Twenty years of working online and we’ve seen a lot — from consumer “portal” websites and banner ads, to demographic targeting and pay-per-click, then the social media explosion, to apps and smartphones, and so it goes. And yet we’ve also come full circle – back to email marketing. The one piece of advice we give to every client — every single one — is to build an email list and make good use of it.
This tactic has been getting a lot of play lately by all of the “make money online” types of marketing websites too, and for good reason: email is still the most cost effective way to meet your marketing objectives. It’s still the most impactful, least expensive way to market online! Perhaps we haven’t really come full circle though, as email marketing never went anywhere to begin with!
There has been plenty written about email collection boxes, aka “opt-in” boxes: how to design them, what language to use, where to place them, what data to collect, etc. I’m not going to re-hash much of that here, except to say that almost all “expert” advice on where to place an email collection box and how to design it is entirely negated by testing, because every website is different and each site’s audience is different too. So, if you’re serious about collecting email addresses and growing an email marketing list, you owe it to yourself to create different designs and write different call’s to action, to test what works best for you.
What we’ll cover here is a simple guide to the four basic types of website email collection forms, and the pro’s and con’s of each. Although there are some hybrid approaches, you have essentially four means of collecting email address to build a database.
Types of Email Collection Boxes for Your Website:
- Integrate a sign-up box within your homepage (and other key landing pages)
- Place a sign-up box in the footer of your website
- Add an opt-in to the check-out or lead generation form
- Utilize a pop-over sign-up box
Note that none of these options are exclusive – there’s no reason you can’t mix and match from the options above and try a little bit of everything. Most e-commerce websites, for example, will have an email collection box on the homepage and yet still have an email opt-in box on their checkout form as well. There are pro’s and con’s to each of these methods though, so let’s take a look:
Email Collection Box Within Homepage
Here, we’re referring to integrating a box for users to submit their email (and possibly other data such as their name) right into the content of the homepage:
Pro’s of Email Collection Box Within Homepage:
- Easy to spot (make sure the email box is above the fold!)
- To be placed on pages of highest traffic.
- Lends to a user friendly design with enough room for strong call to action.
Con’s of Email Collection Box Within Homepage:
- Takes up very valuable real estate for branding or key messaging.
- Stymies the use of interactive, full-page sliders or full-width background images, which are all the rage.
- Often not ideal for high-end or prestige brands.
This is an ideal method for all business and content websites, unless your site relies on full-width or full-page design that makes integration difficult.
Email Collection Box in Website Footer
If you’re new to website design, the “footer” is the bottom area of a website, typically reserved for utilitarian purposes like ancillary site links and copyright information. The footer is often the same on every page of a website.
Many web designers and online marketers add an email collection box here as well:
Pro’s of Email Collection Box in Website Footer:
- It’s out of the way, leaving the more valuable webpage real estate above it for your site messaging and design.
- If people scroll all the way down through your page content and arrive at your footer, it’s safe to consider them engaged, and therefore more likely to sign up.
Con’s of Email Collection Box in Website Footer:
- Of all four methods, this always has the lowest email sign-up rate — it’s often completely missed on a webpage.
- There is not a enough room to include engaging call-to-action messaging, and it’s usually difficult to add a Name field in addition to email.
- Doesn’t usually render well on smartphones or other small-screen devices.
This is the ideal method for businesses where email collection is not a very high priority or is also taiking place elsewhere. Perhaps you have lead forms or e-commerce which also build your email database, for example.
Email Collection Via Opt-In Box on Checkout Form
Of course you’ve seen this — adding a checkbox and brief message which allows you to sign up to receive a company’s email when you’re checking out or submitting a lead form:
Pro’s of Email Collection Via Opt-In Box on Checkout Form
- Easy and Intuitive. Since the person signing up is already entering their email address, all that is required to subscribe to your email is to check a box — maybe not even that if you set this subscribe box as pre-checked.
- This person is on your website, filling out a form or checking out — they are obviously highly engaged with your business. A great, high quality subscription.
Con’s of Email Collection Via Opt-In Box on Checkout Form
- This functionality is almost never integrated with the other three email sign-up methods discussed here. For example, what if one submits their email on a homepage box to subscribe, but then unchecks this box on your form as they check out. Are they a subscriber or not?
- Pre-checking this opt-in box gives some customers an icky feeling, and is frowned upon by some email service providers and ISP’s. If an individual didn’t actually check the box can they truly be considered “opted-in?” This is an open question across email marketing circles and anti-spam advocates.
Pop-over Email Subscription Box
This may also be known as a “pop-up” or, in the old school, a “modal window.” This is what is know as a disruptive technique – the individual has no choice but to review your email sign-up offer and take action — wither by completing the fields and signing up, or by clicking a Close Window option to return to your webpage:
Pro’s of Using a Pop-over Email Subscription Box
- By its very nature, this method has the highest email sign-up rate, by far.
- You can control the size and creative in nearly unlimited ways.
Con’s of Using a Pop-over Email Subscription Box
- By its very nature, many website visitors find this method disruptive, rude or annoying.
- If you need to nearly force someone to subscribe to get your email, are they a long-term, valuable subscriber?
- This can reek of desperation, and can therefore harm your brand.
If you test this method of email collection, be sure to make the pop-over window easy to close. I like to add a small “Close Window” link at the bottom instead of relying solely on a teeny “x” symbol tucked away in the window’s corner. In addition, use advanced functionalities to ensure visitors see this pop-up box only once in a while, they they don’t see it if they’ve already signed up, and so on. If you see a rising Bounce Rate in your analytics, stop using this method, unless of course you only care about collecting email.
This method is typically employed by e-commerce websites, subscription websites and some blogs — it’s used by marketers whose top priority is building up their email address list. This aggressive method shouldn’t be used by luxury or high-end products or services, and may leave a bad taste in the visitor’s mouth no matter who your website caters to.
Email Collection Boxes – Conclusion
Although building up an email marketing list is of paramount importance to any business, don’t forget it’s what you do with these emails that really matter. What good is an email list of 20 million of it has little to no response rate? This is why you must approach email marketing holistically — from the sign-up forms and messaging (and what’s promised), to technical minutiae like form error messages, utilizing conversion measurement in analytics, crafting solid auto-responder messages and opt-in confirmation emails, and many more details. More on all of this to come!