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Is Double Opt-in Worth It?

2013 June 18
by Kathy Alice
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Is Double Opt-in worth it?

Is Double Opt-in worth it?

I’ve given serious thought to abandoning my web mail account. Because I’ve had it for a long time, I have an address that is exceptionally easy to remember which is convenient, but this ease comes at a price. More and more my email address is routinely used as a “fake” email by other people. Although I do have a way to filter these “spam” emails it’s a chore to periodically go and unsubscribe from all these lists that I never signed up for. When I am less cranky about it, I tell myself that it’s an interesting peek into what people do online.

I’ve received invitations to a BBQ party in Wisconsin, a trail of notifications of Christmas shopping purchases in Florida, an admonishment to close the gate from a UK suburb association, numerous car insurance quotes, invoices, periodic pleas from a gaming site to please please come back, and even a notification from a tax software company that the IRS rejected my return.

It also gives me a view into how well companies adhere to the federal CAN SPAM Act of 2003 and manage their email lists. Most do a pretty good job of providing the required unsubscribe link and making it straightforward for you to get off their list. Some even politely ask why you are leaving (sometimes I tell them). A particular pet peeve of mine is sites that make it hard to unsubscribe. These are usually sites where an account has been set up and you have to “log in” to manage your email preferences. In my opinion it is criminal that sites of this sort do not use double opt-in, why should I have to figure out how to log into an account I didn’t create to get rid unwanted email?

Which brings me to why I am writing this blog post. Despite what you might think, double opt-in is not widely used. Double opt-in is when you have to explicitly confirm you want to be on an email list by clicking on a link that is emailed to you. I almost never see the “confirm your subscription” emails in my inbox whether it is me or another person that wants access to some freebie that is behind an opt-in form. ClickZ states that despite double opt-in being held up as a golden standard for email marketers – only 30% actually use it. Frankly, I have a hard time believing the percentage is even that high.

The only industry that seems to take double opt-in seriously is the internet marketing industry. Internet marketers that promote IM products live and die by their lists so perhaps it makes sense that they have to be completely above board in how they manage them. Maybe it is the high frequency of mailings that cause the internet marketers to have to adhere to a higher standard. Whatever it is, I can certainly attest that the big brands are not bothering with double opt-in.

So although you will see countless articles recommending you use double opt-in for your list I can tell you that most marketers just don’t use it. So why should you? The extra step adds complexity and it is certainly true that you lose a lot of potential subscribers who don’t do the confirmation step.

So here is my take on when double opt-in is worth it:

  • You are an internet marketer that markets products in the “make money online” space or another industry that has a lot of spam (like “forex”)
  • You intend to send a lot of promotional emails that could be misinterpreted as spam.
  • You intend to send an extreme volume of email (more than once a day).
  • Your list is tied to an account creation on your site (sorry I just had to get that in there).

Otherwise I would not bother with double opt-in. However if you do turn it off, here’s an important tip for you: make sure you periodically go and “clean” your list. Delete any subscriber that hasn’t opened your emails in over six months. Since most email hosting services charge based on the number of subscribers, you’ll pay less. It will also increase your open rate which is tracked by the services. Having a responsive list is important and keeps your operation clean and free of any spammy taint.

Illustration credit: Ryan Lerch www.openclipart.org

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Kathy Alice

Kathy Alice Brown is a technologist, author, blogger and SEO consultant with a background in web operations and engineering.In her spare time she loves to get outside.
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4 Responses Post a comment
  1. June 18, 2013

    Double-opt in also helps your open rates and CTR’s. It increases the likelihood you’ve got an interested prospect. I like the idea of integrating user signup with your list, too.

  2. Kathy Alice permalink*
    June 20, 2013

    I agree that if you use double opt-in the percentage is higher that you have an interested prospect. I just find it interesting that so many companies are not using it. I use a mixture of both depending on what I intend to do with the list.

  3. June 20, 2013

    On a Facebook thread, it was pointed out that in Germany legally it is a must, the fines are very high if you send out email that was not requested. So another reason to consider double opt-in

  4. Robert permalink
    December 6, 2013

    I recommend that marketers ask the recipient if he or she wants to be deleted from the list before doing so. “Open rates” are hardly accurate, given the ways security software and email software have of protecting the privacy of the recipient. In other words, the open rate is only valid for those who are not concerned or don’t know how to protect their privacy.

    I’ve received a few messages from marketers asking why I haven’t opened their emails, or they “miss me”. In fact, I do open many emails. What I don’t do is view them in HTML. I view each and every email in plain-text. If the email is blank because the marketer didn’t know or couldn’t be bothered to include a plain-text portion, then I write and let them know. Marketers who ignore me get unsubscribed. (By the way, a marketing email with no return email address and no unsubscribe method available in plain-text is violating the CAN-SPAM Act.)

    Another reason to ask is perhaps they are seasonal shoppers. My son likes model trains, so I’m on a marketing list for the model train retailer close by. I keep an eye on different emails for Christmas gift ideas, but during the course of the normal year I don’t purchase from them. They’ve stopped, but for a time there they kept asking why I haven’t been opening their emails or shopping with them. Once I explained, they apparently stopped using ‘open rates’ for individuals as a basis for deletion.

    I hope this gives you a glimpse into those of us who aren’t trackable.

    Cheers,
    Robert Reese~

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