How to Effectively Use Opt-ins on Your Website

Website opt-ins

Have you ever felt that you’d like to improve your opt-in rates on your website?

Opt-ins remain an important tool for business websites. They get subscribers onto your email list so that you’re able to stay in touch with them and help to progress them through your marketing funnel.

While email marketing can be super-effective once you have people on your list, the first challenge you face is actually getting them there. How do you entice someone to hand over their email address and opt into your list?

Know your audience first

We know, we’ve said this before! However any marketing activity worth doing needs to start with a thorough knowledge of the audience you are targeting. You need to understand what appeals to them and the problems that seem urgent in their eyes.

In terms of website opt-ins, you need to be able to connect the desire to opt-in with something that matters to them or is part of their character. For example, let’s say you have a target audience that largely consists of busy executives. You decide to create a “lead magnet” – a free giveaway in return for their email address. What should you create? 

Considering the description of your target audience and the fact that they’re always busy, in this case you might choose something that is quick to consume but provides them with value. Something like “10 Quick Tips to Improve …”, may be more likely to get read than a 50-page eBook. Of course this isn’t always the case, but you get the picture – you need to create something with broad appeal for your defined audience.

How to create an enticing lead magnet

According to Marketo, 96% of people who arrive on your website aren’t yet ready to buy. This means that capturing their details on that visit is very important. The exchange of an email address becomes the transaction you are looking for.

To get something of value (the email address), generally you need to give something of value. In most cases, this will be a lead magnet – a free piece of useful content – however if you run an ecommerce business, a quick strategy is to offer a discount in exchange for the email address. Here’s an example of a pop-up form from kid’s clothing retailer, Primary, below:

Website opt-ins

The immediate discount offer might work well for products that tend to be everyday needs or of lower-price, but it’s usually not going to work right away for more complex products or services. For example, if you sell a cloud-based software, consulting or something big-ticket, people often want to do more homework before committing.

An opt-in involves a value exchange: content or coupon for email address Click To Tweet

In terms of devising an effective lead magnet, it can be anything that you like as long as it provides real value to your target audience. This is why you define them first! In fact, step two is to identify a specific value proposition for your lead magnet. Your value proposition will answer to a need of your audience, such as “how do I fix X problem?” 

The most effective lead magnets tend to aim for a quick solution to a very defined problem. They are ultra-specific which helps the target audience to get results more quickly. For example, if you run a business that sells disaster preparedness kits, you might give away a printable checklist that people can mark off before evacuating. It’s simple and it’s directly related to the products being sold.

A lead magnet can help you to demonstrate commitment to solving and a true understanding of a problem. This helps you to build the trust of the target audience. If you can get them some kind of quick win, they may trust your paid products or services.

We like how Jon Morrow puts it here:

“On an opt in page, you want the copy to be as short as possible. One litmus test is if what you are offering requires more than a headline to explain, it’s too abstract. It’s not familiar enough, it’s not obvious enough!”

Lastly, when we talk about effective lead magnets, we have to talk about format. Yours may take any format that you like, but it’s important that you play to your own strengths, particularly if you’re creating it yourself. If you’re not great at writing but love video, then look at a video format, and vice versa. 

Aiming for rapid consumption tends to also be effective. So if you’re producing a video, keep it short and punchy, serving a clear purpose in a small amount of time. Think about those buyer personas and whether or not they are likely to spend a lot of time consuming a piece of content.

Free download: Get opt-in ideas here

How to get that email address

You’ve created a lead magnet (or other type of offer), but now you need to actually get your website visitors to sign up for it. This is where presentation is everything.

Think about what entices you when you’re choosing something. The saying goes not to “judge a book by its cover,” but the truth is we do. When a visitor arrives on your website, they usually can’t see the valuable content inside your lead magnet, only the outer packaging which is only unwrapped once they opt-in.

Website visitors will either get to your lead magnet via an opt-in form that could be placed anywhere on your website, or via a dedicated landing page. This second option is usually useful if you’re trying to get opt-ins from paid ads or from social media posts. It makes sense to direct them to a purpose-built page rather than straight to your website where there are all sorts of other distractions.

Whether you have a website, landing page or both, there are some key elements to include that help you to get that email address:

  1. Attention ratio
  2. Enticing copy
  3. Attractive design

Attention ratio

Unbounce defines attention ratio as “the ratio of the number of things you can do on a given page to the number of things you should do.” Any landing page should have a 1:1 ratio, denoting one key goal of the page. When you’re talking about an opt-in form on your home page or anywhere else on your website, your ratio might be more like 10:1.

Your aim is to keep that attention ratio low and guide visitors to taking the action you want – opting in. Too many distractions can impact your opt-in rate negatively because people don’t pay attention to it.

Tips for improving attention ratios include:

  • Having one clear call to action
  • Using elements that draw attention to the sign-up form, such as pictures or an arrow
  • Using pop-ups or top bar forms
  • Reducing the number of elements on your page

Enticing copy

The written copy you produce plays a vital role in enticing people to take the next step. Whether on a landing page or as part of a sign-up form, the place to start is with your headline copy.

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” David Ogilvy

Successful headlines tend to tell the visitor what they’ll get out of taking action, stand out and compel them to take action. Depending on the complexity of what you’re offering (and remember, the idea is not to be too complex), you may include a subheadline as well.

Melanie Duncan’s “4-U” formula provides a simple way to craft compelling headlines. The basic elements are shown in the image (borrowed from her website) below:

  • Useful = it solves a problem the target audience has (“Get More Opt-Ins With 5 Simple Steps”)
  • Urgent = language that indicates time or avoidance of a serious pain (“This Common Household Cleaner May Cause Asthma in Your Children”)
  • Unique = use of words that are interesting or novel
  • Ultra-specific = you hone in on the specifics. For example, instead of just “8 Marketing Tips for Small Businesses,” you might have “8 Killer Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses.”

Any other copy you use should only be support the “big why” for visitors to opt-in. It comes back to that attention ratio – rambling won’t help you to keep people’s attention. 

Attractive design

Your visual design plays a big role in enticing people to opt-in. To start with, you might use contrasting colors that, while they still go with your overall look, help your opt-in form to stand out. For example, perhaps you use a contrasting border color, or fill color.

Another design element might include directional clues, such as arrows pointing to your form. A person’s eyes will naturally follow to the point of an arrow, drawing them in. Think also about your button design, using contrasting colors and stand-out shapes to make them obvious.

The type and placement of your form is also important. This is something you can test to learn more about what appeals to your audience. “Behavioral marketing” is the term used when you set up marketing strategies based on behavior you have observed (such as with Google Analytics). 

To give you an example, pop-ups can be very effective – they can also be very annoying! Timing tends to be the key. If visitors are hit with a pop-up the second they get to your website, that’s when they tend to get dismissed immediately. Waiting until they’ve had an opportunity to look at what they came for can be a better strategy.

A floating bar is another way to display your opt-in form that can be quite effective. Sidebar forms can work too, however, they’re also prone to people’s “banner blindness.”

Get opt-in ideas here. Download ours free

Final thoughts

Opt-ins can form a key part of your lead generation strategy, allowing you to build an email list as well as grow your visibility and trust with your target audience.

The key with any opt-in is that you must be giving people a good reason to subscribe and you must “package” the opt-in enticingly. For example, you should solve a specific problem that they have, giving them a quick win, and making it obvious how they should proceed to get your lead magnet.

Play to your strengths and showcase what makes you wonderful. This way you can make the best use of opt-ins on your website.

Danny Peavey

Danny is the founder and CEO of One Week Website. He is also a certified StoryBrand Guide. When he's not talking about clear messaging or marketing, you can find him drinking amazing coffee, shooting hoops, and spending time with his family.
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