We’ve all seen them.
They come in various sizes, and though they look innocent
enough, they’re really a mysterious black hole leading
to something even more puzzling.
Hard to believe, but it’s true. A newsletter signup box
can be that easy thing you stick in a corner, yet you come
to realize it’s not earning its keep. People aren’t
signing up. Not long ago I did some troubleshooting for a
company who couldn’t figure out why there were so few
subscribers to their newsletter. After they received my
report, they wrote back,” To be honest, we put that up
because we were told its good to have a newsletter.”
Nobody told them it takes a lot more than putting up a
little signup box on a web page.
Here’s a rundown, in no particular order, of things to
consider if you want to present a newsletter or any type
of subscription-based publication (such as news updates,
sales promotions) that requires asking for someone’s
email address and their name. The idea behind the list is
to increase conversions, reduce signup abandonment and
inspire interest in your subscription offering.
1. Are there too many opportunities for signup? Some web
sites appear desperate. There may be a text link in the
global navigation and footer, plus a box placed on every
single web page. Some web sites have two boxes – one
above the page fold and a duplicate below the fold.
2. Did you extend a polite invitation during
conversational content somewhere? There are many ways to
invite signups, such as when introducing yourself or
company, in a form return page when you direct visitors
back to the homepage or somewhere of interest, or as an
item in the About Us content. Link to a page containing
information about the newsletter, which also has a sign up
form on it.
3. Does the box contain scan words such as “Free”,
“Sales”, Special”? (Ex. “Subscribe to our free
4. Did you study your target market to learn if there is a
need for your type of newsletter? Who are your intended
5. Be careful. Some forms are confusing, such as when they
ask for a mailing address for an EMAIL only newsletter.
Why do you want to know where they live? (If you have a
good reason, it’s best to clearly state what that is.)
6. Is the newsletter intended for an International
audience? If there is a reason to ask for personal
information, make sure the form is designed for
International users to fill out.
up form. This explains exactly what will happen to the
subscriber’s email address and any other information
they’re asked to give. If they don’t trust your
motives, they may refuse to sign up.
8. A simple newsletter sign up box should request a user
name and email address that will accept the email.
Instructions near or inside the box, or in the newsletter
information page, explaining they’ll receive a
confirmation email verifying their information will
increase user confidence.
9. Always link to a sample issue. Otherwise, they have no
idea what they’re signing up for. Always refer to the
title of the publication. I’ve seen signup requests for
publications with no name!
10. Provide free archives. A history of a newsletter
indicates if it’s new, or an established publication.
The latter hints at authority on the subject matter. If
new, note somewhere that archives will be provided. In
this way, you offer a second chance to sign up later, once
the prospect has an opportunity to see the product.
11. Have you seen this? I have. Some newsletters ask for
content suggestions and ideas, but they don’t have an
issue available, or archives online, making it difficult
to understand what they cover, or what was previously
12. How often does it arrive? Make sure this is indicated
on the informational page.
13. Is it HTML or text based? Do you offer a choice?
14. What are the benefits of subscribing? Does it teach?
Offer discounts? Accept advertising?
15. How good is it? Provide testimonials and reader
feedback, with their permission. This is especially
helpful in competitive industries.
16. If your publication is monthly, here’s an idea from
magazine publishers. In your information page, list the
topics to come in the next year beforehand. This is great
for fee-based publications too. Keep the reader interested
by what you plan to cover.
17. Offer referral incentives. This may make more sense
for fee-based publications, but be creative. If you’re a
consultant, and want to drive up readership, is there
something you can offer such as free 15 minutes of your
time, or a give away ezine, or discount on future
18. Announce upcoming issues on your homepage, and the
publication itself. Some newsletters come the same day,
every week. If for some reason they will NOT be delivered,
make sure to warn subscribers in the previous issue.
Otherwise, you may be bombarded with “Where’s my
19. Avoid relying on a simple box signup alone. Place a
“View information” text link inside it that invites
your visitor to learn more, gain trust, and get excited
about your publication. Place a “Tell a friend” box on
the information page too, for fast and easy referrals to
20. For more ideas on how to promote and present a
newsletter offering, study the techniques used by
Successful-Sites. There’s information on the writers,
pictures, archives, topics, resources, and more!