Building an email list is what smart business owners do. After all, you need some way to convert short-lived traffic into lasting relationships. How else will you maintain direct communication with prospects and customers?
There are a few important steps to building an email list. One of the most essential steps is optimizing your opt-in setup & process to convert visitors into subscribers. But before you begin, do this:
- Sign up with an email service provider. An email service provider houses your list and gives you tools to design, send, and track emails. Once you have an ESP account, you are ready to...
- Create incentive for people to subscribe. You need to offer people something to entice them to give you their email address. Incentive can range from a tangible giveaway (free eBook) to a special offer (product discount) to an exciting explanation of how valuable your emails will be.
Once you have something to give away, you need to make it easy for people to subscribe. This is where opt-in forms come into play. An opt-in form is an entry point for people to subscribe to emails.
To transform visitors into email subscribers, you need to add opt-in forms to your site and develop a subscription process that effectively welcomes them into your email program. Sounds complicated, right?
It's not as tricky as you may think. Let's dive right in...
Trick #1: Add an opt-in form to your blog sidebar.
Adding an opt-in form to your blog sidebar is a great place to start. If you have an active blog, this is a traffic-heavy area and a great place to attract new subscribers. You can add a signup form to the sidebar of a Wordpress site with this plugin or develop a custom sidebar. Your form should include a message telling visitors why they should sign up. Take a look at how writer Jeff Goins uses his sidebar to promote his newsletter:
Trick #2: Add a Hello Bar to the top of your website.
Hello Bar is a simple bar that runs across the top of your website. Within the bar, you can add a custom message and encourage email signups or direct visitors to a landing page where you can capture emails later on. See how B2B marketing expert Diana Huff uses Hello Bar to get subscribers:
Trick #3: Add an opt-in page to your main menu.
Add a "Subscribe" or "Updates" or "Connect" page to your main menu and give your opt-in form a home of its own. A page dedicated to your email updates can help reel in your more easily distracted visitors. See how blogging mastermind Blog Tyrant does it here:
Now that you have a page dedicated specifically to your subscription form, it's important to make it accessible. Consider using a custom URL for your signup page. This makes it easier for people to share in those rare moments where they communicate in person. ;) Trick #4: Create a custom opt-in "slider" on your homepage. One of the best pieces of real estate you have on your website is the slider section right below your main menu on your home page. If your main call to action on your site is your email subscription, consider building a custom email signup slider. This is especially popular for bloggers.
Derek Halpern from Social Triggers does this beautifully:
Trick #5: Prompt visitors with opt-in form popups.
There is a lot of evidence to indicate that popups, when tastefully done, can grow your email list. Popups collect email addresses or provide visitors with a link to important content where addresses are collected later on. I was reading Quicksprout the other day and this popped up:
While popups can be annoying and are not a fit for every business, there are many thought leaders that swear by their results. To add a popup to your site, you can use a WordPress plugin like Popup Domination or build something custom. Remember to give visitors ample time or a few clicks before triggering the popup, or you might scare them off.
Trick #6: Add an opt-in form to the footer of blog posts.
Adding a signup form to the footer of your blog posts is an excellent way to transform new and returning blog readers into engaged email subscribers. We know from experience. By adding a custom HTML signup form to the footer of our posts, we experienced a 156% increase in our email signup rate in just 30 days.
Creating a custom signup form requires contracting a graphic designer and a developer. Check out oDesk or Elance for developers and Dribbble or Behance for designers.
Trick #7: Add an opt-in form to every page on your site.
Adding signup forms to every website page gives visitors a call to action that follows them through their full-site browsing experience. Websites can be noisy and this prevents potential subscribers from falling through the cracks.
Trick #8: Write amazing opt-in form copy.
- The headline should grab attention and tell people exactly what they get by signing up for your emails. Example: "Get Your Free Content Marketing Toolkit"
- The body should qualify people and nudge them to take action. Example: "If you're serious about content marketing, enter your email address below to receive the Content Marketing Toolkit."
- The call-to-action should be simple and immediate. Example: "Get The Toolkit."
Trick #9: Add something extra to your opt-in forms.
- Include the dollar value. If you're offering an eBook or Toolkit or online course in your opt-in form, add the dollar value. Example "Get The Free Content Marketing Toolkit (Valued at Over $300)"
- Add a testimonial. A testimonial is great for boosting business. If this wasn't true, Yelp would be out of business. If you don't have any testimonials, survey your favorite subscribers.
- Add social proof. Include a message about how many people currently subscribe to your emails. If you have thousands of subscribers, people will want to find out what all the hype is about. Example: "Join 25,000+ of your peers!"
Neil Patel really adds something extra on his Quicksprout opt-in form, and it works:
Trick #10: Keep submission fields limited in opt-in forms.
We all want to know as much as possible about new subscribers. It's tempting to ask for more than an email address but people have grown weary of the ask. Give people comfort and eliminate unnecessary custom fields from opt-in forms. You can always survey subscribers once you've earned their trust.
Trick #11: Customize opt-in forms for anticipated traffic surges.
Let's say you're about to get featured on a major site and expect significant referral traffic. You want to transform the guest readers into email subscribers. Check out the opt-in forms on the website you will be featured on and shape your form messaging to their audience.
Trick #12: Optimize opt-in forms to improve conversion rates.
Test small changes in opt-in forms to improve conversion rates. Make one small change and test its impact. You can test form location, design, copy, call-to-action, and more. Small changes such as mixing up your voice from first to third person or testing a new color scheme can be effective. Results will help you tailor your entire signup process.
Trick #13: Develop an original, interactive opt-in form.
Businesses have experimented with everything from 3D graphics to animation to gamification to spice up signup forms. Coming up with something completely original and interactive is a great way to grow your list. One example we spotted at Get Elastic is an engaging game developed by Sephora in fall 2013. Visitors entered email addresses to follow a ball that traveled Pinko-style into a slot where a unique prize was revealed.
Trick #14: Use double opt-in and create a custom confirmation email.
Once a visitor signs up for emails via one of your conveniently located and brilliantly designed opt-in forms, you should send them a confirmation email. This confirmation step, referred to as "double opt-in", is important to maintaining a quality email list. A confirmation email is your first direct communication with new subscribers. It should reflect the look and feel of your brand. Design a custom newsletter with ExpressPigeon in minutes. Keep it simple. Your design should prime them for future emails but not distract them from your main call-to-action: Clicking a confirmation link.
Trick #15: Create an inviting confirmation page.
It's amazing (disappointing?) how many subscription confirmations lead to a dead end. When a new subscriber confirms subscription, you have an opportunity to redirect them to any URL. Why settle for a simple thank you? Design a custom confirmation page on your site that welcomes subscribers to the community. Looking for content to include on the page that is applicable for your business? Here are a few ideas:
- Welcome subscriber to community and thank them for joining.
- Encourage subscriber to add your email address to contact list.
- Give subscriber option to connect with you on social media.
- Offer subscriber a link to engaging content on your site.
- Prompt subscriber to tell their friends about your email subscription.
Here's a great example from blogging expert
Trick #16: Create a welcome email to remember.
A welcome email is your first email to new subscribers. Give them something that excites them for what's to come next. Deliver your free giveaway (as promised), thank them for subscribing, and prepare them for what's coming next. This is also a great time for a surprise! Consider offering a special "thank you" discount. See how getting-things-done expert Gregory Ciotti does this at
Notice how Gregory includes links to his best articles and gives a warm welcome that gets you excited for what's to come next. Figure out what works for you and keep it authentic! CONCLUSION It's not easy to build an email list, but with a strategic opt-in process that fits your business, you can build a very profitable email list in just a few months. What opt-in tricks do you use to convert visitors into subscribers?
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