The title of this article, “Not all double- or confirmed opt-in requires a confirmation email” may seen at first like an oxymoron. But it’s not. At its most basic, double or confirmed opt-in means that after someone requests to be put on your mailing list, you check with them and essentially ask “are you sure? Did you really mean to subscribe to this mailing list? Do I really have your permission to add your email address to my list?”
By doing this, you ensure that the only people who end up on your mailing lists are people who truly want to receive your messages. You also ensure that you don’t end up with spam traps on your mailing lists. And you end up with a very responsive list that provides you with great open and CTR rates and an awesome ROI. But those are other subjects for other days.
The best way to look at both what constitutes proper confirmation of the user’s permission to add them to your mailing list is to consider when you would most want to be able to prove that permission: when you are challenged by an ISP or blocklist to prove that the person who says you are spamming them actually did ask to be on your mailing list. When not being able to prove that permission may mean that your email is going to be blocked.
The typical confirmed- or double opt-in model looks like this:
You receive a user’s email address in some fashion (web form, email response, etc.) and you send them an email with a confirmation link. They either click on the confirmation link, or hit “reply” to the email, to get added to your mailing list.
But it doesn’t have to look like that. And in our SuretyMail program, we consider several other systems to provide proof of permission – to confirm that permission. (And we will happily demonstrate to an ISP that it constitutes permission, if need be.)
Perhaps the best (but not the only) example of this is when a user pays to receive an email newsletter. You wouldn’t believe how many times users will hit “this is spam” on something they not only requested, but paid for. We’ve seen email senders get blocked due to this sort of spam report, and the ISP say “well, where is their proof of confirmation? Where is the permission.” In more than one case, the sender did not use a typical confirmation link when the person signed up for the newsletter. But guess what? They had the user’s payments! And we consider that if someone starts paying for an email newsletter, that’s pretty good confirmation that they want that email.
Another example of proof of confirmation without an actual “confirmation” is when someone is signed up for a discussion mailing list, and they participate in the discussion. If you have sent ten or twenty responding emails to a mailing list, quoting text to which you are responding, it’s pretty hard then to say that you didn’t agree to be on the mailing list.
These are just a couple of examples of when “confirmation” of permission can take a form other than the traditional confirmation. This sort of “thinking outside the box” when it comes to confirmation can be particularly helpful with legacy mailing lists, which may have been built before the glut of spam necessitated the use of “confirmed opt-in” or “double opt-in”.