Mailbag: Single or double opt-in for email?

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IMG_0351Ellen Butler asks:

“Do you require double opt-ins on your email list signups? Pls discuss! @cspenn @johnjwall”

Since we’ve got a pre-recorded show in the can this week for Marketing Over Coffee, I figured I’d tackle this here. Let’s review the choices first. When it comes to opt-ins for email lists, there are 3 different kinds:

  1. Single opt-in: fill in the box, you’re subscribed to the list.
  2. Notified single opt-in: fill in the box, you’re subscribed to the list and you get an email message confirming your subscription with an opt-out link.
  3. Double opt-in: fill in the box, you get an email asking you to click on a link to confirm your subscription to the list.

For years, the generally accepted best practice was #3, the double opt-in. It guaranteed that only the people who wanted to be on the list were, because it required additional action to be taken. That in theory meant high list engagement and spotless list quality. If you work in an industry where you are required to have proof that stands up to any rigorous audit (like an ISO 9000 or SAS 70 compliance audit), then #3 is still your best option and probably your only option. For the average marketer, however, #3 generates very poor results because an awful lot of people simply fail to open and take action on the confirmation emails.

The choice I practice for myself and recommend to clients is #2. Subscribe on a single opt-in and fire an auto-responder immediately. If it hard bounces, have the email software simply remove that address on the spot. If it goes through, then feel free to send to that address. It’s the best of both worlds – capturing audience with immediacy and giving instant feedback that lets people know their address has been used, while immediately taking out the trash.

Thanks for the question, Ellen!

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5 responses to “Mailbag: Single or double opt-in for email?”

  1. Hey Chris – Seems to me that if someone doesn’t respond to the opt-in email, they’d be very unlikely to read and/or respond to your emails in the future. Obviously, this is not your experience. How do you respond to that? You have me rethinking that assumption.

  2. This was really useful. I have always debated whether to go double opt in. I am taking your suggestion and going with option 2.

  3. Well said, Sir Penn.

  4. Eunice Coughlin Avatar
    Eunice Coughlin

    I was just having this discussion last week with members of our team on why double opt-in really doesn’t make sense anymore. We are using Aweber and it’s negatively impacting our sign up “flow”. Sending this along to the team to see what they think, thanks for posting.

  5. Ellen K. Butler Avatar
    Ellen K. Butler

    Chris: Thanks for answering and the speedy blog post!

    MOC Friends: I’m rethinking my MailChimp recommendations for friends and clients. It appears as if MailChimp forces the double opt in. 🙁 Boo…. Are there other email programs that you would suggest or know do not require double opt in? Tks in advance for ideas and thoughts.

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