Permission Email Marketing: Single vs. Double Opt-In

    February 19, 2004

The best and most profitable way you can use Email Marketing is to develop personal one-on-one relationships with your clients and prospects. These personal relationships are the key to the long-term success of your business.

Effective Email Marketing is based on two pillars: permission and respect for privacy.

In order to send customers or prospects a message, you must first get their permission (they must opt-in to your mailing list). At the same time, you must agree to never sell or share your list with anybody else.

Opt-in Email Marketing (also called Permission-Based Email Marketing) has proven to produce the best response rates compared to other marketing methods, such as direct traditional mail or banner advertisements.

Opt-In Email comes in two forms: “single” opt-in and “double” opt-in.

A “single” opt-in list is usually created by inviting members to join via a web form or by sending an email message to a “subscribe” email address. Once readers send the form or the email message, they are subscribed to the list.

A “double” opt-in list, also called a “confirmed” opt-in list, requires the subscriber to reply to a confirmation message to activate the subscription.

The advantage of the “single” opt-in method are that your list will grow faster. However, there are some pitfalls, like the fact that people may subscribe friends or family, who may not want to receive your messages and who could, in the worse case scenario, accuse you of spam.

The advantages of the “double” opt-in method is that you will have a higher quality list (since only interested readers will take the time to go through your confirmation process). “Double” opt-in lists also command higher advertising rates because they get far better responses from readers. Double confirmation also makes list administration easier, by keeping the email list clean with valid addresses of willing subscribers (clean lists are also delivered faster, because the server doesn’t spend time retrying bad addresses).

The main disadvantage of “double” opt-in lists is that many people may not understand your confirmation message or may not want to go through the extra step. Some Email Marketing companies consider the percentage of people who fail to confirm to be as high as 50%.

All things considered, we strongly recommend the “double” opt-in approach. It is not only the most ethical way to create a list, but the one that builds more valuable memberships. Also, with the current increase of anti-spam legislation, double confirmation may soon become the only safeguard against being blacklisted by anti-spam organizations.

Finally, a couple of suggestions on Opt-In Email Marketing etiquette:

  • Always include a short line of text at the beginning of the message reminding your readers that they are receiving your email because they subscribed to your mailing list. This is important because we receive so much email these days that we may easily forget that we have subscribed to any particular list.
  • Always include clear and easy-to-follow instructions to unsubscribe. You must not make your subscribers jump through hoops if they want to stop receiving your messages. You must either include an “unsubscribe link” (which most mailing list hosts will provide) or a “mailto link” where readers can send a blank message to unsubscribe.
  • Mario Sanchez publishes The Internet Digest ( ), an internet marketing content site packed with useful articles and resources, and SEO Tutorial ( where you can learn the basics of search engine optimization in four easy steps.