List Building Tips: How To Increase Your Conversions By Over 700%
I’ve been there.
Everyone tells you that you need to build an email list.
Then you sign up with an email marketing platform, add some opt-in forms and wait.
After a while, you question whether the pitiful number of sign-ups even makes it worth bothering.
But, you can make this work.
You can take that trickle of sign ups and turn it into something worthwhile and I’ll show you how.
Just one of the tips that I’m going to show you could result in increasing your conversion rates by over 700%.
Important note: you need to click the link in the confirmation email to gain access to all of my other exclusive content. That includes various PDF’s and templates to help you blog smarter.
The harsh truth about why people aren’t signing up to your list
It’s not because list building doesn’t work.
If you’re struggling to build your list, there are a few reasons why.
- It’s not easy for your readers to subscribe – Don’t make them work for it.
- It’s not clear what you want them to do – Too many distractions will hurt your conversions.
- Your offer isn’t compelling enough – Unless you’re Moz or Mashable, the offer of ‘email updates’ probably won’t work too well.
When you make it easy for your readers, make it clear what you want them to do and put together a compelling offer that is hyper relevant to your readers – that’s when the magic happens.
Is your blog’s design causing friction with your audience?
You need to look at your blog and ask yourself some hard questions.
Put yourself in the shoes of your reader and ask yourself “would I really subscribe?”
Use attention grabbing colours in your opt-in forms
Start off by identifying colours that aren’t in your design, but would still match your existing branding and incorporate them into your opt-in forms.
Most list building tools (like these WordPress plugins) offer split testing features that will allow you to test various colours.
De-clutter your sidebar
Look at your sidebar and ask yourself which elements actually have a purpose.
For example, things like recent post widgets are necessary but things like links to blog directories aren’t.
The same goes for social media widgets like Twitter and Facebook widgets.
If you have them, remove them.
Think about it – sure, it’s easier to get someone to like a Facebook page than subscribe to an email list, but when Facebook reach is set to hit 0, that like may not amount to much anyway.
Leverage social proof and trust
When someone finds out that others are doing something, this creates positive influence.
People assume that the behaviour of others is the correct behaviour and are compelled to take the same action.
There are various types of social proof, but as bloggers we can leverage it by doing the following:
- Display a testimonial from an industry expert which says awesome stuff about you and/or your blog.
- Display the number of email subscribers you have.
- Display the amount of visitors your blog gets.
- Show which popular sites in your industry have mentioned you.
- Show the combined number of people that follow you.
Be careful of negative social proof
I’ve talked about this before, but it warrants another mention.
If you want to leverage social proof, you need to show some good numbers.
If you don’t have the numbers to show, don’t show them – they would only count against you in most cases.
5 Simple list building tips that work
#1 – Offer your subscribers a bribe
People are protective over their email address – I’m the same and I’m sure that you are too.
That’s why you need to go beyond just displaying a single opt-in form a real incentive.
The best way to do this is to create an exclusive piece of content that isn’t available unless a reader subscribes.
That being said, you could still repurpose some of your content into different content types.
Here are some ideas on what you could offer your subscribers:
- Case study
- White paper
- List of tools
- List of resources
- Exclusive video
- Email course
- Video course
- PDF report
- Exclusive interviews
- Audio transcripts
The important thing is to keep your bribe hyper relevant to your target audience.
It’s also worth noting that the time it takes you to create the bribe doesn’t always equate to more subscribers.
It’s all about the problem that your content solves.
#2 – Add opt-in forms to key pages
Some of the highest converting opt-in forms on my site are embedded within content on key pages.
It’s worth considering adding opt-in forms within the content on your own key pages.
This could include:
- About page
- Resource page
- Start page
How to do this yourself
There are plenty of tools that can help you here.
If you’re a WordPress user, list building plugins like Hybrid Connect or OptinMonster can be a good solution as they both allow for shortcode placement of opt-in forms which will give some added flexibility.
Try a 404 error page that gets more subscribers
Also, if you’re a LeadPages customer you can setup a 404 error page which is geared to collect opt-ins.
If not then you may need to hire a developer to hire you, the cost can vary but you can usually find one via a site like Odesk.com or Elance.com.
This can be a great opportunity to get more subscribers, here’s an example:
#3 – Offer something exclusive with each post that requires a sign up
A while back I started publishing the occasional blog post that had something exclusive attached which required entering an email address for the reader to access the content.
The conversion rates for this type of thing are crazy.
And I’m not the only one that’s been experiencing incredible results with this.
Brian Dean recently shared a case study where he tries a similar approach and the result is an increase in conversions of over 700%+.
Brian refers to this approach as the ‘Content Upgrade’ – quite a catchy name and describes this perfectly.
That’s just what it is, by subscribing you’re upgrading in some way.
And you don’t always have to create something exclusive either.
You could just provide a PDF version of the post – that can work incredibly well too.
How to do this yourself
Start off by creating an exclusive PDF of your blog post, or something that is 100% exclusive but hyper relevant to the blog post in question.
I used a feature within LeadPages called LeadBoxes which allows you to use a 2 step opt-in process.
You are given a link that when clicked will present the user with a popover, which looks something like this:
You can just add this to some text in your blog post; I created an image in the style of a button and added it to the top of the post.
By creating this myself I was able to style the button exactly how I wanted and make it as large as required.
I then added the button to the blog post at two locations:
- Just below the introduction
- Just at the end of the post
While LeadPages offers a lot of other cool stuff (e.g. landing page creation), it’s a monthly/yearly paid tool.
A great alternative would be to use a WordPress plugin called OptinLinks (Click here to learn more).
This is a much more cost effective option; OptinLinks starts at around $37 and offers a few features that are really unique.
One of the problems I’ve always had is getting subscribers to click the confirmation link, that’s definitely the downside to LeadPages.
OptinLinks has an incredible way of handling this.
After an email address is entered, it will present a ‘waiting for confirmation’ notification and it will only redirect to the download after the confirmation link is clicked.
#4 – Add opt-in forms to key locations on your blog
In order to make it easy for your readers to subscribe to your list, you need to add opt-in forms to key locations on your site.
Below are some typical opt-in form types:
- After blog posts
- Feature box
- Header notification
- Home page
Use your own judgement and don’t negatively impact user experience
There are times when certain combinations of opt-in forms can destroy your user experience.
For example, I’ve seen a sidebar opt-in form that is fixed as users scroll down the page, with a fixed opt-in form in the footer which is then accompanied by a floating social share bar.
From a user experience, I hated it and I won’t read any posts on that blog or any others that do the same.
Not because the content isn’t good, but because it’s so painful to actually read it.
That’s not a position that you want to put your readers in.
So, if you have an element that is fixed to scroll down the page as a user scrolls – one is enough.
Popovers work – sometimes
I’ve known some marketers to cite popovers as not effecting user experience based on bounce rate figures.
But, the reality is that you need to test it for yourself and see how it performs.
It’s worth considering the fact that over 75% of your blogs visitors probably won’t return so it’s worth testing it.
Although, if at first it doesn’t perform, consider repositioning your bribe or tweaking the copy.
Tools to help you
I’ve written about list building plugins and platforms in the past, but there are some in particular that stand out as being VERY useful here:
- OptinMonster ($) – A lightweight WordPress plugin best known for its ability to display high converting opt-in forms. Various other opt-in types supported along with shortcode placement.
- Hybrid Connect ($) – You will get access to more features (when compared to OptinMonster) with this WordPress plugin but its more resource intensive. The level of customization is incredible.
- Optin Architect ($) – A cloud based system that provides a fantastic set of analytics and the ability to add popovers, sidebar opt-ins and other opt-in form types to any website. Supports all major CMS.
- Hellobar (free) – Add a header notification bar to your site for free. Supports WordPress and HTML. You can also use this to drive traffic to landing pages and there is page level targeting.
#5 – Contribute to authoritative blogs in your niche
One of the best ways to expand your audience is to write for the top blogs in your niche.
The benefits include:
- Building your list
You may have to work your way up to the top tier blogs, but the payoff will be worth it.
So, where does this fit into building your list?
For starters, the traffic that gets referred from high quality posts you write for other sites usually converts much higher than other traffic.
The real magic happens when you create a dedicated landing page for your bribe and link to it in your author bio.
Here’s an example from my post for Boost Blog Traffic:
This author bio then referred readers to this landing page:
This page was created using LeadPages in around 5 minutes and converted at around 50%.
Since then I have improved the copy so I will continue to test this layout.
I prefer LeadPages for this type of work because it’s so fast to use and I could use them to host all of my landing pages if I wanted.
That being said, if you’re using WordPress there are a lot of plugins available to help you here. Check out this post for more.
You need to seriously think about the blogs that you contribute to
This strategy relies on the ability for the site you write for to refer traffic through your author bio link.
Some sites tend to not work so well for this, for example if they display a bunch of related posts widgets before your author bio.
There are various metrics you could look at when you decide which sites to write for, for example:
- Number of social shares
- Number of mailing list subscribers
- Number of average comments
The metric I’d recommend you focus on is the number of comments – this is the biggest sign of an active and engaged community.
Look out for spam comments; the approval of large numbers of spam comments (e.g. anchor text in the name field or body of the comment) is a huge red flag.
Now it’s time for your pitch
Find out who the editor of the blog is and pitch them an idea for an awesome article.
Here are some things to remember:
- Always give your best stuff.
- Avoid using template emails and make it clear that you’re writing the email especially for them.
- Be succinct and to the point – these are busy people!
- Don’t be generic
- Be sure that you understand the type of content the blog publishes
- Include a link to blog posts you’ve written – only include your best stuff!
- Developing a relationship with the editor first can work very well.
Tools to help you along the way
At a bare minimum, all you really need to get the job done is an email account and Google.
Always be testing
Small changes can have a large impact on your conversion rates.
Everything from the colour of your form, the button colour, button text and headline for example.
This is why testing is so important.
The niche you operate in and even your specific target audience can have a large bearing on what works and what doesn’t.
Best practices can only get you so far – it’s up to testing to enable you to take things to the next level.
Understand your target audience, create a hypothesis, test that hypothesis and you will find out what works (as well as what doesn’t).
Over to you
Just following one of these tips will have a profound impact on your list building efforts.
You could see that potential 700%+ increase in conversions.
Also, as a bonus for you, I’ve put together a PDF version of this post for you to download.
See what I did there?
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About Adam Connell
Adam is the founder of Blogging Wizard. Previously Operations Manager for a UK based marketing agency, Adam now helps others to become more successful online. Get more from Adam on Google+.