List Building 101: The Difference between Single and Double Opt-in

The opt-in process you use for building an email list can make a big difference in your overall email marketing campaigns. This article provides an insight into the difference between the single and double opt-in processes for list building.

List Building 101: The Difference between Single and Double Opt-in

It can be confusing to decide whether to use single opt-in vs double opt-in for building your email list. Which is better for conversions? Which one can provide a better quality of leads? Making the right decision is important for the success of email marketing campaigns.

If you don't know the difference between the two, it can be easy to get caught up in a debate on whether a single or double opt-in is right for your business. We've written this article to explain the pros and cons of the single and Double Opt-in process so that you can decide which one is ideal for your brand.

Table of content

  1. Single Opt-Ins vs. Double Opt-Ins: What’s the Difference?
  2. Pros of single opt-ins
  3. Disadvantages of single opt-ins
  4. Single opt-ins best practices and examples
  5. Pros of double opt-ins
  6. Disadvantages of double opt-ins
  7. Double opt-ins best practices and examples
  8. Wrapping up: which one is better?

Single Opt-Ins vs. Double Opt-Ins: What’s the Difference?

The concept of single opt-ins vs double opt-ins has to do with whether subscribers have to confirm signing up for your email list or whether they are automatically signed up after they submit their email address. So, in this section, we explain the difference between single opt-in and double opt-in, including the pros and cons.

What is a single opt-in?

Single opt-in is a one-step process whereby people sign-up through a subscription form and are added to your email list without having to confirm their email address.  This means that they start to receive your emails immediately.

There are different reasons why some email marketers will prefer the single opt-in process. Let’s go through the pros and cons to get a better idea.

Pros of single opt-ins

  • Your email list grows fast: one thing about the single opt-in process is that subscribers land on your list immediately they sign up. You can send messages to new subscribers and connect with them quickly. In fact, GetResponse states, “Marketers generally see about 20-30 percent faster list growth when they use single opt-in.”
  • The process is a win-win situation: It is less annoying for subscribers since they don’t have to go through the back and forth sign-up process. On the other hand, you don’t have to deal with unconfirmed subscribers hibernating on your contact list.
  • More audience for promotional purposes: single opt-ins also means that you can deliver your promotional messages to a larger audience and get more leads rolling in.

Disadvantages of single opt-ins

  • It can negatively affect email deliverability: if subscribers change their minds about being on your email list they may mark your email as spam. This means that your subsequent emails will land in the spam folder.
  • You can end up with fake and spam email addresses: there's a chance that people who sign up for your lead magnet can type in a fake email address. This normally happens if they have no intention of becoming real subscribers.

Single opt-ins best practices and examples

In this section, we'll go through some single opt-in email examples to inspire you as you build your email list.

1.  Provide an incentive

Sometimes, you may need to provide an incentive such as a discount in exchange for an email address to get people to subscribe to your email list. Here's an example from Cultbeauty:

Cultbeauty: An example of an incentive such as a discount in exchange for an email address.(Source)

2. Give room to decline

A visitor may not be ready to accept your offer right away. Rather than forcing them to sign up, you can provide a simple opt-out option for them. Check out this single opt-in email example from Hudabeauty. It includes the opt-out option "no thanks" so visitors don't feel like they are being forced to subscribe.

Hudabeauty: An example of a single opt-in email, that includes a "no thanks" opt-out option.(Source)

3. Customize your opt-in form

You can use the opportunity to collect more information about your subscribers. If they are open to submitting their email address, then they won't mind providing more details like interests, demographics, and behavior. You can use the information to personalize future marketing emails. Here's an example of this process from the Joyous health:

The Joyous Health: An example of a customized opt-in form to get information for personalizing future marketing emails.

The second step collects additional information to create personalized content.

An example of additional information to create personalized content. (Source)

What is double opt-in?

Double Opt-in is a double-step process whereby people that sign up through a subscription form, then receive a link to confirm that they want to receive emails from you. When you enable double opt-in, if subscribers don't confirm, then they won't receive emails from you.

Pros of double opt-ins

  • More engaged list: since people have to confirm, then you know that they really want to join your email list. As a result, when you send emails, your subscribers will be more responsive to them. This will drive more open and click-through rates.
  • Fewer spam reports: people that subscribe to your email list are less likely to mark your email as spam. They already agreed to receive your emails, so they won’t see your messages as a disturbance. (Note: a confirmed subscriber may mark your email as spam if they feel your messages aren’t providing value to them).
  • Maintain a clean list: a double opt-in process helps you to maintain a clean list of accurate email addresses. There are fewer chances that your list would contain fake or spam email addresses since the subscriber would have confirmed to receive messages from you.
  • Improved deliverability: a more engaged email list also means more deliverability. Since there are fewer spam reports, there’s also an improved deliverability rate.

Disadvantages of double opt-ins

While double opt-ins may seem like a great strategy for building an email list, it also has its drawbacks. Here are some of them:

  • Longer sign-up process: the back and forth process of filling in an email address, receiving a link then confirming a subscription may be burdensome for some people. So, it is likely that most people will fail to complete the process. Some subscribers may forget to click the confirmation link.
  • Slower list growth: unlike single opt-ins that lead to a faster growth list, double opt-ins can make the process of building an email list seem longer. This is due to the fact that some subscribers never complete the total confirmation process.
  • Lost subscribers: the truth is that using a double opt-in process also means that you will lose subscribers in the process. For example, a case study in 2009 involving Cirque de Soleil whose email list required new subscribers to confirm via a confirmation message. The results revealed that only 80 percent of people confirmed, meaning that one out of every five potential subscribers never confirmed their subscription. This shows how this could adversely impact your email marketing over time.

Double opt-ins best practices and examples

Now that you have an idea of the double-opt-in process, let’s go through some examples of double opt-in emails so you can have an idea of how to optimize your list-building process.

1. Remind subscribers why a double opt-in is important

It's always a good practice to state the benefit of a double opt-in process when you send a confirmation email to new subscribers.

This will incentivize them to confirm their contact information without any hesitation. You can check out this double opt-in email example from Shopify. It reminds subscribers of the value that comes with email confirmation, which is extra security for their businesses.

Shopify: An example of a double opt-in email reminding subscribers of the value that comes with email confirmation. (source)

2. Stick to your brand style

Your double opt-in confirmation email doesn’t have to be plain and generic with a CTA button. You can spice things up by incorporating your brand personality in your emails and bringing your subscribers further to your brand style.

Discord shows an example of infusing brand personality in its confirmation emails by adding a fun fact at the end of the email. This can engage subscribers, keep them longer to click the confirmation link.

Discord: An example of infusing brand personality in a confirmation email by adding a fun fact. (source)

3. Leave more opportunities to connect with your business

A double opt-in email also provides the opportunity to invite subscribers to be a part of your social media community. You can go beyond a brief confirmation email and encourage subscribers to connect with your social platforms and learn more about your business offering.

Check out this double opt-in email example from Premium beat, it includes links to its social media pages. It's also good practice to include a link to customer service contact information for a subscriber that may have any questions.

Premium Beat: An example of a double opt-in email that includes links to its social media pages. (source)

Wrapping up: which one is better?

The double opt-in vs single opt-in process is a tricky one. There's no right or wrong option in this case. You need to choose what works for your brand and audience.

If you plan to grow your email list quickly then a single opt-in may be right for your list-building strategy. If your goal is to grow a list of high-quality subscribers then you should consider a double opt-in process.

As a creator or regular business owner, email lists help you interact with customers as often as you want. With Lists, you get to group specific customers manually and message them with interesting conversations as you work towards making them your fans.

At Engage, we created a video that explores creating Lists on Engage, adding subscribers through a form, and triggering an automation workflow with a List subscription. Looking to create subscription forms like waitlists that automatically start an automation workflow? Sign up on Engage for free.