What Is the Definition of Double Opt-In?

Newsletter subscribers and email marketers, take note

Two check marks, one in yellow and one in black

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Opting in to something means informing a company explicitly that you want to take a particular action. Double opt-in means you do it twice.

How Double Opt-in Works

The way double opt-in works in email marketing is that you tell a company you want to subscribe to their newsletter, typically by filling out a form on their website (this is the first opt-in). Then, they send you an email to confirm the address you provided is valid. If you still want to subscribe when you receive the email, you click a link in the message (this is the second opt-in). After the second opt-in, the email address you provided is added to the newsletter distribution list.

Advantages for Subscribers

The combination of the initial action (signing up for the newsletter) and the confirmation (clicking the emailed link) eliminates the chance of abuse, as when someone submits your email address without your knowledge.

Also, email address typos are caught. If you type the wrong address, you don't get a confirmation email (instead, it's sent to the address you accidentally typed). If you don't get a confirmation email, you can subscribe again.

Advantages for Email Marketers

Only people who truly want to be on a newsletter list end up on it, so marketers can be sure they're targeting those who really want to hear their message. As a result, conversion rates are higher and unsubscribe rates are lower.

Additionally, the double opt-in process guards against accusations of spamming because, if they get reported to a DNS blacklist, they have proof of initial sign-up as well as an email confirmation from every subscriber. For this reason, email marketers keep records of the whole process, including timestamps and IP addresses.

Disadvantages for Subscribers and Marketers

For subscribers, the chief disadvantage is the time it takes to follow through on the confirmation email. In addition to the initial sign-up process, you have to open an email message and click the confirmation link.

The downside for email marketers is that, due to technical issues, the confirmation email may never show up, or it may end up in the would-be subscriber's spam folder. In either case, the potential subscriber doesn't end up on the distribution list.

Even if the confirmation message does show up, some people don't follow through on it. The challenge for email marketers is to make the list and the process engaging enough for would-be subscribers to follow through with their subscription request.