Double Your Opt-ins: 6 Simple CRO Tactics for Big Wins

Business.com / Marketing Solutions / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Get ready for some serious subscribers! Follow these simple tips that will boost your email campaigns and double your opt-ins.

It’s frustrating, isn’t it?

You keep hearing stories of bloggers and marketers crushing it with hundreds and thousands of email opt-ins every month. 

Yet, your own opt-in conversion rates hovers at a measly 0.5 percent.

How would your business change if you could pump that conversion rate to 2 percent? Or perhaps even 4 percent? Or even more.

The truth is that it is surprisingly easy to increase email opt-in conversion rates. With a few quick tweaks, you can capture thousands of more emails and grow your business exponentially. In fact, using some of the strategies here, bloggers like Brian Dean of Backlinko were able to pump up the conversion rate to 5.71 percent. WPBeginner did the same and saw 600 percent more subscribers each day.

Related Article: Simple Steps to Optimizing Your Email Marketing Campaigns

For some companies, pop-up opt-in rates can be as high as 10 percent or even 14.47 percent.

In this post, I’ll show you the exact CRO tactics you can use to double, triple, or even quadruple your email opt-ins.

1. Tweak Your CTA

The CTA is arguably the single most important element in an opt-in form.

It’s the first thing readers will look at after the headline. And it is the last thing they click on before they give up their email.

Unfortunately, most people still use the default CTA on their opt-in forms - CTAs that neither standout nor inspire action.

sample CTA opt-in


Here are three simple ways you can tweak your CTA to grow your opt-in rates in a big way:

Use Benefit-Focused CTA Button Copy

The first thing they teach you in CRO school is to focus on benefits, not features. Outside of a few niches, customers buy for what a product can do for them, not how it does it.

For example, if you were selling a car, you would advertise its top speed and 0-60 acceleration, not the new carburetor technology that enables this performance.

The same rules apply to CTA copy as well. Instead of focusing on the CTAs function (“Subscribe”), focus on what benefits the user will get after clicking the CTA button (“Get Free Traffic Tips”).

In one study by CampaignMonitor, switching to benefit-focused copy increased CTR by 10 percent.

Thus, you would change "Submit to Get Your Free Quote, Subscribe" to "Get Free Traffic Tips" and so on.

Change CTA Color

The CTA has one goal: to attract the reader’s attention. The CTA button size and color both have a big role to play in this.

Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t any specific color that converts better than others. For example, in one study, a green button outperformed a red button. However, in another study, a red button outdid a green one by 21 percent.

What matters more is whether the button stands out or not. A red button on a green website stands out. The same wouldn’t be true for a website with a ‘red’ theme.

For example, in one test, conversions increased by 35.81 percent after changing the button color to orange instead of blue on a blue themed page.

conversion increase with button color example

Use Action Focused Copy

Another simple tactic to increase CTA click-through rate is to use an action-oriented copy in the CTA.

For example, in one study, changing CTA copy from ‘Create’ to an active ‘Get Started’ increased CTR by 31 percent:

changing CTA copy to improve opt-ins

Try to use words that describe what the button does whenever possible (“Get 25% Off” instead of “Discount”).

Tweaking the CTA is a low-hanging fruit and should be the first thing you optimize for. Once you’ve tested out a few variations of the CTA, you can move to more complex changes.

2. Add Social Proof

What would you rather choose?

  1. Get free CRO tips right in your inbox
  2. Join 31,129 others who get free CRO tips

Most people would go with option 2. Why? Because it is already popular.

Social proof is a powerful motivator for action. People tend to choose what’s already popular. It validates their belief that since it must be popular, it must also be good.

In fact, according to Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, it is one of the six pillars of persuasion.

“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." - Robert Cialdini

There are multiple ways you can boost conversion rates by using social proof in your opt-in forms.

You can mention your existing subscriber count:

boost conversion rates by using social proof in opt-ins

You can show off influential publications where you’ve been mentioned:

show off influential publications where you’ve been mentioned

You can even show off a testimonial from a reader or user:

show off a testimonial from a reader or user

There is really no limit - if it shows that you are already popular, or have a lot of readers, it will help.

3. Test Different Opt-in Locations

A big mistake businesses often make is tucking away their opt-in form somewhere near the bottom of their content.

tucking away their opt-in form somewhere near the bottom of their contentOr they might drop it in some barely noticeable corner of the sidebar:corner sidebar bad op-in example

This goes against all principles of conversion rate optimization. If you want more opt-ins, you have to place your forms right where everyone can see them.

Try experimenting with different locations and layout styles to capture more opt-ins. Here are some of your options:

Above the Fold

Placing an opt-in form ‘above the fold’ (i.e. the visible portion of the screen upon page load) will get you the bulk of your opt-ins from cold visitors (i.e. visitors who haven’t read your content).. It’s highly recommended that you place at least one such opt-in here.

You can try out different styles, such as:

Full-Page Splash Screen

You’ll find this splash screen on most popular marketing blogs these days. Some of these ask you to give up your email address:

opt-in example asking for email address

Others ask you to like a Facebook page:

ask you to like a Facebook page

This splash screen disappears once you scroll down the page. It can be annoying if served to repeat visitors, but it’s a great way to capture emails/likes/followers from people dropping by your site the first time (which will be the majority of your readers).

You can use either SumoMe or HelloBar to create these splash screens.

Hello Bar

The Hello Bar is a thick bar that sits at the top of the page. It’s usually in a color that stands out and includes a lead magnet along with an opt-in form.

a thick bar that sits at the top of the page. It’s usually in a color that stands out and includes a lead magnet along with an opt-in form

You can split test different messages and see what converts best. For social media sharing app Buffer, the HelloBar was the second largest source of sign-ups.

Feature Box

The above-the-fold feature box has been a staple of most blogs for years. It usually has a simple format - a lead magnet along with an email capture form.

Take a look at a couple of examples:

Boost Blog Traffic home page

This box works well because:

  • It highlights the “free” aspect over and over again in the copy (in the title and the arrow next to the email field). Free, incidentally, is one of the most persuasive words in the English language.
  • The headline emphasizes that it’s a short “cheat sheet” - something that won’t take hours to read.
  • The red arrow next to the email field draws the reader’s attention.
Marie Forleo home page

Related Article: Inbox Issues: How to Fail at Email Marketing

This feature box works well because:

  • The copy focuses on the word “you”. According to Copyblogger, this is one of the most persuasive words in English.
  • The downward pointing arrow directs the reader’s eye to the email field.
  • The copy emphasizes that the tips are free.

You have plenty of options for creating this feature box. Check out the PlugMatter feature box plugin or WP feature box to get started.

Bottom of the Page

Anyone who has scrolled all the way to the bottom of the page is likely an engaged reader. Converting such a reader is easier than capturing emails from cold traffic.

This makes the bottom of the page one of the best places to place your opt-in forms.

Here are a couple of options for bottom of the page opt-ins:

Scroll triggered slidebox

This slidebox shows up only when someone scrolls a certain percentage of the page. Depending on the plugin you use to create this scrollbox, you can embed a Facebook like box, an email opt-in form, or any other CTA.

Here’s an example from Buffer:

Buffer example of embedded CTA

This type of pop-up works particularly well since it targets your most heavily engaged users. Anyone who scrolls a certain length of the page (say, 80 percent) is likely to have read at least a part of the article. This makes them ideal candidates for an offer.

A couple of plugins for making these boxes are Scroll Triggered Boxes and Dreamgrow Scroll Triggered Boxes.

Simple Opt-in Form

This is your average garden variety opt-in form, placed comfortably at the bottom of the article.

example of simple opt-in form

You can grab it from your email marketing provider, or you can go fancy and use a plugin like OptinSkin.

Overlays and Pop-ups

Remember those dark days of Web 1.0 when you couldn’t escape a site without closing a gazillion annoying pop-ups?

example of annoying pop up opt-ins

Those pop-ups are back today, except they’re much better looking, less annoying, and even useful to readers.

Take a look at some examples:

example of a good pop-upexample of a good pop-up

Most of these cover the entire screen and offer a lead magnet in exchange for an email. There are plenty of tools for creating these, such as:

Ideally, you should have multiple opt-in forms on every page - a feature box or splash screen above the fold, a scroll triggered slidebox, an opt-in pop-up and a bottom of the page opt-in form.

You’ll notice that I haven’t included any opt-ins in the sidebar. This is because of a growing debate among CROs and marketers on whether the sidebar is even useful anymore. Most of your readers have developed ‘sidebar blindness’ and ignore offers here. This is why marketers are steadily moving towards sidebar-free designs.

For now, the above locations should be enough to help you capture emails. If you do use a sidebar, a small feature-box with a lead magnet should yield positive results.

4. Use a Two Button Opt-in Form

This is the latest trend in opt-in form tools - to give users two buttons to click on instead of one. One of the buttons usually offers a negative choice, while the other offers a positive choice.

SocialTriggers uses it:

two button opt-in form by Social TriggersQuick Sprout two button opt-in

And a host of other bloggers and marketers.

Conventional wisdom says that adding two buttons would confuse the readers and make signing-up more difficult. However, test after test shows that it actually increases opt-in rates.

For example, CopyHackers added a choice based, two-button opt-in form to its site and increased opt-in rates by 5x.

example of bounce exchange improving opt-in rates

The reason why the two-button form works better is simple: a single button doesn’t give your users a real choice. And without a choice, their actions don’t really have a consequences.

When a user chooses the negative choice in a two-button form, he is explicitly opting out of the offer (instead of just closing the pop-up). Since people are more responsive to loss aversion than a positive gain, offering a choice triggers action.

Right now, you can use the these two tools to create choice based, two-button pop-ups: PicReel, BounceExchange, and Pop-up Domination.

5. Time it Right

This is a simple tweak that can give big results: when you show your opt-in pop-up has a big impact on your conversion rates. After all, if you show a big, page-covering overlay the moment your visitors enter your site, you are likely to scare them away. Studies show that a delay of 5 seconds works best to capture emails.

However, this isn’t true for every site; in another study, showing the pop-up at the 10-second mark yielded the best conversion rates.

As with most things CRO, there is no one solution fits all. Try to experiment with different delay timings and see what works best.

VI. Use Double Opt-Ins

Some CROs recommend using single opt-ins to quickly boost your opt-in rate. However, unless you are okay with dead accounts and spam reports, this is one tactic you should avoid at all costs.

Instead, use double opt-ins. This means that after a reader enters his email into an opt-in box, he’ll receive an email asking him to confirm his subscription. The subscription won’t be “active” until he clicks the activation link in the email.

Double opt-ins vastly reduce your chances of hitting dead accounts. If someone has confirmed his subscription twice, it means that he is interested in your offer. You’ll see far better engagement rates from your subscribers. This also cuts down on spam complaints and will keep your email account in the good books.

There are plenty of other things you can do to improve opt-in conversion rates - using a two-step opt-in form, for instance. However, the five steps above will be enough to not just double, but quadruple your opt-in rates. Try out some of these ideas, conduct some experiments and see what yields what the best results.

Related Article: Interview Questions to Ask an Email Marketing Manager [Infographic]

Key Takeaways

  • Make your CTA stand out by tweaking its size and color.
  • Use action-oriented, benefit-focused copy in CTA.
  • Add an opt-in form at multiple locations throughout your site - above the fold, bottom of the page, as a pop-up and in the sidebar.
  • Time your pop-up to show at the right time.
  • Add social proof and use benefit-focused copy in opt-in form.

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