How to use your website to grow your mailing list

Email Marketing Website Optimization
18 min read
In this Article

You heard all the benefits of email marketing, so you started a mailing list.

But no one’s signing up and now you feel like you’re dressed up with nowhere to go.

Don’t throw in the towel just yet.

Building an email list can be challenging. Personally speaking, when I started my first newsletter, it took months to grow from my 10 friends and family to my first 100 subscribers. But part of that was because I didn’t have a website at the time.

Having a website with an audience gives you a serious edge if you’re growing your email list. But how do you get people to sign up? In this article, we’ll share some tips for converting site visitors into email subscribers and how to measure your progress to ensure you’re hitting all the right goals. Let’s dive in!

The value of email marketing

While your website is an essential marketing channel, email marketing can be a useful channel to add. It helps you stay connected to your audience and provides personalized content that delights and benefits your readers. And the stats don’t lie when it comes to email’s popularity with creators: a staggering 16 billion emails were sent with ConvertKit in 2021.

While email marketing is a significant driver of revenue, convincing your audience to sign up to your mailing list isn’t always easy. People are protective of their inboxes. A survey by Storydoc reveals that a meager 16% of Americans let more than 11 brands send them regular emails.

Source: Storydoc

Even when people opt-in to mailing lists, they don’t always read the emails. The average email open rate for ConvertKit creators in January 2022 was 36%. So if you want your audience to sign up to your mailing list, you’ll need to provide them with two things:

  • A smart incentive: Consider sending valuable educational content, a lead magnet, discounts, or prized regular updates from your sites.
  • Multiple reminders to subscribe: Every day is different. Some days readers may be overwhelmed and tired of newsletters flooding their inbox. On another day, they might have just enjoyed your most recent piece of content and are feeling ready to keep up with everything you post. Providing multiple opportunities to subscribe will increase your chances of gaining more subscribers.

4 ways to turn website visitors into email subscribers

These four tips will help you offer plenty of chances for website visitors to join your mailing list.

#1. Embed a form on your website homepage

As a creator, most new visitors land first on your website’s homepage. Whether they’ve been referred from your social media page or a mention on another website, it’s usually their first stop.

The homepage is also the easiest page to return to if readers run into a 404 error page or any other issues on your site. So, it often gets the most traffic and therefore it makes sense to take advantage of that traffic by embedding a sign-up form on your website homepage.

Homepage forms can capture first-time visitors while you have their interest and provide more nurturing opportunities in the future. Author, behavioral scientist and ConvertKit user, Logan Ury has a sign up form on her website homepage.

Logan Ury’s website homepage sign-up form

4 tips for an effective homepage sign-up form

Logan’s homepage form is effective for several reasons you can imitate. When embedding forms on your homepage, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Add your form 2-3 blocks down. You want readers to see the sign up form as soon as possible, but you also need to build a measure of trust before they encounter the form. They should get a sense of what your site offers and whether they can benefit from your content or product before they encounter the form. Logan does this by introducing herself in the first block and sharing testimonials to prove her expertise before asking readers to join her list.
  • Make your form block a contrasting color. This ensures that it stands out from the entire homepage, making it impossible to miss. Logan’s form is a bright blue that stands out from her site’s dark theme.
  • Create a low-effort form. Adding more than two form fields will discourage sign-ups. Logan only collects email addresses, but if it’s important to you, you can collect first names too.
  • Alternatively, use a sidebar form. If your theme doesn’t support homepage embeds or it’s too tricky to figure out, the next best thing is a permanent sidebar signup form. Janssen of Everyday Reading, uses a simple sidebar form since her homepage is also the posts page.

How to embed a ConvertKit form on your website homepage

The process of embedding a form on your homepage will vary depending on your website hosting provider and your theme.

Regardless, all ConvertKit forms are built and embedded using either Javascript or HTML. So as long as your website supports Javascript and HTML usage, you can embed a form on your homepage.

If you use WordPress and your theme allows you to embed forms on your homepage, you’ll find the settings under Appearance > Widgets.

For Squarespace, you'll need to be on their Business or Commerce plan. You can embed a homepage form by editing a page and pasting your embed form code.

#2. Embed a pop-up form on your website

Although they may be annoying to some people, pop-ups are highly effective. Statistics show that the top-performing pop-ups have an average conversion rate of 9.28%.

What makes pop-ups so effective? A key factor is that they stop the reader in their tracks by interrupting scrolling. Site-wide pop-ups can reach even one-time visitors before they leave. Here’s an example of a sleek pop-up on The Clean Eating Couple’s site.

Pop-up form on The Clean Eating Couple’s site

How to create a pop-up form

Setting up a pop-up opt-in form is straightforward with ConvertKit. Under the Grow tab on your ConvertKit dashboard, select Landing Pages & Forms.

Select Grow > Landing Pages & Forms on the ConvertKit dashboard

Then, click create new, and select “Form” on the next page.

Click the “+Create new” button to make a new Form or Landing Page

ConvertKit’s pop-up form is the Modal form. Select that option when asked to choose a display format for your form. You can choose from a variety of Modal form templates and customize your form as needed.

Choose the right Form display

When creating a pop-up form, you’ll also need to decide when you want visitors to see the form. You’ll find all that information in your form settings tab after selecting a template. For example, here’s what it looks like for the Mills form.

Mills Modal Form settings

You can set the form to pop up when readers are about to exit, after a few seconds, or when they’ve scrolled through a percentage of the page. You can also decide how often visitors should see your form—on every visit or once in a specified number of days.

Once that’s done, you’re ready to publish your form. If you want your pop-up to show up on every page and post, you can set it as the default form in your WordPress ConvertKit plugin settings (more on the plugin soon!).

Set a Default Form in Settings > ConvertKit on WordPress

For Squarespace, you’ll need to use Squarespace’s native pop-ups and then link your forms to ConvertKit using Zapier.

Best practices for a successful pop-up form

The last thing you need is for your pop-ups to annoy site visitors and drive them away, instead of winning you subscribers. Follow these best practices as you build your pop-up form:

  • Choose a good trigger duration. No one likes pop-ups that show up as soon as the site loads. I mean, visitors don’t even know that they like your content yet—it’s like trying to sell to someone before they know your name. Not a good look.
  • Add an incentive. An incentive is a reason why people should subscribe to your mailing list and it will vary depending on your business. For example, The Clean Eating Couple offers potential subscribers a “free healthy meal plan.” Ideally, all your sign-up forms should come with an incentive, but particularly pop-ups because they can soothe an irritated visitor whose browsing has been interrupted.
  • Keep it brief and clear. Pop-ups should contain snappy, easy-to-understand copy. Tell readers what you want them to and what they’ll get in return—in one sentence.
  • Have a visible exit button. If you’ve ever been stuck with a pop-up you couldn’t close, you’ll know how frustrating it can be. I’ve closed many websites because I couldn’t find the exit button for their pop-ups. Ensure that there’s an easy exit for mobile and desktop viewers by testing your pop-up once it’s published.
  • Optimize for mobile devices. All ConvertKit forms are mobile-responsive. But because of the smaller screen and website theme idiosyncrasies, some pop-ups can be difficult to navigate on mobile.

If you’re choosing a wider form template like the Charlotte, you can also set it up to only show up when readers access your website on a computer. Select a more minimal form like the Mills form for mobile viewers. You can also edit your form’s CSS to customize the font, line height, and letter spacing.

#3. Link a landing page to your website's navigation

Some readers may block pop-ups on their browsers or be referred to specific blog posts (not your homepage) on your site and miss your calls to subscribe. Linking a landing page to your website’s navigation bar is one way to reach these visitors. It also ensures that the landing page you worked hard to build won’t just collect dust.

A newsletter landing page tends to convert more visitors because it has one call-to-action: Subscribe. It also wins over forms because you can share a link to your sign-up landing page on other platforms such as social media or links on other sites.

Additionally, because your landing page is all about your newsletter and readers enter it voluntarily, you can spend a bit more time persuading them to sign up.

Here’s how Reading Middle Grade (full disclosure: this is my children’s literature website) shows off a landing page link in the navigation bar.

A link to a Landing Page on Reading Middle Grade’s navigation bar

With a 42.5% conversion rate, my landing page is the highest converting sign-up form on my site. And that’s because everyone who ends up there has one intention: to see if the newsletter is for them—and to subscribe if it is.

Setting up a landing page

Under the Grow tab, select Landing Pages & Forms > Create new, and choose Landing Page.

Select one of the many templates available and design the page, including headings and supplementary information for potential subscribers. When your page design is complete, save and publish.

Now it’s time to add the page to your website, and that depends on your content management system (CMS).

To set up a Landing Page on WordPress, you’ll need to install the ConvertKit plugin.

Once that’s done, edit the ConvertKit plugin settings on WordPress to add your ConvertKit API and Secret Key. You’ll now be able to see all your forms and landing pages at the bottom of each post or page draft, and you can select the form you’d like to display on each page.

Adding an email newsletter Form to a blog post using ConvertKit’s WordPress plugin

For Squarespace users, ConvertKit has a nifty Zapier integration to connect Squarespace native landing pages to ConvertKit.

How to make your landing pages more effective

If your landing page isn’t winning over subscribers, it may need some extra optimization. Try these tips.

  • Have a powerful headline. Headlines matter; for most visitors, it’s the only thing they’ll read on your landing page, so make it count. Tell readers what your newsletter is about in one sentence or phrase. Here’s what Reading Middle Grade’s landing page looks like.

    Reading Middle Grade newsletter Landing Page design
  • A/B test your page elements. If you’re stuck between two landing page designs, headlines, CTA’s or other content, try split testing your landing page. Create two variations and test them by sharing each manually or using a conversion rate optimization tool like Google Optimize or Optimizely.
  • Tell subscribers what to expect. Few people will sign up to receive random emails from a stranger. Share what kinds of content subscribers can expect or which incentive they’ll receive when they sign up.
  • Make the page visually appealing. While this depends on your audience, adding a little cheer with a bright photo or graphics can draw visitors into signing up.
  • Use one CTA. Don’t try to sell more than one thing on your landing page. Otherwise, you’ll distract visitors into pursuing another action. Focus on getting them to sign up. You can include the signup button multiple times on the page, but it should be requesting the same action.
  • Try advanced segmentation. Another benefit of a landing page is that you can qualify readers by including a checkbox list of preferences. This allows them to select which kinds of content they’re more interested in. You can set up tags for each selection in your Landing Page settings and automatically segment subscribers when they sign up, allowing for more personalized communication.

Link a landing page to your website's announcement bar

If you want something unmissable, but not as disruptive as a pop-up form, consider using an announcement bar linked to your newsletter landing page. Announcement bars are simple and work well on desktop and mobile devices.

To set up an announcement bar that links to your landing page, you’ll need to use your CMS.

WordPress users can choose announcement bar plugins like the Easy Notification Bar, while Squarespace offers an announcement bar as a premium feature for Business and Commerce plan customers. When you’ve installed the bar, you can add a link to the Landing Page easily.

Creating a winning announcement bar

Follow these three tips for a top-notch announcement bar:

  • Spotlight the incentive. Give your audience a reason to sign up.
  • Be concise. It’s a single bar, so you have one line to make an impression.
  • Add a pop of color. Make your bar stand out using a bright or contrasting accent color.

How to measure your conversions

When you’ve set up all your sign-up forms and landing pages, the next step is tracking their performance.

If your website gets substantial traffic, you should start to see subscribers rolling in. It’s important to measure the conversion rates of each form, so you can determine what’s working and what isn’t.

Use one (or several) of the following tools to see how your forms are performing.

  • Your ConvertKit Dashboard: This is the easiest way to track your forms’ performance. Again, select Grow > Landing Pages & Forms. Then click on the specific form and view Reports.
    View conversions on ConvertKit dashboard

    ConvertKit provides the number of visitors, subscribers, and the resulting conversion rate (which is the percentage of visitors who subscribed after viewing the form). It also shows you the referring pages for each form, so you can recognize your top traffic sources.

  • Google Analytics: With Google Universal Analytics, you could view each page’s Bounce Rate on your website—including your newsletter landing page. Google Analytics 4 has replaced the Bounce Rate feature with Engagement Rate. You can get a sense of user engagement by reviewing Engagement > Pages and Screens, under the Average Engagement Time.
  • Conversion rate optimization tools: If you used any of the CRO tools, you can easily track form metrics on that platform.

What if your forms aren’t gaining traction? It may be worth tweaking the elements. Consider doing the following:

  • A/B testing your landing page
  • Changing the copy on your embedded form, announcement bar, and pop-ups
  • Adding an image to your forms
  • Adjusting the trigger duration of your pop-up form
  • Trying a new lead magnet or incentive

These things can have a huge trial and error phase, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

Other tips for nurturing subscribers

After working hard to gain new subscribers, we want you to keep them for a long, long time. Here are three tips to help you.

1. Have a solid Welcome email: Wouldn’t you welcome guests invited to your home? You should also send a quick hello to new subscribers. It doesn’t hurt that Welcome emails are some of the most effective emails you’ll send with a whopping 52.9% conversion rate.

Your email could either be part of the message delivering the incentive or a separate email introducing yourself to new readers. Keep your Welcome email brief. You can start by introducing yourself, your business, how often you send out an email, and how your newsletter will serve readers. It makes readers feel appreciated and ensures that the first email they get from you won’t be a “sales” email.

2. Try a Sequence: Sequences are pre-scheduled email series sent to nurture readers and build trust. You can set up different sequences depending on the sign-up form.

Sequences could be Welcome email sequences including educational information (like a seven-day course for beginner cooks, for example), unrelated weekly emails sharing your top-performing blog posts, or even emails to lure back customers who abandoned carts on your website.

The goal is to keep readers interested, cultivate a trusting relationship, and hopefully lead them to purchase a product or two from you in the long run.

3. Keep your word: Do what you promised on your sign-up form. Don’t send more emails than you said you would, share only relevant content, and contact readers on the days they expect (unless in exceptional circumstances). Even if you do run a Sequence, avoid sending multiple emails in one day and ensure readers can opt out any time without unsubscribing entirely.

Make your website work for you

Email marketing is powerful. It can grow your business, become a source of income, or simply keep you closely connected to your audience. In 2021 alone, ConvertKit creators earned over $4 billion using email marketing.

Your website is one of the easiest tools for building a mailing list. You can use more than one of these methods to start driving sign-ups. The key is to give website visitors multiple opportunities to sign up for your email list.

With ConvertKit, it’s easy to start and grow your newsletter with a variety of opt-in forms for any content management service. If you’re ready to start growing, sign up for a free ConvertKit account now.

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Afoma Umesi

Afoma Umesi is a freelance writer for software companies and businesses in the marketing industry. When she's not tapping away at her keyboard, you'll find her reading a good book or experimenting in the kitchen.

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