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How to Create a High-Converting Email Opt-in Form

Written by Brenda on December 2, 2014 Sell Online.

Not everyone who looks at your site will buy something the first time. In fact, 98.5% won’t. However, most people who visit your site without a reason to come back probably won’t do that either.

How do you remind them, then? Well, you could get them to like your Facebook page, but the chances they’ll see any particular status update are negligibly small. You could use an RSS feed, but they’re not that effective, either. Yes, even after twenty years of development in technology, the most effective way is still good old email.

That’s why, in order to retain a significant number of customers, you need to get their email addresses. The form that viewers input their email into is called, straightforwardly enough, the opt-in form.

Before you start writing, you need to know where you’re going to put your opt-in form. Generally, it’ll be in either a landing page or a pop-up window on another page. Each has its benefits and drawbacks.

The landing page is the traditional method. The main benefit is that it’s a much better ending point for a well-constructed sales funnel than a pop-up on some random page.

For that reason, some people call these “squeeze pages,” but that’s not technically correct and if you’re doing it right, the viewer shouldn’t feel like they’re being pressured to let you harass them, anyway.

The drawback is that they might not reach that point. Your funnel has to be really well-built.

Also, if you go by this method, you’ll have to build multiple ones, aimed at different demographics and accessible through different paths. Make some miniature ones, too, with much less copy, that are small enough to put in a Feature Box, at the top of your sidebar, after blog posts, or in any number of places around your site. Social Triggers has this list of seven places you can put them for maximum conversions, along with the benefits of each, so we won’t parrot them.

The primary benefit of a pop-up window is that you’re guaranteed to catch your readers’ attention. The drawback is that it might be negative attention, and if they have a pop-up blocker running, they probably won’t see it at all.

But that doesn’t mean they’re not still devastatingly effective in ways that even most landing pages can’t match. Let’s take a look at an example. WPBeginner was able to sextuple their subscribers by switching from landing pages and mini-boxes to pop-up windows made with WordPress’s OptinMonster plugin. The deciding factor was the blog setting them to trigger as the customer was leaving the site.

No matter which one you decide on, it’ll have three components: the timing, the design, and the writing.

So let’s explore those now.

The timing

Most of these type of forms are put in pop-up windows, so you want to make sure they come at a time that won’t annoy the customer, lest they leap straight for the X button.

Too soon, before they’ve had a chance to see what your site is, and they’ll swat it away like a fly. Too long, and there’s a good chance they’ll have navigated away by the time it shows up.

However, you can also make their leaving work to your advantage. A good time to ask for an email is when they’re on their way out, since they’ve probably seen enough of your site by that point to have made a decision about whether they want to see it again.

The design

This will have a huge impact on how the customer responds. We know we gave you this same advice in another recent article, but study some basic color theory, and incorporate it into the whole of your site’s design. You can also theme it to match the rest of your site, which may neutralize the effect that pop-ups inherently have of breaking the customer’s concentration on your site’s content.

It’s also important to make sure your form shows up properly on mobile devices, or you’ll be missing a potential majority of your audience.

And then, there’s the most important part…

The writing

First of all, I know we give you this advice a lot, but keep it short and sweet. You really don’t need that much information for now. If you have a decent analytics system, that should take care of a lot of the stuff like age, gender, and how they got here. If not, get one. Either way, make sure all you need to ask for is their email, and their name if you want to—you can use an autoresponder program to pretend to—address them by name.

Same goes for your copy. What’s the minimum length you think it will take to convince someone that signing up is a good idea? Make your copy that long, and don’t go beyond that. Once they’re convinced, don’t run a victory lap and keep telling them about how great you are. Any further copy will begin to sour them.

In order to assure sign-ups, you need to address customers’ number one fear, which is that you’ll sell their addresses to a third party, or spam them yourself. Don’t dance around this fear; address it directly, in a clear and straight-to-the-point manner, avoiding legalese and stiff, wooden sentences that begin with things like “We assure all of our customers…” The most effective anti-spam disclaimer I’ve heard was from a YouTube art teacher who simply said “I f-ing hate spam, so don’t worry, I won’t send you any.”

But what if they still don’t want to sign up? You got everything right, design-wise, but it’s still not showing in your numbers?

Try offering an incentive

This is usually, as we’ve mentioned in a previous article, a coupon code or a free e-book. However, many companies also give away a free trial of some downloadable program or a few free days of some online service. Anything that doesn’t cost you more than you think an average subscriber is worth is fair game. This can also be free shipping.

If you’re a motivational or instructional site, this can take the form of access to a video that’s hidden away from the non-subscribers. If you’re a personality people know and like, often, people will sign up if they think that whatever you’ll write will be funny or interesting to read for entertainment value alone.


Here’s another piece of shop-worn advice: A/B test. Always A/B test. A/B test everything. Different crowds and different industries respond to different writing styles and approaches to marketing. Yet again, we urge you to know what age your audience is, what styles and tones they’re likely to respond to, and to make buyer profiles.

And make sure you’re targeting toward the demographics that actually buy. Chances are, you’ll have plenty of people from all walks of life looking at your stuff, but a relatively small percentage of them actually buying it. You need to make sure you know who they are and design your subscription forms to attract more of them, not the rest of the browsers.

Feedback? Advice we overlooked? Trade secrets you’re willing to leak about how to write a better opt-in form? Let us know in the comments.



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