The Email Opt-In Controversy: Single or Double Confirmation?

emailI have been continuously involved with email marketing since the mid 90’s. That goes back before the term “email marketing” even existed.

That even goes back to before the notion of “opt-in” email was broadly popularized by Seth Godin in his 1999 book, Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, And Friends Into Customers.

Over the years I have moderated the concept of “double opt-in” email confirmation and “single opt-in” email confirmation within organizations and among clients.  In recent years, I have tended towards a neutral position on the matter (after having been biased towards double opt-in).

Nowadays, after laying all the cards out on the table (advantages and disadvantages of each), and answering questions, I leave the decision up to the client.

♦ In brief, when a person enters their information (e.g. name and email) to complete the subscription process, that’s a single opt-in confirmation.

♦ If the person enters their information, and then needs to receive and open an email and click on a link within that email, to “confirm” their subscription, that’s a double opt-in.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Single or Double Opt-in

♦ Single opt-in’s generate larger lists and are simpler for the subscribers.

♦ Double opt-in’s generate higher quality lists, because it weeds out a percentage of emails that were inadvertently added. (Such as individuals entering email addresses other than their own). Also, because there are less spam complaints on double opt-in lists, the delivery rate can be higher than single opt-in lists.

Generally speaking, I prefer the confidence and quality of lists that double opt-ins generate. But I have seen lists for some clients that maintain favorable statistics (open rates, bounce rates, delivery, etc), even with single opt-in.  Does that mean single opt-in is the best idea for all clients?  I don’t think so.

There is more to know about the advantages and disadvantages to both sides of the equation.

Bill McCloskey, at ClickZ, has encapsulated both sides of the controversy with his post, Double Opt-in, Redux (although his personal preference is single opt-in).  Be sure to peruse the comments at the bottom of his post, as well.