Should I Use Double Opt-In?

Should I Use Double Opt-In?

If you’re wondering whether you should use double opt-in in your list building efforts, I’ll try and help you make a decision.

Double opt-in is a mechanism where after a new contact subscribes, they are sent an email to confirm their subscription. This ensures that no-one can be subscribed to a list without their knowledge.

In the simpler single opt-in, a visitor could enter another person’s email address and subscribe them without their permission.

There’s also a mechanism commonly known as single double opt-in. However, that’s basically just a single opt-in with a specific list cleaning strategy. I’m going to ignore that approach though and you should understand why shortly.

Do you have a choice?

If you’re using an email marketing service, the double opt-in decision is probably taken for you. Most of these services force double opt-in on their users.

If you’re running your own email marketing system, such as your own Mautic system, you do have a choice.

In fact, by default, Mautic uses the single opt-in mechanism. If you want to use double opt-in, you have to create your own campaign specifically for this purpose. In reality, a double opt-in campaign is a great exercise to learn how to use the campaign builder.

Assuming you have the choice, the question is “should you use double opt-in?”

There’s one important thing to consider with regards to this.

Which countries do you send to?

You may be aware that different territories have different laws regarding email marketing.

What you may not be aware of is that the laws apply to you based on where your subscribers are located, not where you’re located.

If you know everyone on your list is located in the USA, you can just ensure that you comply with the USA’s regulations. Chances are your subscribers are in multiple countries, so you may need to comply with different regulations.


The USA has some of the most relaxed rules in relation to email marketing. You can email anyone without prior consent. If they request to be removed from your list, then you must not email them again. You can read more about the CAN-SPAM act on the FTC’s site.


Canada is at the other end of the scale. You cannot send email marketing to anyone without their express consent. Having someone sign up through a form on your website is one form of express consent. That’s actually an example from the Canadian government’s site covering the Canada Anti Spam Legislation (CASL).

Bearing that in mind, a single opt-in mechanism might sound sufficient. However, list owners need to be able to prove express consent. As noted above, anyone could subscribe anyone’s email address to a list where single opt-in is used. Hence, in practice, Canada requires double opt-in mechanisms.


Prior to May 25, 2018, EU law also required subscribers to give express consent. At that time, apart from Germany where courts took a firmer line, a single opt-in was largely sufficient.

The introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation, however, brought it more in line with Canada’s legislation. Double opt-in mechanisms became essential. Also, note that existing subscribers were required to have confirmed their consent prior to the law change. If you want to read more, this official site on GDPR should help.


Australia is similar to EU law prior to the GDPR. Express consent is required, but single opt-in considered sufficient in most cases. That said, ACMA do advise that double opt-in is better and may help save list owners from prosecution if there’s any doubt over consent.

What does that mean?

In short, if you send emails to subscribers in multiple countries, you should probably use double opt-in. That will help to ensure that you’re most likely complying with the requirements in all cases.

What if you’re only sending to recipient’s in the USA or you’re not worried about the laws of countries other than your own? Should you use single opt-in then?

Speaking personally, I still believe that double opt-in is the best option.

If someone is unable to get through the double opt-in process, particularly at a time when they’re probably most interested in your offer, they rate as a pretty low value prospect. You’re better off concentrating on genuine prospects and not getting caught up in vanity numbers games.

A big list isn’t always a valuable list.

Also remember that with most email marketing systems, subscribers have a monetary cost to you by just being on your list. Furthermore, a lack of engagement on their part could also impact the deliverability of your emails on an ongoing basis.

The simple fact is that double opt-in will help ensure you have a better quality list with greater value in it.

I’m Ian Pullen and when not working as a dog and cat butler, I’m a designer/developer and writer who works on projects for solopreneurs, SMBs and multi-nationals like Unilever and Lenovo.
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© Ian Pullen - Shoestring Hustle 2018