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Is your email list not growing as fast as you’d like?

Perhaps you’ve tried adding a feature box to your website and including a subscribe form on your Facebook page, but you still can’t get people to join your list.

It may be that you just need to optimize your email subscribe form.

In this post, we’ll show you why optimizing your subscribe form matters and give you actionable tips & examples that you can use to optimize your subscribe forms and start capturing more email subscribers.

Why optimizing your subscribe forms matters

When most people think about ways to grow their email list, they generally think about getting more visitors and traffic.

It’s a completely logical way of thinking really, the more people who see your subscribe forms, the more who are going to subscribe.

However, that’s not always the most effective approach.

Research from Send.ie shows that the average website visitor to email subscriber conversion rate is 0.4%. So if you are driving 1000 visitors to your site every month, you’d be lucky to be picking up 4 new subscribers on any given month.

But what if you could increase that conversion rate to 10%? Then suddenly you’d be capturing 100 new subscribers each month without spending a cent on getting more traffic.

That’s the power of optimizing your email subscribe forms. Not only can you get more subscribers from your existing traffic, but once your traffic starts growing through your various marketing efforts the number of subscribers you gain each month will grow much quicker as well.

The 3 principles of high-converting subscribe forms

In our recent guide on How to get Better Marketing Results with Beautiful Design, we laid out the 3 principles of beautiful, high-converting design.

These same 3 principles can be applied to optimizing your subscribe forms as well.

Principle 1: Increase desire

In order to get someone to subscribe to your email list, you must first create desire to receive your emails.

According to Freud, humans are fundamentally motivated by two things: gaining pleasure or avoiding pain.

So to create desire to receive your emails, you need to showcase to potential subscribers how your emails can help them to either gain pleasure or avoid some sort of pain they have been experiencing.

There are a number of ways you can achieve this, including:

Focus on the benefit

Your subscribe form copy needs to focus on the benefit the reader will get from subscribing to your email list.

Too many subscribe forms feature generic copy that says things like ‘Join over 10,000 subscribers who get our daily emails’, yet this doesn’t showcase to the reader why they would do it or what benefit they would get out of subscribing.

Instead of just focusing your copy on the number of subscribers you have, spell out the benefits a person would get by subscribing to your list

A great formula for doing this is to tell people what it is and what it will do for them.

For example: Get weekly email marketing tips that will help you increase click-throughs and grow revenue.

By outlining the benefits people will get from receiving your emails, you make subscribing to your email list more desirable.

Use Open Loops to stir curiosity

We’ve written about using open loops in subject lines before, but they can also be used to optimize your email subscribe forms.

The open loops technique is a copywriting trick that creates an information gap in the readers mind; a slight gap between the knowledge they have and the knowledge they want.

They work because our brains are hard-wired to seek out information we desire. In fact, a study by George Loewenstein of Carnegie-Mellon found that we actually get significant feelings of anxiety when there is a gap between what we know and what we want to know, and as a result we are compelled to seek out the information to reduce those feelings.

Take a look at these two versions of email subscribe forms and note the difference once it has been optimized with this tactic:

Before: Subscribe to our email list and get new posts by email

After: Subscribe to our email list and get exclusive access to:

  • 3 little-known copywriting secrets that will double your email open rates
  • The 2-part formula for adding thousands of new subscribers to your list

See how using the open loop technique invokes that sense of curiosity inside you. What are the 3 little known copywriting secrets? What’s that 2-part formula that’ll help add thousands of new subscribers to your list?

By using the Open Loops technique to stir curiosity, you can increase your email subscribe rate by making subscribing to your email list more desirable.

Eliminate friction words

Not only is eliminating friction words from your button copy a great way to increase click-through rates, but it can also apply to optimizing your subscribe forms.

Most subscribe forms use generic copy like ‘Subscribe’ on the button. But the problem with this is that nobody actually wants to subscribe to your list. In fact, most people have enough email subscriptions in their inbox.

Instead what they want is the benefits subscribing to your email list brings, like free advice on growing their business or free recipes they can cook for their family.

So instead of using generic button copy on your email subscribe forms, go for something that highlights the benefits of subscribing.

The screenshot below shows this in action nicely:

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Instead of just using generic copy like ‘Subscribe’, the site owner has opted for ‘Get free advice’ to reinforce the benefit of being on the email list and make subscribing much more desirable.

Principle 2: Decrease Anxiety

In order to get someone to subscribe to your email list, you must also reduce any anxiety they have towards being on there.

In the context of subscribing to your list, anxiety can be caused by any number of things, including:

  • Concern that your offer isn’t worth giving over their email address,
  • Worry that you won’t keep their email address safe,
  • Fear that you are going to bombard their inbox with emails.

So in order to reduce anxiety around subscribing to your email list, try putting yourself in your potential subscribers shoes and think about what the points of anxiety may be, and then take steps to reduce them.

Here are a few ideas to help you do that:

Show subscriber numbers

If you have a large number of subscribers on your email list, let people know by adding your subscriber count to your opt-in forms like the folks over at Buffer do.

Buffer show subscriber numbers

By adding your subscriber count, you address people’s concern that your offer isn’t worth giving their email address for by showcasing that thousands of others have done so before them and are enjoying the benefits.

Another neat trick that helps amplify this is making the social proof more relatable. By refining your copy to say something like “Join 15,000 other sales professionals who get weekly advice on closing deals faster” you are speaking to the reader much more directly, letting them know that 15,000 other people exactly like them have signed up for the email list.

Add testimonials from influencers

If you are fortunate enough to have relationships with some industry influencers, then getting a testimonial from them about your email list can be a powerful driver of subscribers.

Testimonials from influencers

When Michael Aagaard put testimonials from influential marketers like Oli Gardner in prominent positions on his landing page, he got a 64.6% increase in conversions.

This works because people look up to industry influencers and want to emulate their success, so the fact that they are personally vouching for the benefits of being on your email list goes a long way to reduce people’s anxieties.

Address privacy and spam concerns directly

Another hurdle you’ll need to clear is people’s fear that their private information will be shared or that their inboxes will be overloaded.

The most effective way of reducing this anxiety is by including some information about privacy and email frequency in your subscribe form microcopy.

However, it’s important to choose your words wisely.

When the ContentVerve team tested adding “100% privacy – We will never spam you” to the bottom of their signup form received an 18.70% decrease in signups.

18.70% decrease in signups

Hypothesising that the use of the word spam – even in the context of “we’ll never spam you” – was turning people off, they tried a different approach where they offered a privacy guarantee.

19.47% increase in conversions

This new approach featuring the word “guarantee” was a success, with it achieving a 19.47% increase in conversions over the control.

So when adding microcopy to address people’s anxiety around privacy and spam, make sure to put a positive twist on it with language like “We’ll only ever send you emails once per week and guarantee to protect your privacy”

This will help address people’s fears around frequency and security and increase the number of new subscribers you receive.

Make it easy

In order to get someone to subscribe to your email list, you must also make it as simple as possible for them to join.

In fact, according to consumer psychologist Adam Ferrier increasing ease is one of the most effective ways to increase people’s likelihood of taking your desired conversion action.

He cites a study where researchers compared how many chocolates a person consumed when they were placed on their desk, as opposed to when they were placed a mere 2 metres away. They found that when placed on the desk, people ate an astounding 5x more chocolates than when they were just a few metres away.

This study highlights the importance of ease in getting people to convert. Even though people’s desire and anxiety surrounding eating the chocolates was exactly the same in both instances, making them easy to access increased consumption by 5x.

So how can you make it super simple for your website visitors to become email subscribers? Here are a few ideas you can apply to your own website today:

Increase the number of capture points

Buffer, a social media scheduling application who run a great blog on social media marketing, recently tested increasing the number of email subscribe forms they had on their various online assets, including their blog, Facebook page, Twitter profile and more.

By increasing the number of email subscribe forms from one to nine, they were able to get a 130% increase in the amount of new email subscribers they received each month, going from 2,249 new subscribers in June to 5,450 new subscribers in July.

The 9 email capture points they have generating them email subscribers include:

  • Slider – A small box that pops up in the bottom right corner of their blog when a person is 80% of the way through a post.
  • Scrolling Header Bar – A small bar that appears at the top of the visitor’s browser and remains there as they scroll up and down the page.
  • Feature Box – A large section on their blog homepage which sells the benefits of subscribing to their email list and provides an input box for people to enter their email address.
  • Sidebar – A small box on the right-hand side of their blog that sells the benefits of subscribing to their list and provides an input box.
  • Postscript – A small “P.S” line at the end of each blog post which informs people of their email list and encourages them to subscribe.
  • Twitter – Twitter Lead Generation Cards that they occasionally tweet out to encourage people to join their email list.
  • Facebook – A subscribe form on their Facebook page that encourages fans to convert into email subscribers.

By offering more email subscribe options in various parts of your online presence, you can make it much easier for people to subscribe and build your email list at a much quicker pace.

Decrease form fields

Research has shown

that the more form fields you add to your subscribe form, the lower your conversion rate as people get deterred by long forms that require excessive amounts of information.

So when optimizing your subscribe forms to capture more email addresses, try to resist the urge to create long forms that capture multiple details about the user.

Instead adopt the model list building expert Noah Kagan utilises and opt for simple forms that capture just the essential details like the user’s email address.

Decrease form fields

By decreasing the number of fields in your subscribe form, you’ll reduce the level of effort a person needs to go through to subscribe and increase the number of subscribers you receive each month.

Test a two-step subscribe process

While this one may seem a bit contrary to logic, landing page tool LeadPages got a 60% increase in email subscribers when they implemented a 2-step subscribe process.

Instead of simply including the subscribe form on the page, they instead included a subscribe button which, when clicked, opened a popup window that contained the subscribe form.

Two-step opt in process

This works because it reduces the perceived effort of subscribing. Even though it’s actually more steps, the fact that the first step involves just clicking a button and not filling out a form, it makes it easier for people to take the first step towards subscribing. Then once the subscribe form shows in the popup, people have already invested and are more likely to finish the process and become a subscriber.

In Conclusion

Your email subscribe form is a critical part of building your email list, and optimizing it with these tips and suggestions can help make it more effective.

The key to implementing this though is testing. While there have been some great success stories with these different approaches, you have a unique audience and they may not work for you the same way they worked for others. So use the tips & techniques presented in this article as inspiration, and go test to see whether implementing them helps build your email list.

Your turn: What suggestions do you have for optimizing email subscribe forms? Have you tried something not mentioned here? We’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments below!


Ultimate guide to building your email list

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This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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