Make Mine a Single

My friend Brian forwarded me an article espousing the benefits of “double opt-in” versus “single opt-in” for people signing up for e-mail newsletters. Single opt-in requires them to sign up. Double opt-in adds an extra step. Your subscriber must sign up. Then she must click a link in an e-mail you send her before you send her what she requested.

The article suggested that double opt-in is a better method because it cuts back on the people who “forget” they signed up for your e-letter… and then report you as spam. I think the article missed the point. Spam is about perception. Period. For one thing, only a miniscule fraction of people signing up to receive e-mail ever complain of “spam.” For another, people who double opt-in still complain of spam if you look like spam. There is a small advantage with Internet service providers if your e-list is wholly double opt-in. But in my experience, the negatives of double opt-in outweigh the advantages in the long term.

In my tests with different lists – some with hundreds of subscribers, others with hundreds of thousands of subscribers – and sign-up methods over the years, doing double opt-in suppresses overall sign-up response. You end up with fewer names on your e-list. In some cases, I’ve seen double opt-in suppress response by as much as 34 percent.

You see, most people don’t expect to confirm that they’ve already signed up for something. Let’s say you have a double opt-in for your e-newsletter. One hundred people sign up on your website. And you send all of them your double opt-in e-mail, which they must click on in order to get your e-newsletter. Twenty to 34 of the people who signed up for your e-newsletter won’t click on the additional confirmation link. Bam! You’re out those subscribers. See why I’m such a big fan of the single opt-in?

If you’re still not convinced, test the middle ground. Start half of your new subscribers immediately, and place a small note at the top of each e-mail asking them to confirm their subscription. Leave the link there until they confirm their subscription, and then remove the “conditional” link. This gives you the benefit of double opt-in without losing people along the way simply because they failed to confirm a link at the start.

[Ed. Note: David Cross is Senior Internet Consultant to Agora Inc. in Baltimore. You can profit from all the benefits of starting an online business with ETR’s Magic Button program. Get the details here.]