Moving to double opt-in is a good idea, but you have to be careful how you implement it, otherwise you may end up inadvertently decimating your list!

Although the following instructions are specific to Constant Contact, the principle is applicable to other Email Service Providers that use a similar approach to handling single vs. double opt-in.

I recommend using what I call a “soft confirm” approach. Here’s how it works:

  1. Log in to your account.
  2. Turn on “Confirmed Opt-in” under the My Settings tab.
  3. Once this is set, start including a “Permission Reminder” at the top of your emails.

This will allow your subscribers to confirm their intention to receive your messages. The beauty of this approach is that you can still send emails to all of your subscribers, both confirmed and non-confirmed. Ideally, once your whole list is double opt-in, you will start enjoying a higher deliverability rate, because your account will be “upgraded” behind the scenes, and you emails will be delivered by top-tier servers which are ranked higher with major ISPs.

This way you will confirm your subscribers “softly”, over time, and switching to double opt-in will not cause you to lose any subscribers.

Alternatively – and I wouldn’t recommend you use this approach unless you’re 100% sure what the consequences might be – you could send your subscribers a “confirmation email”. This is a special kind of email, generated by Constant Contact. Once this email is sent you can’t send any more email to the same subscriber until s/he confirms. This can, potentially, be a very dangerous tactic. Let me explain.

Let’s say your open rate is an average 35%. This means, if your confirmation email gets opened by 35% of your subscribers, that’s the most you can expect to have confirm. In other words, if you start with a list of 1,000 subscribers, you may end up with a list thats only 1/3 the size of the original.

Most likely, some, if not most, of the other 650 subscribers would have been happy to continue to receive your emails, but they will be cut off. You wouldn’t want that to happen, now, would you?

There is one instance, however, when you’d want to send a confirmation email to a subset of your subscribers. If you’re doing your list maintenance on a regular basis, you will have a sub list of subscribers who never open your email messages. After a while – you decide if it’s going to be after 3 months of inactivity or 6 weeks or whatever – you may want to prune your list of these “dead” leads.

This is especially important with ESPs such as Constant Contact who charge you by the size of your list, or some others, such as Vertical Response, who charge you by each email sent. In any case, you may want to decide to get rid of the subscribers who are non-responsive, and one way of doing that is to create a sub-list containing those email addresses and sending them, and only them, a confirmation email.

In your confirmation email you can say something like: “You have been a subscriber to my ezine for a number of months. However, my records show that you have not opened a single message in the last 3 months. If you’re still interested in receiving then [call to action]”

Mind you, those open statistics your ESP is showing are not 100% accurate. They do not account for people who receive your emails in text format, because those cannot be tracked. Also, people who have image display turned off also won’t show up in your statistics, so bear that in mind when you go pruning!