Read Time: 5 min

Email marketing assumptions: I need to use double opt-in for all signups

One of the things we’ve been talking about lately at Litmus is revisiting our own assumptions about email marketing.

We’ve been in the game for longer than we’d collectively like to admit and, over the years, we’ve built up a world view of email marketing based on our experiences in the industry. Whether it’s how we approach writing a webinar invite email or the code we include in our email boilerplates, there are a whole bunch of assumptions we lean on daily to get our work done.

But assumptions get outdated, sometimes fast. And outdated assumptions can lead to simple misdirection or inefficiencies at best and downright harm to your email marketing efforts (not to mention your subscribers) at worst.

So, we’re revisiting some of our own email marketing assumptions to see if they still hold up. Starting with asking ourselves the question:

Do I need to use double opt-in for email signups?

Single vs. double opt-in

First, a quick recap. When someone enters their email address into your signup form, they’re opting into your email marketing program, hence the term opt-in.

If they’re automatically added to your list when they submit their email address, it’s considered single opt-in (SOI) since there’s nothing else for them to do to start receiving emails.

However, if you pause adding them to your list until they confirm they want to be added, that’s called double opt-in (DOI). This usually happens by sending them a link to click in a confirmation email.

We’ve posted extensively about single vs. double opt-in on the Litmus blog before, including this series from Chad S. White which brings both options to court. But, it’s good to go over the pros and cons of each method:

Generally speaking, single opt-in is geared toward faster and higher list growth but requires you to clean that list more thoroughly over time, while double opt-in creates smaller but cleaner lists.

The classic assumption

When we’re talking about our email marketing assumptions, the classic assumption around opt-in strategies is that it’s safer and smarter to always use double opt-in.

Some email service providers (ESPs) require senders to use double opt-in to keep their lists clean and servers reliable. And a lot of folks use double opt-in thinking that there are legal requirements to do so, especially with the onset of GDPR.

Where we stand today

First, it’s good to understand that there aren’t explicit requirements for double opt-in when it comes to email marketing consent under GDPR. It focuses on getting consent that is, “freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.” If your signup forms make clear what subscribers are signing up for and don’t use pre-checked consent boxes, you’re good to go with single opt-in.

Full disclosure: We’ve always gone a little bit against the grain and have used single opt-in for most, if not all, of our lists for a long time—despite any “best practice” assumptions in email marketing circles.

But our opt-in strategy has changed more recently.

So, do we still exclusively use single opt-in? Or have we gone over to the side of all double opt-in, all the time?

Well, we actually use a mix of the two as needed and recommend you do the same.

We’re marketers focused on growing our subscriber lists, leads, and customer base. As such, we still love using single opt-in where possible. But, we have seen an increase in bot signups and fake email addresses on some signup forms, like the ones for both our main newsletter and our Litmus Weekly digest email. We implemented double opt-in for those forms, but for everything else—like signups to access our extensive collection of resources for email marketers—we still use single opt-in.

Our email marketing manager, Jaina Mistry, explains it better:

There are a lot of bots out there looking for email signup pages, which usually have something like “subscribe” in the URL. We want to keep our lists clean and make sure messages get delivered to folks who want them, so we use DOI for those key landing pages.

But, when it comes to those individual content pages, she says:

We just haven’t seen abuse on those forms. The people visiting those pages want to sign up to get that knowledge and improve their skills. They’re busy and have better things to do than visit random pages to enter their email address—so we know they’re subscribing for real.

That’s not to say that things won’t change in the future. If those resource forms start seeing abuse, we may change tactics. But we err on the side of making it easier for people to subscribe whenever possible, and introduce as little friction as possible when it’s absolutely necessary.

Which method is right for you?

Like everything in email, our advice comes with one major caveat: It depends. Every audience is unique, as are the business and legal requirements teams face. Do your own research on the benefits and drawbacks of both methods, as well as any specific legislation that regulates your own industry, and decide on which approach works for you.

For us, it’s a nice balance of single and double opt-in, but that could be different for you. Assess your own needs and revisit your own assumptions to see what really makes sense for you and, more importantly, your subscribers.

Sign up for more insights

Want to revisit even more email marketing assumptions? Or learn the latest strategies for writing, designing, coding, and analyzing more successful email campaigns? Sign up for Litmus emails and get the latest on everything email—right in your own inbox.

Double opt-in to our emails →

Jason Rodriguez

Jason Rodriguez

Jason Rodriguez was the Community & Product Evangelist at Litmus