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This post was first published in July 2013, and was updated in June 2019.

The good folks at Litmus 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:  53.5% of marketers preferred to use single opt-in, while 46.5% preferred double opt-in.

This got us thinking: Why is single vs. confirmed so polarizing?

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. But make sure you send them an email asking them if they’d like to continue receiving content from you in the future.

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 confirm that they really do want to receive email communications from you. 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 they can also be an expensive problem (adding more names to your list), and critical to your reporting (impacting your campaign metrics and delivery rates).

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.

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

Opt-in best practices: Know the laws.

While email opt-ins may not seem like a big deal to some marketers, it’s more vital than ever to understand the modern 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 and easy-to-understand opt-out process for subscribers
  • Must honor opt-out requests promptly

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

The GDPR was approved 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 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.

Is double opt-in the way to go?

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 emails content, which can protect your brand, and promote stronger and more genuine engagement.

Wrap up

While single opt-ins are still relevant in marketing today, to stay in line with modern privacy laws, double opt-ins are quickly becoming the go-to, and here’s why:

  • They provide explicit consent from the subscriber to receive your materials.
  • They are likely to 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? 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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