Creating a valuable email marketing list with confirmed opt-in process


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The opt-in decision is one that divides many email marketers, and it’s something you may not even be aware of if you’re just starting out in business or taking part in your very first email marketing campaign. Single opt-in and double opt-in are two ways in which a user can sign up to receive emails from your company or organisation. It’s how they give their permission to be added to your email marketing list and receive communication from you in the form of updates, newsletters, promotions and such like.

There are merits and downsides to single opt-in and double opt-in, so it’s worth taking a bit of time to familiarise yourself with these sign-up techniques before sending out marketing emails and building your targeted customer list. Whilst single opt-in is simple and straightforward, double opt-in is more likely to result in an engaged and more lucrative customer base. In the long run, the latter is what you’re aiming for.

Difference between single opt-in and double opt-in

Single op-in is a one-step process. Double opt-in (also referred to as ‘confirmed opt-in) is a two step process.

To sign up to receive emails using the single opt-in technique, users simply enter their email address and click ‘submit’. Their details are then added to your email marketing list. That’s it. No confirmation is required. Your new subscribers will automatically start receiving your emails whenever you send them to the addresses included on your mailing list.

If you choose the double opt-in technique, users have to confirm their subscription to your mailing list. Once they have provided you with an email address, they will receive an automatically generated email asking them to confirm the email address and subscription to your mailing list. They will do this by clicking a verification link within the email. You may have come across this sign-up technique if you’ve ever signed a government petition, but many private businesses also use this process.

Advantages of single opt-in

It’s a quick and easy sign-up process for the user.
The quickest way for you to build your email marketing list.
No risk of the users forgetting to confirm their email address, as is often the case with double opt-in.
No risk of a confirmation email being sent to the user’s spam folder and never being opened.
Less technical resources needed to implement a single opt-in system.
No contact leakage – i.e. users failing to confirm their subscription.

Disadvantages of single opt-in

Higher risk of a low-quality, unengaged contact list.
More time spent on list maintenance.
Greater chance of spam complaints.
Greater risk of low deliverability.
Danger of malicious subscription – i.e. competitors could attempt to damage your database by flooding it with bad emails.
Danger of non-consenting subscribers being added by other people.
Higher risk of damaging your sender reputation if your list contains a large quantity of bad addresses – i.e. incorrect addresses that bounce, or recipients marking your emails as spam because someone else signed them up without their consent.

Advantages of double opt-in

Results in lower bounce rates.
Removes the risk of incorrect emails addresses being added to your mailing list.
Eliminates the risk of individuals being subscribed to a mailing without their knowledge.
More chance of building a high-quality ‘clean’ database of responsive users who open your emails and engage with your business. This is simply because they have displayed these qualities by confirming their subscription in the first place.
Presents the perfect opportunity to immediately engage with new subscribers.

Disadvantages of double opt-in

Takes longer to build a marketing database
Confirmation emails could be lost in the user’s junk or spam folder.
Potential for contact leakage caused by users not confirming their email address – they may ignore the confirmation email, forget to open it to complete the sign-up process, or not realise this additional step is required.
Additional technical resources needed to implement a double opt-in system.

Which one should you choose?

If this was a simple decision, there wouldn’t be so much intense debates and differing opinions about these opt-in techniques. Every marketer has their own preference, so it’s ultimately up to you to do what’s right for your new company. Personally, I firmly believe that the double opt-in process produces better results in the long run and builds a stronger relationship between the user and business.

Double opt-in is about quality and commitment, not quantity and quick returns. It demonstrates the integrity of your business, confirms user consent and will increase your chances of better engagement. If people are unwilling to spend an extra 10 seconds confirming an email address, they’re not the type of high-quality contacts you need for your list.

Of course, double opt-in does mean that a certain number of emails may not be confirmed if they end up in the spam folder, but it’s better to slowly build a valuable, good-quality database than to quickly collate a huge contact list of unengaged users and bad email addresses – what use is that? Always think of the big picture and long-term gains.

Rachel Craig
Rachel Craig is Head of Content for Rapid Formations Limited, the UK's #1 company formation group. An expert in her field, Rachel provides in-depth guidance and advice on UK company registration, corporate compliance and workplace productivity.


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