Mailing List & Subscribers

Single Opt-in and Double Opt-in: Pros and Cons

Man looking at smartphone laptop screen open, in kitchen
Man looking at smartphone laptop screen open, in kitchen

Increasing the subscribers’ database is one of the primary email marketing objectives for many businesses. When you start growing your mailing list, you need to follow the rules and regulations on collecting, storing, and protecting email addresses. Which opt-in is best for your business? Which one to implement to be compliant? Let’s learn more about single opt-in and double opt-in: their pros and cons.

Permission-Based Opt-ins

When talking about permission-based opt-ins, these can be managed through a single opt-in or a double opt-in process. What are these different ways to subscribe?

  • Single opt-in: it’s basically one step opt-in. When an email address is submitted, it’s immediately considered as subscribed and, from that point, can receive marketing emails.
  • Double opt-in: it can be regarded as a two-step opt-in process. When an email address is submitted, the recipient receives an email where the opt-in must be confirmed. Only when the recipient confirms the subscription they can start receiving marketing emails.

Single Opt-in: Pros and Cons

Single opt-in sounds so much easier – if someone submits an email address, then they’re immediately subscribed. But is it right for your business? Let’s take a quick look at the pros of the single opt-in:

  • Easier to set up and maintain the subscription process.
  • Immediate lead generation: all your prospects will be immediately added to your mailing list.
  • Lead nurture journeys can begin without delay.
  • Generally, your mailing list will grow faster.
  • No subscribers will be lost in the “limbo” – wanting to subscribe but failing to confirm the subscription will prevent the potential subscribers from starting to get your emails.

If you’re thinking about adopting this method, you should understand what drawbacks this opt-in process can have. So, here are some of the single opt-in cons:

  • Data collected with a single opt-in could potentially be lower-quality. You will get incorrectly typed email addresses or fake/spam submissions entering your database.
  • Lower quality data being pulled into your campaigns means less accurate reporting and insights.
  • Potential negative impact on your deliverability long term. That is connected to the data quality – the more incorrect, fake or mistyped email addresses you try to send to, the more bounces you’re going to generate. And a high bounce rate is never good when trying to maintain the sender’s reputation and deliverability.
  • Some Email Service Providers can bill you for the number of contacts you’re trying to send to. Therefore, if you’re sending your email campaigns to an unclean list, you may still need to pay for all the generated bounces. So that’s money wasted.
  • Regulations: in some countries, a double opt-in is a requirement. Therefore, a single-opt in could potentially be a breach and cause legal/compliance issues.

Double Opt-in: Pros and Cons

Generally, the double opt-in subscription method has been recommended as an email marketing best practice. But is double opt-in a good fit for your business? Let’s see what the pros and cons of the double opt-in are.

Double opt-in pros:
  • Incorrect email addresses will not be added to your mailing list for the campaign deployment. The subscription needs to be confirmed. This means that all the invalid email addresses will not confirm the opt-in, so they will not be a part of your email list. Thus, you won’t be sending emails to mistyped or fake emails. Double opt-in will help you maintain a better quality database.
  • A healthier database means better results and more accurate insights.
  • Lead generation: leads generated through the double opt-in process typically are of higher quality.
  • Double opt-in subscribers are usually more engaged with the emails they sign up to receive. This means more opens/clicks and hopefully fewer people marking your emails as spam.
  • Fewer bounces and better engagement with the emails will help your deliverability long term.
  • Regulations in some countries require a double opt-in. Even if you’re operating in a country that doesn’t legally require it, it’s a much more welcomed and recommended subscription process.
Double opt-in cons:
  • It’s a longer sign-up process than a single-opt in. And, usually, the more steps there are, the less likely all of them will be completed. That said, double opt-in is becoming more widely accepted, and email recipients are getting used to getting/waiting for subscription confirmation emails.
  • The so-called “limbo”: when a contact forgets, doesn’t get the confirmation email, or even intentionally doesn’t confirm the subscription, the opt-in doesn’t get confirmed. As these subscribers haven’t fully confirmed the opt-in, they shouldn’t be receiving marketing emails.
  • Your mailing list can appear to grow slower than with the single-opt in. While that may be true, in this case, the focus should be on quality, not quantity.

Which One Wins?

As you can see, there are benefits and drawbacks for each of the opt-in processes. Single opt-in & double opt-in – which one to use?  It’s up to the businesses to decide which sign-up method fits their marketing strategy and keeps them compliant to applicable laws/regulations. 

While it isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, we recommend using a double opt-in sign-up process and focusing on getting better quality email addresses. And if you’re worried about the “unconfirmed” subscriptions, there are ways to encourage or help increase the confirmations. It could be done with the web-form success messages or with the help of well-planned incentives that subscribers get after confirming their email subscriptions.

In the end, it’s choosing between these two goals: quality or quantity. If you want quality and potentially slower list growth, consider double-opt in. If you aim for faster list growth and want to have a less complex subscription process, then a single opt-in could be the best fit for your business (as long as that’s compliant!). Carefully consider all the pros and cons, find what suits your business and your subscribers the most.