Why Fully Confirmed Opt-In Sucks
By Ken Magill
Let’s get one thing out of the way: I employ fully confirmed opt-in in my email subscription process only because I have to.
Over the years I’ve irritated a lot of people—the right people as far as I’m concerned. And a bunch of them would jump at the chance to pollute my list by feeding it garbage addresses and/or forge subscribing people to this newsletter who don’t want it.
As a result, in building my email list I employ fully confirmed opt-in where would-be subscribers must respond to a confirmation email to get added to my email file. This way, only deliverable addresses possessed by people who want The Magill Report get added.
But let me state in no uncertain terms fully confirmed opt-in sucks. I hate it. If I could abandon it, I would.
My subscriber file is just about to cross 1,300. I know that sounds small, but consider some other numbers. At every trade publication I have ever worked, a home-run article was 800 to 1,000 page views. A grand slam was 1,500.
I don’t care what they say about the size of their subscriber files. I have seen the numbers myself, and I have seen them at multiple marketing trade publications over a 15-year period.
Also, I regularly get 800 to 1,000 page views per article on The Magill Report even though my subscriber file is probably a tenth the size of theirs.
It’s also not unheard of for a Magill Report article to draw more page views than it has newsletter subscribers.
For example, a recent Spamhaus Q&A drew 3,374 page views in March and has drawn 413 so far in April.
More typical, though, is last week’s lead which drew 1,517 page views.
But here’s the number that’s got me so ticked off today. I just got a new subscriber. Its ID number is 2956.
Know what that ID number refers to? It’s the number of email addresses that have been entered into my system.
That number says I have 56 percent fewer subscribers than the number of addresses that have been entered into my system—presumably a rough approximation of the number of people who have attempted to subscribe.
Now I realize that’s not an exact drop-off percentage caused solely by fully confirmed opt-in’s barriers to list growth.
There could be all kinds of explanations for some of the non-confirms other than that would-be subscribers who truly wanted to get The Magill Report didn’t see the confirmation message in their inboxes, had second thoughts, or the confirmation message ended up in their spam folders.
I understand that as I remove bounces and unsubscribes—of which I get very few—my subscriber file will shrink in relation to that 2,956 number. Also, some of that 56 percent may be forged subscriptions of email addresses of people who didn’t confirm because they don’t want The Magill Report.
I am reasonably certain, however, that that number does not include typoed addresses that were undeliverable. I get bounce messages on those. They don’t get a subscriber ID.
So I’ll never know exactly what portion of that 56 percent is the true drop-off rate of real subscribers solely due to my use of fully confirmed opt-in.
But that 56 percent figure says it’s pretty friggin’ big. And that 56 percent figure says fully confirmed opt-in sucks.
Unless you have a clear-and-compelling reason to implement fully confirmed opt-in, my advice is not to.
Why? Because it sucks. There are other ways to keep your file clean.
[Author’s note: This column was inspired by a blog post by Word to the Wise principal and email deliverability specialist Laura Atkins. She takes a more nuanced view on fully confirmed opt-in. Read her post here. Andrew Kordek, chief strategist and co-founder of Trendline Interactive also posted on the issue here.]