Before I turned to WordPress and blog designing I used to design mostly business websites. I worked on hundreds of different sizes and types of business sites. The primary goal for all businesses was always the same: to get a lead.
I used a variety of call to action banners to get some attention. I experimented with different typography, buttons, stock photos and contact forms.
Pretty soon I had a set of proven techniques that I knew I could use for almost any type of business site in order to improve the conversion rate.
What does it have in common with the email newsletter sign-up box on your blog?
When I started designing blogs, I was missing that call to action banner. I felt like the blog didn’t have any point where we wanted to direct the visitors.
My experience with some smart and successful bloggers quickly taught me that the email newsletter sign-up form is that missing part that I was looking for. This is where we generate “leads” for the blog sites.
Let’s see how to make your opt-in form more effective and improve its conversion rate.
1. Location: Find a Perfect Spot
There are a few popular locations where your email newsletter sign-up box can be displayed.
I would recommend sticking with those standards because your visitors most likely prefer to follow the same patterns. They expect to find your email newsletter sign-up box in the same place like on their other favorite blogs.
(A) Below the header
This particular spot can bring a high conversion rate to the newsletter box. You can make a big, full-width box on your home page and a smaller, alternative version of it on your single blog posts.
The home page box can give you a lot of space that you can use to convince people to sign up. You can use your own photo to add some personality, or present a free bonus for new subscribers to add some value, or just list some benefits of your newsletter.
(B) Top sidebar widget
This is a popular place where almost everyone looks for the email newsletter sign-up box. Just make sure to place it at the top of the sidebar and that it’s prominent enough.
(C) After the post content
This might be your last chance to ask someone to subscribe to your email newsletter. It’s a perfect moment to call someone to take action before leaving your site (maybe forever?).
2. Colors & Layout: Break the Pattern
The best idea is to use your brand colors or your website color scheme. This will build some trust and your visitors will know that the email newsletter is a part of your blog.
It doesn’t mean that it has to be boring. You can still make it interesting by adding some extra space, contrasting colors, textures and extra custom graphical elements.
If you decide to place your opt-in form in the sidebar, it can be less visible because of other widgets displayed in the same column. You need to break the pattern and make your entire newsletter box more prominent.
Of course, this won’t work if you’re trying to feature all your widgets in the sidebar. You need to create a solid pattern with your other widgets so it can be used as a background for your email sign-up box.
Then, when you make your newsletter box a bit different it will make the contrast even deeper and it will really stand out from the sidebar.
You can break the widgets pattern or generally improve the visibility of any sign-up form by a few simple techniques:
- Use contrasting colors
- Have more space around the sign-up box
- Have more space inside the sign-up box
- Use different sign-up box sizes
- Include extra graphical elements (arrows, pointers, ribbons etc)
3. Accent: Make It Stand Out
Yes, some extra graphical elements can really get some attention and help your email newslettter box appear more prominent.
If you have some free bonuses for new subscribers, show them. Add some color bursts or ribbon graphics saying that there is a free PDF or a free file to download that everyone is waiting for. The actual image of a real book works pretty well for free e-books.
Even if you don’t have anything special to offer your new subscribers, you can still use some elements like arrows or hand-drawn typography to focus your visitors’ attention.
See some examples of opt-in forms using extra graphical elements to enhance the visibility:
Note: if you need some graphic elements like ribbons, bursts, buttons, icons, etc. to promote your content or products, make sure to check out the Premise plugin for WordPress. I’ve created a pretty big package (1,100+ custom unique graphics!) and it’s all included in Premise and free for you to use in all your projects.
4. Sign Up Form: Don’t Make People Think
So we already got some attention to the email newsletter sign-up box and the visitor is pretty much convinced to sign up. Your job now is to make this last step as easy and quick as possible.
Don’t ask for too much. Do you really need someone’s name? You usually just need an email address, so you want to focus on that. Try to make the input box bigger and add some more space into it. You can also add a little email icon so it’s obvious what you’re asking for.
Then, create a simple and nice looking sign-up button. Try to make it contrast with the email newsletter box background. The button should look “real” and “clickable.” Of course it should coordinate with your blog pattern, but make sure it is clear to subscribers that it’s clickable.
Don’t make people think even for a little while: “Where should I type in my email address?”, “I typed in my email address and what now?”, “What is this box for?”, etc.
Never Stop Experimenting
I hope some of these ideas and examples will help you improve your mailing list conversion rate. I’d also like to encourage you to do your own experiments and tests. Try using different locations, colors and layouts. You may discover some interesting results by changing a small detail in your sign-up forms.
To prove that these techniques really work, I tried to use some examples of well-known blogs. I had the opportunity to work on some of them and we noticed an increased number of subscribers in all cases.
Also, here is a comment from one of my clients, Adam Toporek whose new blog I designed:
“In the first year of the original blog, we had a handful of people sign up for our mailing list. Since launching Customers That Stick with the strategically placed newsletter sign-up boxes, in the first two months we attracted 10X more sign-ups than we did in the whole first year.”
The best playground is always your own website, so start today and feel free to share your own discoveries with me in the comments section below.