Issue #25

6 opt-in form best practices to convert readers to your email list

Build Your Audience Email Marketing
20 min read
In this Article

As you make your way toward email marketing success, you’ll want to start at the beginning by creating a high-converting email opt-in form. What’s that, you ask?

An email opt-in form is essentially an email sign up form that gives your website or blog visitors an option to receive emails from your brand.

These email sign up forms serve as your target audience’s first impression of your email marketing efforts, so it’s important to test and experiment with different types of email opt-in forms to see which perform best for you.

In exchange for providing a valid email address, brands often send incentives like lead magnets and exclusive deals that are valuable to their subscribers.

Incentives are a great way to entice visitors to sign up while giving them a taste of what they will find inside your email list. The more valuable an incentive is, the more likely a person will sign up for your email list.

Keep in mind that you want to attract a highly-engaged niche audience with your email opt-in form so you don’t spend time marketing your products and services to people who aren’t ready to buy or simply not interested in what you have to say or sell.

With your target audience in mind, you can create email sign up forms that give your audience a great experience from the first step in their email subscriber journey.

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Common types of email opt-in forms

When a visitor lands on your website, they are looking for an answer to a problem. In order to market your email list (where the answers to their problems lie), you must understand what solutions your target audience is searching for first. Then you can make sure the answer to their problem is reflected in the first touchpoint you have with a potential subscriber: the email sign up form.

Knowing you need an email opt-in form is easy, but choosing the right form type for your special offer or incentive isn’t as straightforward. Let’s break down each of main types of email sign-up forms so you can start brainstorming which ones you want to use.


When you see an email sign up form in a blog post or in a sidebar, we consider this a standard email opt-in form. You’ll often see these used on popular blogs, media sites, and business websites.

Standard email sign up forms come in handy for content creators who are focused on:

  • Increasing their blog
  • Increasing website traffic

It’s not surprising, then, that most content creators spend more time promoting their blog content than actually creating it.

While the promotion stage is extremely important, attracting more visitors to your blog is only step one. It’s great if someone stumbles on your blog through a tweet or a Pinterest post, but you don’t want them to click the exit button after finishing your blog post.

Creating a standard form is a great way to capture the attention of blog readers who may have otherwise scrolled through your blog post and left your website. With a standard email opt-in form, your blog can convert passive readers into active email subscribers. Types of opt in forms- standardIf readers are interested in more information on the topic of your blog post, you can offer them a content upgrade within the email sign up form. You can also reuse the content upgrade for multiple blog posts if it fits within your blog categories.

Where to put your standard form

And you can embed your form anywhere within your blog post. While many people put their standard email sign up forms at the bottom of their blog post, it can also be beneficial to add it in the middle of your content if you write a blog post that is longer than 1,500 words.

Here’s an example of an email sign up form with a content upgrade that ConvertKit user Katie uses to convert her blog readers into subscribers.

When you create your standard email opt-in form, keep your ideal blog reader in mind.

What would entice them to sign up for your email list?
What topics do they care about?

Address those in your email sign up form, and attach a content upgrade when applicable.

How to:

To start this process in ConvertKit:

  • Click the ‘New Form’ button on the Forms tab in your dashboard
  • Select the ‘Inline’ option.
  • From there, you can choose which of the three looks you like best. Or, even better, try out all three and see which converts best in your next few blog posts!


Love them or hate them, email popup forms exist because they can be quite successful in converting visitors into email subscribers. With an average 3.09% conversion rate, it’s hard to ignore popup forms when building your email marketing strategy.

Popup forms may not be right for every audience or in every situation, but they might be worth experimenting with. Although you will often hear people say they are “annoying”, you may have the opportunity to convert more readers into subscribers by using them.

Luckily, there are ways to make popup forms less intrusive.

How to use popups correctly

One way is to ensure your email popup form doesn’t show up immediately after someone enters your website or blog post. If the visitor hasn’t had time to scroll through and read your content, they probably aren’t ready to sign up for your email list.

In the ConvertKit platform, you can create a modal form (which is our name for popups) that can be triggered by a few actions.

You can set a scrolling percentage that tells the popup email sign up form that it will only show once the visitor has scrolled through a set percentage of the website page’s content.

If you want the popup form to show after a certain length of time, you can create timing rules within our modal forms.

The exit-intent form

Another popup form type is called the exit-intent form. You’ll see this form utilized with many ecommerce shops and online educators who rely heavily on their website traffic to drive email leads.

Exit intent popup forms are triggered when a visitor moves their cursor to the edge or just outside of their browser window. This signals that they are close to exiting the website, so the exit-intent popup form gives them one last opportunity to sign up for your email list before they do something else.

If you’d rather trigger the popup form by a manual link click, you have the opportunity to do that as well. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income does this by creating a ‘Subscribe Now’ button in his footer that triggers the popup form only when it is manually clicked. This is the least intrusive of all popup forms.Types of opt in forms- pop upNo matter what kind of popup form you choose, you can test different elements inside your form to see how they perform. Different form types may be better for certain offers or lead magnets than others, so you’ll want to choose the popup form type your target audience will respond best to.


Like a popup form, a slide in form will appear on its own but it won’t show up in the center of your visitor’s device screen. Instead, the slide in form will slide up from the bottom right or the bottom left of your website after a certain amount of time or scroll percentage you set.

The sliding motion of the email opt-in form still catches your eye but doesn’t distract the reader from your content like a popup form does. While standard email sign up forms are static, meaning they don’t move at all, the slide in form uses motion to get your website visitor’s attention as they scroll through your content.

Email sign up copy like “sign up for monthly updates” just won’t cut it with these slide-in forms. Instead, give your reader value by offering an incentive and including copy that catches their eye. The more context you can give in the slide in form, the more comfortable a visitor will feel in giving you their email address.


Have you ever noticed that some content creators feature a notification bar at the top of their website with special offers? The copy on the bar is typically a short sentence that is written to entice visitors to click the call-to-action button in the bar.

Squarespace calls this an announcement bar and gives their users the opportunity to use it to announce a sale, company change, or other announcements. You can also use this announcement bar to direct visitors to an email opt-in form or a dedicated landing page so they can sign up for your email list.

If you aren’t a Squarespace user, you can still utilize this kind of email sign up form. Tools like HelloBar and SumoMe can help you create a bar form in a few simple steps. These tools will automatically generate the code for you so you can simply embed the bar form into your website or blog.Types of opt in forms- barWhen the call-to-action button is clicked, it will take you either to a separate website page or an email opt-in form for your visitor to complete. If you need more copy to explain what the offer or incentive is, a landing page might be a good option.

If you want to collect the email address quickly, having the call-to-action button trigger an email opt-in form is best.

Some bar form building tools keep the bar at the top of your website while others move as the visitor scrolls through your site. You can decide which option is better for you depending on how important and strong the call-to-action on the bar form is.

Where to put email sign up forms on your website

As you think about which email opt-in form types you want to use on your blog or website, your next question to answer is where to put them. Some form types answer the question for you while others give you some flexibility in terms of placement.

Bar forms will almost always be featured at the top of your website while slide-in forms are typically found in the bottom right or left corners of your website.

But it's the standard email sign up forms that can be placed anywhere in your blog post or sidebar. That means you can get creative with where you want to place them. Here are a few examples of ConvertKit users who have positioned their standard email opt-in forms in different places.

Where to put email sign up forms- end of blog post
Eden Fried, at the end of her blog post
Where to put email sign up forms- blog sidebar
Nicole Kauffman, in her blog’s sidebar
Where to put email sign up forms- blog header
Forth & Create, in her blog header
Where to put email sign up forms- in a How-to guide
Kendra Blogs, in a how-to guide

Popup forms can be utilized on virtually any website page or blog post you create. While you'll most often see them on a brand’s homepage and main blog directory page, but they can also be placed on other pages. Think about the user intent of each page before you use a popup form on it.

More places to put your opt-in form

  • At the checkout for your ecommerce shop
  • In the homepage feature box (near your hero image)
  • In the footer of your website
  • On your YouTube channel videos
  • In your social media pages
  • On your Contact page
  • On your About page

As the old adage goes, a person needs to see an advertisement at least seven times before they remember it. Even if the exact number differs depending on the source, it’s a great opportunity to think about seven different places you can put an email opt-in form on your website.

And it's the first pages you should think about adding email opt-in forms to are your top-performing pages. You can optimize other pages over time so they get better traffic, but starting with the pages or blog posts that are already performing well will help you see which forms are converting best.

You can determine what your top-performing website pages or blog posts are by looking into your website platform built-in analytics dashboard or your Google Analytics account.

Don’t forget the double opt in

With the most popular email sign up form types in mind, you may be wondering what happens after someone fills out your form and hits the call-to-action button.

In an ideal situation, the first thing they will see is a thank you message for signing up. Since many people treat their email address as one of the most valuable things they can give someone, it must be treated with care. It’s a direct line of communication to them, so listen to your mother and always say, “thank you.”

At a minimum, we recommend writing a genuine thank you message that will appear on your email sign up form after they click the submit button. We give our users a sample default message they can use, but personalization goes a long way with email marketing.

An even better option is to create a “thank you” landing page that helps them understand what they can expect from your email list. This is a great way to build trust. You can also introduce the need to click the double opt-in option in your first email on this thank you page, much like Pat Flynn does here. Where to put email sign up forms- thank you pageA double opt-in refers to the requirement that all new email subscribers must click the confirmation button that is automatically sent to their inbox in order to be officially signed up for your email list. You may be wondering why this is necessary. There are a few reasons why someone might want to use a double opt-in.

Double opt-ins improve email list quality

Why pay for cold subscribers or spammers who never intended on opening your emails? With a double opt in option, you are able to dramatically reduce the amount of spam email addresses that fill your email list. You can also see which subscribers are already uninterested in your emails if they don’t take the time to click the email sign up confirmation button.

Having better list quality is much more important than having a large number of email subscribers who don’t take action or convert. The success of your email marketing strategy depends on how engaged your email subscribers are with your content, so it’s crucial to keep an eye on your list quality.

Double opt-ins help you avoid email deliverability issues

One of the worst things to happen to your email list growth would be if your subscribers started to mark your email content as spam. This sometimes happens when people don’t want to receive your emails or they only wanted the incentive you were offering but nothing else.

When your emails are marked as spam, it will hurt your deliverability, meaning fewer subscribers will see your emails in the future. To limit this, you can include the double opt-in option to ensure the people who sign up for your email list really want to be there.

Double opt-ins increase engagement

Ideally, your email list will foster an engaged community of people in your target audience who have given you permission to send them emails because they want to hear what you have to say.

Since sales are only generated when customers engage and take action, you must prioritize these email marketing metrics when you create content:

  • Open rates: how many subscribers open your email (largely based on the subject line)
  • Click rates: how many subscribers click on one of the links inside the opened email
  • Conversion rate: how many subscribers take the intended action due to the email

Engagement can also look like a subscriber filling out a survey, answering a poll, or simply replying to a question you place at the end of your content. Any kind of engagement is good because it shows that your target audience is no longer passively consuming your content. They are actively participating.

Best practices for your email sign up forms

We’ve talked a lot about how important it is to test your email opt-in forms to see what performs best, but you also want to start off with an initial version you can be proud to put on your website and blog. Improvements can be made along the way, but we want to share some best practices so you know where to start.

Customize your email opt-in forms in moderation

Having the opportunity to customize the visual branding of your email opt-in forms is great, but it can also be taken too far. Just because you can use several different colors or fonts doesn’t mean you need to.

Instead, try to build your designs from our premade ConvertKit templated designs. You can choose your brand colors to keep your forms consistent and insert photos or graphics that give it more visual appeal. This is a great way to help your forms stand out while still keeping white space and hierarchy design standards in mind.

Using the preview tool inside ConvertKit, you can see how your customized email sign up form looks before you publish it. That way, you don’t have any surprises when you embed it on your website.

Keep your copy short and clear

There isn’t a lot of room to be verbose on an email sign up form. You don’t need to treat it like it’s a landing page. Instead, you’ll want to clearly explain how the reader or visitor will benefit from signing up for your email list in as few words as possible.

There are a few ways you can do this:

The first is to create a list of benefits and features that are a part of joining your email list. You can write a few headlines for each benefit or feature until you come up with two or three variations you’d like to test.

Another way is to research what other content creators are writing in their email opt-in forms. You can gain inspiration by seeing what other brands are using to convert subscribers, even if it is in a different industry. As you write your email sign up form copy, there are three main things you will need.

Headline copy

This will typically be an attention-grabbing statement or question that is between five to 10 words on your email sign up form. If you are stuck, try using a headline generator to get in the writing zone.

Short description

Your description copy should explain in more detail what the headline copy refers to. This description is meant to be concise, so try to keep it around one to two short sentences.

Cut unnecessary words that visitors will glaze over and be direct about what they will receive when they sign up for your email list.

CTA button copy

Now it’s time to focus on arguably the most important part of your copy: the call-to-action button. This button can make or break whether you turn a visitor into a subscriber or not.

You want to make sure the button itself is easy to locate. You can do this by making it stand out in a bold color that also fits within your visual branding guidelines. Also, your text should be easy to read and formatted in a way that makes sense to your visitor.

When you decide on CTA button copy, try to include action-inspired words. It is more enticing to click on a button that says, “Download the Free Guide Now” than, “Submit for Your Free Guide”. Just a few small tweaks to your CTA button copy can make a world of a difference.

One of the best calls-to-action you can have is a content upgrade or a lead magnet. These free resources are more valuable to subscribers than stating you’ll give them semi-regular company updates.

You’ve probably subscribed to different email lists because of the exclusive resources you wanted access to, so you can use the same tactics to grow your email list. Make sure this call-to-action is reflected in your button copy as well as the rest of your copy.

Inject your brand personality

You can primarily do this by bringing your brand voice into the copy of your email sign up form, but it can also be done through the photos and graphics you choose to include.

Comply with GDPR standards

On May 25, 2018, the EU approved a General Data Protection Regulation (shortened to GDPR) that changed the way brands communicate with subscribers and approach privacy laws. We have a more in-depth guide on this here.

Add a privacy statement

A privacy statement will help you will also help you comply with the GDPR laws. You can also add an email disclaimer under the form fields that states you won’t be sending the person spam.

Use social proof

Nothing strengthens a claim like social proof. If there is enough room in your email sign up form to reference a snippet of a testimonial, it can make a great addition to your email opt-in form.

Opt in form homework assignment

Homework: Create your own custom email opt-in form

Now comes the fun part: actually creating your email sign up form.

Here’s a video to walk you through how to create your first email sign up form:

And if you are a ConvertKit user, you can use these recommendations and best practices to optimize an email sign up form you’ve already created. There is always room for improvement when we talk about increasing subscriber conversions, right?

Start by locating which form has been converting best inside the Forms tab in your ConvertKit dashboard. See where your referral traffic is mostly coming from so you know what platforms to optimize your email opt-in form on.

Once you have a new or recently updated email opt-in form, you can start brainstorming where you would like to put it on your website or blog. Then you can watch the quality subscriber leads start to pour in!

Ready to create your first email sign up form experience?

Sign up for a free ConvertKit account and set up your first form and start connecting with your audience today!



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Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a copywriter and content creator for creative entrepreneurs who want their words to connect and convert. Few things make her happier than ghostwriting for clients in her studio, aka her four-season porch with a lake view. She can frequently be found fighting Minnesota winters with a mug of hot chocolate in hand.

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