Reducing Unconfirmed Subscribers: 13 Tactics to Stop Losing Leads

If you have a double opt-in mailing list, you definitely have subscribers who didn't complete the confirmation step, and never made it to your mailing list. How many? LOTS.

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How many unconfirmed email addresses are on my list?

Exact rates vary, but most likely somewhere between 25% to 70% of your leads never confirm their email address.

See what MailChimp themselves say about double opt-in rates on their platform:

Mailchimp screenshot showing double opt-in rates of 39%.

Yes, some of them may be spammers or typos. But the vast majority are people who wanted to receive your emails, and could have been legitimate leads for future business down the line.

Depending on your email marketing service provider, you may or may not be able to determine this number. ConvertKit and MailerLite show unconfirmed email addresses in their dashboards, although you have to know where to look for them, and they don't make it easy to determine what the actual confirmation rate is.

Many other providers don't make this information visible at all, although you may be able to pull the information out through their API or a tool like Subscribe Sense.

Why Do I Have Unconfirmed Subscribers?

There are many reasons that people may not confirm their email address during your double opt-in, but most can be attributed to one of the following:

  1. The signup is actually a spambot or similar malicious signup
  2. The email address was incorrectly typed
  3. The subscriber changed their mind
  4. The subscriber didn't realize they had to confirm
  5. The subscriber got distracted and never looked for the confirmation email
  6. The subscriber never found the confirmation email

While you might be inclined to write those unconfirmed subscribers off as falling prey to issues 1 through 3, the vast majority don't confirm because of the other reasons in the list: they didn't know they had to, got distracted, or couldn't find your confirmation email.

How To Reduce Unconfirmed Subscribers

1. Make sure people know they need to confirm

This seems like a no-brainer, but go in and run a test and see what happens after you enter your email address in your subscribe form. If you see some default text from your marketing email provider that just say "thanks for signing up!", then that's a huge issue!

Make absolutely sure the text leads see right after submitting their email address explicitly directs them to go find your confirmation email in their inbox, and lets them know that their confirmation isn't complete until they do. Headlines like "One more thing..." or "Almost there..." are good starting points.

2. Remove distractions

If you actually want people to complete that confirmation step, don't just pop-up a banner that says "check your inbox" while leaving the rest of your website there to distract them. After sign-up, redirect them to a dedicated page who's only purpose is to get them to complete that confirmation. While some marketing email providers may allow you to use a page they host and customize it, all of them will allow you to redirect to your own page where you can make sure the focus remains on the task at hand.

3. Tell leads what to look for

Inboxes are messy; very few of us ever get to inbox-zero. If you want people to find your confirmation email, tell them exactly what to look for. For example:

Look for an email from with the subject line "Important: Confirm your subscription".

4. Send from a verified domain

A large number of the leads who don't complete their subscription will do so because your email was marked as spam. There are a lot of reasons this may happen, and the odds of it will depend on a lot of factors including your ESP and what email address they're sending the email from.

Some ESPs may tell you that you shouldn't send from a verified domain unless you're over a certain threshold of emails per month, but most agree that sending from a verified domain will increase your deliverability. Without one, your ESP will have their domain in the return-path, but your domain in the from field; this is the same technique that is used in spoofing and phishing emails, so many mail providers are rightfully wary of it and treat emails like these suspiciously.

Truthfully, sending from a verified domain is the only way for you to have ultimate control over the deliverability of your email, regardless of who your ESP is, so it's a good practice to start sending from a verified domain at the very beginning, and build a reputation that helps your deliverability as you send out great, engaging emails.

Check your ESP for instructions on how to verify/authenticate your email domain. It will usually involve adding an entries to your DNS records, which are usually hosted where you purchased your domain. Don't be too scared if you're non-technical, most ESPs have good guides that will walk you through this or even if they don't, you can find guides elsewhere and use them, just use the values given by your ESP for the added records.

5. Tell leads to check their spam folder

Regardless of whether the email comes from your or your ESP's sending domain, it may still get marked as spam. Remind subscribers on the "Almost There" page to check their spam folder, and remind them to mark you as "not spam" so that future emails will end up in the inbox where they belong.

6. Create an "open loop"

People like resolution. Find a way to motivate people to finish the opt-in in order to get a sense of completion. A common way to do this is to promise them a bonus (e-book, case study, etc) for signing up, but only sending it to them once their confirmation is complete, or only giving them access on the page they are redirected to after confirming.

You can also be more creative here. Give the first line of a joke or riddle on the "Almost There" page, and only give the punchline or answer on the page they're redirected to after clicking that "Confirm" button in the email!

7. Send a reminder, if possible

If you have access to the list of people who haven't confirmed their subscription, a personal reminder to those who didn't complete is incredibly effective. If sent from you personally, it has a much higher rate of being received than the automated email sent by your ESP. You probably won't be able to send them the link they need to use to confirm, so just ask them to find the previous email (again, by telling them exactly what to look for) and complete the subscription.

Once your list growth is too large this is obviously no longer feasible, but when you're still small this is often possible to do manually. Unfortunately very few ESPs will allow you to do this directly, and many won't even expose which leads haven't yet confirmed. (But a tool like Subscribe Sense can help with finding what leads haven't confirmed!)

More technical ways to reduce subscribers. Everyone should be able to implement some or all of the above strategies with relative ease. If you have the programming chops and the time budget, here are a few other strategies you can implement to increase confirmation rates.

8. Provide sniper links to find your confirmation email

The large majority of people these days are using a webmail service, with more than 75% falling into the big three: Gmail, Yahoo or Outlook. By inspecting your lead's email address, you can provide them with a link that will open their email service in a new tab and include a search query to find your exact email.

You can even go so far as to look at MX records for custom domains to see if they are hosted by GSuite or Outlook and provide links for them as well!

9. Show leads which email address they signed up with

If possible, include the email address that the users entered into the form on the "Almost There" page you send them to. This allows them to recognize if they've made an error entering their email, so they can go back and try again.

10. Catch their attention

Once you have a dedicated page to tell users to get to their inbox and complete their subscription, there's still a chance they'll get distracted and forget once they tab away. With a bit of Javascript, you can cause the title and icon on the tab (called a "favicon") to flash, drawing their eye back to it and reminding them they have unfinished business there. Try swapping the title between "Confirm your subscription" and "Action required" every 2 seconds or so.

Once their subscription is confirmed, if you like you can send a message to the page and disable the flashing so you're not annoying them needlessly.

11. Update the page with the status of their subscription

Most ESPs provide an API you can query to see the status of a particular email, either via web hooks or polling, You can use this to see if an email address bounced, or if the confirmation completed. Use AJAX calls to close the "open loop" by updating the page when their confirmation is complete, or if you learn that the confirmation email bounced.

12. Show Popup Reminders on Your Site

If uses are just too likely to get pulled into the rest of your amazing content and not make their way to their inbox, you can use cookies or session variables to display a pop-up banner on your site to remind them that they still haven't completed it. You can stick a sniper link in there too, just to make it that much more convenient.

13. Find a Service That Does the Work For You

If all these seems overwhelming, or the more technical options sound cool but are beyond your skill or available time, you can always sign up for Subscribe Sense. Our solution implements most of the above techniques on your behalf, with very minimal setup. And our early access program right now is free!

Follow the Subscribe Sense journey.

Get updates as we add support for new Email Marketing Providers, and follow along as we improve the double opt-in experience for users and marketers everywhere.

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