Business technology

Boost your email newsletter sign up rates

- February 17, 2011 3 MIN READ

Disappointed that you’ve only had a handful of subscribers to your email newsletter? These website enhancements will help you create a newsletter sign up readers can’t resist.


Sorting out your strategy before picking up your crayons will determine how effective your email newsletter signup will be.

You don’t have to spend hours scrawling reams of notes. Answering these questions will give you enough information to get started:

  • Why are you publishing a newsletter?
  • What do you want your email newsletter to achieve?
  • How will you measure this?
  • Why should your readers sign up? (What’s in it for them?)
  • What will you give them in exchange?
  • How will you determine what they want?

Collect minimal data

It’s easy to forget that you only need to collect enough data to progress to the next step. Really, it’s a sales process.

Theoretically, the absolute minimum is an email address. Practically, that’s not enough if you want or need to address your reader by name. So an email address and a first name is the absolute minimum.

The goal is to get them on the list. Segmentation and shoe size will come later, once you’ve gained their trust.

Use copy that supports your strategy

Encouraging people to subscribe is not the time to use a witty headline. Wit can catch attention, but can also be ambiguous. And since you need to be direct, ‘FREE newsletter’, paired with good design and positioning, can be just what you need to attract attention.

The main job of your headline is to lead your reader to the teaser, which should cover all their key concerns:

  • Why should I sign up to your email newsletter?
  • What will you cover?
  • How often will I receive it?

You’ll need to answer these questions succinctly and persuasively. Bullets work beautifully.

Remember you’re also setting expectations. Don’t stray from these; you’ll end up with a bunch of unsubscribes. I speak from experience.

Make form fields clear

When designing your subscription form, be specific. The number of newsletter signup forms I see with the field title as ‘Name’ astounds me. Are they after my first name or my full name? What if I don’t want to give my full name? It’s split second stuff, but enough to stop your prospect from signing up. Albeit inadvertent, it’s another barrier. Get rid of it.

Want more articles like this? Check out the email newsletters section.

Button copy and design

Your button copy is a command, reinforcing what you want your reader to do.

Avoid using the word ‘subscribe’, because for many people, a subscription alludes to a paid service – and one that they’re locked in to. Unless this is the case (and I hope it isn’t), you’re creating another barrier.

Strong alternatives include ‘Sign up’ or ‘Sign me up’. Make them even stronger by adding ‘free’, ‘now’ or (gasp) an exclamation mark.

You want your call to action buttons to have big visual impact too, so it’s worth reviewing these tips for creating compelling call to action buttons

Incorporate white space into your design

White space is key to attracting (and retaining) attention. Make sure each element (heading, teaser, fields and button) can be easily identified, and that there’s a good balance of white space around the entire email newsletter sign up area.


Thinking about the usability of a form containing only a couple of fields and a lone button might sound a bit over the top. It’s not though, because if you don’t get it right, it’s another barrier to subscription.

Use an asterisk to mark required fields. It’s unobtrusive – and it’s an unambiguous web standard.

And not everyone uses a mouse or a full sized keyboard. Can you tab between each field? Can you spacebar on the call to action button? Make sure your reader can sign up easily – however they like.

Ask three people to sign up to your newsletter. Watch them do it. Where do they start? How do they do it? Where do they stumble? Fix it.


Your newsletter signup MUST be available from every single page. If it means redesigning your header or sidebar, then so be it. Your reader might not be ready to sign up when they land on your site, but they might be after having a look around.

Don’t make them hunt – or worse, forget. Be ready.

Has tweaking your site increased your email newsletter sign up rates? What’s worked for you? And what hasn’t?

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  • Andrew Caska

    Caska IP Patent Attorneys

    'Flying Solo opened up so many doors for us - I honestly don't know where I'd be without it"