The great debate

While surfing around last night, I discovered that the email experience council is running a poll. “The Great Email Debate Topic #2 – Single Opt-In or Double Opt-In?”
The email blogs have been discussing the question for a few weeks now, since one ClickZ columnist decided to stir controversy by claiming that “it is impossible to grow a list using double opt-in.” The original column inspired many other people to comment on the issue.
This is really a tempest in a teapot. There are situations where no address should be added to a mailing list without some sort of confirmation or verification step. Senders must protect themselves from bad subscription requests and double opt-in is one way to do this. Likewise, there are situations where a single opt-in with good list management will create a very clean list. Double opt-in isn’t necessary to stop spam.
Senders who think that they can’t grow their list with double opt-in are already behind the 8-ball in terms of list management. Yes, lists will grow slower. In the present environment, many users are very used to submitting a registration to a web page and then looking in their mailbox for an email to complete the process. No longer is “double opt-in” a foreign concept. Social networking sites, web forums and mailing lists commonly use double opt-in.
The challenge is for marketers to construct a signup process that is engaging enough to convince users to check their mailbox and click on the link. Senders with good marketing strategy will be able to do this, when it’s necessary.
Not every mailing list has to be double opt-in, but every engaging list could be without decreasing the number of subscribers.


  1. Bonnie Malone says

    Agreed! Regardless of the process – single or double opt-in – where marketers often fall short is in setting the expectation. Including a note on the subscribe confirmation page that informs new subscribers to check their mail helps guide the process and increase engagement. Reinforcing that message in the welcome/subscription confirmation email will further encourage action while supporting the brand impression. Managing the process well goes a step beyond basic list growth, as it ensures BETTER list growth, as the new subscribers are more engaged and likely to respond.

  2. Tom Sather says

    I lean more towards the marketers on this one. DOI/COI is a little overkill for some senders when maybe I, or other subscribers, want to receive product updates or a 30% coupon without having to jump through hoops. As a subscriber, I just want to see the promises upheld at the point of collection in regards to relevancy and frequency. Marketers can take queues from the data on how to continue the relationship as well. If they see that certain subscribers aren’t as engaged anymore, try a win-back campaign, or apply your rules on aging out data, or one could just do a quick and dirty re-permission campaign. I think marketers could use more assistance on the lifecycle of the subscriber than just being told to move to a COI model. As all of us know in the space, it’s challenging and there’s no silver bullet.

  3. laura says

    I agree that for some marketers and some situations there is no real need or benefit to using DOI/COI. I also know there are some situations where if the sender does not use DOI/COI they will be sending quite a bit of spam. Overall, though, I think that senders who claim it is impossible to grow a list using DOI/COI are just trying to cover up their own incompetence at marketing.
    And, yes, for way too long marketers have focused on finding new addresses not keeping the subscribers they have happy. But this is a common problem and not just online.


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