How To Deal With Subscribers Who Don’t Confirm Their Email Subscriptions

One of the drawbacks of double confirmation is that a decent number of people just don’t subscribe. And not all of them are invalid. Here’s a way to deal with it if you use an email provider which supports it. I call it “hybrid confirmation”.

When it comes to building your email list, one of those issues we all have to deal with is that of confirmation.

You know… the whole “click here to verify your email address” deal. Most legitimate email companies will simply not deliver your messages to the person until they’ve done that.

But, what happens when they DON’T click the link?

Is this just one of those annoying facts of online business that you just have to accept and deal with?

Well… yes and no. 🙂

In this post, I’ll explain how some people deal with it… then I’ll explain how I personally do it using Ontraport (formerly Office Autopilot).

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Double Opt-in Versus Single Opt-in

Many email marketers get around this problem by turning their email list to single opt-in.

First, if you’re not familiar with the terminology, double opt-in simply means the person has to essentially opt-in twice:

  1. Once to actually enter their email address into your form.
  2. The second time by clicking the link in the confirmation email.

Now, using this two-stage approach, there will ALWAYS be a percentage of folks who will not click the link. And if they don’t do it, then for all practical purposes they might as well of never subscribed in the first place. You have no way to reach them.

Why don’t they click the link? Well, it could be that the email address wasn’t valid in the first place, so the confirmation email got sent off into never-never land. It could also be that the confirmation email got caught in their filters.

Now, many email marketers have side-stepped the whole issue by going to single opt-in. This means there is no confirmation email sent. Once the email is entered in the opt-in form… that’s it. You’re subscribed.

Now, to be clear…. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. Some email host providers won’t even give you the option. Single opt-in lists are notoriously messy…. filled with dud email addresses and the like. So, it really does you no favors to operate that way and the stats clearly show that email marketing performance is FAR better with a list which uses double opt-in.

The Problem With Most Double Confirmation Setups

While I am a strong advocate for double confirmation, unfortunately most systems just don’t really help you maximize it. the problem is…

They only send one double confirmation email.

Basically, your potential subscriber is given one chance to click the link. If they don’t, well… that’s their problem. And yours. In my experience, many times this happens when the person WANTED to be on the list, but they simply could not find the confirmation email.

From there, you either lost the subscriber altogether… or they have to email you manually to get your help. And, I’m telling you, most people will never do that. The moment you make people jump through a difficult hoop… they’ll just walk away.

A Hybrid Confirmation Setup Using Ontraport

Over a year ago, I switched from Aweber to Ontraport here at the Blog Marketing Academy. And there’s no getting around the fact that a CRM system like this is FAR more flexible than a system like Aweber.

Case in point, I have set up a hybrid confirmation model. It mixes the best of single opt-in and double opt-in.

Actually, what it does is allows me to send them multiple chances to confirm their subscription.

Here’s how it works:

  1. A perform subscribes using a form which is set to “Double Confirmation Optional” inside of Ontraport. This means they are added immediately to my list.
  2. Even while being added to my list, they are still sent my standard double confirmation email.
  3. The new person is added automatically to a special sequence I have set up. I called it “Confirmation Sequence”.
  4. This confirmation sequence emails them my standard welcome email right away. This means that ALL people get that welcome email, even if they have not yet double confirmed.
  5. The confirmation sequence then, over the course of several days, sends them 3 different reminder emails to confirm their subscription. This means that each new subscriber will have a total of 4 chances to double confirm.
  6. If at any time that subscriber clicks a link in the welcome email, one of the 3 additional confirmation emails, or visits the confirmation page on my site, I have an active response sequence set up to automatically switch them to Double Confirmed and remove them from the Confirmation Sequence.
  7. If the person reaches the end of the confirmation sequence and still has not confirmed, then they are automatically unsubscribed and they will no longer hear from me.

So, essentially, it works like this…

When a person subscribes, they have 10 days to confirm their subscription. During those 10 days, they’ll receive a total of 4 emails asking them to confirm. They will also receive my usual weekly Academy update emails… with the thought being that those emails might remind them why they subscribed in the first place. 🙂 And, by day 10, they’re kicked off the list… because by that point they’ve demonstrated that they had no intention of ever being an actual subscriber.

Does This Hybrid Model Work?

Definitely seems to. Here’s the numbers….

Since I set this up, here are the stats on those 3 confirmation emails:

  • Email #1: 684 sends, 834 clicks (odd… I guess people refreshed it?)
  • Email #2: 111 sends, 82 clicks
  • Email #2: 64 sends, 31 clicks

What this tells me is that the hybrid is rescuing people who would otherwise not have heard from me. I’ll discount email #1 because of some stuff I was testing which sorta makes that number into a bit of an irrelevant. But, if we just look at emails 2 and 3, that means I rescued 113 subscribers during this timeframe that would otherwise have not double confirmed and therefore would have fallen through the cracks.

113 subscribers matters, if you ask me.

I’m sure that number would vary based on quantity of lead flow, the copy you use in the emails, etc. But, it does show the potential of giving people multiple chances to confirm.

I sorta wish companies like Aweber would give the option.

Clearly, there are benefits to using much more flexible email systems such as Ontraport. If your revenue is at a point where you can float the price tag of the system (which is pretty average for a system like it, but certainly more than something like Mailchimp or Aweber), then I would encourage you to look into it. You will make more money by using a non-linear marketing system such as Ontraport.


  1. I have a question about this step.

    If at any time that subscriber clicks a link in the welcome email, one of the 3 additional confirmation emails, or visits the confirmation page on my site, I have an active response sequence set up to automatically switch them to Double Confirmed and remove them from the Confirmation Sequence.

    How do you set it up in Ontrport to automatically switch chem to double confirmed? I couldn’t find the Action to update a contact from unconfirmed to double opt-in.

    1. Not sure. Not all email providers provide a way to do it like that. While I used to use Ontraport, it has been a few years now and I also get the impression they’ve made a ton of changes since I did. So, it is probably best to ask them about this. I think they also have a Facebook group you could ask in.

  2. I have been having this problem. Friends sign up for blog updates, but don’t click the second email. Meanwhile they write me that they signed up, so I think they do actually want to sign up. Is Ontraport something you can use with I am new to this.

  3. I’ll add one other piece of info: if possible, track your non-optin rate. Some newsletter providers give this option and some don’t. Here’s the thing. You might not get people following up with confirming because they changed there mind.

    Follow alone as this example will make more sense.

    1. John searches for “blue widgets”

    2. John following a search engine link to your web page on blue widgets. After a few moments of reading, your optin popbox appears, highlighting your teachings on widgets. John thinks, “this is a great site for blue widgets, I’ll sign up.” So he signs up and then goes back to reading your site.

    3. John discovers your web site is primarily about working with red widgets. In fact, he can’t find any other posts on blue widgets.

    4. When John sees your confirmation email, he deletes it because he discovered, after signing up, your site wasn’t really about blue widgets.

    There are a variety of reasons people don’t confirm a subscription. You might be over-selling your newsletters, you might even have a pop-up form that practically forces a user to fill it in just to read the content.

    Test, test, and test some more. If you have 100 daily subscribers but only 10 confirm, you only have 10 subscribers. By evaluating the content of your optin boxes and how they are presented, you can increase the number of subscribers who confirm.

  4. Great article. I have always wandered how to handle subscribers like this, now I know thanks a lot. I think I will repost this on my blog, with your permission of course?

  5. Hi David. I’m curious, what if a prospect is signing up for a one time digital download. Do they get instant access to it, even if they don’t confirm?

    1. That would be a choice. In my case, if they go through one of the opt-in forms which promises a download, then I send them through a slightly different funnel which requires double confirmation before I send it to them. But, that’s no requirement. And, who knows, maybe I’ll change it around some day. 🙂

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