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Want to learn email marketing, but not sure what an opt-in is or how to even get started? Taking the time to learn these terms and how they interact with each other will help you to more effectively market your brand and reach a wider audience.

The basics are always a great place to start. Even if you feel totally clueless when it comes to email marketing, have no fear—we’ve got you covered with the most important definitions and strategies.

What Is Email Marketing?

Email marketing involves sending messages—usually in mass quantities—that advertise your product or services. When done well, however, the messages still convey a sense of personal connection, so they don’t really feel like advertisements.

In fact, email marketing is really about building relationships with potential customers. The goal should be to make a connection, build a relationship, and maintain that relationship so that your brand is trusted by customers and is the first that comes to mind when they need a solution.

Email Marketing Definitions

The following is a list of definitions that explains the most important email marketing terms and definitions you need to know in simple language.


Opting-in to an email list means that a person put in their email address in a web form and agreed to sign up for the email list. There are other ways to opt-in as well, including requesting in person, on the phone, or via email to be added to an email list. Sometimes, you may hear a subscriber referred to as “an opt-in,” and a web form where someone can sign up for an email list is often called an “opt-in form” or “web form.”

email marketing for beginners

Opt-in Form (or Web Form)

The opt-in form is an online web form that people fill out by inserting their email address, and possibly other information, in order to subscribe to an email list. Below is a screenshot of a simple opt-in form.


An autoresponder is an email marketing platform and service that allows you to build opt-in forms, grow your email list, manage your contacts, send and schedule emails, and more. An autoresponder is required for anyone looking to become a serious email marketer.

An autoresponder is a service that you can acquire and access online. There are a few free ones, but most require a monthly fee. In chapter 6, we’ll review the best autoresponder options available depending on various budgets and business needs.


Email subscribers can opt-out or unsubscribe from your email list anytime they want. Any legitimate autoresponder will include a link, usually at the bottom of the email, that subscribers can click in order to opt-out and remove their email from your list. Your autoresponder will then tell you that this subscriber is now unsubscribed. It’s not only a good business practice to allow email subscribers to opt-out, it’s required by CAN-SPAM laws.

Autoresponder Series

An autoresponder series is an email or multiple emails that are sent to your email subscribers on a timer, based on when they opted-in to your list. Normally, email subscribers should receive an autoresponder email immediately after opting-in. This email will usually contain a link to your free gift (just in case they missed the link on your thank you page) and welcome them to your list. You can also create additional autoresponder emails that are sent to your subscribers on a timer; either hours, days or weeks later.

For example, if a subscriber opts-in to your email list at 2:33pm on Tuesday, they would immediately get your autoresponder email #1 (the welcome email as it’s usually called.) Then, if you scheduled autoresponder email #2 to be delivered three days later, they would receive that email at 2:33pm on Friday. Many autoresponders will allow you to customize the times of the day your autoresponders are sent, so you can further customize the timing of when your subscribers receive your autoresponder emails.

Here are some examples of some creative and useful ways to use autoresponders:

Create a 10-day email course or training. Send your subscribers one email a day for 10 days that helps them learn something or inspires them. For example, if you were offering a weight loss meal plan, you could send a daily recipe every day to your subscribers along with additional tips and recommendations.

Create a series of informal, educational emails to build rapport. You can send your subscribers helpful, interesting emails to build a deeper connection and relationship with them as soon as they sign up for your email list.

Create a series of promotional emails that both educate your subscribers and promote one of your products or services that would be a good fit for them. There’s an old saying, “people don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy.” When you educate your subscribers and let them know where they can find even more information or a solution to their problem, they will naturally buy from you without any hard selling required. As Zig Ziglar said, “if you help enough people get what they want in life, you can have everything you want in life.” Focus on creating emails and content that help your subscribers solve their most important problems, and you will be handsomely rewarded.

Squeeze Page

A squeeze page is a web page where someone can opt-in to an email list. This specially designed page hosts a web form, and usually has no other active links or navigation options so that browsers can either choose to opt-in or leave the page. By limiting navigation options, a squeeze page will often convert 5x to 20x more than an opt-in form hosted on a blog or similar web page with many navigation options.

Here’s an example of a squeeze page:

See chapter 4 for more information on squeeze pages.


A conversion is anytime someone converts from a visitor on your website or squeeze page to an email subscriber. A conversion could also be anytime someone converts from a visitor on your site to a customer. The definition of conversion will depend on your personal goals, and will probably vary from web page to web page.

For example, on a squeeze page, your conversion goal would be to generate a new email subscriber. On a sales page where you sell a book, video course, or other product or service, your conversion goal would be to generate a new order. Conversions are a very important business metric that you should be tracking with analytics.

Conversion Rate

Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors who achieve your conversion goal. For example, if 100 people visit your squeeze page and 35 opt-in to your email list, that page has a 35% conversion rate. All else being equal, the higher the conversion rate, the better.

Most squeeze pages convert between 10% and 50% of visitors. Rarely, online marketers may achieve a conversion rate higher than 50%. As a beginner, if you can achieve a 30% conversion rate, that’s pretty good. Anything less than 30% probably needs work. The easiest way to improve conversion rates is through split testing (see below).

You can’t know what your conversion rate is without data, and that data comes from your web analytics.

Deliverability Rate

Deliverability rate is the percentage of email subscribers who receive emails when you send them through your autoresponder. Ideally, your autoresponder would have a 100% deliverability rate. Anything over 99% is great. Anything less than 99% is not good.

Note: Deliverability rate, as used here, means that the email provider of your subscriber received the email. This does not mean that the customer saw your email or opened it. It simply means that the email was sent from your autoresponder to the customer’s email server. The email could have been blocked by a spam filter, lost in the spam folder, or another folder, or deleted by the subscriber.


Analytics or web analytics is data from your website that tells you how many visitors you had in the past and what actions those visitors have taken on your site. Depending on what analytics tool(s) you’re using, you can get additional information such as: when the visitors visited your site, what country or location they were in, how long they spent on your site, what their gender and demographics are, whether they opted-in to your email list or bought a product, and much more.

Generally speaking, for a beginner, the most important analytics information is:

1) How many visitors did you have?

2) How many visitors converted into email subscribers (or customers)?

Without these two basic data points, you’re flying blind. You need to know how many visitors you had and how many converted into email subscribers in order to track your conversion rate. And your conversion rate is a very important (crucial) metric to let you know how well your marketing campaigns are working.

Open Rate

The open rate is the percentage of email subscribers who open a particular email. The average open rate for email is around 26%, so if you beat the average you’re doing well. Achieving a 40% or higher open rate is excellent.

Split Testing or A/B Testing

An A/B test is when you take two web pages (like two squeeze pages) and send traffic to both pages. You then use analytics to track traffic and conversions on both pages, and when you have enough data, keep the page that converts better and delete the other page. A split test is the same as an A/B test, although a split test could test more than two web pages at once.

Without split testing, it is highly unlikely that your website will ever achieve its full potential for converting visitors to email subscribers. A very small change in conversion rate due to split testing could increase your profits exponentially. Here’s an example.

Let’s say you run a split test and squeeze page A has a 30% conversion rate and squeeze page B has a 40% conversion rate. A 10% increase isn’t a big deal, right? Actually, it’s HUGE!

Even though it’s only a 10% nominal increase in conversions, it’s a 25% relative increase. This means you’ll end up with 25% more email subscribers and, all else being equal, 25% more paying customers. That’s a 25% increase in revenue for your business with just a simple split test.

This is why split testing is so important and so valuable. Using split testing, I personally took my average squeeze page conversion from about 20% to over 36%, with some of my pages converting as high as 56%. That’s almost a doubling of my email subscribers with the same amount of traffic. In other words, I could spend the same amount of money now on traffic and get twice as many email subscribers (and twice as many paying customers) without any additional marketing expense. Without split testing, I could never have achieved that kind of increase in profitability. All successful online marketers use split tests to improve their websites and conversions.

Dollar-for-dollar, the best money you can spend as an email marketer is on split testing. That’s why I highly recommend Leadpages because it makes split testing so easy, fast and cost effective.

Landing Page

A landing page is the page that a visitor first sees when they visit a website. The landing page could be a squeeze page, home page, or any other page designated by the site owner depending on your particular marketing campaign and goals.

Generally speaking, you should always have a particular goal for your landing page. Typical goals for a landing page might include:

Getting the visitor to opt-in to your email list.

Getting the visitor to make a purchase.

Getting the visitor to fill out a contact form or inquiry form to request more information or schedule a phone call.

Getting the visitor to click on a link to buy a product from a third-party website or vendor (like to buy your book, for example).

Getting the visitor to call in to request more information or purchase on the phone.

Single Opt-in and Double Opt-in

Single opt-in is when a subscriber fills out your opt-in form and is immediately subscribed to your list. They only have to opt-in once.

A double opt-in is when a subscriber must click a link in an email after opting-in to your form in order to confirm their opt-in. This two-step process is called a double opt-in. First, they have to fill out the opt-in form on your site, and then they have to confirm again by clicking a confirmation link in an email.

There are benefits and drawbacks to each method.

For single opt-in, the benefits are you’ll get more email subscribers, and you’ll build your list faster. The downside is that you may get more fake emails, as well as potentially receive more spam complaints.

For double opt-in, the benefits are that you’ll only have subscribers on your list who were committed enough to opt-in twice. Your list will be smaller but more focused with dedicated subscribers. Your autoresponder fees may be slightly lower because your list is smaller. You’ll likely receive less spam complaints than someone using single opt-in.

Personally, I prefer single opt-in most of the time because it helps me grow a bigger list faster. However, many intelligent marketers choose double opt-in. You’ll have to make your own choice as to what’s best for you and your particular business.

Spam Complaints

A spam complaint is whenever someone reports your email as spam to your autoresponder service provider. It’s normal to receive a few spam complaints here and there, but if you’re receiving more than 1% or 2% spam complaints consistently, it’s definitely not a good sign.

If you get enough spam complaints, your autoresponder may give you a warning or even disable your account.

You can lower your spam complaints by writing clear, brief, and well-written emails, by using double opt-in instead of single opt-in, and by sending only relevant, targeted information to your subscribers.

For example, if someone signs up for information about email marketing, don’t send them information about potty training dogs. Keep your emails targeted and relevant to avoid spam complaints (that might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised what some email marketers will send to their list).

Also, pay attention to your traffic sources. Sometimes, traffic from the wrong place can increase your spam complaints. For example, if you’re marketing a health product on a website for tech geeks, they might not even remember why they signed up for your list and why you’re sending them health information.

It’s best to attract qualified traffic from sources that are reliable and in tune with your message and products.


Traffic is a generic term for visitors or people who visit websites online. As an email marketer, you will need traffic to go to your squeeze page or other web pages so that they can opt-in to your email list.

The more traffic you get, the better, assuming that you have quality traffic.

Quality traffic means that your visitors are “targeted.”

Targeted Traffic

Targeted traffic is quality traffic consisting of prospects that could buy from you. For example, if you sell a product only in the US, any visitor from outside the US would not be targeted traffic for your business because they cannot buy from you.

If you sell custom motorcycles and you’re getting traffic from women age 45-65 who are into fashion, that’s probably not targeted traffic because the demographic of those visitors doesn’t match the demographic of your ideal customers. Not all traffic is the same!

You must understand that targeted traffic is what you want. It doesn’t matter how cheap or easy it is to generate traffic: what matters is whether or not that traffic is targeted, and if they ultimately convert into customers for your business. Paying a little bit more for higher quality traffic is often worth it, and may end up saving you money because you’ll be generating more revenue from higher quality leads.

This is why I highly recommend never paying for traffic from sites like or any other website that promises cheap, quick or easy traffic. Cheap, quick and easy traffic is a myth. Real success in business takes work. The pros may make it look easy, but that’s because they put the time, effort and energy into it to make it work. The only traffic I recommend buying is from a targeted, high quality source, the most common of which would be Pay Per Click (PPC) Ads.

Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

PPC advertising is an online advertising model where you pay each time a visitor clicks the link to your website in the ad. The two biggest PPC advertising platforms are Facebook Ads and Google Adwords.

Most email marketers right now prefer Facebook Ads for building an email list because it’s easier to learn how to use and often cheaper for many markets.

You do not need to use PPC advertising to build an email list. It’s just one potential method for generating traffic to build your list.

Email Marketing Classes

If you want to brush up on your email marketing skills even more, check out our Email Marketing Mastery course.

You can also try our other picks for the best email marketing courses, which include both paid and free options.

Want to Learn More About Email Marketing?

Grab your copy of my #1 bestselling book Email Marketing Mastery on Amazon here (now on sale for just $2.99).