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How to Dress Your Opt-In Forms for Email Marketing Success

Posted on 18 August 2015

email marketing opt-in forms

The following is a guest post from Matthew Paulson, Founder of where he has amassed a following of over 200,000 email subscribers.

Between 2006 and 2010, I had written more than 3,000 blog posts and had absolutely nothing to show for it. My site received a paltry 400 hits per day and I wasn’t getting much ad revenue. What I was doing just wasn’t working and I knew I needed to try something different. I heard on a podcast that building an email list is a requirement if you’re going to be successful over the long haul. I took that advice seriously and I’ve built a mailing list of nearly 250,000 subscribers five years later. My business is on track to generate $2.5 million in revenue in 2015, all because of email marketing.

If you build an email list, it will quickly become one of the most valuable assets in your business. Email is 40 times better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter (McKinsey & Co., 2014). A business will earn an average of $43.00 for every $1.00 invested in email marketing (DMA, 2013) and 72% of consumers say that email is their preferred way to communicate with companies (Forrester, 2014).

The first step in building your list is collecting opt-ins. Most users will get on your email list through an opt-in form on your site, where they can give you their email address in exchange for the value that you will provide to them via email. How will you use your opt-in forms to make a good impression and start an ongoing conversation?

Here’s a few tips to dress your opt-in forms for email marketing success:

Dress in layers

From sidebars to footers to popups, there are so many places to put an opt-in form. Which is best? Actually, it’s most effective to use several styles of forms and layer them together. As a baseline, start with an entry popup and a footer form on your website. Using multiple opt-ins on your website will generate a higher conversion rate than using any single form because users that miss your entry popup may sign-up through another form on your website.

Don’t stuff your closet

You probably don’t need as many pieces of information from your users as you think you do. It’s much better to stick with the essentials– just the user’s email address. While it is tempting to try to collect a lot of information about your users up-front, such as their name, gender and interests, asking for all that information will only make them less likely to complete your form. (It’s kind of like how you could get ready faster in the morning if you didn’t have quite so many pieces in your closet!) You can always ask for additional personal details later in an auto-responder series.

One size does not fit all

No matter what platform your blog runs on, there’s probably an opt-in form plugin designed to make it easy for you to add forms to your site. Some popular plug-ins include Optin MonsterOptin CatSumoMe List BuilderHelloBar, and Optin Revolution . There are many others. Which one will fit your site best? You’ll have to shop around and make a decision based on your site’s size, style and audience– there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Keep experimenting

You’ll never know what works for you until you try it on. Every aspect of your opt-in forms can and should be tested. You can test different types of opt-in forms on your website. You might find that an entry popup works better than an exit popup. You might find that adding a second opt-in form to your website improves your conversion rates. You can test changing the wording in your headline, description and button text. You can test a different lead magnet to see if it better resonates with your subscribers. You can even test changing the colors and fonts in your forms. Remember that you should only test one change on your website at a time. If you make multiple changes at once, you will not know which changes are helping your opt-in rates and which changes are hurting your rates.

Express yourself

The words on your opt-in form are your chance to make a statement to your site visitors about the further value you can give them. The headline on your form should get straight to the point– it may be the single most important words that you write in the life of your business. The description on your opt-in form is the main copy that sets the expectation for the type of email that your recipients will receive and provides an overall value proposition for why someone might want to be on your mailing list. The text on your sign-up button will be the shortest part of your opt-in that you write. Your button text may only be two or three words, but having the right text on your sign-up button can improve your opt-in rates by 10-30%. You should definitely experiment with your copy to find what works best with your fans.

Be confident– you can pull it off.

Do you ever try on something smart and showy, know that you’d probably get lots of compliments if you wore it, but worry that it’s just too much? Maybe you feel the same way about showy opt-in forms, such as popups or welcome pages. Don’t worry– you can pull it off! Do not let any personal feelings or opinions you might have stop you from using large opt-in forms. Remember that you are not your users. Many people who work online (such as fashion bloggers) think that all ads are annoying and should be avoided. But that doesn’t mean that your potential subscribers feel the same way. Your subscribers may be glad that you have a large opt-in form that appears when they first visit your website because they want your lead magnet and other email content that you produce. If you truly believe that a large opt-in form or a popup is too annoying for your users, let the data do the talking. Run a split-test with half of your website visitors seeing the form and the other half not seeing it at all. If the users that see the opt-in form visit the same average number of pages on your website that users that do not see the opt-in form do, you know the opt-in is not driving any visitors away from your website.

Lemon Stripes Opt-in Form

Go out and get some compliments!

The best outfit won’t get noticed if you only wear it at home alone. The success of your opt-in forms will be strongly correlated to how much traffic you have on your blog. A highly effective set of opt-in forms on a website with good traffic sources might yield an opt-in rate of 4-5%. A less effective set of opt-in forms on the same website might only command a sign-up rate of 0.5%. There is no industry standard for what conversion rates you should expect. Do not beat yourself up if you get low opt-in rates for the first few months of your email marketing efforts. Instead, focus on improving your rates and getting more and more traffic to your website each month.

Say thank you and start a conversation.

When your users engage with your opt-in forms, be sure to say thank you! The page that users are redirected to after they sign up for your mailing list is often referred to as a thank you page, because it usually contains a message that thanks a subscriber for signing up for a mailing list. Many bloggers do not realize that this chance to say thank you is also the best place to continue the conversation.  A user that lands on your thank you page after opting in has already indicated that they are interested in your content and has taken a specific action to receive more of your content. They are much more likely than other users to take another action, such as signing up for a free trial of a premium service, clicking on a banner ad or opting into another mailing list through a co-registration ad-unit. Don’t just say “Thank you.” Ask them some questions!


Implementing good opt-in forms on your website is your first step to building a large and profitable email list. The time you spend creating value, writing copy, and experimenting with your opt-in forms will pay you back when your mailing list starts to grow automatically. Use that list to provide value, and you will be repaid.

For an in-depth look at all aspects of email marketing, check out my upcoming book Email Marketing Demystified. Claim your copy at

Want to contribute a guest post to IFB? Learn how here.

The post How to Dress Your Opt-In Forms for Email Marketing Success appeared first on IFB.

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