The Double Opt-In and What It Means for Your Brand’s Email Marketing

Melanie Balke
June 13, 2023

It’s hard to create good email marketing, and it’s even harder to find the right audience!

These days, it may seem like you’re drowning in fake email addresses. You may find yourself doubting your abilities.

Are those low open rates my fault? Am I doing something wrong?

While it’s always worth the investigative effort to do a bit of business introspection, the answer isn’t always you; in fact, it may be your subscribers!

That’s right! You may be inadvertently emailing the wrong people.

Fortunately, there’s a way to avoid this costly conundrum, and it’s known as the double opt-in.

What Is the Double Opt-In Process?

A grassy field. "The Basics: What Is a Double Opt-In?"

Double opt-in is one of the many ways to verify your user’s information.

In a double opt-in system, a user fills out a sign-up form as usual. However, this does not automatically enroll them into the final system. Instead, they receive what is known as a “confirmation email,” which contains a confirmation link that properly subscribes the user to a brand’s email marketing.

How Does Double Opt-In Work?

An 1862 battle plan map, courtesy of the National Archives. Overlaid text reads, "How It Works: Double opt-in is an extra layer of security for your email list."


Let’s break it down into bite-sized pieces.

Double opt-in is a four-step process, and it works like this:

  1. A user fills out a subscription form
  2. The user receives and clicks on a confirmation link
  3. The user is subscribed to the brand’s email marketing
  4. The user is (ideally) redirected to a dedicated confirmation page

Note that the final step is fairly flexible.

Some brands choose to redirect users to a generic page with a stock confirmation message. This is a low-cost option that works well for most situations. However, larger businesses implement more complex flows that may include personalized sections. A business may also choose to double up on confirmation and send a second email to confirm that the user has successfully subscribed.

Double Opt-In vs. Single Opt-In

Receipt dated March 3, 1952. Overlaid text reads, "Single Opt-In: Also known as double opt-in's more popular twin."

Comparatively, many brands use a method known as single opt-in.

This setup is not wrong; it’s just another way of doing things!

A single opt-in process is simpler, requiring only two steps to complete:

  1. A user completes the signup process
  2. The user is immediately added to the relevant email list

Obviously, this process is easier for consumers. It also has fewer potential points of failure, making it a reliable way to maintain a basic subscriber list.

The Benefits of a Double Opt-In Approach

Embers. "The Perks: Why Double Opt-In Is Great."

So, why would someone choose to enable double opt-in vs. single opt-in?

What makes double opt-ins a viable option in a world of convenience and speed?

As with any marketing strategy, the final decision shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction. Marketers must carefully consider every factor. Double opt-in emails may work great for your competition, but that doesn’t mean they’ll work as well for you.

Nonetheless, this email marketing strategy has plenty of perks to consider.

Gather Higher Quality Leads

Postcard dated April 1951. Overlaid text reads, "Leads: That extra step may improve your overall lead quality!"

First and foremost, a signup process with double opt-in tends to garner high-quality leads.

On one hand, an additional verification step adds a bit of resistance to the process. However, that same resistance ensures that your audience is highly motivated to engage with your content.

The confirmation process also serves to protect your brand by filtering out mistyped or improper email addresses.

Boost Your Sender Reputation and Improve Email Deliverability

1986 cartoon about organization and reputation. Overlaid text reads, "Reputation: Avoid spam traps and improve your sender score."

This built-in filtering prevents annoyances for both a brand and its customers.

Your company no longer worries about double-checking every subscriber, and the consumer knows they’ll receive the content they crave.

But there’s more to verification than convenience!

Double opt-in also gives brands a layer of protection against reputation loss.

Filtering out invalid addresses reduces a brand’s risk of encountering spam traps — dedicated email addresses built to catch and report unscrupulous email scammers. As a result, it’s easier for a brand to maintain a high sender reputation and avoid blacklists.

While I can’t guarantee that you’ll see stronger relationships with a double opt-in signup process, there’s evidence that suggests this may be true. After all, you’ll also see a reduction in hard bounces and unsubscribes!

Reduce Your Marketing Costs With Double Opt-In

Assorted paper currency. "Cost: Focus on high-quality leads and reduce your total email budget."

Filtering also prevents unnecessary list entries.

Think about it for a minute…

In a single opt-in system, anyone can complete a signup form. That includes people who may not want to be subscribers, people signing up for someone else (for whatever reason), and users who don’t plan on doing anything more than snagging that signup bonus. None of these consumers are truly interested in your brand, and trying to convert them will cost more money than it’s worth.

However, by using double opt-in, you eliminate these outliers.

It may look bad on paper, but the results can be well worth the lower subscription rate.

After all, your double opt-in subscribers have proven themselves to be more engaged by default! So you’ll have an easier time building meaningful relationships and boosting that all-important conversion rate. It’s also worth noting that double opt-ins tend to pay off as long-term investments, as these interested consumers are likely to become highly vocal brand advocates.

Protect Yourself

October 17, 1931 signed verdict. Overlaid text reads, "Protection: Keeping proof of explicit opt-ins can help you legally."

Finally, a double opt-in gives you plenty of extra protection against spam complaints and legal matters.

The United States’ national CAN-SPAM Act does not mandate explicit verification to send emails. However, California’s CCPA does require active confirmation. The same is true in the European Union, governed by the GDPR.

Whichever way you slice it, a double opt-in email setup can save your behind!

Outside of court, proof of a properly implemented double opt-in process can be used to defend yourself against undue spam complaints.

The Drawbacks of Double Opt-In vs. Single Opt-In

Dense fog rolling down a dense forest hill. "The Cons: What to Watch Out For."

Those are a lot of perks, but don’t go using double opt-in before you read the rest of the post!

There are also some drawbacks to using a double opt-in system for your marketing emails. And, as with most things in business, you have to weigh the pros and cons before you commit.

Slower List Growth

Traffic cop directing passerby, dated May 1953. "Growth: Adding resistance may reduce your total sign-up rate."

Yes, your double opt-in setup will give you engaged subscribers, but you’ll probably be waiting for a while!

Even the best landing page and clearest disclaimers can’t overcome natural user behavior, and plenty of consumers will willfully (or, hopefully, accidentally) fail to complete the two-stage process.

This slow growth is one of the critical weaknesses of double opt-ins.

You can have the best sales funnel in the world, but it doesn’t matter if nobody completes your email opt-ins! You still need an audience.

Increased Maintenance

Exposed mechanical parts within a watch. "Maintenance: Double opt-ins may increase your email maintenance costs."

Now, there isn’t a huge difference in maintaining a single opt-in system.

Most platforms offer simple checkboxes to toggle your preferences. Once chosen, your software should handle your opt-in method for you.

Nonetheless, double opt-in does introduce another potential point of failure. Should your system suffer an issue with its verification system, you may be unable to add new subscribers.

Is that risk worth the effort?

I can’t tell you the answer, unfortunately. It’s up to you and your sales team to weigh the risks and rewards!

The Best Times to Use Double Opt-In Email Marketing

An EKG in a private detective's office. "Uses: When to Consider Double Opt-Ins."

Nonetheless, there are a few situations that may warrant double opt-in.

Your business may never experience these scenarios, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore them. Though some of these situations are dependent on a brand’s industry, others can strike at any time. As such, it pays to be on alert.

High Bounce Rates

A polished metal spring coil. "Bounces: Your brand suffers from high bounce rates and email errors."

One of the first signs that your company should implement a double opt-in signup form is your bounce rate.

More precisely, you’re looking to see if you have an abnormally high bounce rate. This number tells you that your users are having problems signing up for your email marketing, and a double opt-in system may help.

In addition to inappropriate or “spammy” subject lines, high bounce rates can be caused by input errors, such as:

  • A history of confusing landing pages
  • Email deliverability problems
  • Low email engagement
  • Mistyped email addresses (intentionally or otherwise!)
  • Spam complaints

Here, the extra step is worth the lower double opt-in rate. It increases the accuracy of your email list and eliminates most of your accidental subscribers. Moreover, requiring every potential subscriber to interact with your brand will lower your hard bounces and raise the quality of your leads.

Potential Errors

The 1912 census. Overlaid text reads, "Liability: You're collecting emails in an unconventional way."

What about if you’re collecting emails in a non-traditional setting?

Gathering emails through in-person connections and written forms is a handy way to cultivate a healthy email list, but it’s prone to failure. The handwriting on a form may be illegible or confusing, and spoken addresses can be easily misheard.

Some businesses alleviate these issues by creating unique welcome emails for these audiences, many of which follow the double opt-in format. In addition to the implicit single opt-in of physically providing you an email address, customers confirm their interest by accepting a follow-up email.

Here, double opt-ins are the clear winner! They keep your email list sparkling and ensure your interested audience receives your messages. For the best results, you’ll want to confirm emails as they are added! Inform customers about the incoming confirmation, and try to convince them to stick around until they’ve clicked that confirmation link!

Premium Content

Form for Dollar Ship Lines. "Gated Content: You're sending access to premium or exclusive content."

Finally, any gated content should have a double opt-in to protect it.

This ensures that the right subscribers are accessing your carefully curated content. After all, what’s the point of making exclusive content when anyone can access it?

Note that a lead magnet absolutely counts as premium content! Your subscribers want that information, and you want to deliver. Using a double opt-in guarantees that your business shares its content with the best of the best, and you may find some new contacts through that connection.

Tips and Tricks for Double Opt-In

Rusted metal shocks. "Tips & Tricks: Final Thoughts on Double Opt-In."

We’re already racking up that word count. I won’t keep you much longer!

After all, as a small business owner, I know how precious your time is.

Let’s keep it short and wrap up the lesson with a few tips. These points apply to any double opt-in system, but they’re also great ideas in general. Even single opt-in systems can apply these ideas, so don’t skip to the end yet!

Make Everything Crystal Clear

Ice. "Clarity Matters: Tell subscribers about your double opt-in at the beginning of the process."

Clarity is everything in email marketing.

Don’t leave your consumers guessing!

Tell them what to expect from the beginning. For example, if you’re implementing a new double opt-in process, change your signup form to reflect as much. Create a bold, eye-catching disclaimer, something like, “Hey! We want to make sure you get our emails. Please check your inbox for a confirmation message.”

Many businesses place these blurbs on the landing page and in the initial welcome emails.

Is that repetition necessary? The jury’s still debating that, but the general consensus is it’s better to annoy a few subscribers than to lose many.

Don’t forget to keep that disclaimer on brand, too!

Tell New Subscribers About Double Opt-In Immediately

Speaking of repetition…

Here I go again!

Single opt-in is recognized as the email marketing standard, so many consumers are surprised by double opt-in email forms. Don’t leave ‘em hanging! Tell everyone upfront about your double opt-in, and make it as bold and eye-catching as you can.

Otherwise, you’ll see a dramatic dip in your marketing email performance.

Oh! And ramp this tip up to eleven if you’re switching from an older single opt-in to a shiny double opt-in system.

Having Problems Using a Double Opt-In Email?

Overlapping leaves. "Opt for Help: Let the Pros Handle It."

Whether you’re struggling to use your new double opt-in system or debating its use in your email marketing, we can help!

Give me a call, and I’ll show you how a dedicated team of experts at The Email Marketers can help your brand thrive. We know what it takes to boost that coveted email engagement, and we can’t wait to wow you with our results.

Don’t forget to browse the rest of the blog while you wait! You’re sure to find plenty more tips, tricks, and guides to improve your email marketing.