The double opt in debate–the only question that matters

By Jessica Albon

Apparently, double opt in versus single opt in* is making the rounds again because I’ve been getting a lot of emails about it. If you, too, have been wondering whether single opt in or double opt in is better, there’s only one question you need to answer:

Are you looking for readers who take the time to read and follow directions or for people who can’t be bothered?

If you’re building a list in which you plan to have strong relationships with your readers, your answer is easy. If you’re All About The Numbers and just want a big list in a hurry, then, sure, single opt in will do you just fine.

If you do it right, you can easily get 90% of potential subscribers to take the extra step. The 10% you’ll lose, in my opinion, probably wouldn’t have been the best subscribers anyway.

But, don’t just take my word for it. I recently reconfirmed a client’s list. They had 10,000+ subscribers and I warned them to expect to come through the process with a list of no more than 5000. Turned out, I was wrong–they came through with a list of 2000. Yipes!

We spent about a month on intensive list growth, this time with a double opt in policy firmly in place. Because I’d written the messages, I knew they would work (and this part is really key–you’ve got to write killer copy for each and every step [and there are more steps than you’d expect] if you want high double opt in rates).

We went through my complete 8 Keys to Utterly Unsexy List Growth program, one step at a time… And a month later, their list was above 10,000 again. That’s not particularly impressive–it’s always pretty easy to get back to a set number of subscribers–but what was impressive was that their profit per subscriber tripled. Cool, right? And, fortunately, well worth their winding up with fewer than half as many subscribers as I’d predicted they would.

But, the dollars aren’t really why I always strongly recommend double opt in. The reason I recommend it is that it gives you a bunch of extra opportunities to set the tone and ensure the people joining your list are going to be great subscribers. Plus, done right, the process is a heck of a lot of fun for both you *and* your new readers.

Really, the question isn’t whether double opt in or single opt in is better. Rather, it’s “how can we set up our double opt in process to welcome as many new readers as possible?”

Answer that question and your list will not grow like crazy, it’ll build you strong reader relationships. (It also cuts way down on complaints, by the way.)

* Double opt in = making people do something *else* to get on your list (click a link, reply to an email, etc) after they’ve entered their email address on your site. Single opt in = letting them on the list immediately after they enter their email address. Confirmed opt in = sending them a welcome message after they’ve entered their email address. Clear as mud?