Single opt-in vs double opt-in

When it comes to your email marketing, it can be difficult to know whether it’s best to subscribe users to your list using single opt-in or double opt-in. We’re going to go through a couple of the advantages and disadvantages of each so you can start to work out which is best for you.

First, what does “opt-in” mean?

“Opting in” in this context is a user choosing to add his or herself to your mailing list. Once on your mailing list, they’ll receive your email newsletter and/or offers, updates, etc that you send out.

In Australia, a user must explicitly opt in to your list, to meet our anti-spam requirements. This is usually done though a check box in a contact form that will say something like “Yes, I want to receive updates from Company XYZ”.

You might also have a form that is specifically for newsletter sign up. On a subscription form you don’t need a permission checkbox – the user is giving you explicit permission by filling the form out.

Single opt-in vs double opt-in

In either of these form examples, if you were then to add the user straight to your mailing list, you are using single opt-in. The user has given their permission for you to contact them via email, and now they’re in your mailing database.

Double opt-in requires an extra step – once a user has signed up to your list, they are sent a confirmation email with a link. They are not added to your mailing list until they click on the confirmation link.

What are the advantages of single opt-in?

Single opt-in is obviously an easier process for the user – they choose to receive updates from you, and are subscribed without having to take further action.

Because of this, single opt-in can be a good strategy for list building when you are focused on increasing the number of subscribers you have. It has a low barrier to entry, so users are more likely to end up on your list.

What are the advantages of double opt-in?

On the other hand, using double opt-in means you are more likely to have a high quality list. The people who have take the effort to not only fill out your form but also to confirm their interest are more likely to be genuinely interested in your messages.

Double opt-in also innoculates your list against mistyped email addresses and the like – if the email address entered doesn’t exist, it will not be added to your list. For overall list health it is generally good to restrict the number of dead or bouncing email addresses you have.

The main disadvantage of double opt-in is that the user has to take action before they can be added to your list. This increases the chance that their email won’t end up subscribed to your list for one reason or another – too difficult, too much effort, the perils of junk mail folders and more.

So which is the best option?

There is no right or wrong answer to this question; it all depends on your needs. If you’re looking to set up a list that is highly targeted, sending very relevant material to strong leads, then double opt-in is probably your best bet.

If you want to grow your list quickly, and/or you are mostly concerned with volume than focused on quality, single opt-in may be more suited to your requirements.

A note on MailChimp

MailChimp is a robust, feature-rich  and well-supported email marketing application that caters for all budgets. It’s very popular and you’re likely to have it recommended to you, or may be using it already.

Unfortunately there is no way to configure MailChimp to use single opt-in directly though the MailChimp interface. If you need single opt-in for your MailChimp forms, you will have to get a developer to code your form submissions so it uses the MailChimp API.