8 Ways to Make Your Newsletter Signup Form Work Harder

Illustration by Sènga la Rouge Strong man with lots of little men grooming him.

Your newsletter signup form should be more than an afterthought. But that’s how many businesses and groups treat it — a little button in a lost corner of your website. That’s too bad because, with a little elbow grease, you can transform your subscriber form into a real asset, growing your email lists and increasing your visibility, click-through rates, and engagement.

When you spend a little bit of time making your newsletter signup form work harder, your subscriber list will grow and you’ll find that your business has new marketing and outreach tools at its disposal. When you make your signup form work harder, your newsletter has the potential to become a much more powerful tool.

1. Consider where you place your newsletter signup form

Whether you’ve built your website from scratch or you’ve used a WordPress page building tool, you probably have some control over what goes where. Precisely where you place your newsletter signup form can have a significant impact on how many people actually sign up.

Unfortunately, there is no single optimal location. But there are some best practices to consider as you find a home for your signup call-to-action:

  • Place your newsletter signup form where your users are likely to be looking already. If you have the ability, heat-mapping tools and other analytics can help you determine with pinpoint precision where a user’s eyes tend to linger. But you can also use logic, placing your form in commonly trafficked areas, such as a header or footer.
  • Consider multiple signup forms. It’s easy to place these in various areas throughout your website, such as at the end of every blog post (but before the comments). That way, users are reminded to sign up before they move on to the next thing they’re doing.
WPMU DEV newsletter signup form.

You can see how, in this example from the WPMU DEV blog, the newsletter signup form is placed in an attention-grabbing way in the middle of an article, to excellent effect.

If you’re having difficulty finding the perfect place for your newsletter signup form, you could always perform some simple A/B testing, placing the form in several locations and tracking the results.

2. Make your newsletter signup form easy to use

Any newsletter signup form needs to be simple and easy to use. Many businesses and social groups will make the mistake of trying to wring a significant amount of information out of their newsletter subscribers. Unfortunately, modern users have very little patience for filling out long subscription forms with plenty of fields.

Flight Club signup form.

The best newsletter signup forms, such as the one above from Flight Club, are usually short and sweet. All you really need to collect from a new subscriber is an email address. But there are additional advantages to a simple approach:

  • Most of your users know that all you really need is an email address, which means they might get a little suspicious if you start asking for any personal information. A single field for your email newsletter signup can make you appear more trustworthy.
  • Your email signup form is more flexible when it’s just the one field, meaning you have more options in terms of where to place it.
  • Collecting only an email address now gives you an opportunity to contact users in the future in order to gather more data — and every chance to contact your users is an opportunity to make a good impression.

3. Create an instant offer for new subscribers

This isn’t exactly a new trick, but it is an effective one: you want to make subscribing to your newsletter a worthwhile experience. And one way to do that is with a direct cash incentive. Often, this will take the form of a coupon or discount in embedded in the introductory email.

It’s important to make this discount significant — usually at least 15% or so. If the user feels the discount is not worth their time, you may end up with an immediate unsubscribe.

There are several advantages to offering this kind of discount:

  • Using discount or coupon codes that are specific to your introductory email can help you track the behavior of newsletter subscribers.
  • It might sound a little old fashioned, but this introductory email gives you an opportunity to make a good impression on a new subscriber. This impression can last for quite some time.
  • Users are more likely to make bigger purchases when they’re using this type of discount or coupon code.

The trick is that, these days, users almost expect a discount in return for subscribing, making this a very common — but also very effective — strategy.

Karma Loop newsletter signup form.

4. Use other forms of media

When someone signs up for a newsletter, they’re signing up for a relatively straightforward and simple proposition: you send out a newsletter and they read it (maybe). Most newsletters, in part because of the limitations of the medium, are restricted mostly to text. They are meant to be read.

But you can use other forms of media to drive subscriptions to your newsletters. There are two very common forms of media that are particularly popular drivers of newsletter signups today:

  • Podcasts: Basically the internet version of a radio show, podcasts are incredibly popular because they are easy to produce and easy for users to digest. Listening to a podcast in your car or on the bus, for example, is simple enough. And you can learn a lot from a podcast.
  • Webinars: Many skill-based software suites have recently begun using webinars as a way to drive interest in their latest software updates–and to drive newsletter signups. This strategy is becoming more common because it’s so effective. A webinar provides a significant amount of value. Signing up for a newsletter in return seems trivial.

Using media to entice sign ups works best when you’re providing something of value to your users, customers, and subscribers.

5. Use a compelling call-to-action

Ask any copywriter and they’ll tell you one of the hardest things to write is a call to action on a button. It needs to be short, sweet, and compelling–but you’ve only got two or three words at the most to do it. Every newsletter signup form is going to need a CTA of some kind, and the best calls to action are going to be more interesting than “Click here.”

Indeed, even the word “Submit” has become somewhat less fashionable, as it causes users to question just what they’re yielding to–it brings to mind images of vast amount of personal data and a user helpless to control any of it.

Even something like “Subscribe here” is a little past its expiration date. Instead, try to come up with something specific to your business or group — or to what you’re offering with your newsletter. Examples might include:

  • Join today!
  • Sign up!
  • Download now!
  • Reserve your spot!
Shinesty newsletter signup form.

6. Be clear about how you’ll handle data

Savvy customers are all too aware of how valuable their data is, especially and including their email addresses. That’s why if you’re going to ask for someone’s email address (again, a form of data), it’s a good idea to spend some time and explicitly describe how that data will be used, or simply link to your privacy policy. In fact, this is a GDPR requirement.

In general, this might mean:

  • A general message reassuring users that their email address will be used for internal purposes only.
  • You might even consider a short message such as “We understand how valuable your data is.”
  • This disclaimer shouldn’t be the bulk of your pitch, of course — and you don’t want to draw any untowards attention to it. But you also don’t necessarily want to make it look like fine print. This, after all, is an appeal towards transparency. Fine print makes it look like you’re trying to hide something.
  • Let customers and users know what kinds of emails they can expect from your business or group.

It’s incredibly important that you be completely honest and transparent about how data will be used. You don’t want to mislead your users in any way — especially when it comes to data!

Wired newsletter signup form.

7. Appeal to exclusivity

The entire idea behind any newsletter is that you offer your readers something of value. That value is a kind of currency, keeping your newsletter read and relevant. But it’s possible to take it a step further, creating a newsletter that offers exclusive value. Now, this often comes in the form of information — one common tactic is to offer your readers “exclusive tips and tricks.”

Precisely what you offer will depend on your niche, organization, or business model. But it’s a useful strategy — no one likes to feel they’re missing out. And so when you offer exclusive value, you’re more likely to see subscriptions increase. For example, check out how we promote the MailPoet newsletter by highlighting that it includes exclusive content.

But then it’s more important than ever that you deliver on that promise. When you appeal to exclusivity, you make a promise to the reader that your information — or whatever of value you’re adding — is going to be worth it. Delivering on that promise will keep your readers happy and your subscriptions increasing.

Kookai newsletter signup form.

8. Make it look pretty

Your readers are going to judge your website on how it looks. There’s no getting around that. But they’re also going to judge your newsletter signup form based on how it looks. The more thought you can put into the design, from form fields to CTA, the more easily you’ll be able to convince your readers to sign up.

  • Strategically use your business’s or group’s branding when designing your form.
  • Make sure your form is legible–you want people to see what they’re signing up for. You want a great design, but you can’t let it get in the way of function.
  • Ensure that your design looks and functions great on desktop and mobile platforms. Almost half of your signups will be from mobile phones, so this is vital.
  • Use your design to help your newsletter signup form stand out from the rest of your website, calling attention to the signup field.

If your newsletter signup form looks outdated or unfinished, users could find the experience off-putting and decide they don’t trust you with their data (in this case, their email address). So ensuring you have a polished, well thought out design is essential when it comes to reassuring users and helping them to trust you.

Lastly, don’t forget your confirmation email. For more: Improve Your Signup: Confirmation Email – Part 1.

Improve your newsletter signup form and build your email list

Once you’ve perfected your newsletter signup form and getting it to work harder for you, it’s important to keep mind that any email list is just the beginning. Your users and your subscribers are expecting a certain level of quality content (and there’s a lot of competition for their attention), so it’s a good idea to invest some time and energy in creating a fantastic newsletter.

Meeting the expectations of your subscriber list can be an invigorating challenge. And it all starts with creating that email list in the first place, with finding creative ways to maximize who signs up and why. That’s why putting time, energy, and effort into your newsletter signup form is almost always worth it in the long run.