Over the course of the last 3 years, I’ve put a lot of effort into perfecting the opt-in mechanisms on my website. At any given time, I’m usually running 2-5 tests on my sales funnel to see if there’s a better way to get more customers from one step to the next. I know that everyone that signs up for my newsletter is worth approximately $6.50 to me (on average) over the course of the two and a half years they are likely to be engaged with my list. If I can make a change to my email sign-up forms that improves opt-in rates, that’s worth real money to my company.
Here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned as a result of the various tests I’ve run over the course of the last few years:
- Only Ask for the User’s Email Address. The only piece of information I asked for in my sign-up form is the user’s email address. Whenever I request an additional piece of information from users, the opt-in rate tends to fall by 25-30%. Most people collect both the user’s name and email address, but you probably don’t actually need to know the user’s first name. If they become heavily engaged with your list, they’ll likely buy a product from you (at which point you’ll have their name).
- The Popup Rules All. Out of any opt-in form you use, running a light-box popup (like the one on analystratings.net) will collect more email sign-ups every any other sign-up form on your website. It’s the first thing people see and your potential subscribers won’t be able to miss it. Some people won’t use pop-ups because they think they are annoying, but the reality is that they work. By not using a pop-up, you’re potentially losing as many as 50% of the people that would sign-up for your list.
- Use Multiple Opt-In Forms. I’ve found that I get the best opt-in rates when I provide multiple ways to opt-in on my websites. I will use a pop-up when the page loads initially, an opt-in box below the text of an article, and another opt-in form in the sidebar to achieve the best results.
- Use a Lead Magnet. No one is going to sign up for your email address just so you have their email address. You need to give them some sort of initial bonus, like a free report or guide, as a way to get them to subscribe to your list. If you create a compelling enough free bonus (called a lead magnet) for signing up for your list, users will happily hand over their email address to you.
- Increase Relevance to Increase Opt-In Rates. Most people will only the same lead magnet across their entire site. I recommend doing 3-5 lead magnets and showing the one that’s most relevant based on the content of the article the user is reading. I recently made a change to improve the relevancy of my opt-in forms that resulted in a 76% increase in opt-ins.
- Simple Copy Works Better. I’ve found that keeping the copy (text) for the opt-in form simple tends to work the best. Include a short and sweet title and a two or three sentence description about what the user can expect if they sign-up for your mailing list—nothing more.
The opt-in forms on my websites (like American Banking and Market News) as they appear today are the results of years of split-testing, feel free to copy them. However, what works great to get opt-ins from my audience might not work equally well for you. Once you build up a reasonable amount of traffic (5,000 unique visitors per month or so), you should use tools like Visual Website Optimizer or Optimizely to determine what changes you can make to improve your opt-in rates. Looking for ideas on what to test? Checkout the article “71 Things to A/B Test” on Optimizely’s blog.