Email newsletters help your brand stay top of mind with your readers and customers. They bring people back to your site regularly and keep people engaged/informed on the topic you write about. In order to reap the benefits of a newsletter, people need to sign up to receive it. We have aggregated a list of ideas (some known, some hidden gems) to increase newsletter signups, optimize your email signup forms and emails, and ultimately grow your subscriber list.
1. Offer an incentive to signup
Everyone likes a good freebie. Some of the more costly ways to incentivise people to sign up for your list is to:
- offer vouchers ($5 off your next purchase),
- free swag (like t-shirts),
- free knowledge (e.g. an ebook on a topic that is relevant to your audience or an autoresponder course) or
- sweepstakes (“Win a trip to Puerto Rico!”).
All four of these tips are smart ways to increase double opt-in rates — the percentage of new subscribers who click on the confirmation link you send them via email — if you provide the incentive only after your subscriber clicks on the confirmation link in their email. For sweepstakes, you can combine the confirmation with a mouth-to-mouth marketing element like increasing chances if they refer friends. Keep in mind that referral incentives work best for well-known brands with an established reputation.
2. Show (and tell) subscribers what to expect
Your future readers want to know what they can expect by signing up for your newsletter. Pick two or three of your top performing, most insightful newsletters from the past to use as a sample. If you’re a news site, these could be a breaking news edition that brings your subscribers up to speed on an important event.
Email analytics service Litmus gives users access to their full newsletter archive (through screenshots on top of the signup box), so visitors can understand the value they’ll get before they commit to signing up
In addition to that, it’s important to explain how frequently subscribers can expect emails and to reassure them that you won’t send spam or share their email addresses with others. It’s generally understood that you can unsubscribe at any time, but depending on your audience it might make sense to state that explicitly.
3. Make it personal
Use personal appeals in your newsletter’s value messaging. If you’re a news site, you can display the name and photo of your editor-in-chief. If you’re in retail, this could be one of the folks who curates your collection or content.
German financial advice site Finanztip display a photo and the name of their editor-in-chief Hermann-Josef Tenhagen
POLITICO’s New York Playbook newsletter gives the center stage to Jimmy Vielkind and Azi Paybarah instead of the subject alone
4. Position your signup form based on visitor behavior
Put yourself in your visitor’s shoes and think about when you’d be ready to hand over your email address. Chances are hardly anyone is signing up for your newsletter on their very first visit to your site since they are just learning what it’s about. Position your signup form accordingly.
For new visitors, position the signup form lower in the layout hierarchy. Prioritize more important calls to action, such as recommended articles, higher on the page.
Once a visitor demonstrates interest in your content (e.g. after a few pages viewed), move the newsletter sign up form to a more prominent position. You can even try a more obvious overlay or fly-in for returning customers who aren’t signed up yet.
Similarly, for existing subscribers (visitors who arrived at your site through a newsletter link) you can de-prioritize references to your newsletter (e.g. by displaying only a link in your footer) and make room for other, more important calls to action.
HelpScout shows the “Subscribe” call to action by default, but remove it as soon as a subscriber clicks through from their newsletter.
5. Personalize the value proposition
Finanztip puts their newsletter’s value in the context of the article their reader is currently on while generating signups for their general newsletters (“and other topics”).
Another good personalization technique to increase newsletter subscriptions is to put the value of your newsletter in context. If your visitor reads an article about the Paris Climate Change Conference, you could ask them if they want to receive updates on this particular subject and other newsworthy topics. This can be used to segment your list, but also to get folks to sign up for your overall list.
The Guardian allows reader to subscribe to breaking news alerts (right after they created value by bringing them up to speed on the event) – and uses this to foster a relationship with their readers and funnel visitors that came from Google News and other third-party sources into their general mailing list.
6. Offer choice and let users define frequency
If your site is split up in sections, maybe your list should be too. Let your users choose what topics they are interested in by segmenting you list or allow them to select the frequency of emails.
The New York Times subscribers can choose what kind of information they are interested in and how often they can expect to receive emails for each list.
7. Tout your popularity with social proof
If you have a big list of subscribers, make sure to show it off. If thousands of other people are subscribing, it can’t be a bad decision to join, can it?
If your list is somewhat more niche and specific, you could resort to demonstrating specific authority (“Join the 1,000 top Diamond Jewelry Retail Professionals”) or how much value it generated for your subscribers “Subscribers saved $1,000,000 in banking fees thanks to the tips in our newsletter.”
Who currently subscribes to your newsletter? See if a few of these readers would be ok with you highlighting them next to your signup form. The Wall Street Journal recently ran a campaign to attract readers with the slogan, “People who don’t have time read the Wall Street Journal” showcasing familiar celebrities including will.i.am and Tory Burch.
8. Use delightful details in the signup process
For most companies, little touches like animations are an afterthought. Companies that act design-centric see that little touches add up and create measurable impact – especially in a signup process where dropoff rates are high and keeping the attention of a user until the signup is completed is key.
Patrick Rogan designed a form that is delightful and has a clear secondary call to action (“Check your inbox!”)
There are many ways to give the signup experience a special touch, use you imagination and make create something that stands out from the crowd. Your visitors are giving you their precious email addresses after all, a little bedazzling will go a long way.
9. Optimize your email confirmation workflow
MY ASICS confirmation email puts focus on their double opt-in call to action without distracting the recipient.
So, you have optimized your signup form? Don’t stop there, make sure that the email confirmation or opt-in process (which is legally required in most countries) is flawless too. Make your confirmation email look stunning (and don’t use the default one your ESP provides or a plain-text email) and that the double opt-in call to action stands out and is fun. The confirmation email is another great place to demonstrate value the reader will gain from subscribing to your newsletter.
Tip for retailers: combine confirmation emails
If you offer a newsletter, or content subscription, chances are you generate a lot of signups on the last step of an order. If you can combine the order confirmation email and newsletter confirmation emails into one, make use of it. Save your customer the frustration of receiving 4 emails from you in a row — order confirmation, random promotional email, newsletter confirmation, newsletter confirmation successful email. Also, you don’t have to send out another email to confirm successful double opt-in. Your subscribers will hear from you soon enough – when you actually have something valuable to share with them in your next newsletter.
Dropoff rates are typically high at the double opt-in stage of your signup where a subscriber has to open the first email from you and click to confirm their signup. You can make it easier for them by providing a direct link to their inbox.
Here’s how to do it: Check if their email ends in “googlemail.com” (or similar popular email domains) and display a direct link that will open a Gmail search for the subject line of your confirmation email. If your newsletter targets professional emails, you can use an MX record API to check if the subscriber’s company uses Google Apps for Work and then add the direct link in the email confirmation.
Fluent In 3 Months’ confirmation page clearly lays out the next step and provides a direct link to Google Mail’s search (which will bring up the double opt-in confirmation email)
10. Offer ways to subscribe without typing out an email address
Let’s face it, nobody likes to fill out forms. This is especially true on touch screen devices. Consider this inventive way to sign up without requiring an email address:
Upworthy has adopted a concept from the newsletters of the 90s: the email-in subscription. With a click on the “One-click subscription” button the user’s email app opens and the body explains that all they have to do to subscribe is hit send. The user doesn’t have to type out their email address (if they have their email app configured on their phone) and Upworthy spare themselves the double opt-in confirmation since the their subscriber already confirms their authenticity with this first email.
Upworthy allows visitors to subscribe with one tap by sending an email.
You can also experiment with using social sign-in via Facebook or Google as an alternative to entering an email address. This has the additional advantage that you don’t have to perform double opt-in, the risk of typos is minimal and you’ll receive first and last name in addition to your subscriber’s email address.
Interested in industry trends on how to attract and keep your readers’ attention? Download our free optimization guide for media companies: