For soliciting your existing customers to join your email marketing list, most of the work can be done when they purchase or register. However, if you're advertising your email list on a search engine or other website or if you are soliciting visitors on your website or social media channel, you'll need a well-designed email sign-up box. The difference between a well done email sign-up box and a poorly designed email sign-up box can be the difference between healthy email list growth and slow and tedious email list growth. In this section, we'll cover the best practices of designing an email sign-up box.

Use a White Box for Text Entry

It's possible that, as you are surfing the internet looking for examples of email sign-up boxes, you'll see a number of "trendy" email sign-up boxes where the field in which a user enters his or her email is shaded grey or another color that "snaps." While that color usage may draw attention to the area of the page where the email sign-up box is located, most case studies reveal that users are more comfortable with entering text into a white box and also recognize a white text box as an area where they are supposed to enter information. If you want to use color or design to draw attention to the area of a page or landing page where users enter their email address, use best practice webpage and email graphic design elements to draw a user's eye to the correct area of the page. Do not, however, use a color other than white for the actual field in which a user enters his or her email address in the email sign-up box.

Show a Sample Email Format

It may seem as though all users understand what format they need to enter their email address in. However, this isn't actually true! Provide users with an example of what their entered email address should look like either within the text box itself or below the text field. For example: Enter your email address above (ie: yourname@email.com)

Make the Submit Button Large, Clear, and Near the Text Field

The most important part of your email sign-up box or form is the submit button. Not only does it need to be clear and easy-to-spot, it also needs to actively encourage users to click it. Consider the use of graphic arrows and even animation surrounding your submit button. Color is one of the most important elements of any action button on a website, and your email sign-up box is no exception. If you have a standard website color palette in which a certain color is consistently used to indicate that a user should take an action by clicking a button, use that color. Otherwise, select bright, attractive, action-oriented colors. In some case studies, red has been shown to be particularly effective in a submission button. Finally, make sure that your submit button is big, easy to spot, and near enough to the text field where users enter their email address that there is a clear mental relationship between the button and the text field. While experimenting and testing various elements of your email sign-up box is important as a whole, you may want to take extra time and resources to test the color, text, positioning, and placement of your submit button early on in your email collection process.

What Should Your Submit Button Say

Keep the text on your email submission button short, clear, and friendly while also telling users exactly what you want them to do. Popular and effective phrases include:

  • Join Now
  • Join Free
  • Begin Receiving Offers Now
  • Submit Your Email
  • Register

Keep Everything Above the Fold

Not unlike any web design practice, if you want to experience the best optimization from your email sign-up box, make sure that all elements of it are above the fold. This is true if your email sign-up is a module on your website or if you have made an entire landing page dedicated to capturing emails. The value proposition, email entry field, privacy assurance, and, most importantly, the submit button, should all be placed well above the fold in a standard web browser layout. The most effective online marketing solicitations always happen above the fold!

Assure Privacy

This best practice applies any time you solicit uses to join your email list, regardless of their previous relationship with you. Be sure to ensure users of your commitment to your privacy policy and that you will not share, sell or rent their email. If possible, become accredited by an online trust and privacy monitoring organization such as Truste (Comm100 is Truste accredited). Information has become the currency of the internet, and users are increasingly aware that they want their private contact information to remain private. Be sure to give them that assurance beside your email sign-up box whenever you are asking for an email address of any kind.

Offer a Clear Value Proposition

Users who do not have a previous relationship with your company will need a strong incentive to actively join your email list. After all, our inboxes are all very crowded these days and many people simply don't want extra "junk email." Be sure to give potential subscribers a clear value proposition for why they should allow you to include them on your email list. This may be exclusive offers and discounts, useful information, early access to new products, monthly contests, or a host of other features that can encourage users to join an email list.The best value proposition for you may require some research and some email testing. However, once you determine what it is, you'll see an increase in individuals joining your email list.

Don't Ask for Too Much Information

We've mentioned several times that the more information that you have on your email subscribers, the more you can segment your email list and the more effective it will be in returning results. However, the moment when a user joins your email list is not the right time to ask them for a great deal of information. You want to make joining your email list as painless as possible. The more information that you ask subscribers for, the more likely they are to abandon the process of subscribing to your email product. Keep the information required to join at a minimum. If it's possible, only ask for their email address. It's often also fine to ask only for an email address and a first name. If you want to collect additional information, you can do so in a follow-up or on a second screen after you have captured their email information. Adding a name to the database without detailed information is better than not adding a name to the database at all because your potential subscriber became overwhelmed with the length or size of your email sign-up box. Keep the information requests to a minimum when initially capturing an email address for your database.

Check for Email Format or Duplicate Emails

If it is possible for you to do so technologically, check for proper email format or duplicate copies of the email in your database at the time of email submission. Checking for email format will ensure that, if you require a double opt-in, your new subscriber actually receives your confirmation email. If you do not require a double opt-in, it ensures that your potential subscriber double checks his or her email and then enters the correct one. This not only means that you are more likely to actually contact your subscriber via email, it also means that you will be sending out fewer bad or "bounced" email addresses. Every time you send to a bad email address, you risk your email sender reputation.

Checking for duplicate emails in the system helps to control instances where a user may previously have marked you as spam and inadvertently joins again, only to mark you as spam again. The more that you can check and confirm email address quality at the time of sign-up, the healthier and better your email list will be.

Display a Confirmation Page

Regardless of whether you are using a single opt-in or double opt-in email sign-up form, after your new subscriber has entered his or her email address, be sure to display a confirmation screen confirming that you have received the subscription request. Otherwise, your new subscriber may continue to click the "submit" button, generating site errors for you. If you are using a double opt-in sign-up system, use the confirmation screen to remind your new subscriber that he or she needs to check his or her inbox (including the spam folder!) for the confirmation email and should add your email address to his or her contact or address list. A confirmation screen is also an ideal opportunity to present users with other actions to take, such as purchasing opportunities or social media links. Don't waste any opportunity to interact with your new subscriber, and that includes the confirmation page!

Use Landing Page Best Practices

Finally,whether you are developing a landing page that is entirely devoted to email capture or whether you are incorporating an email capture box onto a webpage that includes other content, be sure to use all the key practices of web design and landing page design (covered extensively earlier in this book). No matter how compelling your email offers are, if you use poor landing page or web design, you won't be able to convince users to sign-up for it.

Creating a compelling email sign-up box may seem overwhelming, but if you simply follow the above listed best practices, you'll be able to create a high converting email sign-up box. Of course, always remember that all marketing modules, including email sign-up modules, should be tested with various looks, designs, copy and positioning in order to find the best performing solution.

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