How I Accidentally Increased My Newsletter Subscription Signups by 600%

I’ve been collecting email addresses for a monthly newsletter that I send out from my site Ukulele Go! for around a year now. It actually took quite a while before I ever attracted my first subscriber but since then I’ve had a trickle of emails coming through and the mailing list has been building at a reasonable rate.

Newsletter Static

Every month or so I’ll tweak the signup form, change the text, maybe the button, switch the position of the form – the usual things that you do when you’re trying to improve your conversion rate. Sometimes my ideas worked, sometimes they had little effect and sometimes it went the total opposite way. Through trial and error I managed to get the conversion rate to just below 1%. If you didn’t bomb out at maths at school that means I need 100 visitors to get a single email address. It’s a start but I wanted more.

Making a lead magnet

The last thing that I tried was changing the hook of the signup form. Previously it was a fairly casual sign up to my newsletter type message that offered only a very small benefit to anyone signing up. This meant only die-hard fans of my site would sign up. So I created a lead magnet. I’ve heard of lead magnets being called many different things over the years but the premise is the same – create a piece of content or some kind of offer that is only available to users that are willing to give up their email address. It can be a white paper, a discount code – anything at all that offers some kind of value. We’ve all seen it hundreds of times before. It works.

My lead magnet is an 8 page beginners guide that I took time to write, design and produce. I thought I’d created a nice piece of content that was worth an email address (or five).

Only for me, it didn’t work. My conversion rate actually slipped by .1%. It really didn’t make that much sense. Or did it? Maybe my guide wasn’t good enough, or maybe the message about my guide wasn’t clear enough, or maybe my visitors just don’t like that approach.

Newsletter Go form

There are no guaranteed wins that work across the board on all websites in all situations. What works on one website isn’t necessarily going to work on another. That said, I was still a little bit baffled.

For a few days I didn’t change anything. I was hoping that maybe the stats had been skewed by some unusual activity on my website and that it would all turn itself back around and work out exactly like I’d planned. It didn’t happen.

While all this was going on I was seeing a lot of success particularly on social networks with a piece of one-off content that I’d created a couple of weeks back. It had become the most popular page on my website and was attracting around double the amount of traffic that my next most popular page was getting. Because it was a one-off piece of content though and didn’t sit in the same framework as the rest of my website, it actually didn’t feature my newsletter sign up form anywhere on it.

An accidental 600% improvement

Newsletter Subscriptions Up 600%

So, slightly late to party I added the newsletter sign-up right at the bottom. I still used the lead magnet approach but I made the message shorter and little more punchy. The signups flooded in. I went from 6 new subscribers one day, to over 60 the next day. In some ways it didn’t make sense. I hadn’t really changed that much. I’d pretty much just added the same form to another page. There was no real reason that page should be converting at a much higher rate.

Why it worked

How did it work? Was it down to the minor copy change that I made? I’m almost certain it wasn’t that. It was the users themselves. A lot of the traffic to that particular page was coming from other similar newsletters. It’s a lot easier to get someone to sign up for your newsletter if they’re already signed up to another similar newsletter. Particularly if that’s where they’ve just come from. They’re actively looking at one newsletter. Your audience are already primed – you’re not asking them to do something they haven’t already done before. Visitors to the other pages on my site are coming in much colder for the large part. It’s a much more difficult sell. It all came down to circumstances.

It’s a really important consideration. The more you know about the people visiting your site the more you can actually work with that information. I may have stumbled upon something that worked really well and without doubt there was a lot of luck involved but it’s definitely changed the way I think about the people visiting my website and in particular how they’ve actually landed there in the first place.


Mark Howells-Mead:

07 Mar 2016 16:44:38

I may be wrong, but it might be the result of advert blindness. (Yes, that’s a thing.) Placing the offer in a prominent location at the top of the page will get ignored by a lot of people, as a jarring element next to the text will subliminally be marked as advertising. Placing it in a non-prominent location, the visitor will read the information they’ve come for and then free their mind up for other, secondary content.


07 Mar 2016 16:48:22

Hi Mark, it’s possible – actually the screenshot in the post isn’t the only place I include the signup form. There’s also one at the bottom of each post that converts better for the very reason that you’ve stated. I actually introduced that form fairly recently and it did improve conversion but only by a fraction of a percent.

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