One of the most common questions asked by email marketers is whether to use single or double opt-in on their lists.
For those who don’t know…
Single opt-in is where the visitor enters their email & is immediately added as a subscriber to the marketer’s list without having to confirm their email address.
Double opt-in is where the visitor enters their email address but isn’t added to the marketer’s list until they’ve clicked a confirmation link that’s emailed to them.
The main argument for using single opt-in over double opt-in is that by doing so you can get more subscribers. Admittedly that’s true, but in the case of email lists more isn’t necessarily better, and I’ll explain why after I quickly run over the pros/cons of each below…
Main Pros of Single Opt-In
More leads – When using single opt-in your visitor doesn’t have to confirm their email address which makes the process of subscribing to your list more seamless & easier to complete. This means that overall you’ll most likely get more leads than you would with a double opt-in setup. This is usually the main selling point for people choosing single opt-in, but as you’ll find out shortly it could actually end up being very costly to your business.
Seamless process – With single opt-in it’s a case of entering your email and *bam* you’re taken straight to whatever it is you were promised in return. With double opt-in you’re forcing your visitors to visit their inbox and then click on a link – it’s added effort, it breaks up the process, and it loses the “hype” you’ve built up with your prospects prior to entering their email.
Main Downsides of Single Opt-In
Bad leads – Sure, with single opt-in you’ll most likely get more leads as we mentioned above but an awful lot of them will be what’s known as bad leads – or in other words fake emails. Whilst that’s not good for obvious reasons, most email marketing platforms charge based on the number of subscribers you have so you could end up paying a fortune for a list full of bogus subscribers – something I’m sure you’ll agree you certainly don’t want to be doing.
Spam complaints – Not only can visitors enter fake emails, but they can enter other people’s emails too… and guess what people generally do when they receive an email from somebody they don’t know? Yep, they mark it as spam.
Poorer deliverability – When somebody subscribes via a double opt-in they have to physically find your confirmation email (even if it’s in the spam folder) & click the link to subscribe. Doing that in most email clients will mark the email as “safe” meaning that future emails from you will land straight in their inbox. With single opt-in there’s none of that, you’ve just got to hope and pray that your emails find their way into the visitors inbox by themselves. With the increased spam complaints & bad leads (bounces) you’ll get using single opt-in, the chances of that happening will lessen with every email you send.
Legal issues – There’s something called the CAN-SPAM act which basically protects peoples inboxes from being abused by spammers. One of the things it states is that you can only send marketing emails to somebody if they’ve actually opted in to receive them. Now most people who run email marketing campaigns through reputable providers won’t have any problems, but if you do and you’re using single opt-in it can be a lot harder to prove that the person complaining did actually opt in themselves. For peace of mind on the legal front, double opt-in is definitely recommended.
Main Pros of Double Opt-In
Quality subscribers – If somebody is willing to go to the trouble of entering their email, visiting their inbox & clicking on a confirmation link it clearly shows that they’re interested in whatever it is you have to offer. Sure you’ll miss out on a lot of the leads you could have got through a single opt-in, but if they weren’t willing to even confirm they’re email then chances are they weren’t going to make purchase either.
More cost effective – As mentioned previously most email marketing platforms charge based on the number of subscribers, so a smaller list of high quality, interested subscribers is far better & more cost effective than a huge list of “half-arsed” single opt-in subscribers that were just curious to see what is was you had to offer.
Better deliverability – Before a subscriber can get on your list they have to physically visit their inbox (or spam folder), find your email, open it and click on the confirmation link inside. Admittedly it’s a bit more of a drawn out process than that of the single opt-in, but the great benefit is that by having the visitor do this it can massively increase the chances of your future emails landing in their inbox. You see most email clients these days won’t let you click a link in an email from an unknown sender until you’ve marked it as “safe”, and once they’ve marked it as safe *bam* your future emails are going straight to their inbox – happy days.
A better legal stance – With double opt-in it’s much easier to prove that your subscribers did in fact opt-in to receive emails from you. This means that in the event of any legal trouble or complaints regarding the CAN-SPAM act you hold a much better stance than you would if you were running a single opt-in campaign.
Main Downsides of Double Opt-In
Less subscribers – Since you’re adding extra steps into the subscription process it’s inevitable that you’re going to less subscribers, though as we’ve talked above that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It might mean you end up with a smaller list but it’ll certainly pack more of a punch. This is one of the main reasons people avoid double opt-in, because they think less leads means less money.
Interrupted process – Requiring your visitors to check their emails & click on a confirmation link before they’re taken to your offer interrupts the process & therefore loses any “hype” that you’ve created prior to them entering their email. Surprisingly quite a lot of people don’t actually confirm there and then, often you’ll find they don’t confirm until hours, days or even weeks after entering their email.
So which one is better?
Take a look at the list of pros & cons that we went over above and you’ll notice that the only real reason to pick single opt-in over double opt-in would be because that way you get more leads.
That’s why single opt-in is so widely used, because most marketers simply think that more leads equals more money – but in reality that isn’t the case.
You see the average open rate for a double opt-in email list is 29%, which is staggering compared to the lousy average open rate of 16% for a single opt-in list.
The increased deliverability rate of the double-opt in list compared to that of the single opt-in means that even though you might have less leads, your emails will be read by more people – so in actual fact you’d make more money from a double opt-in list than you would single opt-in.
Plus on top of that you’ll face less bounces & less spam complaints since you’ve set an expectation by actually asking your user to confirm their email address to give you permission to send them emails. You’re not simply just “invading” their inbox like you are with single opt-in.
So the bottom line is if you want to show off about how many leads you have then you should pick single opt-in, but if you want to show off about how much money you’re making, then you should pick double opt-in.