Everyone says you should build an email list.

But, should you?

I’d have to say yes and with a potential ROI of 4,300%, it’s hard to ignore.

Even when you take ROI out of the equation, email is still one of the best channels to facilitate the growth of a community and get more returning visitors.

So this begs the question: how can you grow your email list while minimizing any potential technical headaches?

There are ways that this can be done and you may just find this easier than you think.

Are you making it easy for your visitors to subscribe?

As a marketer, my aim is always to minimise friction between my business and my clients.

If you truly want to build your email list then you need to be committed to doing the same for your website and its visitors.

Take a look at your website and ask yourself – how easy is it to subscribe to my list?

  • Do you have opt-in forms in key locations? (e.g. sidebar and after blog posts)
  • Do your opt-in forms stand out?
  • What about when people add their email address, is it clear that they have to look for a confirmation email?

Your aim should always be to make it 100% clear to your audience; what it is that you want them to do.

Offer your subscribers something exclusive

Plenty of big sites do quite well by just setting up a straight forward opt-in form where readers can subscribe and get email updates.

But, what if you aren’t a big site?

It’s not so easy to get someone to hand over their email address and it’s not surprising.

With that in mind, you need something that’s more compelling than just “free updates”.

You need something that is exclusive, that your subscribers can get real value out of.

This can be done easily by putting together an exclusive free download; you may have heard people refer to this as a “bribe” or a “lead magnet”.

You can then take this further by adding a call to action for a paid product or service at the end of your free download – this is especially easy if you’re putting together a PDF.

I quite like how the folks at KISSmetrics offer this free guide below their blog posts:


Here is an example of the landing page that you get sent to:


It does add another step to the process, but this gives you a great opportunity to really sell your visitors on the free resource you’re offering.

Also, if you’re looking to capture more data than just name and email, this can be a great way to go.

This type of thing can be easily enough by an image and some HTML/CSS but there are tools on the market that can help you do this, e.g. Lead Converter.

(Disclaimer: Lead Converter is made by the same company as Advanced Web Ranking, I don’t work for them in any capacity, but it’s definitely a handy tool that will help you).

The benefit here, over just quickly having one coded for you is that you get a full platform capable of split testing and offering other lead generation options too.

And testing is important.

The smallest detail can make the largest difference to your conversions.

We’ll talk about this in a bit more detail later on in the post.

A single platform to manage all of your opt-in forms

One of the challenges that I have always faced is keeping all of my opt-in forms synchronised and track statistics from a single dashboard.

Fortunately there are plugins like OptinMonster which can be great for those who use self-hosted WordPress installations.

I’m a huge fan of OptinMonster, but, what if you want to track analytics for multiple sites? Or you want to use a different CMS, or just a regular HTML/PHP site?

Then it’s definitely a challenge.

Well, it was.

A new tool, Optin Architect now allows you to manage all of your opt-in forms from a single dashboard.

With it being a new system, it doesn’t support all of the same opt-in form locations that OptinMonster does, but it does cover pop-overs, sidebar opt-ins and site wide opt-ins.
There also looks to be a lot of new features on the horizon here.

Capture sign ups before visitors bounce (forever)

Try checking your analytics and looking at how many of your visitors actually return to your site.

For most site owners, over 70% won’t return.

What does your analytics platform tell you?

That’s a crazy amount, but highlights the need to grab someone’s attention and compel them to sign up to your list.

Pop-overs are one of the best ways to build your list, but it’s true that a lot of people do find them annoying.

There are ways that we can make this tactic less intrusive, for example:

  1. Display pop-overs on the 2nd page view
  2. Offer something worth interrupting your visitors
  3. Display a pop-over just before someone bounces from your page

My 3rd point is what I want to talk to you about in more detail.

There is a piece of technology that does this very well.

It’s called “exit intent” and it tracks mouse movements to figure out when people are moving their mouse to exit the page.

Aside from tools like OptinMonster and Optin Architect which I mentioned previously, there are other platforms that offer this functionality which include:

Pop-overs don’t always work – or do they?

A study carried out by Dan Zarrella found that there was only a minimal impact to bounce rate, when pop-overs were used.

Although it also found that by using a pop-over, you could almost double your conversions.

Despite the fact that this worked for Dan, it doesn’t mean that it would definitely work for you.


What works for one industry or group of people doesn’t always work for another industry or group of people.

Best practice can be a great foundation but after that you need to test things for yourself, but you can do this by setting up a pop-over and monitoring your bounce rate.

In-line opt-in forms can work well

Out of all of the opt-in forms that I use on my own site, the one that converts the best is my in-line opt-in form.

This is just a basic opt-in form that I add to key pages on my site.

Here’s an example:


In the example above, I have used a basic form in OptinMonster, using short-code – but most email marketing platforms offer code that you can use in a similar way.

I get most of my conversions using these forms from my about page, but this can work quite well on resource pages or other priority pages.

This may not work for all websites because you need to identify your key goals for a given page.

For example, if you have a page where you are encouraging visitors to get in touch and enquire about a service you’re offering, you wouldn’t want to use this type of in-line form.

Are you leveraging social proof or is it working against you?

If you haven’t come across social proof before, it comes down to this – when people see that you have an endorsement by an industry influencer or loads of subscribers, it conveys that they should follow you or subscribe to your website.

So, when you see something like this:

Example from the Content Marketing Institute.

It looks impressive right?

But what if you were highlighting that you had a few hundred subscribers, or less?

That’s not so impressive.

That’s where negative social proof comes in.

If you’re got something to shout about, like a testimonial from Chris Brogan or a huge amount of subscribers – tell the world.

If not, focus on the benefits that your visitors will get when they sign up to your list.

Your websites design is important – could it be hurting your conversions?

The design of a website is a crucial factor that does make a difference to how many people to subscribe to your list.

Let’s say that you add an opt-in form in your sidebar and then add one below your blog posts, to get the basics covered.

Are your visitors going to even notice those opt-in forms?

Or, are they going to be drawn to something else, maybe a badge in your sidebar?

Badges can work, but only if they can be used as a trust signal that will generate some positive social proof.

There are a few questions that should be asked here:

  • Can anyone get one of these badges?
  • Are they difficult to get?
  • Is the source of the badge an authority?

A good example of a badge that could work well would include a top 10 badge from Social Media Examiner:


On the flip side, a badge from a blog directory that nobody reads and anyone can get would be an example of the type of badge that you should remove.

Everything on your website must have a purpose

When I start working on a site, one of the first things that I look at is what can be distracting visitors from the sites core goals.

This is important for improving conversions in general, not just building your list.

I look at each element and ask the question – does it really need to be there?

And the motivation for keeping or removing an element can vary; I may choose to leave an element in place that will distract a user.

However, I will only do this if keeping the element contributes to other conversion goals for the site or it helps to improve the user experience.

Despite the fact that growing our list is important, we need to minimize any negative impact to user experience.

Testing is the key to converting visitors into subscribers like crazy

Have you ever wondered how the pro’s get incredibly high conversion rates?

They test and keep testing.

And it’s not just about testing huge design changes; the slightest tweak can make a huge difference.

Right down to the colour of a button or the text of a button.

For example, in a split test that I ran recently, I was able to improve conversions by 6 times, simply by changing the button colour to a colour that wasn’t included in the design of my site.

There are list building tools which I’ve mentioned previously which will allow you to split test your opt-in forms, but its well worth looking at this at the page level – everything on your page is a factor.

There are plenty of tools on the market (I talk about some in more detail here) which can help you do this.

Two in particular stand out:

These are paid tools, but they’re incredibly straight forward to use.

One of the challenges (aside from setting up split testing) is generating new variations of your pages.

In a lot of situations it does involve hiring a developer, but these types of tools can pull in the page you want to test and give you the option to tweak the layout on the fly.

All via a code free interface.

Over to you

Building your list can be a challenge.

But, if at first you don’t succeed – try again and try something different.

Testing is the key to moving forward and the slightest change can make all the difference.

Do you have anything to add to the list?

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

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