double opt-in email list strategy
There is a lot of debate amongst email marketers about whether to choose a single opt-in or double opt-in email subscription process.
On the one hand, single opt-in can help you build your email lists more quickly. You won’t ‘lose’ genuine subscribers that forget to verify their email address. There are also arguments that it’s a faster process - you can email subscribers with a welcome message immediately without having to wait for verification. Another suggestion is that single opt-in is a better user experience with fewer hoops to jump through, and as long as you retain relevant records surrounding the opt-in, your business complies with GDPR email consent.
Advocates for double-opt in email lists would generally say that the quality of your email list is more important than its size. They would challenge the argument that having to receive and click a verification email can be frustrating for subscribers by saying if a subscriber is genuinely interested and wants to hear from you - they’ll appreciate the additional steps you’re taking to protect their time and their privacy.
But perhaps the most compelling benefits that support the use of double-opt in are surrounding email performance:
Having a high bounce rate can impact your sender reputation with ISPs. Using double opt-in to verify the accuracy of the email addresses in your list can help reduce the bounce rate of your email campaigns and improve your deliverability.
Fewer spam complaints
A double opt-in process also eliminates the risk of erroneous or fake email addresses being added to your list, which can in turn reduce the number of spam complaints. This can also help reduce the risk of any damage to your sender reputation and improve your deliverability.
Improved engagement rates
When subscribers have taken that extra step of verifying that they want to receive your emails, they are more likely to be engaged with your messages and be receptive to your content.
Improved analysis and reporting
If your email list has a high number of inaccurate or fake email addresses, it can massively skew the accuracy of your reporting and your understanding of how well your true subscribers are responding to your messages.
Embracing a double opt-in email list process can improve the quality of your analysis and reporting dramatically.
If your email marketing solution is priced based on the number of subscribers you have in your list, you’ll still be paying for any addresses that bounce or go to an incorrect address from a single opt-in process.
By choosing double opt-in, you can have the peace of mind that you’re only paying for list members that have shown a genuine interest in receiving your messages.
Build trust with your subscribers
By showing your subscribers that you care about data accuracy, data privacy, and only sending them messages they are genuinely interested in, you can help to enhance your credibility and give them the reassurance that you’re not going to send them messages they don’t want.
It’s considered data protection ‘best practice’
If we take a step back from the ‘letter of the law’ and look more toward the spirit of the law, the entire purpose of GDPR was to provide individuals with greater rights and controls over their personal data and help establish better standards for the way that businesses collect, process and manage data.
So even though double opt-in isn’t compulsory under GDPR legislation, it is ‘best practice’ in the sense that it does improve the way that businesses collect and store personal data and gives individuals more control.
Double opt-in email lists help with global compliance
There are examples of case law in Germany that supports a legal requirement for businesses to practice double opt-in. Other countries that also favor double opt-in include Austria, Greece, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and Norway. So if you’re running a multinational campaign, embracing double opt-in will help ensure your opt-in process is compliant across all territories.
A quick look at the downsides, and a middle-ground solution
This obviously wouldn’t be a balanced article without looking at the disadvantages of using double opt-in for your email lists.
Make no mistake about it - choosing a double opt-in newsletter subscription process will reduce the growth rate of your list.
It’s suggested that only 50-70% of subscribers actually click on the verification email of a double opt-in process.
It’s worth thinking about this carefully based on the specific needs of your business and your growth objectives, and debate whether you’d rather have 100 emails with potential for error, or 50-70 emails that you know are verified.
Setting up double opt-in can also be more complex to configure, which can pose challenges for smaller businesses without an in-house tech team, although a lot of modern ESPs are well set up to make the process easier than it used to be.
One middle-ground solution is to take a hybrid approach by creating two email lists from your double opt-in email subscription process.
The first list could be ‘verified emails’ - these are the subscribers that have verified their email address through a double-opt in process.
The second list could be ‘opted in but unverified’ where you have the GDPR email consent requirements you need, but not the double opt-in verification. You could carefully monitor this second list for activity, move engaged subscribers into ‘verified’, and make a call on whether you suppress or remove inactive addresses.
If you’re looking for a solution to help you manage multiple lists, an email list management software like Simplelists is something to consider.
What are the GDPR mailing list consent requirements?
We started this article by answering the question “Is double opt-in required by GDPR?” and confirming that double opt-in was not compulsory for GDPR compliance in the UK.
But what is compulsory for compliant GDPR email marketing, and what should you be doing?
We’ve put together a quick checklist of the points you’ll want to consider, although we’d recommend visiting the ICO for more comprehensive information and seeking your own legal guidance for the specific nature of your business.
Have a clear opt-in process
We’re not going to muddy any waters by talking about the other forms of lawful basis for contacting individuals via email (although if you’re interested in further reading, the ICO has a breakdown of the six lawful bases for data processing.)
For the purpose of this article and your compliant GDPR email marketing campaign, let’s assume that you are using ‘consent’ as your lawful basis for processing data.
To be compliant with GDPR, your consent process must be clear, unambiguous, and involve a “clear affirmative action” (otherwise known as an opt-in).
Pre-ticked boxes are a no-go area if you’re going to comply with GDPR email consent, as it doesn’t meet the criteria of being a clear affirmative action.
It’s also important to make sure that you don’t make opting into your email list a precondition of signing up to your service or other terms. It needs to be separate and “unambiguous”.
Keep valid records to demonstrate consent
Another thing that’s really important if you’re going to demonstrate compliance is to keep documented evidence of consent.
The ICO recommends keeping records of:
- Who signed up to your email list (the email address)
- When they signed up (timestamp)
- How they signed up (which form, on which channel)
- What you told them when they signed up (is clear and unambiguous)
Be clear about how your business uses personal data
Make it easy for users to unsubscribe
GDPR unsubscribe rules state that it needs to be easy for subscribers to withdraw their consent at any time. Every email message you send should have a clear link to either your email preference centre or an unsubscribe button to satisfy this requirement.
Support an individual’s ‘right to be forgotten’
It’s not enough just to offer subscribers the ability to unsubscribe from your email list. You also need to honor any individual’s “right to be forgotten” and erase all their data if they make such a request.
Your GDPR email compliance checklist
Here are a few points you may want to consider and include as a checklist to ensure that you’re compliant with GDPR when sending emails to your subscribers.
- Obtain consent
- Double opt-in
- Data minimization
- Data storage
- Data retention
- Data subject rights
- Unsubscribe mechanism
- Data protection officer (DPO)
- Dat breach notifications
For more information, download our free checklist
GDPR email compliance checklist
Consequences of non-compliance with GDPR
Part of the reason there was so much panic and confusion in the run-up to GDPR was that the fines and legal ramifications were significant if businesses were found to be non-compliant.
Many marketers still worry about the ability to prioritize personalization without compromising privacy.
But managing your marketing in a GDPR compliant way is important if you’re going to avoid consequences.
We’ll quickly run through three of the main consequences if your business is found not to comply with the GDPR email compliance checklist.
Fines and legal issues
There are two levels of penalties for businesses in the UK if they are found to have breached GDPR.
The lower levels of penalties are fines of up to £8.7m or 2% of annual global turnover for breaching articles relating to children’s consent, processing that doesn’t require identification, and the general obligations of processors and controllers.
Higher fines of up to £17.5m or 4% of global annual turnover relate to breaches of data processing principles, the lawfulness of processing, conditions for consent, data transfers, and the rights of data subjects.
Termination of third-party services
With the potential financial penalties being so severe, many platforms and third-party services understandably insist that only compliant data and processing practices can be used with their solution.
If you’re found to be using their services in a non-compliant way and against terms and conditions, it’s possible that your access to important third-party tools could be revoked.
Loss of reputation
If you’re found to be in breach of GDPR, your reputation is also likely to be impacted along with your finances and ability to access certain third-party services.
Businesses that breach regulations are typically made an example of to encourage compliance from others, and websites like Enforcement Tracker keep tabs on all GDPR decisions to date.
Choosing the opt-in method that is right for your business
Double-opt in is not a legal requirement for compliance with GDPR in the UK.
As long as you have a clear method of collecting consent, and you keep valid records of consent - your choice of opt-in methodology should really depend on the requirements of your business.
That said, there are a lot of benefits to embracing the double opt-in process, including improvements to your email deliverability and engagement rates, more accurate reporting, and making sure you are globally compliant.
However you choose to build your email subscriber lists, Simplelists can help make your email marketing easy by managing and segmenting your contacts and delivering your email campaigns to subscribers.
If you’d like to experience the benefits of Simplelists for yourself, sign up for our one month free trial.
Sign up today for your free trial
You’ve got a business idea, product launch, or important news, and you’re bursting with enthusiasm, and want to share it with the world.
You need an email that’s engaging, professional-looking with great imagery and branding, and effective at getting people interested in what you’re selling or want to say.
An HTML email template is what you need. But how do you go about creating one?
Simplelists are here to help you create an HTML email template with ease by following a few simple steps.
What is an HTML email template?
An HTML email template is a pre-designed layout that you can use to create emails. They come in a range of different shapes and sizes, with different features and benefits. Some may be more suited to your needs than others, so it’s important to know what they are before you start using them.
An HTML email builder allows you to quickly build professional-looking emails without having any design skills whatsoever.
They’re also great if you want consistent branding across multiple campaigns or newsletters as they allow for customization options such as colors and logos.
If you’re looking for a simple and easy way to create professional-looking emails, then using an HTML email template is a great choice.
What is a Plain Text email format?
Plain text email is a simple, readable format for email messages, also known as “text only” and “no HTML”.
A Plain text email is stripped of any fancy formatting, such as colors or graphics, and just contains the bare bones of what you need to say. It’s simply an email format that can be read by any device or computer, regardless of the operating system.
Common uses for plain text emails are in sending transactional messages, such as purchase receipts or password resets. It’s a great option for people who don’t have any special requirements when it comes to sending an email.
Email Plain Text VS HTML: the Pros and Cons
There are two main types of email: plain text and HTML. Plain text emails are easier to read but don’t stand out as much. HTML emails can be more engaging, but they’re harder to read (especially on mobile devices).
An ideal solution would be to use both in your emails — but which one should you choose?
Our table gives you an overview of Simplelists’ pros and cons to email plain text vs HTML.
|Plain text emails
|Engaging emails (color, graphics & video)
|Social media buttons
|Flexible email templates
|Enable tracking and analytics
|Not seen as spam
|Quick loading and opening speed
|Suitable for group emails
HTML Pros & Cons
Create colorful and eye-catching emails
HTML emails allow you to include images, graphics, and video that showcase products, alongside design formatting (e.g., color, logo, placement) to grab readers’ attention on certain information — such as price or call-to-action (CTA) buttons.
Make your emails look professional
Maximize the use of design features to make your company’s brand image and identity prominent, including logos and banners. You can also use HTML emails to create a consistent look and feel across all your marketing campaigns.
Structure emails into easy-to-read sections
Through short and eye-catching sections, HTML can help you to structure emails in an easy-to-read way. Create text boxes, links, and CTA buttons that are placed in a logical order, which makes it easier for readers.
Offer some social media buttons
They can include buttons that allow recipients to share their email with their social networks, increasing the chances that people will see it. If being shared to be viewed on multiple devices, it’s important to use a responsive email template. This means that recipients will see your email regardless of where they read it or what device they use.
Create flexible email templates
HTML emails are more versatile and allow for a wider variety of designs than plain-text versions. The flexibility to create a responsive email template is one of the most important features of HTML emails, as it allows recipients to view and interact with your message no matter where they’re reading it.
Enable tracking and analytics
They also provide analytics for email campaigns, allowing you to see when emails were opened, links that were clicked on, and what percentage of subscribers went on to make a purchase, etc. This is valuable information to improve future campaigns and develop the best possible email strategy for your business.
More easily go to spam
Email providers use a variety of criteria to decide what emails are spam and which ones aren’t. Because HTML formatting can be difficult for email provider’s filters to digest, as a precautionary measure for their users, it can mistake your message as spam — even though you’ve done nothing wrong!
Plain Text Pros & Cons
Quickly loading and faster opening speed
Plain text emails have a smaller file size than HTML-based emails, so they load faster and are less likely to get stuck in spam filters. Buffering times are drastically reduced for plain text emails since there are not so many elements or graphics to load.
Less engaging and similar to a text message
The impact of plain text email is only reliant on the copy and is often used for transactional messages that require little thought or action from the recipient, like confirming an order or updating account information. Because of its lack of visual appeal, plain text tends not to be as engaging as HTML email templates would be with embedded features.
Limited analytics options
Email campaigns that rely on plain text may require self-reporting for tracking purposes. As a result, the only way to measure success is by how many recipients write back. Text-based email campaigns are great for sending out information. However, if you want to increase sales and maximize engagement, creating an HTML email template may be better.
Better for one-on-one emails
Plain text emails excel at writing sales letters and other types of informational copy. Their prose is efficient, informative, and well-suited to one-to-one communication.
Get sending to your list straight away with Simplelists
Building or managing an effective email list can be challenging, especially if you’re new to online marketing.
At Simplelists we’ve got a lot of great features to help make building your email list easier than ever before.
With an easy-to-use interface, you can create multiple lists for different audiences, with a direct sign-up form integrated into your website.
Why not try us for free, you can build and send to your email lists in just a few clicks.
Sign up today for a free trial
When you’re crafting an email for your audience, you’ll probably spend a lot of time coming up with a compelling subject line to try and improve the open rate and avoid triggering spam filters.
You might also spend hours making sure that the content of your email is relevant to the target audience, contains appropriate imagery, and has a clear call to action.
But how much time do you spend reviewing your email footer?
The answer for many organizations is ‘not much time at all’.
Email footer design is often overlooked during the email development process, but it shouldn’t be. Email footers can be just as important as other areas of your email, and failing to include certain information in your footer can mean you don’t comply with legislation.
In this article, we’re going to look at why email footers are so important, the content you should include in your email footer, and share some best practice tips for email footer design to help you get more out of your emails.
Why is email footer design an essential part of an email?
An email footer is an essential part of your email as it provides information to ensure your organization complies with legal requirements, enhances the memorability of your email, and encourages your recipients to engage with you further.
There’s an interesting concept called the ‘serial position effect’ which suggests that people typically have a better memory of the things they see first and last, with content in the middle being less memorable.
With the footer of your email being the last thing your audience sees before they close your message, it’s important that it leaves them with a positive lasting impression of your organization and encourages them to explore your brand further through the use of a clear call to action or signposts to further content.
Your email footer is also where you should include certain information that is required by law.
In the UK, the Companies Act 2006 made it necessary for the email footer of any limited company or partnership to include:
- Company name
- Company registration number and country of registration
- The details of your registered office address
In the US, the CAN-SPAM legislation also requires that an email footer includes reference to a physical address where people can reach you.
Legislation across the US and Europe also requires you to make it easy for your recipients to unsubscribe from your emails. So having a clear and simple unsubscribe link in your email footer is also essential.
Be mindful that legal requirements vary from country to country, so it’s important to seek the right legal advice based on the location of your business and your audience.
What should an email footer include?
Your organization is unique, and your email footer is going to reflect that.
There are certain things that you need to include in your footer to be compliant with legislation.
But outside of this, the things you choose to include in your email footer design depend on your objectives and the impression you want to leave on your audience.
Your email footer can help reinforce your brand identity to your email subscribers. So it’s often recommended to include your logo, brand fonts, and brand color scheme in your email footer design. This helps your recipients to recognize your brand and make the connection between your website and other marketing materials.
Social media links
Many email footer designs include links to an organization’s social media profiles. This can be a great way to direct your email subscribers to your other online channels, so you can build stronger relationships and promote your products or services across multiple platforms.
Links to relevant resources
You might also consider including links to relevant blog posts, white papers, or case studies in your email footer if your objective is to establish expertise and authority with your recipients.
If you want your email to be more conversion-focused, you might consider a clear call-to-action in your email footer design that encourages your audience to take a specific action such as signing up for an event, booking a consultation, or making a purchase. If you’re linking through to your website from your CTA, make sure your landing page is well-optimized.
Testimonials or reviews
If you want to build trust and credibility with your audience, another thing you might include in your email footer is a recent testimonial or review. This can help provide social proof to your audience, and demonstrate the real-world benefit of your organization, service, or product.
Awards or accreditations
Including the logos of any awards or accreditations your organization has won can also be a good way to establish trust and credibility with your audience.
Important news or upcoming releases
Another thing you might consider including in your email footer is the headline of some recent news about your organization, that links through to the full article. Alternatively, you might include a teaser for upcoming products or services to raise awareness amongst your subscribers.
A link to your referral program
If you have a referral program for your business, your email footer template can also be a good place to remind your subscribers of the benefits of referring their colleagues, friends, and family.
A link to your email preference center
The key to successful email marketing is relevancy. An email preference center allows your subscribers to tell you the type of email content they are interested in, and their preferred frequency for receiving emails. If you have an email preference center, including a link to it in your email footer is another good idea.
Branding is important in your email footer design
You have a lot of options for what you might choose to include in your email footer template.
But it’s important to remember that less is often more.
Try to keep your email footer clean, clear and concise, and resist the temptation to include too much information. Decide on what is the most important information for your organization to communicate, and focus on delivering that in the most effective way possible.
Many organizations choose to include their logo in their email footer template. This can help create a visual connection between the email and your brand and can increase brand recognition and recall.
It’s also important to make sure your email footer design aligns with the branding and color scheme of your website and other marketing materials. This can help reinforce your branding and helps create a cohesive experience for users across all your different marketing channels.
Reminder - don’t forget the legal requirements!
It’s easy to get caught up with creative ideas for what you might include in your email footer design, and how it can help you build a stronger connection with your audience.
But don’t forget about the important legal information that needs to be in there.
Failing to include the relevant information in your email footer can result in your organization being issued a fine of up to £1000.
As a quick recap, the information that any limited company or limited liability partnership needs to include in their email footer includes:
- Company name
- Company registration number and country of registration
- The details of your registered office address
You also need to include a clear unsubscribe button that allows your recipients to easily opt-out of receiving further emails from you.
Other legal information you might want to include in your email footer is a link to your terms and conditions. This can be useful for outlining the terms of service for your products or services.
How to create an email footer
Your email footer design is a really important part of your marketing emails.
It’s important that you design and build your footer in a way that looks professional, is visually engaging for your audience, and delivers maximum impact.
If you have access to an in-house designer or have freelance design support, they will be able to help you communicate the messages you want to convey in a visually appealing way.
If it’s something you feel like you want to tackle yourself, there are a number of pre-existing email footer templates on affordable design solutions like Canva.
If you’re looking for some inspiration for your email footer design, the following articles have some good examples:
Remember, for email footer best practice it’s important to keep it simple and easy to read. Try to avoid cluttering your email footer with too much information, and stick to a clean and simple design that is consistent with your branding.
Once you have your footer designed, you’ll need someone to create it as part of your HTML email template.
The person who usually produces your emails should be able to translate your design into a working email footer that is ready to be included as part of your next email campaign.
Make sure your email footer delivers a strong ending to your email
If you’ve followed this article to the end, you’ll understand why your email footer is an important part of your email marketing strategy that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Having an effective email footer design can help you comply with legal requirements, leave a lasting impression on your audience, and encourage them to engage with your brand further.
Ready to put these tips into practice? Sign up for a one-month free trial of Simplelists.
At Simplelists, we make email marketing easy and have full support for HTML emails. Register for our free trial, and see how simple it can be to reach your audience with emails that include your brand-new email footer.
Sign up today for a free trial