Email Marketing: The Ultimate Guide.

Last updated: October 23, 2018
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. That said, I never recommend a product or service that I don't personally use for my business.

Email marketing is the most effective form of mass communication available today.

Despite the growth of social media sites, instant messenger services, and web forums, email continues to be the dominant force in digital communication with over 269 billion emails sent each day. This number is on the rise too, with 28% more emails sent in 2016 versus 2015.

Despite the apparent growth in popularity, many business owners are struggling to make email marketing work for them, with only 60% of marketers reporting a positive ROI from their email campaigns.

With so many brands vying for a reader’s attention, it is not uncommon for marketers to feel like their message is falling on deaf ears (or blind eyes!).

These concerns are especially valid for business owners who have been slow to evolve to tackle today’s more savvy email users; those who are quick to dismiss your email marketing without a second thought.

Thankfully, the tried, tested, and actionable steps in this guide will show you how to grow your email list more quickly, and cut through the noise in your readers’ inboxes to deliver your message more effectively.

So regardless if you’re just starting to build your email list, looking to grow it further, or trying to improve an underperforming email campaign, this guide will show you the specific steps required.

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Recommended Resource.

aweber email marketing logo

AWeber = Email Marketing Awesomeness.

With AWeber, you get all the email marketing tools you need to create and send engaging emails which really deliver results, including;

Website opt-in forms - easily create and customize opt-in forms to capture email addresses on your blog or website.

Autoresponder campaigns - put your email marketing on autopilot by creating emails in advance which can be sent automatically while you concentrate on other parts of your business.

Easy list segmentation - send targeted emails to certain groups of your subscribers to boost conversion rates.

Mobile-responsive email templates - modify existing templates or create new ones using a simple drag-and-drop editor to create emails that look amazing on any device. No coding skills required.

In-depth testing and reporting - test different emails to see which works best, or quickly find metrics such as open rate or click-through rate (and many others) for a specific email to see what can be improved.

AWeber is my number one choice when it comes to email marketing.

Contents

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PRELUDE

Benefits of Email Marketing

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SECTION ONE

Growing Your Email List

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CHAPTER ONE

Selecting an Email Opt-In Form Provider

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CHAPTER TWO

Improving Your Email Opt-In Forms

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CHAPTER THREE

Do's and Don'ts of Email List Building

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SECTION TWO

Contacting Your Email List

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CHAPTER FOUR

Selecting an Email Service Provider

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CHAPTER FIVE

Writing Emails

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CHAPTER SIX

Improving Your Emails

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Tracking & Improving Your Email Marketing

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CHAPTER EIGHT

Legal Aspects of Email Marketing

PRELUDE:

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Benefits of Email Marketing

You get it. 

Email isn’t going anywhere. 

That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t necessarily explain why it’s the right decision for your business.

What are the specific benefits that make it so useful for business owners and digital marketers, and why should you invest the time and energy into developing your email marketing campaign?

Email marketing is a no-brainer for the following reasons:

Email Marketing is Targeted

By growing an email list around quality subscribers who are genuinely interested in a particular niche, you will be able to increase the effectiveness of your marketing and increase your conversion by only targeting people you know will enjoy or benefit from your content.

These recipients should have provided you permission to contact them, for example by completing an opt-in form on your website.

The ability to contact a highly concentrated group of individuals (based on their interests), who want to receive your marketing, means email marketing can be very targeted.

Non-targeted forms of marketing differ significantly, for example, billboard adverts or television adverts, where a large proportion of the people who see an advert won’t be interested in the niche, won’t have asked to receive the marketing, and likely won’t recognize the company.

As a result, non-targeted forms of marketing have much lower conversion rates than email marketing.

Did you know?

You can achieve a higher degree of targeting in email marketing via segmentation.

Segmentation is where you split your overall email list into different categories or groups depending on specific criteria, for example:

    • How you captured the subscriber’s email address, for example through a sale or onsite opt-in form.
    • A subscriber’s age, gender, or the country in which they live.

Segmentation makes it possible to deliver customized and highly-relevant emails that are personalized for specific groups.

This relevancy leads to email open rates that are 14.41% higher than with non-segmented campaigns, increased loyalty, and ultimately increased conversion rates.

Email Marketing Provides More Bang for Your Buck

Cost:

Email marketing is much cheaper than other popular forms of marketing, including postal campaigns, telesales, and advertising in a magazine, on a billboard or television.

While Email Service Providers (companies which provide the infrastructure through which you can send large quantities of emails simultaneously) charge fees for sending emails, these will be much lower than the print, postage and advertising costs associated with other forms of marketing.

Effectiveness:

Email marketing is much more effective than social media sites such as Facebook when it comes to getting your message seen.

There are a couple of reasons for this:

A report by McKinsey & Co summarized the increased effectiveness of email marketing versus social media and found that email marketing provided almost 4000% more customers than Facebook and Twitter combined.

Email marketing also allows for instant communication, which is particularly beneficial for time-sensitive offers, for example, exclusive discounts.

Return on Investment (ROI):

Email marketing provides considerable long-term benefits for your brand. As you grow your email list, you are building a digital asset from which you can generate significant revenue in the long-term.

As a result, email marketing enjoys a very high ROI with a return of $44 realised for every $1 spent in 2016.

Marketing via Email is the Preferred Means of Contact

A study of people who had granted permission to companies to send them ongoing information found that 77% of those surveyed selected email marketing as their preferred method of receiving promotional messages.

Research has also shown that 61% of consumers like to receive promotional emails at least once a week, while 15% enjoy promotional emails every day.

Email Marketing is Simple to Setup

Given the number of dedicated email marketing services available today, including email service providers (ESP), opt-in form plugins and landing page builders, combined with the amount of user guidance available online, email marketing isn’t difficult even for those with limited technical ability.

Email Marketing is Easy to Track & Improve

The majority of ESPs allow tracking of important email campaign metrics such as open, click-through, bounce and unsubscribe rates.

Unlike with many conventional forms of marketing, these figures can be accurate (as opposed to estimated) and are available in real-time which allows rapid adjustments to be made to email campaigns to improve performance almost immediately.

These metrics also allow for quick, easy, and inexpensive testing of new campaign ideas.

Over time, tracking of these metrics will allow you to build a picture of the types of emails and campaigns which provide the best results, allowing you to craft emails and content around what works to improve the performance of your email marketing going forward.

Learn step by step how to grow your email list. Find out about the benefits of email marketing for business, & learn tips and tricks, ideas, strategies & clever hacks to help you create better email opt in offers; write effective emails such as a welcome email or marketing newsletter; improve your email design to increase open rates & clicks; create a strategy for follow up autoresponder emails; learn how to track email performance & understand various legal rules that apply to email marketing.

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SECTION ONE:

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Growing Your Email List

There are two factors which impact how quickly you can grow your email list:

  1. How much traffic your website receives.
  1. Your email opt-in rate - i.e. the percentage of visitors who signup to your email list. Sumo identified an average opt-in rate for email subscribers of 1.95% across its various opt-in tools and recognized that the top 10% of marketers have an average opt-in rate of 4.77%.
Growing Your Email List - A Worked Example

Without wanting to get too mathematical, let’s look at three scenarios to show how vital both factors are:

  1. Your website’s traffic increases from 10,000 to 25,000 visitors per month while your email opt-in rate stays at the average rate of 1.95%.
  1. Your email opt-in rate increases from 1.95% to 4.77% while your website’s traffic stays at 10,000 visitors per month.
  1. Your website’s traffic increases from 10,000 to 25,000 visitors per month AND your email opt-in rate increases from 1.95% to 4.77%.

Based on the above, the subscriber numbers at the various levels would be as follows:

growing email marketing list - traffic vs conversion rate

Scenario A (increased traffic) leads to a 250% increase in the number of subscribers, while Scenario B (increased opt-in rate) leads to a 245% increase.

Both factors on their own have a significant impact on how quickly you can grow your email list.

Scenario C, however, shows how you can turbocharge the growth of your email list by focusing on both factors simultaneously.

In this example, the combined traffic and opt-in rate increases lead to a massive 1123% boost in the number of subscribers joining your list.

As a result, this guide recommends reviewing ways to increase traffic to your website as part of your overall email marketing strategy.

Increasing Website Traffic

When working to increase traffic numbers to your website, it is essential to focus on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

This is outside the scope of this guide, but you can check out my ultimate guide to WordPress SEO which provides in-depth tips and tricks for growing your blog's traffic.

Increasing Your Email Opt-In Rate

One of the best ways to add subscribers to your email list is to place opt-in forms in various locations on your website.

Opt-in forms include locations known as ‘fields’ into which a subscriber can add their details, for example, their name and email address.

Although it is possible to create an opt-in form from scratch using HTML and CSS, I don’t recommend it.

The most straightforward option is to create and insert opt-in forms on your website is to use an opt-in form plugin. This is covered in Chapter One and Chapter Two below.

CHAPTER ONE:

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Selecting an Email Opt-In Form Provider

If you're using WordPress, I cannot recommend Thrive Leads highly enough.

I use Thrive Leads on this website for the following reasons:

No Coding Experience Required

You can easily customize a wide range of professionally-designed templates, or create new opt-in form designs using a simple drag-and-drop editor.

thrive leads opt-in form templates for WordPress
The easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor provided by Thrive Leads.
Supports a Wide Range of Opt-In Form Types

Save yourself money by not needing to use multiple plugins.

thrive leads opt-in form types for WordPress
Types of opt-in form available in the Thrive Leads plugin.
It Is Extremely Mobile-Friendly

You can quickly create different versions of the same opt-in form for mobile and desktop usage. For example, choosing to use a different image or different text size on mobile versus desktop opt-in forms.

thrive leads mobile friendly opt-in form templates for WordPress
Thrive Lead’s mobile-specific opt-in form editor.

You can choose not to show particular types of opt-in form on mobile devices (this ensures you do not fall foul of Google's intrusive interstitial rules which I cover later).

thrive leads opt-in form visibility settings for WordPress
Thrive Lead’s mobile-responsive visibility settings.
Provides Highly Customizable Visibility Settings

In addition to showing different opt-ins on mobile versus desktop devices as mentioned earlier, you can also choose to show particular types of opt-in form based upon a specific post's category or tag, on individual posts (or all posts), or on different webpages (or all webpages).

You can also use a function called 'SmartLinks' to show different offers to existing subscribers than new website visitors.

Allows Advanced (yet Easy to Implement) Split-Testing

With Thrive Leads, you can easily test the following:

thrive leads opt-in form split testing for WordPress
Thrive Lead’s split-testing options.
Includes Detailed Reporting Functionality

With Thrive Leads it is easy to see what is working and what needs to be improved with the following reports:

  • Conversion Report - Know how many leads you're getting.

  • Conversion Rate Report - Know if your conversion rate is improving.

  • Cumulative Conversions Report - View total conversions over time.

  • Comparison Report - Find out which opt-ins generate the most leads.

  • List Growth - View total opt-ins across all forms and lead groups

  • Cumulative List Growth - View opt-ins across all forms/lead groups over time.

  • Lead Referral Report - Find out where your leads are coming from.

  • Lead Tracking Report - Find out the effectiveness of your campaigns.

  • Content Marketing Report - Find out what content produces the most leads.

Additional Benefits
  • It includes useful built-in video tutorials to help you master using the plugin.
  • Each plan includes lifetime updates.
  • You can use it with any email marketing provider that uses custom HTML forms.

To ensure a balanced argument, I consider the following to be disadvantages of Thrive Leads:

  • The plugin may take some time to master if you don’t have any experience using opt-in form plugins (the helpful built-in video tutorials should reduce the learning curve, however).

  • It is only available for WordPress.

Tip: If you aren’t using WordPress, AWeber which I recommend using as your email service provider (ESP) provides excellent functionality for adding opt-in forms to both WordPress and non-WordPress sites.

CHAPTER TWO:

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Improving Your Email Opt-In Forms

As mentioned, one of the best ways to add subscribers to your email marketing list is by adding opt-in forms at various locations on your website.

While services such as Thrive Leads offer templates which you can easily edit, how can you be sure that you opt-in forms are as effective as possible? To save any headaches, this chapter provides simple tips to help you get the most from your opt-in forms.

1) Know Where to Place Your Opt-In Forms

It shouldn’t be surprising that some types of email opt-in form will convert better than others. Email forms are available for multiple locations on your website, with each being designed to boost opt-in rates in certain situations.

Some opt-in forms are designed to provide a discrete reminder about your email newsletter without distracting from your content, for example, a sidebar form.

Others are designed to be disruptive to ensure that there is no confusion that you want a visitor to join your mailing list right there and then, for example, a lightbox.

Important Visual Considerations for Your Opt-In Forms

Use multiple types of email opt-in form on your website

Add a mix of opt-ins to each webpage (and your webpage as a whole) which range from low-impact to very-high impact.

All types of opt-in forms have specific strengths and weaknesses. You should select a mix of forms which compliment each other in this regard.

Make your opt-in forms look awesome

Make your opt-in forms visually appealing to grab the attention of visitors to your website. Make use of the professionally-designed templates which many opt-in plugins, including Thrive Leads, provide.

Focus on quantity

Have an opt-in form available on every webpage on your website.

Don’t hide your opt-in forms

Website visitors shouldn’t have to hunt through your website to find your opt-in forms. Even discrete types of opt-in form, for example, a footer form, should be locatable quickly if needed.

Constantly test

Keep experimenting with different options. Test various types of form, different colors, different headline text and different types of lead magnet to see what works best.

Types of Email Opt-In Forms

You can create opt-in forms for a variety of functions including capturing names and email addresses, promoting a product or service, or attracting attention to your social media profiles.

When it comes to email marketing, we're mainly interesting in collecting names and email addresses so that’s what I'll focus on here.

The following types of opt-in form are covered in this section (click to navigate):

Sidebar Form

sidebar type of email opt-in form

Impact: Low

Typical Conversion Rate: 0.3% - 0.6% (source)

The sidebar form is a prevalent type of opt-in form that you’ve likely encountered many times when reading blogs.

Unsurprisingly, these are placed on the sidebar of the website (either to the left or right of the content) and are likely to be used on every page.

Sidebar forms can either be static, meaning they disappear from view when the user scrolls down the page, or persistent, where they move with the content to always stay visible.

sidebar email opt-in form example
An example of a sidebar email opt-in form.

Advantages

    • Less distracting (and less annoying) than more disruptive types of opt-in form, for example, lightboxes.
    • The persistent option ensures the sidebar form will always be visible and in a convenient location for when a visitor decides to subscribe.

Disadvantages

    • Given their less distracting nature, sidebar forms are low impact and so can easily be overlooked by visitors to your website.
    • The typical conversion rate of a sidebar form is much lower than higher impact options such as lightboxes or slide-in forms, both of which can be triggered by specific events to maximize their visibility to website visitors.
Tip: Sidebar forms have been found to convert 26% more when situated at the very top of the sidebar (i.e. above any other plugins which appear in your sidebar).

Floating Bar

floating bar type of email opt-in form

Impact: Low

Typical Conversion Rate: 0.5% (source)

A floating bar can be placed either at the top or bottom of your webpage.

It is usually persistent, meaning it stays visible regardless of where a visitor scrolls on the page.

floating bar email opt-in form example
An example of a floating bar email opt-in form.

Advantages

    • The persistent option ensures that your floating bar form will always be visible and in a convenient location for when a visitor decides to subscribe.
    • Floating bars can be more impactful than sidebar forms given that they usually occupy the entire width of the screen.
    • Floating bars offer flexibility given that they can be placed at either the top or bottom of the webpage, allowing you to avoid essential website items, for example, menus.
    • Additional flexibility is provided by the option to trigger when the floating bar appears, for example immediately following a user visiting your webpage, or after a pre-determined time to maximize impact and conversion.
    • As the floating bar is positioned away from the centre of the screen, it is unlikely to block what the user is reading and cause annoyance.

Disadvantages

    • As with the sidebar form, floating bars are less distracting which leads to lower impact and a lower typical conversion rate.
    • There will be limited space to outline your compelling offer to a visitor given the small profile of the floating bar. As such, the floating bar should always be paired with other types of opt-in form.
Tip: Make your floating bar a contrasting color to the rest of your webpage to maximize impact and conversion.

Footer Form

footer type of email opt-in form

Impact: Low

Typical Conversion Rate: <1% (source)

The footer form is permanently fixed to the footer of your website and becomes visible when a visitor scrolls to the bottom of the page.

footer email opt-in form example
An example of a footer email opt-in form.

Advantages

    • Less distracting (and less annoying) as they don’t appear suddenly and block the content which a reader is viewing.
    • It forms a logical ‘next step’. After you’ve gained a visitor’s trust with your content, they will be much more likely to sign-up to your email list - the footer form is well positioned to take advantage of this.
    • Footer forms provide much more space to outline your compelling offer versus a floating bar form.
    • The footer opt-in will typically be available by default on every webpage as your footer usually stays consistent across your website, providing more opportunities to convert visitors into email subscribers.

Disadvantages

    • Less distracting meaning the footer form can easily be overlooked.
    • Not all visitors will scroll to the bottom of your page meaning the footer form will likely be missed by a significant proportion of your website’s visitors, leading to lower conversion rates.
    • No persistent option is available to increase conversion, as this would rely on your footer as a whole being persistent which would look unsightly and would likely block a significant portion of the screen.
Tip: If a visitor has made it to the bottom of your webpage, it is a reliable indicator that your content appeals to them. Leverage their interest by always providing a footer opt-in form on all your webpages.

End of Content Form

end-of-content type of email opt-in form

Impact: Low / Medium

Typical Conversion Rate: 0.4% - 1.2% (source)

Unsurprisingly, this form is placed directly at the end of your content, right after the last sentence and before the comments section.

end-of-content email opt-in form example
An example of an end of content email opt-in form.

Advantages

    • It forms a logical ‘next step’. After you’ve gained a visitor’s trust with your content, they will be much more likely to sign-up to your email list - the end of content form is well positioned to take advantage of this.
    • It is possible to increase conversion rates further by creating a custom end of content form for each of your different blog posts. The increased relevance will encourage a higher number of subscribers, especially when used with a content upgrade.
    • Less distracting as this form doesn’t appear suddenly, and it doesn’t block the content which a reader is viewing.

Disadvantages

    • Not all visitors will scroll to the bottom of your page meaning the end of content form will likely be missed by a significant proportion of your website’s visitors, leading to lower conversion rates.
    • Creating custom end of content forms related to each particular piece of content will be much more time consuming than using other generic types of opt-in form.
Tip: If a visitor has made it to the bottom of your webpage, it is a reliable indicator that your content appeals to them. Use a content upgrade with your end of content form to provide the small amount of motivation a subscriber will likely need to join your email list at this point.

Slide-In Form

slide-in type of email opt-in form

Impact: Medium

Typical Conversion Rate: 1.9% (source)

This type of form slides into view at the bottom of a visitor’s web browser, either from the left or right side.

slide-in email opt-in form example
An example of a slide-in email opt-in form.

Advantages

    • The animated effect of a slide-in form makes it much more attention-grabbing than other non-animated types of opt-in form, for example, sidebars, leading to a higher typical conversion rate.
    • Slide-in forms offer an excellent alternative to the lightbox in terms of visibility and impact while minimizing disruption to the visitor.
    • A slide-in form offers flexibility given the option to trigger when the form appears, for example after a pre-determined amount of time, or once the visitor has scrolled down a certain percentage of the page to maximize impact and conversion.
    • Available with a persistent option which ensures that your form will always be visible and in a convenient location for when a visitor decides to subscribe.
    • As the slide-in form is placed off to the side of the main content, it is unlikely to annoy users as it won’t cover what they’re trying to read. This form can also be reasonably large and contain a detailed message while remaining somewhat discrete given its location on the screen.

Disadvantages

    • When used on a webpage which includes a static sidebar form, the slide-in form may cover the sidebar form depending on where the visitor scrolls to on the screen which can appear messy and make your sidebar look cluttered.
    • Slide-in forms aren't usually used in conjunction with a dimmed background as per the lightbox form. As a result, visitors aren’t channelled down the route of a single call-to-action as other options will still be readily viewable on screen, meaning the conversion rate experienced with a slide-in form likely won't be as high as with a lightbox.
Tip: Consider triggering your slide-in form to appear when a user is about 80% of the way through your post, which will typically lead to a much higher conversion rate.

In-Content Form

in-content type of email opt-in form

Impact: High

Typical Conversion Rate: 4.82% (source)

In-content forms are usually placed routinely throughout a piece of content to grab a visitor’s attention as they read and scroll.

in-content email opt-in form example
An example of an in-content email opt-in form.

Advantages

    • In-content forms can be placed at strategic locations throughout your content to leverage a reader’s increasing trust, or to cater to a reader’s need for additional information on a particular topic, which can lead to high conversion rates.
    • The in-content form can be set to be displayed once a user clicks a link. This decisive action means that in-content forms can convert better with weaker marketing copy that alternative forms of opt-in forms, for example, sidebar forms or lightboxes, which appear regardless of a user’s actions.
    • This type of form is discrete and is unlikely to annoy or distract a visitor to your website.

Disadvantages

    • Given the non-intrusive nature of the in-content form, it is essential to choose a design which stands out to prevent the form being missed by readers who quickly scroll through the content rather than reading it in detail.
    • Any content upgrades which you offer should be closely related to the content in which the in-content form is placed. You will likely need to provide a custom content upgrade for each blog post which can be very time-consuming (it is worth looking at repurposing existing content to offset this disadvantage).
Tip: The in-content form is particularly effective when used with a content upgrade (covered in detail later).

Lightboxes

lightbox type of email opt-in form

Impact: High

Typical Conversion Rate: 5.5% (source)

A lightbox consists of a rectangular pop-up which appears at the centre of a webpage. The background of the webpage usually dims when a lightbox is showing to provide emphasis on the pop-up.

Lightboxes are commonly set to appear during the following scenarios:

  • When a visitor first navigates to a webpage.
  • Following a pre-determined period while the visitor is on a webpage, for example, two minutes after arriving.

Advantages

    • Dimming the background of a webpage while a lightbox is showing reduces distractions and focuses a visitor on a single call-to-action, which can lead to high conversion rates.
    • Lightboxes can be combined with a positive/negative message to maximize impact. This call-to-action is usually heavily weighted towards a visitor providing a positive response hence conversion rates can be increased significantly. An example of this is as follows:
lightbox email opt-in form example
An example of a lightbox email opt-in form.
    • Lightboxes are unmissable given that they occupy the centre of the screen. Because of this, the lightbox is best suited to messages which require instant action, for example, a notification of a limited-time sale.
    • Flexibility is provided by the option to trigger when a lightbox appears, which can be helpful to reduce the annoyance factor which the lightbox has become synonymous with. For example, you could set the form to only appear after a user has viewed multiple webpages, not immediately following a visitor coming to your website.

Disadvantages

    • As of early 2017, Google started penalizing websites that use ‘intrusive interstitials’ on mobile devices, with lightboxes falling under the category of annoying pop-ups which negatively impact user experience. To prevent a decline in your ranking on Google, you shouldn’t set lightboxes to appear on mobile devices.
    • As they’re very common, a user may instinctively dismiss a lightbox form by default without reading your marketing message.
    • The disruptive nature of the lightbox may result in a visitor becoming annoyed which could lead to them leaving your website quicker.
    • Users may view a lightbox which appears as they are leaving the webpage as a sign of desperation. As mentioned previously, providing a unique offer has been found to be particularly effective in this situation, and if strong enough, should go someway to offset any negative perceptions).
Tip: To avoid annoying visitors, you can set your lightboxes to only trigger when someone has signaled interest by reaching the end of your content.

Feature Boxes

feature box type of email opt-in form

Impact: Very High

Conversion Rate: 10% (source)

Feature boxes sit at the top of your website directly beneath the header.

Most bloggers tend to use this form on their homepage only, but it is not uncommon to find bespoke feature boxes for specific posts or a generic feature box which is applied across the entirety of a website.

feature box email opt-in form example
An example of a feature box email opt-in form.

Advantages

    • Feature boxes are attention-grabbing given their full-screen-width size and position at the top of the screen. The top left corner of a webpage gets attention first meaning your feature box will be the first thing that visitors to your webpage see.
    • Placing a feature box on your homepage takes advantage of the higher levels of traffic that your homepage will likely receive versus other pages on your website.
    • Feature boxes are very effective when combined with a super-strong lead magnet.
    • Unlike a lightbox or slide-in form which appears temporarily, the feature box is usually a permanent feature meaning it will be visible to more people.

Disadvantages

    • If you fail to provide a strong lead magnet or have ‘weak’ marketing copy, the feature box may be a waste of the valuable real estate at the top of your homepage.
    • Including a feature box could be to the detriment of other content on your webpage which gets pushed further down the page and so becomes less visible.
Tip: Maximize the effectiveness of your feature box by using large, high-quality images, a compelling headline which outlines the benefits the visitor will receive, and an actionable lead magnet which provides massive value.

Landing Page

landing page type of email opt-in form

Impact: Very High

Conversion Rate: 10% - 20% (source)

The landing page takes a conventional opt-in form and places it on a dedicated webpage.

Advantages

    • By using a dedicated webpage, visitors will naturally be channelled down the route of completing your opt-in form. This is because the landing page will typically have no navigation links or unrelated content which could distract potential subscribers from completing the form.
    • Landing pages are particularly effective for handling ‘warm’ leads generated from your guest blogging content. You should provide backlinks in your guest content to direct visitors to your landing page.
    • Landing pages provide a significant amount of space for your marketing copy.

Disadvantages

    • Less effective for ‘cold’ leads, for example, those arriving at your website from a search engines’ results pages. Viewing your landing page immediately, as opposed to the webpage the visitor was expecting, may result in increased bounce rates.
Tip: Set up dedicated landing pages to capture leads from your guest blogging content. Ideally, this will involve a custom landing page for each piece of content, with marketing copy and lead magnets which are highly relevant to each.

Summary of Opt-In Form Types

TypeLocationConversionImpact
SidebarAt the very top of your sidebar0.3% - 0.6%Low
Floating BarFloating at either top or bottom of screen0.5%Low
FooterWithin your website’s footer<1%Low
End of ContentImmediately following last paragraph of content0.4% - 1.2%Low / Medium
Slide InSliding in from bottom left or right of screen1.9%Medium
In ContentAt key locations within your content4.82%High
LightboxIn a pop-up directly centred on screen5.5%High
Feature BoxAbove the ‘fold’ on your homepage10%Very High
Landing PageOn a separate landing page10% - 20%Very High

Other Opt-In Options

Aside from using the types of opt-in form listed above, you can also use the following methods to add subscribers to your email list:

  • Include a checkbox on your online store’s checkout (for example Shopify or WooCommerce) to allow a customer to join your email list when placing an order.

  • Include a link to a landing page within your email signature. This will be particularly effective for emails which are forwarded on by your existing subscribers.

  • Include a link to a landing page within your profile signature on a forum.

2) Provide a Compelling Reason to Join

The bulk of visitors to your website will be bombarded on a regular basis with deals and offers to tempt them to hand over their email address.

These deals and offers, also known as lead magnets, may consist of one of the following:

Content Upgrade

Adding a content upgrade is widely regarded as one of the most effective ways to increase your email opt-in rate.

A content upgrade usually takes the form of additional valuable content which you don’t include in your original blog post, but which you instead develop a separate product around that a visitor can access in exchange for their email address.

It is a good idea to develop a different content upgrade for each post or webpage. While this will take more work, you will be rewarded in the long-run with much higher email opt-in rates.

Examples of Effective Content Upgrades

Examples of effective content upgrades include:

    • A PDF version of your blog post. This is especially useful for long-form content which the subscriber may need to refer back to multiple times.
    • A bespoke infographic developed from a post’s content.
    • A library of templates for specific requirements, e.g. email templates, landing page templates etc. Digital Marketer produced a library of Facebook Ad templates that generated 35,859 leads in 60 days.
    • An audio file where you read a specific blog post and provide additional background information.
    • An audio file of an interview you have conducted with an industry expert on a particular topic which relates to the original post.
    • Transcripts of podcasts or video interviews which you have produced.
    • Detailed reports containing statistics or the results of any research you have conducted, e.g. a report outlining how color impacts opt-in form conversion rates, or a report comparing the performance of Google Ads to Facebook Ads etc.
Free Trial/Free Sample

For example, providing a 30-day free trial of an online tool you have developed, or a limited-time free membership to a specific members-only area of your website.

Discount Codes/Free Shipping

If you run a Shopify or WooCommerce online store, you could provide a discount code or offer free shipping to tempt new subscribers. As mentioned previously, a special offer is particularly compelling when used with an exit pop-up.

Quizzes/Surveys

Provide a quiz or survey on your website and ask the participant to complete an email opt-in form in exchange for the results.

Run a Competition

You can motivate website visitors to subscribe to your email list in exchange for entry into a competition.

How to Improve Your Lead Magnets

As the usage of lead magnets becomes more popular, the ‘market’ for generic offers in exchange for email addresses is becoming increasingly saturated.

As internet users become more accustomed to these offers, their perceived value, i.e. their opinion of what something is worth to them, will likely decrease over time making them more prone to disregard lower-value offers.

Nowadays, you need to motivate subscribers by providing lead magnets which:

  • Offer huge value - your lead magnet, in conjunction with the content of your blog post, should combine to form something so good that people would happily pay for it even though you are giving it away for free.

  • Make it actionable - don’t be content with just providing a high-level answer to a specific problem, use your content upgrade to show a subscriber the specific steps required to overcome the problem.

  • Keep it relevant - 74% of people get frustrated when websites provide content or offers which have nothing to do with their interests. Avoid this by delivering content upgrades which are 100% relevant to the original post.

3) Keep the Opt-In Process as Simple as Possible

What information do you need to be able to send someone a copy of your email newsletter?

Their email address, and perhaps their name to allow for personalization, but beyond that, it is unlikely that you need any more information.

Ask for too many details and you run the risk of a website visitor dismissing your opt-in form immediately, or becoming bored and abandoning the form before completing it.

LeadPages obtained a 12.44% increase in their email opt-in rate when swapping from a two-field form (first name and email address) to a one-field form (email address only). These findings are backed up by Marketing Sherpa who identified an 11% decrease in conversions following the addition of one extra form field.

Tip: The number of form fields you include should be reasonable for the opt-in. If you’re offering a subscription to an email newsletter, stick with two or fewer.

For other purposes, such as obtaining leads for a service your company offers, additional fields may work to your advantage as only the strongest and most qualified leads will be interested in completing a lengthy opt-in form.

The bottom line is, though, only include fields for the details which are 100% required. Make joining your email list as straightforward as possible.

4) Improve Your Call-To-Action

Call-To-Action (CTA) buttons are the buttons a website visitor will click to complete certain actions on your website. In the context of email marketing, this action will typically be related to joining an email list.

The following best practices will ensure that your CTA converts as effectively as possible:

How to Improve Your Opt-In Form CTA's
  • Ensure your CTA looks like a button – Consider adding a 3D effect, adding rounded edges or making it change color when a user hovers over it to make it look more like a button.

  • Select the best colors - Red, green and orange are reported to be the best colors for a call-to-action button. Black, white, and brown should be avoided. Whatever color you choose, make sure it stands out against your existing website design (for example, avoid an orange CTA if your webpage already contains a lot of orange).
  • Graphics will make your CTA stand out - Unbounce found that adding a contrasting green arrow to a CTA improved conversion by 12.29%.
  • Don’t cram your CTA in – Leave plenty of free space around your CTA to ensure it stands out.

  • Avoid using generic button text – Aim to avoid generic terms such as ‘Subscribe’ or ‘Enter’. Instead, use text that inspires action, for example ‘Download for FREE’.

  • Don’t cram your CTA in – Leave plenty of free space around your CTA to ensure it stands out.

  • Avoid using generic button text – Avoid using generic terms such as ‘Click Here’ or ‘Enter’. Instead, use text that inspires action, for example, ‘Claim your FREE guide’.

  • Use first person text where appropriate - For example ‘Sign Me Up’ instead of ‘Sign Up’. This has been found to increase clicks by 90%.
  • Convey a sense of urgency – Use button text which conveys a sense of urgency where appropriate to improve conversion rates. For example, ‘Get 25% Off Today Only’.

  • Keep your CTA text concise - Avoid long sentences. HubSpot recommends using no more than five words.
  • Use large text to increase visibility – I’m not talking excessively large here – it should be large relative to other text on your opt-in form.

  • Choose a font which is easy to read – There are plenty of options available, including Helvetica, Arial, Futura etc. Choose a unique font that isn’t used on the rest of the page on which the call-to-action is situated to increase visibility.

5) Ensure Your Opt-In Form is Mobile-Optimized

Mobile and tablet usage exceeded desktop usage for the first time in 2016. As a result, it is now more important than ever to consider how to optimize your opt-in forms for mobile devices.

Thankfully, the majority of opt-in plugins provide templates which are already mobile responsive. Thrive Leads which I recommended earlier is no exception.

When it comes to mobile optimization of your opt-in forms there are a few things you should bear in mind:

'Intrusive Interstitials'

As of early 2017, Google started penalizing websites that use ‘intrusive interstitials’ on mobile devices, i.e. annoying pop-ups such as lightboxes which negatively impact user experience by covering the content they are trying to view.

These websites now no longer receive a mobile-friendly label meaning they may not rank as high on Google’s results pages.

Google has provided the following illustration to highlight what it regards as ‘intrusive interstitials’:

opt-in forms and google intrusive interstitials
Google's guidance on 'intrusive interstitials'.

To avoid being penalized, it is important to ensure that certain types of opt-in form are set to appear only for desktop users and not mobile visitors, for example, lightboxes.

This is usually easy to set in the preferences section of your opt-in form plugin.

Limit the Number of Form Fields

As discussed in Point 3 (‘Keep the Opt-In Process as Simple as Possible’), you should only ask for the details which you 100% require.

This is all the more critical on mobile devices where space is at a premium. Don’t opt for a full membership form here, instead, aim for a basic form which requests 1-2 details.

Test Thoroughly on Mobile Devices

It is essential to test your opt-in form on a mobile device to ensure it looks as expected. You may need to change features such as the font size, button size, image size, or alignment of specific items to ensure the form looks correct given the smaller screen width on a mobile device.

6) Leverage Your Social Proof

Leveraging social proof on your opt-in forms can be a particularly effective way to motivate people to join your email list.

In the book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’, author Dr Robert Cialdini outlines the power of social proof by stating:

“One means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct…We view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it.”

You can leverage the power of social proof on your opt-in forms in the following ways:

  • By showing potential subscribers that a lot of people trust your email marketing by adding the number of subscribers you have on your opt-in forms (I only recommend this if you have a large number of subscribers). For example:
leverage social proof on email marketing opt-in form
Add your subscriber count to your email opt-in forms to leverage social proof.
  • By building relationships with influencers in your niche and adding their testimonials to your opt-in forms (don’t forget to add a thumbnail image of the influencer for additional impact).
  • By listing awards that you’ve received, or adding noteworthy reviews that your products or services have received to your opt-in forms to boost credibility.

7) Understand the Importance of Testing

The best way to improve your conversion rate is to continually experiment with different opt-in form options to see what works and what can be improved.

Examples of specific tests include:

Tests to Perform on Your Opt-In Forms
  • Test different form types - does a lightbox perform better in a particular situation than a slide-in form? What combination and quantity of opt-in forms work best? What opt-in forms are negatively impacting user experience and should be removed?

  • Test different triggers - does a lightbox convert better when it is set to appear immediately, or when a user has scrolled 80% down the page?
  • Test different designs/content - what color of call-to-action button or specific headline produces the best conversion rate?
  • Test different offers - how much better does a video course convert than a free eBook?

Completing these tests will allow you to determine the correct mix of opt-in form attributes for your specific website to maximize your email opt-in rates.

They will also allow you to improve the user experience on your website by offering more of what is working and removing opt-in forms which aren’t working and are only serving to clutter your website.

I recommend (and personally use) Thrive Leads as it provides excellent split-testing and reporting functionality which allows areas of improvement to be found on this website’s opt-in forms.

CHAPTER THREE:

email marketing do's and dont's icon link

Do's and Don'ts of Email List Building

I mentioned previously that email marketing provides considerable bang for your buck, with $44 returned for every $1 spent on email marketing in 2016.

I also mentioned that email marketing provides considerable long-term benefits given that you are creating a digital asset which will continue to provide revenue for your brand in the long-run.

To realize these benefits, however, it is essential to focus on building an email list that is full of quality subscribers. This relies on a slow-but-steady, organic approach using the various types of opt-in form discussed above.

As a result of this, and having achieved excellent results previously through building an email list organically, there are a number of email list-building options that I both recommend and avoid:

Do Leverage Your Existing Audience

I'm skipping a little bit ahead here, as recommendations for what to include in your emails will be covered in the next section.

However, it’s worth covering at this stage that wherever possible, you should always encourage your current email recipients to forward your emails.

An example of this is shown in Ride Snowboard’s email below:

email marketing forward to friend
Add a link to allow subscribers to forward your emails.

Clicking the link takes the subscriber to a separate landing page where they can enter their friend’s details:

email marketing forward email to friend via opt-in form

Some email service providers prohibit this with their terms of service, but if you can add a link to encourage forwarding, definitely do.

Don't Use Email List Swaps

This involves pairing up with another mailing list owner in your niche and agreeing to send emails to each other’s mailing lists.

Once you’ve found a mailing list partner, you would then write an email containing a specific call-to-action, likely a link to a landing page with an opt-in form to try and capture the recipient’s email address.

You would then send a similar email to your audience on your partner’s behalf.

I avoid email list swaps for the following reasons:

  • The subscribers on your partner’s mailing list likely will not be aware of you and won’t have agreed to receive emails from you. As such, they will probably be weak, or ‘cold’ leads which are unlikely to convert at a particularly high rate.
  • Your email subscribers may view this as you selling out - they probably won’t appreciate this and could unsubscribe from your email list as a result.
  • Recipients of email marketing respond better to quality over quantity. How can you be sure that your mailing list partner isn’t regularly swapping their email list? If this is the case, subscribers may have switched off to their emails and may even consider them spam, meaning the open-rate and click-through-rate of your email could be very low.
Don't Send Sponsored Emails

This is similar to an email list swap, however, instead of sending reciprocal emails with a mailing list partner, you pay a fee (usually a cost per thousand recipients) for the use of their email list.

Once you’ve sourced a mailing list owner, you would then provide them with the email you want them to send. Again, this would typically include a specific call-to-action which directs to a landing page where you would try and get the person to join your email list.

There are several tools and websites available online from which you can rent email lists, however, I don’t think they are worth the investment hence they aren’t listed here.

I avoid sponsored emails for the same reasons I avoid email list swaps.

Given the cost involved, I prefer to use paid advertising to get ‘fresh’, quality subscribers on my email list. I see this as providing a considerably better return on investment.

Don't Buy an Email List

Although it may sound tempting to buy an existing email list, I would never recommend it.

Despite what you may have been promised, there is no way to guarantee the quality of the list meaning the return on investment will likely be poor. It won’t do your brand any favors from a reputation perspective either, as you will quickly become associated with spamming.

Bottom line: Don’t. Do. It.

Don’t just take my word for it though - OptinMonster has an excellent article on the ‘8 Reasons Why You Should Never Buy an Email List’.

SECTION ONE:

Conclusion

You shouldn’t think of building your email list as something that you can focus on now and again. From a business perspective, your email list is your livelihood. It is that critical.

Over time, people will naturally unsubscribe from your email list, so it is essential to replace these subscribers and then some using the specific steps and tips outlined above.

If you remember only one thing from this section, let it be this:

You should never stop growing your email list. Ever.

SECTION TWO:

contacting email marketing subscriber list icon link

Contacting Your Email List

While Section One covered the specific steps to help you add subscribers to your email list, this section provides useful information on how to keep your subscribers engaged by covering how you should send emails, the types of email you should send (including tips to make your emails as effective and engaging as possible), and how often.

Section Two also covers the various metrics that you should be aware of to help you improve your emails, and finishes by covering the various legal requirements of email marketing that you need to adhere to.

CHAPTER FOUR:

selecting email marketing service provider icon link

Selecting an Email Service Provider

An email service provider (ESP) is a company which provides the infrastructure that allows you send large quantities of emails simultaneously.

Typically, ESPs will charge a subscription fee based upon the number of subscribers on your email marketing list.

You may be thinking that you can probably just send emails via your standard email application, for example, Gmail or Outlook. This is a bad idea as these services aren’t designed for sending large quantities of email at the same time, meaning you will experience deliverability issues. Also, you cannot create autoresponder campaigns in standard email applications, and you won’t have access to reporting or tracking information meaning you cannot see how your emails have performed.

I use AWeber for sending emails from OnePercentIntent.com (and have experience using it for the email marketing requirements of other websites).

I recommend AWeber for the following reasons:

Easy to Create Autoresponder Campaigns

You can quickly create an autoresponder series of emails with AWeber using a simple drag-and-drop editor. This will help to massively simplify your email marketing campaign.

You can schedule and customize everything from when you want a campaign to start, which email to send first and how long you want to wait between emails.

aweber customize email marketing autoresponder campaign
The easy-to-use drag-and-drop autoresponder campaign editor provided by AWeber.
Easy List Segmentation

AWeber makes it simple to send targeted emails to your subscribers based on specific criteria.

Want to send an email to subscribers in a particular geographical location only? Not a problem. How about just sending an email to subscribers who have clicked on a call-to-action in a previous email? Again, not an issue.

Access to Stunning, Mobile-Responsive Templates

With AWeber, you can create a new email design from scratch, or you can modify an existing template using a simple drag-and-drop editor. No coding experience is required.

The template library available (over 700 templates at time of writing) is significantly more extensive than the majority of other ESPs.

All templates are mobile responsive, meaning they automatically resize depending on whether they are being viewed on a smartphone or tablet.

Also, subscriptions come with access to a library of over 6000 royalty-free stock photos which you can use in your email marketing.

aweber customize mobile-responsive email marketing templates
AWeber's mobile-responsive template library (700+ templates available).
Easily Create & Customize Email Opt-In Forms

AWeber includes functionality to create and customize opt-in forms to build your email marketing list. You can also split-test different designs to see what performs best.

While I use Thrive Leads for my lead capture forms, AWeber’s opt-in forms are a good option if you want to avoid paying two separate subscription fees, or if you aren’t using WordPress on which Thrive Lead’s functionality is built.

Allows Single or Double Opt-In

While I recommend a double opt-in process, AWeber provides flexibility by allowing to use a single opt-in process instead.

This is an added advantage over other ESPs, for example, MailChimp, which only allows a double opt-in process to be used.

Simple List Importing

AWeber allows you to import contact lists from other ESPs in a variety of different formats.

Additional advantages over other ESPs include:

  • Imported contacts do not need to re-opt in to receive your emails. This eliminates an additional step which could lead to subscribers dropping off due to the annoyance of re-opting in, or forgetting to altogether.
  • Imported contacts can be directly added to an existing autoresponder campaign saving time and effort.
Excellent Split-Testing Functionality

AWeber allows a maximum of four different types of email for split-testing purposes.

Once you’ve selected emails for split-testing, you can allocate a percentage of your email list that you’d like each variant to be sent to (recipients will be picked at random up to the designated percentage).

If you haven’t selected 100% of your list for testing, AWeber can be set to automatically send the best performing version to the rest of your email list.

Reporting Analytics Made Easy

AWeber provides simple functionality to track all-important email marketing metrics, including open rates, click-through rates, spam complaints, bounce rates and statistics about the growth of your list over time.

You can also drill down to analyze metrics for individual subscribers, not just larger portions of your email list.

AWeber also has a dedicated app to keep track of your email marketing statistics on-to-go from your smartphone or tablet.

Excellent Customer Service

AWeber is widely regarded for its excellent customer service and provides easy-to-find contact details on the website including phone numbers and email addresses.

Also, their website features a handy live chat plugin available seven days a week during critical times.

To ensure a balanced argument, I consider the following to be disadvantages of AWeber:

  • It only allows the use of web safe fonts, for example, Arial, Helvetica, Times New Roman and Verdana. Web Fonts aren’t included as they aren’t 100% compatible with all email applications. While this ensures that text in your email is always displayed as expected, it can reduce some of the creativity associated with web fonts potentially making your emails blander.
  • AWeber counts unsubscribed email addresses which are still associated with your profile towards your overall email list size. As a result, you may end up paying a higher subscription charge for your email marketing plan. This can quickly be rectified by regularly removing unsubscribed email addresses from your list.

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CHAPTER FIVE:

email marketing writing emails to subscriber list icon link

Writing Emails

There are two different types of email that I'll be focusing on in this section; autoresponders and broadcast emails (click below to navigate).

Autoresponder Emails

An autoresponder can be configured to automatically send one pre-written email or a series of emails to subscribers in the order and frequency of your choosing.

These are usually triggered by an event, for example, a new subscriber joining your email list, an existing subscriber downloading a lead magnet from your website, or a customer buying a product from your online store.

A prevalent type of event-driven autoresponder which you've likely encountered is the welcome email.

How to Write a Welcome Email

Each time a new subscriber joins your email list, it is important to thank them and welcome them into your community with an engaging first email. This first email is known as a welcome email.

You should never jump straight into sending a new subscriber emails from an autoresponder campaign without first sending them a welcome email.

Tip: It is a good idea to develop multiple versions of your welcome email to keep the content as relevant to each new subscriber as possible.

For example, the copy should be different for a subscriber who has joined your email list in exchange for a specific lead magnet versus a subscriber who has completed a generic opt-in form on your website.

First impressions count, so it is worth spending time perfecting your welcome emails. The main features of an excellent welcome email are as follows:

email marketing - how to write welcome email