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Article first published in July 2013, updated June 2019

Our friends at Litmus recently ran a worldwide poll asking marketers whether they preferred to use single opt-ins or double opt-ins, and the results were split almost evenly. According to their findings, 53.5% of marketers worldwide prefer the use of a single opt-in, while 46.5% prefer the use of a double opt-in. This got us thinking: Why is single vs. confirmed so polarizing?

However, first, a little background on single opt-in and confirmed (or double) opt-in.

What is single opt-in?

Let’s say you have a form on your site that’s pointing to a subscriber list. If it’s single opt-in, it will accept new subscribers immediately after the form is submitted. Single opt-in email lists can be created in other ways too, such as collecting emails while at a trade show or networking event.

In these cases, you’ll have to add them to your subscriber list manually. However, you would send them an email asking them if they would like to continue receiving marketing content from you in the future.

You could also send an email regarding changes to the system and ask users if they still wish to receive your emails, like Archant did in the email below.

You could also send an email regarding changes to the system and ask users if they still wish to receive your emails, like Archant did in the email below.Source: Really Good Emails

What is double opt-in?

Confirmed opt-in lists (also known as double opt-ins) include an interim step, which usually involves an email being sent to the subscriber’s email address first. For example, after a user has signed up to your list, they’ll receive an email asking to verify their address.

This act of verification allows the subscriber to explicitly state that, yes, they really do want to receive email communications from you.

This act of verification allows the subscriber to explicitly state that, yes, they really do want to receive email communications from you.Source: Really Good Emails

Once a link in the email is clicked (thus confirming that the email address is valid), the subscriber is added.

Weighing the pros and cons

There are fairly straightforward advantages and disadvantages to each approach. While single opt-in is less complicated than confirmed for both email senders and subscribers, it does open up subscriber lists to collecting invalid email addresses–either as a result of honest mistakes or spambots.

On one hand, these invalid email addresses can be a mild annoyance, but on the other, they can be an expensive problem, impacting your campaign metrics, delivery rates, and bottom line.

That said, the commitment that goes into confirming twice-over can deter would-be subscribers, even if it is a good measure of future engagement.

Is there a “correct” approach?

Given these two sides, it’s easy to see why folks may be either unsure or passionate about whether their approach is the correct one. From our perspective, they’re both valid–although we see the value in going confirmed, especially in regards to boosting engagement rates and keeping subscriber lists clean.

Opt-in best practices for 2019: Know the laws

While email opt-ins may not seem like a big deal to some marketers, in 2019, it’s more vital than ever to understand the different laws that guide the use of email marketing for commercial purposes.

The rules are different worldwide. However, many of them overlap. So, taking a few minutes to understand some of the major rules and regulations could help you avoid severe consequences later on.

CAN-SPAM Act

This law covers all commercial messages, which is defined by the law as “any electronic mail message” with the primary purpose of commercial advertisement or the promotion of a commercial product or service. In short, these are the rules covered under the CAN-SPAM Act:

  • Cannot use false/misleading header information
  • Cannot use deceptive subject lines
  • Must include contact information within the email
  • Have a clear & easy to understand the opt-out process for subscribers
  • Must honor opt-out requests promptly

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The EU GDPR was approved and adopted by the EU Parliament in April 2016 and was put into action on May 25, 2018. The entire act was implemented as a way to help protect European citizens’ privacy when it came to how their private information was used by businesses worldwide.

In short, the GDPR implemented changes that required businesses to be aware of and take prompt action regarding the following items:

  • Subscribers must supply explicit content to receive promotional materials
  • Businesses must have a clear and easy verbiage to understand the opt-out process
  • Businesses much honor that opt-out request in a swift and timely manner
  • Businesses must alert consumers of any data breach within 72 hours of learning of it
  • Subscribers have the right to be provided a copy of personal data, free of charge, in an electronic format

Should I use double opt-in?

Understanding these rules is vital for businesses, especially if they want to avoid any hefty financial penalties. One way to stay compliant, and arguably one of the easiest ways, is to implement the use of a double opt-in.

While single opt-ins are still considered legitimate, double opt-ins are quickly becoming the standard used by marketing teams. Why? Because it gives users the chance to explicitly state whether they want to receive your marketing information, which can protect your brand if something fishy comes up later.

Wrap up

Sure, while single and double opt-ins may seem similar, there are some significant differences. While single opt-ins are still relevant in marketing today, to stay compliant with the ever-changing privacy laws, double opt-ins are the way to go, and here’s why:

  • They provide explicit consent from the subscriber to receive your materials
  • They follow along with privacy standards
  • They protect brands who may be targeted by scammers claiming privacy was not considered

Want to learn more about the many email marketing laws? Then take a few short minutes to read our guide on understanding email laws and regulations.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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