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Single or Double Opt--In?

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You heard the message before. Your e-mail list is the most important key to your future online success. The best list is a highly targeted and responsive opt--in list. At present, the single opt--in method is the preferred approach to building a list. However, Internet promoting considerations suggest the list owner should use the double opt--in or confirmation method to build a list. What is the right method for you?

Opt--In Process

The opt--in process means that an individual has requested to be on your mailing list before you a^dd them. At the same time, the individual must be given the ability to opt--out (unsubscribe) from your mailing list at any time.

In the single opt--in method, an individual registers to join your e-mail list by submitting their name and e-mail a^ddress. As a result, the individual is giving you their permission to send them e-mail messages that promote specific products and services or discuss specific topics.

In the double opt--in or confirmation method, an individual registers to join your e-mail list in the same manner as the single opt--in method. In response, the individual receives an e-mail from you to confirm their e-mail a^ddress. Upon receipt of the confirmation e-mail, you a^dd the individual to your mailing list. If the confirmation e-mail reply is not received, do not a^dd the individual to your list. However, you may want to follow-up with the non-confirming individuals and give them another chance to confirm.


Your autoresponder should have the capability to implement the double opt--in method. If not, you can setup one very easily. Set up two separate campaigns in your autoresponder (let's call them "A" and "B"). Campaign "A" receives the initial single opt--in request from your visitor. In turn, the message from campaign "A" contains a link the subscriber clicks to send a confirmation e-mail to campaign "B." The "blank" e-mail sent to campaign "B" is from the subscriber's "default" e-mail system containing their confirming name and e-mail a^ddress.

Subscriber Relationship

To be successful in e-mail promotions, you must build a personal one-on-one relationship with your prospects or clients. The success in your online mark^eting hinges on maintaining and building this personal relationship. As the list owner, you need to establish the initial relationship by:

  • Obtaining permission from your subscribers to send them promotional messages and other types of useful information
  • Practicing respect for the privacy of your subscribers.
    • Implicit Opt--In

      An implicit opt--in situation may exist as the result of permission that is not granted but is derived from another relationship. An example would be when an individual has previously purchased from you. In this situation, you may be able to send limited but unsolicited e-mails to that individual under this pre-existing relationship. However, this level of implied permission must never be exceeded without the expressed consent of the individual.


      As a list owner, you work hard to drive traffic to your web site and get subscribers to join your list. Individuals respond and decide to join your list. They submit their name and e-mail a^ddress. Great! All that hard work of publishing a newsletter, writing ezine articles and promoting is finally paying off. You have genuine subscribers. Or do you?

      As it turns out, some of these new subscribers did not sign-up on your mailing list, do not want to receive your mark^eting messages or forgot they signed up. You run the risk of getting sp^am complaints when you send e-mail messages to this group of individuals. This can be a serious problem to your online business. Open your e-mail and look at the flood of unwanted messages. Scan and listen to the media reports. Sp^am is a continuing problem.

      MessageLabs, a provider of e-mail security services, monitors e-mail messages on a worldwide basis. Out of 157 million e-mails tracked in July 2003, they reported that 80 million e-mails were sp^am. That's a 51 percent sp^am rate. In December 2003, MessageLabs reported a 77 percent increase in year-to-year sp^am volume. These numbers are incredible.

      It is very important that you get your e-mail messages into the hands of individuals that want to receive your messages. As a result, the normal single opt--in may no longer be sufficient. Consider the double opt--in method as an alternate approach. Look at the pros and cons of each approach to find out what is right for you.

      Single Opt--In Discussion

      An argument in favor of single opt--in states it is simpler to subscribe to a single opt--in list than the double opt--in list. Even though the single opt--in method has more un-subscribes, the net number of subscribers is generally higher than with the double opt--in method.

      An argument against the single opt--in method states that new subscribers may be:

      • Tire kickers only looking for the fr^ee bonus,
      • Not really interested in your mark^eting efforts,
      • Can not remember signing-up,
      • Did not sign-up due to someone else signing them up or
      • There was a typographical mistake in the sign-up process.
        • How many of the single opt--in subscribers fall into this "problem" category? Depending on the reporting source it ranges from 0 to 30 percent. Malice or typo mistakes can be mitigated in the confirmation process if the recipient does not confirm. As a result, you will probably lose these people in short order through the unsubscribe process. However, the most serious consequence is the sp^am complaint. This can cause you significant grief and wasted time defending yourself against the ISP that wants to shut you down.

          Double Opt--In Discussion

          Depending on your situation, you may need or want to start using the double opt--in method. This does not mean you trash all your current single opt--in subscribers and ask them to double opt--in. You should be able to continue your e-mail mark^eting to these individuals if you have a healthy business relationship with them. Consider the double opt--in method if you are in the early stages of building your list or want to increase to your existing list.

          The double opt--in method may be your best solution to the problem of single opt--in subscribers that don't want to be on your mailing list. The confirmation process is your protection against individuals claiming you are sending them unsolicited e-mail. The double opt--in method establishes that:

          • The e-mail a^ddress is good.
          • The responder is the owner of the e-mail a^ddress.
          • The responder wants to join your mailing list.
            • Some significant reasons to use double opt--in include:

              • To attract interested and responsive subscribers in your targeted niche.
              • Improve the chances your subscribers will see your message.
              • A^dvertisers will place a higher value on your receptive subscriber list.
              • Ability to more effectively market your products and services to your list.
              • Documented proof that subscribers requested to be on your mailing list.
              • Reduce the probability your ISP will shut you down due to a sp^am complaint.
                • An argument against double opt--in is that the number of individuals completing the confirmation stage is lower than those signing-up in the initial subscription stage. This is usually due to:

                  • Faulty typing by the subscriber.
                  • Malice by the subscriber.
                  • Problem with input processing at the point of sign-up.
                  • Wrong or incomplete information at sign-up becomes a surprise during confirmation.
                  • The request for confirmation looks like a legal document.
                    • As a result, it should be expected that the recipient will not complete the confirmation phase. The list operator should make the confirmation request as short and simple as possible.


                      In conclusion, there is no easy answer to the single versus double opt--in issue. You need to weigh the pros and cons of each method, perform tests on each method and then select the method that is right for your business.

                      It's possible that you could wind up with a hybrid solution. In other words, use the single opt--in method for your directly controlled programs like mini-courses and your newsletter and use the double opt--in approach for your co-registration programs.

                      There is no silver bullet in determining the best method to handle sign-ups. You need to experiment. Whatever you do, don't shoot yourself in the foot. You want to build your business and not destroy it.

                      I wish you the best of success in your online business activities.

                      Copyright ? 2004 F. Terrence Markle ? All Rights Reserved

                      Get the FR^EE e-mail course on list building
                      "How To Build Your Own Opt--In Mailing List" at:

                      About The Author

                      Copyright ? 2004 - F. Terrence Markle has worked for over 20 years with public and private companies. He has an MBA in marketing and finance. He has been involved with Internet-related businesses for over 3 years. His primary focus is the marketing of affiliate programs.


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