3 Ways to Boost your Mailing List (Part 2)

General

Website Opt-in Forms

In this three-part series, we are looking at ways of boosting the number of relevant subscribers to your mailing list.
With an expanding list of subscribers you can drive more relevant traffic to your blog posts as well as building trust and brand loyalty between your business and potential customers. In the last article we looked at how Twitter’s Lead Generation Cards can help you boost your mailing list. Today, we’re going to get a little controversial…

If I mention pop ups what is your first reaction? Do they make you want to scream?! If so, you’re not alone- pop ups are controversial, even amongst marketers. However, Opt-in forms don’t need to be in the form of pop up or modal windows. An opt-in form is a simple form that can appear anywhere on your website. It is a simple and engaging form that allows a website visitor to easily subscribe to your mailing list. If you’re not convinced of the potential benefits, have a read of “Are Email Subscriptions Worth the Risk” from unbounce.

Don’t ask too many questions!
It’s important to keep your opt-in forms simple- keep your questions to the bare minimum. At the most, you should ask for first & last names and email address. However, you’ll probably get more sign ups from just asking for an email address. Website visitors will more likely sign up if the form is quick and easy. I’d argue that the first name is really important since you can personalise your emails with a “Dear *First Name*” greeting. It’s best to start simple- you can always increase the information on your subscribers by landing page campaign. By giving away something for free, your subscribers (and new subscribers) may be willing to give you more details such as company name, business type, social media profiles and more. Have a look at this landing page as an example.

Choose your style!
We’ve mentioned pop-ups, but there are many more ways opt-in forms can be used – they can be placed at many strategic places across your website. The key here is to be sensitive- don’t bombard your web site visitors with sign up forms- you will frustrate your visitors which will drive your web traffic down. I’m going to mention 7 types of opt-in forms with not a pop up window in sight!:
Landing Page
a whole page dedicated to your form usually with a big “call to action”. Can be simple to set up with a 3rd party tool such as Instapage.
Top/Bottom Notification Bar
a simple fixed bar which appears at the top or bottom of the browser window. Can result in high conversions whilst not being too intrusive. Hello Bar is a tool that could help here.
• Sidebar form
probably the most popular place to put an opt-in form is on the side bar and it’s the place visitors will expect to see one. See this example on the Mad Lemmings website.
Modal/Popover/Lightbox
a form that appears on top of the content of the page, quite often with a transparent overlay that obscures the rest of the viewable area. This is the most intrusive technique, but it has a very high conversion rate. It needs to be used sensitively otherwise it will annoy readers- we’ll discuss this later. For an example, see OptinMonster.
Feature Box
Placed just below the page header. This could be placed on all pages of your website or on your home page or even just on specific pages. I’ve found this converts really well on my blog- especially by producing the most engaged subscribers. Examples include Social Media Experts and RazorSocial.
After article
Very similar to the feature box, but appears just below the article. The thinking is that if the reader has read to the bottom of the article then they are more likely to sign up and will be a more engaged subscriber. Examples include my website, Seriously Social.
Slide In
The form is initially hidden, but slides in to view after a delay or you reach a certain point in the article you are reading. This is potentially less annoying than the lightbox technique but still has a high conversion rate.

Incentivise!
You need to give your website visitors a reason for signing up. Perhaps your web content has been enough to convince them, but why not do one of the following in return for signing up?
• Offer a free e-book
• Enter a competition
• Access a free tool or service
• Allow them to be the first to be notified of the launch of a new product or service

How?
How do you create these opt-in forms? It isn’t that difficult thanks to some great 3rd party tools. I’ve already mentioned some including Hello Bar but there are others including Pippity, Popup Domination and OptimizePress.
My favourite tool for web site opt in forms is a WordPress plugin called Optin Monster. This plugin has some very helpful features including:
• Optin Form builder/designer
• Choose between lightbox pop ups, floating bars, sidebar slide-ins, full page takeovers etc
• A/B Split testing – find out which type of campaign is working the most
• Different forms on different pages, posts or categories or site wide
• Exit intent feature- you can choose to display the form if it appears like the visitor is about to leave the page.
• Analytics – see how many times the forms are being displayed and how many convert.
• Integrates with MailChimp, AWeber, Campaign Monitor, Constant Contact, GetResponse, iContact, InfusionSoft and more.

Here is an example of the lightbox display on the Optin Monster website:

Free Case study

I would recommend tweaking the settings over time and see what works for you. In particular:
• Consider only displaying the form on the 2nd page viewing so that only engaged visitors see it.
• Set the number of days until a visitor sees the form again after closing it to at least 14 days. The visitor may well sign up on subsequent occasions, but don’t frustrate them with content pop ups.

Convinced?
Are you convinced or do you still think opt-in forms are evil? Have you used them and seen a boost in your email subscribers? As always, let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

  • Ian Anderson GrayIan Anderson Gray

    Ian runs a popular social media blog called Seriously Social and is a web developer and social media consultant. He is co-founder of Select Performers Internet Solutions - a family run web and digital marketing agency based in the North West of England. He has a passion for turning the techno-babble of web development, internet security, social media and technology into plain English. He also runs a local tech meet-up (Cheadle Geeks) and a co-workers event (Cheadle Jelly). As well as being a geek, husband and dad to two rather lively children, Ian is also a professional singer and lives in South Manchester.

    Web: http://iag.me/

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One thought on “3 Ways to Boost your Mailing List (Part 2)

  1. Ask few questions to grow your list. Name, email and maybe phone Ian, but name and email minimum, then never dig too much deeper if you want subscribers. Simply get any info you need to build bonds. After that, strengthen connections by sharing value and of course, being free to answer questions when they flow your way. The magic is in the value, and the answering, not in getting as much personal information as possible. Thanks Ian!

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