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What exactly are unconfirmed subscribers? Why are you getting them? What can you do to stop getting them? I explain all in this step-by-step guide to getting unconfirmed subscribers to confirm.
So, you have put a whole lot of hard work into your email marketing. You’ve worked hard on your opt-in freebie, your sign-up forms and your welcome sequence… but then when you go into your email marketing dashboard, you notice the section called ‘unconfirmed subscribers’ and there are TONS of email addresses in there. So frustrating!
There are lots of reasons why you get unconfirmed subscribers, but the good news is most of them are really easy to fix.
In this guide to reducing unconfirmed email subscribers, I cover what exactly unconfirmed subscribers are, why you get them, what you can do to stop getting unconfirmed subscribers in the first place and what to do with your existing unconfirmed subscribers… plus why unconfirmed subscribers are not always a bad thing!
What are unconfirmed subscribers?
Put simply, unconfirmed subscribers are people who signed up for your email newsletter or opt-in freebie but did not click the ‘Confirm Your Email Address’ button in the double opt-in email you sent them.
A double opt-in email is an email that automatically gets sent out to anyone who enters their email address into a form or landing page, and which asks your new subscriber to confirm their email address. The double opt-in email contains a button or link which your new subscriber must click in order to confirm their subscription.
If they click the button to confirm their subscription, they become a CONFIRMED subscriber. If they don’t click that confirmation button, for whatever reason, they are an UNCONFIRMED subscriber and will remain that way until they do click the confirmation button.
Why do you get unconfirmed subscribers?
There are lots of reasons why you get unconfirmed subscribers, but the main ones are:
- Your new subscriber typed in the wrong email address
- The new subscriber changed their mind
- Your new subscriber forgot, and the email got lost in their inbox
- The new subscriber never received the double-opt in email
- Your double opt-in email looked weird or spammy
- You sent your email subscriber though too many hoops
- The new subscriber was a bot or a fake email address
Your new subscriber typed in the wrong email address
It happens to the best of us. People misspell their email addresses all the time, which means they will never receive your double opt-in email, because it will have gone to the non-existent email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org! Don’t worry though, because I have a couple of nifty tricks that will help significantly reduce these.
Your new subscriber changed their mind
Sometimes email subscribers sign up to an email list and then, when they get the double opt-in email, they change their mind and decide they didn’t want to sign up after all. You may think there’s nothing you can do about this one, but actually there are plenty of ways to stop this happening!
Your new subscriber forgot, and the email got lost in their inbox
Let’s face it, not everyone has read my guide to how to sort out your overflowing inbox for good and has a perfectly neat and tidy inbox! Sometimes people sign up for stuff, but then forget all about it and, by the time they check their emails later on, your double opt-in email has already been buried under a whole load of other emails! Again, it might seem like there’s nothing you can do about this one, but actually there’s plenty you can do to ensure you don’t get forgotten.
The new subscriber never received the double-opt in email
All too often, your double opt-in email lands in the spam folder or promotions tab… or doesn’t arrive at all! The fix for this is to improve your deliverability rate by improving your sender reputation.
READ MORE >>> 22 ways to improve your email deliverability
Your double opt-in email looked weird or spammy
I remember back to when I was a brand new blogger and I signed up to a bunch of other bloggers’ newsletters. I suddenly started getting all these double opt-in emails and they looked like spam. I was very unsure about whether or not to click the links.
We as bloggers are so used to double opt-in emails that we just sort of expect them as standard. But it’s worth remembering that many of our subscribers are not used to getting double opt-in emails and may take one look and assume they are spam. Happily, there’s a lot you can do to fix this one!
You sent your email subscriber though too many hoops
Most email service providers force you to send your email subscribers a double opt-in email first and then, only when your new subscriber has clicked the confirmation button, does your new subscriber receive the freebie they signed up for.
Having this additional step is an additional hoop for your subscriber to jump through. It’s important to know that any additional hoop adds additional friction in the system and will increase your number of unconfirmed subscribers. To avoid this, you ideally want to give your new subscribers as few hoops to jump through as possible. Fortunately, there is a very easy solution to this problem.
The new subscriber was a bot or a fake email address
Of course, not every sign up is a genuine one! In theory anyone can sign up to your email list with any email address. And that’s why the double opt-in email is there. It ensures you only get genuine subscribers who actually want to be on your list.
Will turning off double opt-in get rid of unconfirmed subscribers?
Given all the problems the double opt-in process causes, it seems like the simplest solution would be to just get rid of the double opt-in and use single opt-in instead. This is because, with single opt-in, as soon as your new subscriber enters their email address, they become a confirmed subscriber. This sounds great in theory, however, turning off double opt-in is actually a really bad solution.
Why? Well, for starters, you are no longer protected from bots signing up to your list, nor from people mistyping their email address. And it also doesn’t solve the problem of your emails landing in junk… the only difference in these scenarios is that, with single opt-in, you would now be PAYING for these fake subscribers and/or for real subscribers who never see your emails because they keep landing in the junk folder!
Worse still, if you have a lot of fake subscribers / subscribers who never see your emails, this will decrease your open and click rates and increase your bounce rate. Lower open and click rates, coupled together with higher bounce rates will negatively affect your deliverability… meaning EVEN FEWER of your emails land in your subscribers’ inboxes! And this, of course, makes the situation even worse, quickly becoming a vicious cycle.
And finally, double opt-in is required by law in some jurisdictions. While in other jurisdictions (most notably the EU), some form of proof that a subscriber did actually want to receive emails from you is required. Getting your subscribers to click on a double opt-in confirmation email is a great way to get that proof.
So, if turning off double opt-in is not the solution, what is?
How to stop getting unconfirmed subscribers?
There are fortunately several great ways to dramatically reduce the number of unconfirmed subscribers you get:
1. Create an irresistible opt-in offer
At first glance this may seem like an unusual solution. Why would having an irresistible opt-in offer help with reducing unconfirmed subscribers? But actually, this is one of the most effective strategies you can employ to prevent unconfirmed subscribers. Why? Because the more irresistible your opt-in offer is, the more likely a subscriber is to confirm.
If you are just offering ‘free updates’, that’s not very compelling… and easy to forget. If your subscriber signs up and then doesn’t hear from you, they are unlikely to start searching in their spam folder or scrolling through their messy inbox looking for your email. Nor will they be especially willing to jump through hoops… and they are more likely to be put off by your double opt-in email.
If, on the other hand, your opt-in freebie is something totally irresistible – something your new subscriber is desperate to get their hands on and is excited to start using, then they are much more likely to go searching for your email, much more likely to click on it when they find it and, though making new subscribers jump through hoops is never a good idea, they will be much more willing to jump through hoops to get their hands on that irresistible freebie.
And if they don’t get your email (perhaps because they mistyped their email address), or can’t find it in their inbox, they are much more likely to email you directly, asking you where their freebie is!
2. Make maximum use of your thank you page
A really good thank you page is your secret weapon when it comes to unconfirmed subscribers, so don’t waste this opportunity! You can use your thank you page to do a number of things that should significantly reduce the number of subscribers who don’t confirm.
First, make sure you actually have a thank you page and ensure all new subscribers get redirected there, once they have entered their email address and clicked ‘submit’. For example, in ConvertKit*, you can do this easily in the settings of any form. Simply go to SETTINGS >> GENERAL and select ‘redirect to an external page’, then paste in the URL of your thank you page.
The actual thank you page can simply be a page on your website. You can then use this page to reduce the number of unconfirmed subscribers by including 3 things:
First, tell your new, as yet unconfirmed, subscriber to go and check their inbox. That might sound obvious, but remember, ordinary subscribers may not realise how this works! So, you need to tell them what to expect and what to do. Also, encourage them to do it immediately. Getting them to check their inbox and click on the link in the email right away makes it much less likely they’ll forget / change their mind and much more likely that they’ll chase it up if it doesn’t arrive.
Second, tell your subscribers to check their junk/spam/promotions tab. Not everyone knows to do this. Get them proactively looking there! (And while you are at it, tell them to whitelist your email address, so that all your future emails go directly to their main inbox.)
Third, tell your subscribers what to do if they don’t get your email. Sometimes emails get lost in messy inboxes… sometimes emails just disappear into the ether… sometimes subscribers get confused by the double opt-in email… sometimes subscribers mistype their email address… or maybe you’ve made a mistake with the setup of your form? If you tell your new subscribers to email you if they don’t get the freebie, you can get to the bottom of these issues.
(Psst… Want to see an example? Sign up for this free training and you can see my thank you page in action 😉 )
3. Reduce friction
One of the biggest reasons for unconfirmed subscribers is because you created too many hoops for them to jump through. The more hoops you create, the more friction you cause. You want to make the confirmation process as smooth as possible for new subscribers.
One of the many reasons why I love ConvertKit is that they have a nifty feature that dramatically reduces the hoops and increases the confirmations. They have made it so that the double opt-in button and the freebie download button are one and the same thing.
This means that, instead of having to first click the double opt-in button, then wait for ANOTHER email, before they get their freebie, your new subscriber gets their freebie instantly and, when they click to download it, they are automatically confirmed.
Now, of course, it goes without saying that you must make it crystal clear in your email what will happen when they click the double opt-in button. But, so long as you do that, you should see a much higher confirmation rate.
4. Write a better confirmation email subject line
Another issue with the confirmation email is the subject line. So often the standard subject line is ‘Confirm your subscription’. This is not very compelling. Subscribers may find it confusing and a little off-putting, especially if they don’t realise they have to confirm their subscription before they can get your free thing!
Subscribers are much more likely to open your email, and go on to click the link, if it says something like ‘[ACTION REQUIRED] NAME OF FREEBIE’ or ‘Open up for your NAME OF FREEBIE’ or ‘Here’s your NAME OF FREEBIE’.
Unfortunately, not all email service providers will let you amend the subject line of your double opt-in email. But if yours does, definitely make sure you change it to something more compelling!
(And, on that subject, better email subject lines will improve you open rate generally. Head here for more on this >>> 10 easy ways to improve your email open and click rates)
5. Write a better confirmation email
Of course, don’t just stop at writing a better subject line! You can dramatically increase the percentage of unconfirmed subscribers who confirm their subscription by crafting a better confirmation email.
Now, obviously this works best if you have an email service provider like ConvertKit* that allows you to send a double opt-in email / download your freebie email combined as you can remind your new subscriber of the benefits of your irresistible freebie!
But, even if your email service provider doesn’t have this feature, you can still improve your confirmation rate by writing a better double opt-in mail. Make it crystal clear that they need to click the button to confirm their email address and then make it clear that, as soon as they do, you’ll send them their free thing.
And, of course, make sure you design your confirmation email to make it look as attractive and un-spammy as possible, so that it doesn’t put new subscribers off from confirming.
6. Improve your deliverability rate
One of the big reasons why new subscribers don’t confirm is because your double opt-in email goes straight to the spam folder / promotions tab and they never see it. Of course, you can mitigate this a little by having a thank you page that tells them to look in the spam folder / promotions tab. But an even better solution is to improve your deliverability overall so that your emails don’t land in spam in the first place.
There are lots of things that improve your deliverability rate. But the main ones are regularly cleaning your email list, improving your open and click rates, sending new subscribers a welcome sequence and encouraging your subscribers to reply to your emails.
By doing all these things, you will increase subscriber interaction, which sends positive signals to email clients (like Apple and Gmail) telling them that your emails are well received by your readers. This improves your sender reputation, which will result in more of your emails landing in inboxes rather than ending up in spam. The more you do this, the better it gets, and so it becomes a virtuous circle.
Another important factor is your email service provider. Unfortunately, not all email service providers were created equal and some take deliverability a lot more seriously than others. Make sure you pick an email service provider that takes deliverability seriously* and is constantly working to improve it.
What to do with existing unconfirmed subscribers?
Everything I’ve covered so far will help you to get more of your unconfirmed subscribers to confirm their subscription and become confirmed subscribers IN THE FUTURE. But what about all the unconfirmed subscribers you already have?
The honest answer is there is not much you can do about existing unconfirmed subscribers. Some email service providers will allow you to resend the double opt-in email, but in all honesty, you are unlikely to achieve much by doing this, especially if they originally signed up weeks or even months ago.
In fact, you are likely to do more harm than good, as resending your double opt-in email is likely to result in a large number of bounces and spam complaints – both of which hurt your sender reputation and, consequently, your deliverability rate.
I recommend you don’t waste your time worrying about old unconfirmed subscribers and instead use your time more productively by working on the recommendations in this blog post, so that you get a lot more confirmed subscribers in the future.
Why having unconfirmed subscribers is sometimes good
Finally, it’s worth pointing out that not all unconfirmed subscribers are a problem. Or rather, to put it another way, just because there are email addresses in your account marked as ‘unconfirmed’ doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong that needs fixing. Remember, some of the unconfirmed subscribers will be bots / fake addresses / misspelled addresses etc. You definitely don’t want these addresses to confirm and end up on your email list!
Additionally, if you put into action all my recommendations in this blog post, and someone STILL doesn’t confirm their subscription, they are probably not going to be a ‘good’ subscriber. What I mean by this is that, if someone signs up for your awesome freebie, gets sent to a really good thank you page and receives a well written double opt-in email and they STILL fail to click the link in that email, they are not the sort of subscriber that is likely to open, read and click the links in your regular emails – definitely NOT the kind of subscriber you want to be paying for to have on your list!
Over to you!
Did you find this post helpful? If so, which tips are you going to put into action? Or perhaps you have a nifty tip of your own that I didn’t mention? Either way, let me know in the comment section below!
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