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Follow These Optin Form Best Practices to Get More Subscribers

  • Conversion Rate Optimization

Email may not be the newest, freshest or sexiest marketing technique out there. But it’s still one of the most effective.

More than 59 percent of marketers say that it continues to be one of their biggest sources of ROI. 

And with the majority of consumers checking their email every day, it’s one of the best ways to communicate with leads and nurture them as they move through the sales funnel. 

But before any nurturing can begin, you first have to get people to sign up to your newsletter.

It’s a necessary precursor that you need to get right before you can begin to leverage high-quality leads. 

And that’s what I’m going to talk about in this post: 

Optin form best practices. 

In it, we’ll take a look at the fundamentals of creating a killer optin form that sparks interest and makes people want to sign up. 

With that said, here are some of the top strategies that will help you quickly grow your newsletter and amass a list of devoted subscribers that are ready to buy. 

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1. Use an Absolute Max of 4 Form Fields

You probably already know that less is best when it comes to the number of form fields. 

There’s a ton of data out there that validates this.

One of the most classic studies from Marketing Sherpa found that every field you add decreases your conversion rate by 11 percent

So you want to use fields sparingly and only ask for truly essential information. 

But what exactly is the sweet spot in terms of the number of form fields?

According to research-based marketing firm, Ascend 2, it’s two to four

This seems to be the perfect number for balancing the user experience and your business needs. 

I think that using four is going a little overboard and is probably unnecessary in most cases. 

But it’s nice to have a concrete number that you know shouldn’t be exceeded. 

However, I usually suggest sticking with two form fields and simply asking for a person’s name and email address like this optin form from kitchen, home, and travel accessories company, Boon Supply

I find that this information is all you need to get a new subscriber plugged into your database. 

And once you’ve established some rapport, you can ask for additional information later on. 

Editor’s Note

With Sleeknote’s Multistep feature, you can enrich lead data without hurting conversions. Watch the video below to learn more.

Sam Thomas Davies
Head of Content

2. Use Ghost Text for Form Fields

Having visitors input their personal information should require as little thought as possible.

Otherwise, it could be creating unnecessary friction that reduces your number of opt-ins.

One of the easiest ways to streamline this process is to use ghost text in the form fields, which provide guidance for input. 

Here’s an example from Austin Eastciders, a purveyor of American ciders.

That way visitors can see exactly what information is required from each field. 

And once they click or tap on it, the ghost text disappears, and they can begin entering their information. 

It may not seem like a big deal, but it makes the process just a little bit smoother and eliminates any guesswork for visitors. 

3. Make Optin Form Placement Conspicuous But Not Annoying 

Positioning is another key component of optin form best practices. 

You want to place it in a location that naturally attracts a visitor’s eye.

However, you don’t want to turn them off by using something like a full-screen interstitial that’s distracting and takes away from the user experience. 

To give you a better idea of what would be considered good positioning, let me give you a couple of examples.

The first is from leather goods company, Makr

Upon landing on their site, you see a well laid out collection of their products.

After scrolling down a bit—an action that conveys interest—you get a half-page popup optin form.

If you’re interested, you can quickly sign up. 

If not, you can click the “X” icon at the top right corner of the popup or simply click anywhere else on the screen to exit. 

I think this is an extremely effective way to direct a visitor’s attention to the optin form so they don’t miss it. 

But at the same time, it’s not overly distracting, and it allows them to quickly return to browsing the site if they don’t wish to sign up. 

Another example is from Simply Chocolate, a company that makes handmade chocolate bars with natural ingredients. 

Once you arrive on their site, you see a sleek, professional design featuring their different chocolate bars.

After scrolling down through their product selection, you then see their optin form in a conspicuous location. 

Again, they place it in an easily visible location and wait until a visitor has expressed interest in their products. 

So it’s a nice balance of clear and noticeable without ruffling any feathers with a full-screen interstitial. 

And that’s the formula that I think is best when choosing positioning. 

4. Let Subscribers Know What They’ll Get

Many people are reluctant to sign up for a newsletter because their inbox is already stuffed, and they don’t want to receive generic content they’re not truly interested in. 

I get it. 

A good way to win them over is to let them know exactly what they’ll receive by signing up and how it will benefit them.

Take this optin form from indoor potted plant delivery service, The Sill, for example.

They include copy that lets potential subscribers know they’ll get exclusive promotions, new arrivals, plant care tips, and more. 

Or look at this example from premium women’s footwear company, Charlotte Stone.

Their copy lets potential subscribers know they’ll get news, specials, secrets and life hacks. 

That way there’s no confusion as to what subscribers will receive, and they’ll know that you’re not just looking to spam them with salesy content. 

Instead, they’ll get a ton of useful information along with relevant promotions to help them save money on the products they love. 

So be sure that you’re crystal clear with your offerings, and avoid any ambiguity that might create confusion. 

5. Offer an Incentive

Nearly every e-commerce brand has a newsletter these days. 

And they’re all looking to get visitors to sign up. 

So an email optin is something many people simply ignore and gloss over unless there’s something to sweeten the deal. 

By incentivizing the optin form, you can grab people’s attention and motivate them to sign up. 

And there are several ways to go about this. 

Content marketing expert, Beth Hayden offers some nice examples including:

  • A free toolkit (checklists, cheat sheets, videos, etc.)
  • Access to a webinar or class
  • Your manifesto
  • A productivity template

But one incentive I really think is potent, especially for e-commerce stores, is giving customers a discount for signing up. 

That’s what Brooklyn-based designer Rebecca Atwood does on her site where she offers $20 off the first purchase. 

Besides increasing your number of signups, this also encourages visitors to go ahead and complete their first purchase. 

If they were interested but still on the fence about it, this can get them to take action. 

And once they’re subscribers and have made an initial purchase, you can continue to build that relationship and potentially gain a loyal, long-term customer. 

Just be sure that the discount you offer isn’t so high that it eats away at your profit margin.

6. Leverage Social Proof 

According to ConversionXL, “Social proof is based on the idea of normative social influence, which states that people will conform in order to be liked by, similar to or accepted by the influencer (or society).” 

And considering that 93 percent of people say that online reviews have impacted a purchasing decision, it’s hard to deny the power of social proof. 

We’re always looking for affirmation that a brand or product is legit. 

Social proof is a simple and straightforward way of providing it. 

So when you’re trying to get someone who may be a little skeptical with an inbox that’s already full to sign up to your email list, offering social proof is a great way to do it. 

This is a technique we use for the Sleeknote optin form. 

Check it out, and you’ll notice that we mention that 40,000 e-commerce marketers have already signed up. 

So there’s something to it, and 40,000+ e-commerce marketers can’t be wrong. 

While this won’t be viable for all brands—say, for instance, you only currently have 50 subscribers—it can certainly work if you have a sizable subscriber base and should help you add to it. 

7. Get Creative with Your CTA

“Subscribe” and “Sign Up” are probably the two most commonly used CTAs for email optin forms. 

And while they certainly get the point across, they’re also a little boring and played out. 

As a result, this can diminish the interest level of potential subscribers, meaning a smaller percentage will be willing to sign up.

That’s why I suggest getting creative with your CTA and playing around with the wording until you find something that’s interesting that resonates with visitors.

There was a case study a few years back that experimented with creating more personal CTA copy. 

It involved a website that taught people how to flip websites.

For their original CTA, it simply said, “Join Us!”

But for their A/B test, they switched the CTA to “Make Money Flipping Websites,” which is much more specific and taps into the desires of their audience. 

Here’s what the CTA looked like before. 

And here’s what it looked like after. 

Although it was only a minor tweak, the impact was substantial, and they were able to increase conversions by a whopping 33.1 percent

ConversionXL provides two key takeaways from this case study.

  1. “Test CTA copy that matches the conversation in your prospects’ head. As copywriter Joanna Wiebe shares in this article, your button copy should complete the sentence: ‘I want to _______.’
  2. Make sure your form copy speaks to the user, their pain points and the benefits of signing up.”

A good example is this CTA from Nesha Woolery, an entrepreneur who teaches branding and web design to her clients. 

Or if you want to keep your CTA basic but add some pizzazz, you can play around with the wording to make it more fun and personable like outdoor gear company Diamond Brand does here.

It’s a bit more fun and playful than your standard “Subscribe.”

8. If You Use a Popup, Make it Easy to Exit 

To use an optin popup or not to use an optin popup? That is the question.

And it’s a debate that’s been raging for years. 

I think that when done right, e-commerce brands can use optin popups in a way that grabs visitors’ attention without killing the user experience. 

So if that’s the path you choose, that’s fine. 

However, you need to make sure that visitors who aren’t interested in your newsletter can quickly exit a popup without any hassle. 

Otherwise, it’s going to create friction and could send a good portion of visitors away, never to return.

Molekule, a company that sells high-end air purifiers is a great example of a brand who does this well. 

After browsing their site for a while, you get this optin popup.

While it does block out the entire screen, it’s super simple to exit. 

Of course, you can click the “X” icon on the top right-hand corner. 

Or you can simply click anywhere on the screen outside of the optin form, and you’ll return right back to the site. 

No sweat. 

Using proper etiquette is a big part of following optin form best practices. 

So if you’re going the popup route, be sure to use this strategy. 

Free Downloadable Bonus

Want More Conversion Rate Optimization Strategies?

Get access to our free CRO toolkit and skyrocket your organic traffic, on-page conversion rate and more (includes resources not found in the blog post).

Creating a Fully Optimized Optin Form

With an average of $44 earned for every $1 spent, email marketing isn’t going out of style any time soon. 

But to turn casual visitors into loyal subscribers, you need to use proven strategies that motivate people to sign up. 

Following these optin form best practices covers the fundamentals so you can get more eyeballs on your newsletter and maximize conversions. 

The end result is a highly engaged group of subscribers that are primed to buy. 

What’s the number one factor that motivates you to sign up to a newsletter? Leave a comment below.

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