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How to Choose: Single Opt-In or Double Opt-in Email Lists

August 7, 2009

Many successful internet business owners state that their most important asset is their "list". That is, their list of customer addresses or the email addresses of their newsletter subscribers is what accounts for a great deal of their profitability.

As a result, there is a wealth of information on how to build this golden list. The two primary ways to build a permission-based list are:

* Single opt-in: only requires someone to send a subscription request before he or she is added to the list. Supporters of this method often believe that it’s the quickest way to build a large list. A large list is sometimes thought of as the easiest way to bigger profits.

* Double opt-in: requires two requests before the person is added to the list — the initial subscription request, plus a confirmation of the request. Double opt-in supporters often believe that this is the best way to a ‘quality’ list and avoid potential problems.

There has been a great deal of debate over which method is more beneficial. Here’s a quick run-down of some of the pros and cons to using double opt-in:


Disadvantages:

* You may lose a certain number of subscribers. Some people can’t be bothered to confirm their requests, while others who genuinely want to receive your newsletter may not understand the confirmation process.

* You can pick up subscribers that never intended to subscribe. For instance, let’s say you use a double opt-in process which asks users to confirm their subscriptions by replying to the message. Some people may reply with "no thanks" or something similar in nature — but because they replied, they’re automatically added to the list.

Advantages:

* It reduces the probability of spam complaints. While it does not eliminate them completely, many list managers these days can keep track of date/time of the request, IP address, and referring URL so that you have evidence that the subscriber opted-in. Related to this, you won’t get people subscribing their friends to the list without their knowledge. The confirmation process will help to ensure that people are only subscribed with their consent.

* Cleaner list — people have to use their real email addresses in order to confirm their subscriptions. This also eliminates misspelled addresses or those with typos. This can attract outside advertisers who want to be sure of the "quality" of your list.

* Potentially more responsive subscribers. Those who are genuinely interested enough to confirm their subscriptions may also be more inclined to respond to your newsletter, whether that’s by purchasing one of your products or by simply participating in surveys or events you promote.As mentioned previously, one of the primary concerns with using double opt-in is the potential loss of subscribers.

It -does- make a difference what software you use to manage your list. One with confusing or complicated confirmation instructions are far more likely to cause headaches for both you and the prospective subscriber.

One of the simplest confirmation processes is that which offers a "one-click confirmation" — that is, the person simply clicks on a link within the email message to confirm. There are several list management programs that offer this type of confirmation; the one I use is

http://onlinebusinessbasics.com/listhost.html

Many factors are involved when it comes to determining which opt-in method is "better" for your business. For instance, if your audience is primarily "non-technical" people who would generally not understand how to confirm a subscription request, then single opt-in may be better.

On the other hand, let’s say you’re getting subscribers from other sources (such as co-opt registrations with other sites) — in this case, it may be "safer" to use double opt-in.

Single vs. double opt-in is an individual choice for each business. Consider your own situation to determine which is the better choice for you.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Angela is the editor of Online Business Basics, a practical guide to marketing a business on a beginner’s budget. This guide offers loads of instantly useable tips and links, in a down-to-earth style that even marketing "newbies" can understand! A helpful Online Business Dictionary is included too… visit: http://onlinebusinessbasics.com/article.html

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