The Secret to Building a Double Opt-In Mechanism in Pardot

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In this content-rich era, there’s an increasing volume of comms we can subscribe to, rapidly, and with only one-click. The result? People just forget they signed up for your newsletter half-distracted. Wouldn’t it be better if they had to jump through two hoops to commit to being your subscriber?

Having a double opt-in mechanism in place is good practice because it ensures that people are granting you their ‘explicit consent’. Double opt-in is already law in some EU countries, such as Germany, and will be enforced more strongly with GDPR. 

You’re most likely familiar with how it works; you subscribe to a mailing on a webpage, receive an automated email with a ‘Confirm’ button, which then adds you to the mailing list.

I’ll tell you a quick story before we begin implementing. The first double opt-in mechanism I saw built out in Pardot scared me. It was a complex mix of automation rules, lists and a drip program thrown into the mix too! I was the lucky one that was tasked with the audit. From that day on, I believed that building was an astronomical feat for the experts.

Until I had a revelation, that in fact, everything can revolve around one thing.

A custom redirect.

I’m going to explain the implementation process how I understand it in my mind. By the end, you will have a double opt-in flow that’s easy to manage and adapt as required.

You will need to have prepared:

  • Public Lists for each of your mailing topics
  • Email Preference Centre
  • ‘Confirm your subscription’ email template
  • A ‘not confirmed’ list

…and, of course, the magic piece of the puzzle: a custom redirect.

So, to recap, you will need to have the following to hand:

  • The link to your Email Preference Centre, with the public lists inserted into it.
  • An email template with an editable CTA button on it.
  • An empty static list – call it eg: ‘double opt in_not confirmed’

Step 1: Subscription Box 

You will need a way of capturing people from your website, and a simple form like this works well. Less is more – less fields, more conversion.

Remember to be explicit they are agreeing to subscribe, and that they will have the chance to change their preferences at any point. This is a custom checkbox field.
Note: this statement should link to the full privacy policy which will state the processing intent, rights to data etc. (but isn’t shown in the below mock-up – oops).

There are two ways you can make this public on a Pardot landing page, or embedded on an iframe on the website (might need to rope in the web dev team on that one).


Step 2: Form Actions 

They fill in the form – now what? 

There needs to two completion actions set on the form in Pardot, Step 4 of the Form Wizard. It should look like this: 

  • Add to List — [list name, eg: ‘double opt in_not confirmed’]
  • Send autoresponder email — [email template name eg: subscription confirmation template]

Step 3: The Secret Weapon 

Now it’s time to create a custom redirect. Despite the fancy name, what they do is enable you to rewrite a link, make it trackable, and add completion actions.

This new link will sit behind the ‘Confirm Subscription’ button in the email.

Behind the scene, we will use the custom redirect link to add the prospect to all mailing lists (public lists) and remove from the ‘not confirmed’ list. A transition from ‘not confirmed’, to ‘confirmed’.

What you need to fill in:

  • Destination URL: the link to your Email Preference Centre
  • Vanity URL: something meaningful, eg. confirm-subscription
  • Completion Action: Remove from list — [list name, eg: ‘double opt in_not confirmed’]
  • Completion Action: Add to list — [list name, eg: ‘Preferencecentre_topic1’] NB: repeat for each public list.

Step 4: ‘Confirm Subscription’ Email  

The requirements for this autoresponder email are simple.
But doesn’t mean it has to be boring.

Here an example – note where I’ve input the custom redirect link. It needs to be pasted into the HTML of the call to action button – get help if you’re not sure how to do this.

If you have a multi-lingual audience, use dynamic content to prevent it getting convoluted.

Step 5: Manage Preferences

When the recipient clicks on the subscription link, they will land on the Email Subscription Centre.

Here, you will have the chance to tell them all about how wonderful your mailing lists are using Public List labels – because these are the public facing name.

Step 6: Sending your first email. 

You will need to cross reference your lists from now on – sorry.

Say you have your distribution list loaded and ready to go. How do you know these people have agreed to receive this communication?

Now, you need to live by dynamic lists. You can set the list rules to say that the prospect must be on

a) The distribution list, and
b) The public list for that mailing topic

Initially, you may feel disheartened by the reduced number of mailable prospects, but in the long run, you’ll see how quality trumps quantity.


Having a double opt-in mechanism in place is good practice because it requires prospects to jump through two ‘hoops’ to become a subscriber to your email marketing. If people sign-up half-distracted, they are more likely to unsubscribe, or worse, submit a spam complaint. You want to avoid the latter at all costs.

Now that I’ve shown you how to implement the double opt-in mechanism, you are one step closer to becoming GDPR compliant*.

*NB: although double opt-in isn’t a requirement of GDPR, having it in place means you are collecting ‘explicit consent’ not once, but twice, thereby protecting yourself and your organisation against breaches twice over. 

2 thoughts on “The Secret to Building a Double Opt-In Mechanism in Pardot

  1. Hi Lucy, are you able to explain why you use a custom redirect here instead of just using an ordinary email link with completion actions?

    1. Hi Chris, sure, there’s a few reasons that spring to mind. First is general auditing: who clicked on the link in one neat table of prospects you can view from Pardot. Second is this link can be used in multiple email templates without relying on users to add the relevant completion actions/risk removing completion actions. Third, if you are using Engagement Studio and Trigger+action steps, and the prospect falls out of the program, these may not fire. If I think of any more reasons, I will add them here in a subsequent comment. Hope you found the article helpful regardless 🙂 Best wishes, Lucy

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