Increasing Conversion Rates for Newsletter Signups

December 22nd, 2011 • By:  • Conversion Optimization

Increasing Conversion Rates for Newsletter Signups

Whether you’re reaching out to clients, dedicated fans, or just the casually interested, email newsletters are an amazingly effective tool for marketing your business online. Among the benefits:

  • Nurturing leads to stay under potential customers’ noses until they’re ready to buy
  • Educating clients on your products and services
  • Establishing your company’s credibility and industry expertise
  • Driving traffic to deep, targeted content
  • Offering discounts and other sales incentives
  • Really padding that holiday card list

Okay, the last one is a joke, but the utility of email marketing is clear. But what good are those benefits if no one is signing up? Here are some tips to help improve your newsletter signup conversion rate.

Is it Visible?

As anyone who has ever wept at the sight of their bounce rate can tell you, you can’t simply trust that a visitor will find a signup form tucked away on a random page or buried in the site footer.  I’ve seen instances, for example, where the newsletter sign-up is relegated to being an afterthought checkbox on a general contact form:

Contact Form with Newsletter

While this is a nice addition for those who already want to get in touch with you, people who are just testing the waters won’t take that step just to get your newsletter. That’s why in most cases, you should have a separate, prominent newsletter registration form: it can be the lifeline that turns a one-and-done site visitor into someone you can reach out to and coax back into engagement.

On the other end of the spectrum are the subscription forms that attack you like a Jack Russell terrier on Red Bull. You’ve seen them: the forms that pop up, or float across your screen. Annoyed, you close the window, but you navigate to a new page and – there it is again. With your needy urgency, you’ve now replaced invisibility with user irritation.

For an ideal middle ground, look at an example like the newsletter signup for the Think Vitamin web design blog:

Think Vitamin Newsletter

It’s clean, narrow and unobtrusive, but sits atop every page with a bright red call to action. It doesn’t impede those who aren’t interested or who have already subscribed. But if a visitor doesn’t sign up for the newsletter, it won’t be because they didn’t stumble onto the right place on the website, or scroll down far enough on a page.

Make sure you have your newsletter signup throughout your site, and in a prominent location. Along the page top like above, in the page header or at the top of a content sidebar are all good places to consistently entice visitors to sign up without irking them in the process.

Convincing the Exhausted and Cynical

Back in 1971, the multidisciplinary Herbert A. Simon wrote, “What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

And that was before the Web, much less time sucks like Facebook and Twitter.

People have become increasingly wary of those that try establish a line of communication and compete for their stretched-thin attention. Their junk mail folders are a swollen reminder of the battle to maintain the signal-to-noise ratio. So it’s your job to convince these cynics that it’s worthwhile for them to open their hearts and email addresses to you.

Is It Valuable?

What are you offering in exchange for their subscription? “Our newsletter” is about as vague as you can get. Establish up-front the value that you’ll be offering in these newsletters:

  • Discounts and promotions for e-commerce sites
  • First-look news and informational content
  • Tips, tricks and other educational material
  • Exclusive content like e-books and tutorials

Another good approach is to link to an archive of past newsletters. If a visitor can browse examples of the content you’ll be providing they’ll be more likely to sign up than if they’re left guessing.

Is It Trustworthy?

Providing example newsletters not only provides value of content, it also offers credibility. People trust what they can see, and by putting your wares up front you show you’ve got actual, reliable content and aren’t waiting to spring on unsuspecting subscribers like a spam assassin.

It can also be a good practice to provide reassurance that the provided user information will only be used for its intended purpose. A great example of this is found on Wufoo‘s site registration form:

Wufoo Signup Form

It concisely conveys the point with humor instead of an ominous, lengthy privacy policy.

Is It Painless?

There should be minimal hassle in signing up for the newsletter. In the contact form example above, someone who just wanted a newsletter would never fill it out because the engagement commitment was too great (and the form too long) for that purpose.

A signup form ideally should just be an email address. If it makes sense, you can ask for a name, but keep in mind that information equals commitment, and the more you ask someone to commit up front, the more likely you’ll overstep their comfort level and lose the signup.

Keep it short and simple, and reiterate how painless the process is. Words like “quick,” “free,” and “easy” reinforce that concept and are more likely to convert.

Put It Together

In tying these concepts together, let’s look at this example from wpmu.org:

WPMU.org Newsletter Form

The form, located prominently at the top of their website sidebar, is bold and visible. The signup is simple, requiring nothing but an email address. They reinforce the painlessness of it by stating clearly that the newsletter is free and only comes once a week, so it won’t be choking up your inbox. And finally, they establish value and promise “Coupons, Tutorials, New Releases” as incentive for visitors to subscribe.

The options are many, but if you follow these tips and tailor them for your site, you will see a marked increase in your newsletter subscriptions.

Had success in improving your newsletter subscription conversions? Let us know below!

David Gould

David is the Creative Services Director at Vertical Measures. He oversees written, visual and video content production, as well as social media and promotion. David works with clients to develop compelling content that pulls together business goals with customer needs. His 15 years experience in writing, design and web development have provided a perfect complement of skills for effective content marketing and strategy.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 22nd, 2011 at 11:26 am and is filed under Conversion Optimization. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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