My last Email Insider column ("Email Industry Disagreements: Where Do You Stand?" ) touched off the start of some good debate over
single vs. double opt-in (also called confirmed opt-in) that went beyond the usual arguments (list size vs. list quality).
Some readers commented that while double opt-in (DOI) is the better choice, a sizable group of marketers choose single opt-in anyway, along with other practices, such as prechecked boxes and not removing inactives. Others suggested claims that double opt-in can boost deliverability could be overblown.
On top of that conversation, two incidents involving bogus opt-ins make it look as if a perfect storm is brewing, one that makes the case for double opt-in even stronger:
First, columnist Ken Magill exposed how easy it would be for political candidates such as Barack Obama and John McCain (neither of whom uses DOI) to add lots of unwanted email addresses by using single opt-in.
Although he used a genuine email address, his stunt illustrated how easy it is to forge someone else's information on opt-in forms. Read about it here and the mixed reaction it drew at Laura Atkins' "Word to the Wise" blog.
A potentially more damaging incident surfaced with SpamZa, an email revenge "service" that lets you sign up anyone's address, resulting in, presumably, a flood of daily email newsletters.
Most vulnerable to this scheme are high-profile, consumer-focused newsletters that don't use double opt-in to weed out malicious subscriptions, making them increasingly exposed to more unsubscribes, bad addresses and spam complaints.
Arguments Against Double Opt-in
The arguments I have heard against moving from single to double opt-in are these:
· DOI lists are smaller because confirmation emails get overlooked or lost in spam filters
· Deliverability improvements from DOI are negligible.
· Some marketers say the ROI is higher on a nonconfirmed list - presumably due to a larger list and fewer acquisition dollars being wasted.
· It reduces or eliminates bogus email addresses people use to sign up for white papers, downloads or other incentives.
· It eliminates the SpamZa effect, stopping people from hijacking your email list to sign up people they don't like.
· Most ISPs recommend DOI/COI.
· A key benefit is the confirmation record should you need to prove to an ISP or network administrator that an angry subscriber actually did opt in.
· Responsiveness will be higher overall, because only people who want to be on your list will confirm their requests.
· It minimizes future spam complaints and unsubscribes, as the confirmation process eliminates many of the subscribers who have buyers' remorse after hitting "submit."
· Optimizing your confirmation process will minimize the number of emails being trapped in spam filters.