My column, "Are You Really, Really Sure?" on the use of double opt-in versus single opt-in to confirm e-mail recipients new to your list generated quite a bit of controversy.
Representing those in the trenches, the comment such as the following was typical:
Whatever side you fall on, one thing is clear: Single opt-in is by far the accepted standard by most e-mailers today. Both at the Direct Marketing Association's Email Experience Council conference, (where the vast majority of the audience agreed that single opt-in was the "best practice" during our keynote debate on the topic), and the real world data that my company collects each day, single opt-in is the most practiced method of list management.
Instead of debating the issue further, I thought it would be instructive to show some examples of double opt-in to illustrate best and worst practices -- and lessons learned -- when it comes to actually using a double opt-in form:
Be Careful When Using Graphics
Retailers such as Lowe's and Bealls use nicely designed graphic images in their double opt-in e-mails. Bealls goes further and offers two "10% off" coupons as thanks for clicking on the double opt-in link. But what if the recipient's e-mail browser has graphics turned off by default, something that occurs more frequently these days. Will the recipient see the double opt-in request? You must design and test your e-mail so that the call to action is clearly visible when graphics are turned off. Best practice would dictate using a program like Pivotal Veracity, which lets you see exactly how your e-mail will render in various e-mail browsers such as Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL. This is an absolute must for double opt-in e-mails that contain graphics. Don't stop there: you also must consider how your e-mail will appear on mobile devices because more people are using Blackberrys and iPhones to view their e-mail inboxes.
Ensure That the Double Opt-In Instructions Are Clear and Concise
Take a look at this double opt-in message from Sally Beauty Supply:
Try reading those instructions out loud. Then ask yourself: "Is this type of e-mail helping or hurting my chances of getting someone to sign up for my list?" If your instructions are overly complicated and confusing, people will just pass it by.
Make Sure You Tell E-Mail Recipients Who You Are
Check out this double opt-in e-mail:
Who is this double opt-in for? The sender's name is never mentioned. It's NYCTourist.com.
So how many people do you think double-opted in to that list?
Until next time.
Bill McCloskey is off today. Today's column originally ran on Feb. 26, 2009.
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Bill McCloskey is the founder and chief evangelist for Email Data Source, a competitive intelligence resource for e-mail marketers. He was named one of online advertising's 50 most influential people by "Media" magazine and one of the 100 people to know by "BtoB Magazine." He's been a recognized pioneer in interactive advertising for over 10 years.